Review & photos by Stephen Brophy
Rockingham 2017 is the 3rd iteration of the AOR/Hard Rock Festival, taking place in Nottingham Trent Uni, at The Level venue. This year’s lineup is once again very varied and an interesting one, covering all corners of the AOR/Melodic Rock spectrum.
Day 1 – Friday 20th October
One of many thriving bands coming out of Northern Ireland right now, Maverick had the pleasure and I guess slightly ominous task of kicking the gates open at this year’s Rockingham. These guys are full of energy, no shortage of talent and they are continually improving both on album and live, so it’s great for them to expand their fanbase further. They are psyched up for this show and the smiles on their faces all through the set gives away not only what it means to them but how much fun they are having.
The band are on fire tonight and the crowd’s reaction to them is certainly more than enough to indicate that this is a band on the up. Alongside anthems like ‘All For One’, ‘Whiskey Lover’ and the always awesome ‘In Our Blood’ another highlight this evening is a track that on album features both Jakob Samuelson (The Poodles) and Kane Roberts (Alice Cooper), but the guys pulled it off without the additional help this evening and ‘Asylum’ sounded brilliant. As with any event I’ve been lucky enough to work, and right from the start the lights are just terrific, Mr. Foster is without doubt one of the best in the business. Maverick on this form and with a new album coming in March 2018 should be on everyone’s radar.
Blanc Faces for those that do not know the name are comprised of the LaBlanc brothers Robbie and Brian, Greg Trabant (Drums) and for this set at Rockingham the band is filled out with Philip Lindstrand (Guitar) and Irvin Parratt (Keyboards). Most will know Robbie more recently for his work as lead vocalist of Find Me, but the was a wonderful opportunity to get to hear some of the brilliant songs from the two Blanc Faces albums. The combination of both brother’s voices is superb and hearing them replicate this live was wonderful. A personal highlight for me was getting to hear ‘Falling From The Moon’, it wasn’t easy to wipe the smile from my face for the rest of the night, but it sounded terrific, alongside the excellent ‘It’s A Little Too Late’ and ‘It’s All About The Love’ and there is a lot of love in the room tonight for this band.
The guys had a small issue when Philip broke a string mid set, but as tends to happen at Festivals like this there was no fuss and the rest of the band continued with a funky improvisation to keep things moving along. Great set and brilliant to see the guys back on stage together, the possibility of Blanc Faces album no. 3 is definitely closer on the horizon, and it’s always great to see talent like this reappear on any stage.
Next up was another highly anticipated set with the man who stood in to replace Honeymoon Suite, John Parr back on a UK Stage with a full electric band for the first time in a while. In more recent years John has been generally playing acoustic sets and they have been great, so everyone was very excited when the band appeared. It was a bit of a shock when the opening chords of Deep Purples ‘Highway Star’ rang out, but really it was a very good version of the song, but it leads to what many consider an issue tonight, the composition of the Set. Too many covers, and for and audience as knowledgeable as the Rockingham crowd it’s not really what they are looking for, they appreciate of course anything that the artist plays, but they would appreciate far more hearing some of John’s back catalogue that very rarely gets an airing, but perhaps this is a little over critical as one of the covers Roger Daltrey’s tribute to Keith Moon ‘Under A Raging Moon’ was one that he sang backing vocals to so that could be classed as a rarity, and it was a really good version, but perhaps this broke up the flow of the set a little.
Aside from that the band and John himself are excellent, and look like they are really enjoying their time up there, and the best reactions in the set are naturally for his own hit songs, ‘Naughty Naughty‘, the terrific ‘Restless Heart‘ and the curtain closer a great version of ‘Man In Motion’. There’s nothing wrong with this performance, don’t get me wrong, but it could have been so much better for this particular audience had it just been John Parr songs. Perhaps the next time a set of his classics and some rarities songs could satisfy the crowds hunger.
Headlining Friday night are the one, the only KIX, who finally make a return visit to the UK after almost 30 years at Rockingham. The band are still firing on all cylinders having consistently Toured since their reunion in 2003 and right from the off that is very obvious as they are so tight, in sync and professional. Due to the nature of AOR Festivals we often get the chance to see bands reunite that haven’t played together for many years, and yes it can be magical, but to watch a band like KIX that have been consistently playing it really does make for a more polished performance. To begin with the crowd are a little timid, but as the set goes on the interaction and bond grows and the venue gets louder. There is some excellent guitar work throughout from Forsythe and Younkins and everything is so solid.
The classics are all in the set, from the song that really kicked off their career ‘Blow My Fuse’ to rockers like ‘Midnite Dynamite‘ and ‘Cold Blood’ but in reality the one that really grabs me by the guts in this set is the wonderful ballad ‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’, has always been a song that has the ability to affect you on an emotional level, and tonight is no different. Excellent set from a band that are still providing the goods, lots of energy from start to finish, a frontman that really is a proper frontman with the right amount of swagger, a band that sounds great and provides little fuss while doing it, let’s hope they are back far sooner next time. This has been a very successful return at a Festival where the patrons love getting the chance to see artists they don’t often get the opportunity to see.
No Ring Around Rosie
Get It While It’s Hot
Love Me With Your Top Down
Don’t Close Your Eyes
Wheels In Motion
Blow My Fuse
To thank the loyal fanbase that has been building up over the last three events the organisers also put on an Aftershow Party on the Friday night in the Crowne Plaza, where most of the artists and a lot of the fans are staying, this is a great idea, meaning that fans that go to the event year in year out and are among the first group of people to order tickets for this year’s event are the ones that get access up close and personal with the bands for some acoustic sets, and it’s not just for those that can afford the more expensive Ticket options, bravo Rockingham.