Review by Alan Savill, photos by Lisa Billingham
The venue for Hard Rock Hell is the same as last year, set in an old holiday camp, apparently overlooking the sea, although, quite apt for a weekend of debauchery and heavy rock, the place is shrouded in an eerie sea mist.
This is the seventh year of HRH. Getting bigger and better year by year completely sold out the stage area is predominantly set in two areas a mere stone’s throw away from each other.
For the first day, with a theme of “Cirque de Rock” just one of these areas are open, the amusement area was full of the normal stalls, but a lot of people had dressed for the occasions with ringleaders, creepy clowns, cross dressing metal maniacs appearing the norm. Added to this the stilt walkers and fire breathers added to the sense of occasion.
Starting the event off this year was Massive Wagons. These guys know how to rock, no frills basic heavy rock with big choruses and riffs they went down very well, in an already roasting and packed venue. Having toured continuously for the past year they were tight, enjoyable and a perfect way of waking everybody up. Watch this space as these could get bigger quickly.
Uli Jon Roth is, in my opinion a virtuoso on the guitar. Having been one of the original Scorpions guitarists he was able to pick songs from some many decades showing off a great fluidity in style but with a touch so rarely seen nowadays in respects of a real feel for his instrument. With again, a very tight band, and a good sound allowing the subtleties to be picked out this was another triumph of the evening.
Not fairing as well was Bernie Torme. Now in a three piece and taking on the responsibilities of both lead guitar and singing I wondered whether he would be better handing over the singing responsibilities to someone else. Torme’s guitar work was superb and as good as it ever has been, but his heavy blues just didn’t seem to get the crowd going. It wasn’t until he played some old Gillan tracks such as ‘No Easy Way’, ‘Trouble’ or ‘New Orleans’ did the crowd really warm up. Not helped by a strangely bass heavy sound, the set divided the crowd.
Arthur Brown cannot be categorised. At 71 one would imagine a time where he slowed down, or his voice would waver but no, he simply excelled. Looking resplendent in his trademark face paint and mask he came on and delivered a set which was full of drama, swooping psychedelic songs, which had elements from worldwide influences. This man can still sing with a 3.5 octave voice and he used every single one of them. His band was simply superb, his dancer added to the sense of occasion and we witnessed a spectacle. Although Arthur chose not to set his head alight whilst singing ‘Fire’, his most well-known song, he was enveloped within his dancer’s wings throughout. You could see why he has influenced Kiss, Manson, Alice Cooper and Hawkwind and long may he continue. Were you aware that Jimi Hendrix asked him to form a band in the late sixties? Can you imagine what that would have created? A triumph.
Last year Attica Rage had their release party for the album 88 MPH here and were welcomed back again like lost heroes. Battling in places with a muddy sound the Glaswegians gave us a brand of no nonsense heavy rock. Looking the part, all denim, long hair and tattoos they did exactly what was expected of them. A couple of slower ballads allowed the band a breather in an oven of a venue but the set was well paced and fun. Ending with ‘Crazy Horses’ by The Osmond’s I’m sure they will return.
Ending the night prior to Krusher’s disco was Wales’ own Fireroad. The band featuring Richard Jones, who played with the Tragic Love Company who evolved into The Stereophonics, played a well-crafted professional set. Classy without offering anything new they were a nice way of finishing a very long day.
See more of Lisa photos here;