Review by Rob Billingham, photos by Lisa Billingham
Walking to the Regency Room on a lovely, warm Saturday morning, it would appear that many people are still pushing out the zzzz’s. DH Garry Rokjok Lewis was already spinning his classic rock tunes ahead of the day’s opening band Savage, due on stage at early 11am. The band, who can lay claim to helping shape the career of fellow heavy metal merchants, Metallica, were sadly never going to play to a full house. However, taking it in their stride and following Chris Bradley’s request to the few present to “spread out and look big”, this seasoned outfit dropped straight into a hard hitting solid groove. The small but slowly growing crowd were getting the best possible start to this, the busiest day of the festival.
In contrast, the V Lounge was hosting a band formed less than 12 months ago. Jupiter Falls, from Leeds, had amassed a fair sized audience by the time they struck the first note. Impressive, as Savage were still performing in the other room. With the legendary Roy Z producing the upcoming debut album, Jupiter Falls appear to be a band on a roll. A set of hard rock numbers, well-constructed and played was acknowledged by the crowd in the shape of a standing ovation. That says a lot!
Staying in the V Lounge, next up was possibly the youngest band appearing at Legends of Rock. The Ali Clinton Band appearing as a threesome for this gig, is fast gaining a reputation as an act to keep a very close eye upon. In Ali we have a mature guitarist way beyond his 18 years, and in my opinion, owing a great deal to the likes of Pat McManus and later Uli Jon Roth in his “musical schooling”. Showcasing his new EP, released to coincide with this festival, the Ali Clinton Band showed little in the way of nerves as they powered through a set of raw, hard and often bluesy material. Again the crowd rose to their feet in appreciation of this fine young band and the queue that built up eager to grab a copy of the new CD was most impressive.
Birmingham AOR band, Daylight Robbery were next to hit the V Lounge stage. Another outfit showcasing their latest release, Falling Back To Earth, they are just starting to hit the road again. It was a pity they were drawn against Oliver Dawson’s Saxon in the timing stakes as the crowd had thinned out somewhat by the time the intro tape started. Undeterred, the guys transported us into their world of AOR with some well thought out songs full of melody, slick guitars, atmospheric keyboards, driving bass and drums and, of course, Tony Nicholl’s powerful vocals. Despite a couple of minor rusty moments, the quality of the music cannot be denied as was confirmed by the crowds keen acknowledgment.
In the Regency Room, Oliver Dawson’s Saxon were giving their trademark slick, on the money performance to a good sized crowd well in the mood and loving every minute.
The remaining V Lounge performances for the day were Buster James, StoneWire and Walkway, all performing for a second time and the subject of our Thursday evening’s observations. So Regency Room it was to be for the rest of Saturday.
Mixing his rock with blues, soul and funk, Alix Anthony was making his second appearance at a Legends of Rock festival. This likeable musician and his band charmed their audience with a mix of covers and self-penned numbers that allowed Alix’s vocal dexterity to impress. Some smooth guitar work in there as well!
A big favourite of mine was the 4.20pm act. Pat McManus Band never fails to generate an atmosphere that just oozes the feel good factor. Music is what Pat lives for and playing it for others is what he excels at. Widely acclaimed as a gentleman of rock and blues, Pat, arty and Paul can read each other like a book and their almost flawless set had all the elements that Pat holds dear. His respect for the great Rory Gallagher in his acoustic ‘Return of the G-Man’ was something else. A goosebumps moment for many in the crowd for sure. I am fortunate enough to be seeing this band again on Tuesday and also having the privilege to interview the great man himself.
In a weird sort of way, I think the Blockheads appearance in the 7pm slot provided, for me, one of the highlights of the four days. Last song of the set, of course, was ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’. It was not two notes old and an electrifying aura seemed to descend on the arena. The crowd appeared to grow perceptively taller and you could have cut the atmosphere with a knife. All I saw was everyone who was sat down, get up and dance. It could have been Ian Dury himself checking in just to remind us of his musical legacy. A thoroughly entertaining set from the Blockheads that at one stage almost led to our first mosh pit. The crowd loved them and I’m sure Mr Dury would have given his seal of approval. They were outstanding!
Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash are always a good listen. The packed arena gave a massive ovation for a set that showed class, with smooth vocal harmonies, complimenting the fine, hallmark guitar work. Prog rock at its best.
With the evening progressing towards its climax, penultimate band Snakecharmer, rocked for close on ninety minutes. The pace never dropped throughout and what a fine performance also by the Regency Room Party Animal Choral Section for ‘Here I Go Again’. Stunning!
With the room having been treated to an amazing day of top drawer music and still buzzing following Snakecharmer, it was a disappointing end to the day when Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel took a good half hour longer getting to the stage. You couldn’t have blamed the audience getting a little restless, but to their credit the atmosphere remained pretty good. With the technical issue sorted (I believe it was Mr Harley’s guitar), the band let rip in style with their version of George Harrison’s classic ‘Here Comes The Sun’. Steve Harley’s lyrically rich music, something acknowledged by, amongst others, Rod Stewart was a treat for the ears and his band of excellent musicians stepped up to the plate with aplomb. I don’t know how the delay had affected the band, but the crowd went to their beds well contented.
Now where’s that nightcap?