Review & photos by Stephen Brophy
The final day of Rockingham was all setup to possibly be the strongest lineup for many people, with the likes of DARE, Brother Firetribe, Great White and the mighty Loverboy.
Having already shown off some of their skills backing up Dave Bickler the previous day it was time on Sunday for Bailey to do their own thing. Nigel Bailey focusing on just being the frontman with this own band works really well and the quality of the musicians helps to make this a terrific set once again. The early slot on a Sunday at a 3 day Festival is often difficult after a couple of nights of partying under everyone’s belt, but the guys take it all in their stride and start belting out the songs from their debut album release Long Way Down in the form of the rocking ‘Bad Reputation’ and followed a set mixed between Bailey, 3 Lions and Lifeline songs, which is great, gives a nice variety to the weight and pace of what we get to hear. There’s the excellent version of ‘Jezebel’ from the Lifeline album with the quiet and shy special guest Mr. Pete Godfrey, they work so well together. Right through the set the music is excellent, the guitars from Adrian and Paul shine throughout and Nigel’s vocals are terrific, and alongside the great music the humility that these guys show both on and off the stage is wonderful to see. Terrific start to the final day and the crowd loved it.
Second up on the final day and continuing the for the first few bands are fellow UK veterans Moritz. Another of this year’s acts to have released a very impressive album in 2017 they are hit with a major technical fault right out of the gates with a keyboard failure which could have been a nightmare scenario, but as with many of the experienced acts that take to these stages they are made of tougher stuff and power on through their set, sadly they did have do drop one song as they lost some time, but there are plenty of other bands that wouldn’t have even gotten started for a short set. The set itself is excellent covering their full career to date, with the standout tracks being new songs ‘Unwanted Man’ and ‘To The Moon And Back’ alongside the massive ‘Should Have Been Gone’ from the Undivided album, a beautifully balanced track, pure AOR and executed to perfection. Would be great to see the guys playing shows more regularly and hopefully that will be possible, they have everything you could want in an AOR band along with being some of the nicest guys you could meet.
Airrace are back on the Melodic Rock scene after a gap of some six years and with some lineup changes, including a new vocalist, Adam Payne who absolutely nailed it on the day. The cornerstone of the band continues to be Laurie Mansworth (Guitar) along with his son Dhani (Drums, also of The Treatment), Rocky Newton (Bass, also of Lionheart) and Linda Kelsey-Foster, also of Rueben Archers Original Sin), what may have started out as a test the water/one off reunion has gathered significant momentum in recent months, with a new album on the way and a Tour with Lionheart soon to begin in the UK. This afternoons set, short and sweet as it is, contains a large part of their classic debut album Shaft Of Light, which sound great if a little different, but still great, and it gave a really indication of how well the new tracks blend in with the classics, which is always important with a change of vocalist. Honestly the latest single, which will be featured in the new album was a massive highlight, ‘Eyes Like Ice’ not only contains great vocals, solos and the overall music but went down so well with the crowd. This afternoon feels like everyone is trying really hard to outdo each other, which is great, and this has been a very successful showing from Airrace, definitely back with a bang and we can really look forward to the new material and more shows.
Back for an all too rare visit to these parts Finland’s Brother Firetribe arrive in Nottingham on the back of one of the best releases of the year with the Sunbound album and also marking the bands 15th Anniversary Tour. A truly gifted band this was to prove one of if not the set of the weekend, and certainly the best crowd reaction. The atmosphere when they hit the stage is electric the broad smiles of the band members indicates not only how much they have enjoyed the reception but also how much they appreciate it. There’s no doubt at all that the quality of the musicians in this band is simply outstanding, but it’s the ability to interact and draw an audience in to their story, alongside some brilliant songs and anthems that raise them to a different level. In Pekka they have a frontman that, and not in a brash or arrogant way, appears to have total belief in his ability, exudes a warmth and light that is completely infectious and most importantly rarely puts a foot wrong during the whole set, again the word stunning comes to mind. Emppu is as always such a pleasure to watch, massively talented and you can just see how much he loves playing live, there’s a great amount of fun and banter going on up on the stage and it all just radiates all over the venue, the bar has certainly been raised again.
The set itself Is a mix of new tracks from Sunbound mixed through some rousing anthems and classy melodic rock, the tempo on those songs is high, the keyboards are integral to how the sound is a little on the poppy side, but it just works brilliantly for this band. The crowd singing loudly along to choruses like ‘I’m On Fire’, ‘For Better Or For Worse’ and the massive ‘Heart Full Of Fire’, these were meant to be sung out loud, arms in the air, just how you should enjoy Rock. The band is as tight as you get and this could easily be a Headline set, finishing off with another rocker in ‘I Am Rock’ the band are obviously delighted with how everything has gone at Rockingham, and if anything look a little shocked at just how well they have gone down today, but they shouldn’t be, a really class band who will hopefully be back on these shores very soon.
Another band that have been flourishing of late are DARE who have been playing some really great shows over the last couple of years and in the release of Sacred Ground back in 2016 they became reinvigorated to an even higher level. Today the guys are bang on form, kicking things off with the beautiful ‘Sea Of Roses’, some don’t particularly like the Celtic Rock style that they have developed since their early days, but it suits them so well and damn they are so good with how it sounds. On top of that Darren looks so at home at the front of the stage, and so happy, everything just works. But how do you follow a set like Brother Firetribe just delivered, it’s no easy task but somehow DARE have the ability to put an audience at ease follow them on their journey, and they do manage to weave a magical mystical one.
Each time you see Vinny Burns play you are left asking yourself the same question, how does he manage to sound so bloody good and make it all look effortless at the same time, always a wonderful guitar tone and a terrific player. Nigel has become an even more imposing figure of late and he’s still an excellent bassist, the solidity of Marc and Kev knitting everything together so tightly they have become a formidable unit live, and with the face that the guys seem to be playing a lot more these days it’s great for all of their fans. Songs like ‘Into The Fire’ live are just stunning and tonight we get a particularly buoyant version, as always we the guys pay homage to Phil Lynnott with ‘King Of Spades’ and the wonderful ‘Emerald’, having been lucky enough to catch DARE a number of times in recent years there’s something a little special tonight, that extra spark and repeating myself yet again bands that play Festivals like Rockingham and feel the love from a very educated crowd reciprocate in spades, definitely part of what creates such a wonderful atmosphere.
Great White are a band that have gone through so much over the years and it is great to see them playing a rare live date in the UK. Now fronted by the powerhouse that is Terry Illous (XYZ), many had travelled from overseas once they were announced for the Festival. Yet another of the classic bands that have recently released a high quality album in 2017 with Full Circle, and having a large back catalogue of Rock ‘N’ Roll classics to call upon this was always set to be a fun set to watch. As with most of the bands playing this weekend they manage to mix new songs in with their back catalogue, which is really important to keep the genre a bit fresh, especially with great tracks like ‘Big Time’ which holds the essence of the bands original sound with a more modern spin. But when it comes down to it when a band like this goes back to their core that the crowd starts to lose control, when a song with the pure beauty of ‘House Of Broken Love’ is played you just can’t ignore it, Mark Kendall’s playing alone brings a lump to the throat, it’s not the biggest hit the band ever had but in this set it’s six and a half minutes of magic, so much emotion packed into it, Terry more than does the older songs justice and he feels it all, his vocal range and style fit in really well with how they were created in the first place. The core of this rendition of the band remains Kendall, Lardie and Desbrow but at this stage Ilous and Snyder are very much integral parts of the band and this is a very tight unit that works well together and off each other.
When the hits come out towards the end of the set the pace picks up again and the end of the set is loaded with the awesome combo of ‘Rock Me’ and what was always going to be the closing track ‘Once Bitten Twice Shy’, although both tracks are great we all have our own personal favourites and for me it’s always gonna be ‘Rock Me’, one of those iconic hard rock tracks, but sometimes it’s just how the song hits you and as it builds and gets louder it still hits you square in the guts, Great White have been another big success on a day full of them, let’s hope the crowd reaction was enough to make sure they are back much sooner.
Headlining the final night of Rockingham 2017 are the legendary Canadian rockers Loverboy one of the most requested bands for AOR Festivals for many years, they hold a special place in Hard Rock fans hearts and of all the bands on this weekend one that most of us couldn’t wait to see. This year’s Festival has been excellent, but perhaps emphasises the problems organisers have with this genre, there are always going to be a recent repeat or two, and they manage to pull off unbelievable bookings of bands we never thought we would get to see at all or again, but the pool of bands out there isn’t massive to begin with. Loverboy having hit these shores since supporting Def Leppard on the Hysteria Tour way back in 1988, so yep another band that have certainly taken their time to make their way back, but certainly one with the material you want to hear. The band have continued to Tour and over the years, while not ever reaching a saturation point, taking things at their own pace and also releasing a couple of Albums along the way. Tonight we are going to get a set of tried and tested material, songs that they enjoy playing and work best with the fans, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Kicking things off with the rocking ‘Notorious’ was a great move as it got the crowd moving straight away, and from there on in it’s all systems go. Not many bands have the longevity of Loverboy and even fewer manage to keep the same lineup, I’m certain that were it not for the untimely death of Scott Smith the original five members would be on stage tonight, but Ken Sinnaeve has fitted in perfectly and they work brilliantly together. The crowd is loving each song, and although there could be more interaction from Mike and the guys, they in reality are here to play those songs we haven’t heard in almost 30 years on a UK Stage, and they do that with aplomb, the pace of the set is brought up and down and just like with Great White although the opening and finale are filled with what are probably the biggest hits, it’s that ballad in the middle that just makes everything alright for me, ‘This Could Be The Night’ is just such a wonderful song, it is a real pleasure to finally get to hear it live, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that thought, great stuff.
There is no doubt that the last part of the set was always going to blow the roof off the venue, had the setlist been distributed prior to the performance it couldn’t have been any louder, ‘Turn Me Loose’ built things up and then it just went ballistic for ‘Working For The Weekend’ the chorus really got belted out by pretty much everyone in the venue, at this stage watching from the Balcony it was also great to see members of other bands taking great interest and singing along. Perhaps it would have been the better choice of closer for the set and weekend, it really would have been the most explosive way to go, not that ‘Lovin’ Every Minute Of It’ isn’t also a great track, but it’s a little bit slower in pace, it still worked really well. A couple of minor things aside a really enjoyable set, and it’s sad that the Festival draws to a close.
Queen Of Broken Hearts
Take Me To The Top
It’s Your Life
This Could Be The Night
When It’s Over
Hot Girl’s In Love
Turn Me Loose
Working For The Weekend
Lovin’ Every Minute Of It
Once again the Rockingham Festival has been a massive success, a huge thanks to Rich and all the team behind this weekend, the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes is never truly understood by us all that take great enjoyment front of stage, certainly the work that precedes the event itself, but again we’ve had eighteen acts, brilliant performances a great variation in music and styles and most importantly a great atmosphere, the fans that attend the show are as important in creating this and they do it to the best of their ability. With the dates already set for next year we can’t wait to hear who is going to be on the bill, for more information check out the Rockingham website.