Review by Alan Savill, photos by Lisa Billingham
The Treatment from Cambridge go from strength to strength. With a new harder image and their Motley Crue inspired haircuts the band played some brand new material from the album to be released in February as well as old favourites such as ‘The Doctor’. It is hard to forget the average age of these guys is around 22. They play with maturity and a confidence on stage, and it’s obvious that touring stints with Kiss, Crue and the OzzFest in Japan has been part of this improvement. The band plays no nonsense two guitar heavy rock, brilliantly. One of the UK’s finest new bands.
From a young band on the rise over to the smaller stage and Chrome Molly. Old heroes from the late 80’s, the band had supported King Diamond and Alice Cooper before the grunge era killed off any chance of really hitting the big time. Steve Hawkins mentioned the fact that they’ve been playing for thirty years and that their drummer was the new boy only being part of the band for a mere twenty years. They were able to cherry pick from old favourites such as ‘Steel Against The Sky’, ‘Take It or Leave It’ right up to some brilliant new songs from Gunpowder Diplomacy ,their new album. The newer songs have a more serious theme such as the greedy bankers on ‘Billion Dollar Heart Attack’ to ‘Corporation Fear’. The band played well and got a great reception with the crowd realising they were head and shoulders above some of the bands earlier on. With drums being slowly disintegrated due to the power of Greg on drums to Johnny Antcliffes subtle but excellent lead guitar driven through by a great bass sound they tore the place apart. They must return.
The Black Spiders always deliver. Their brand of good time rock n roll was just the thing needed for a slightly flagging crowd. Starting with the witty ‘Kiss Tried To Kill Me’ and right up to ‘Blood of the Kings’ they played right to their strengths, using some seventies based riffs from Sabbath, The Stooges and Zeppelin and using a great stage presence to win over everyone. The band is forever touring and this showed. Tight when needed and gloriously loose in other parts it was perfectly paced throughout.
I will always have a soft spot for Snakecharmer. Whitesnake were the first band I saw live way back in 1979 and I’ve loved them ever since. The fondness I share for them is probably not reciprocated by their old leader Coverdale. In my opinion the world would love to see the more blue rock orientated band reform for a series of gigs but with a less than acrimonious end to their working relationship, Mickey Moody and Neil Murray have chosen to do their own thing. ‘Guilty as Charged’ kicked off proceedings and into ‘A Little Rock n Roll’. But rather like BSR a lot of the crowd wanted the old ‘Snake covers. ‘Ready and Willing’, steered by the majestical Murray on bass got the crowd going. The sizeable crowd did seem to lose interest on the bands own material which is a shame. ‘Falling Leaves’ is a great song. Laurie’s voice, H’s drums and Wakeman’s keyboards rose to the fore. They exude class. Mickey Moody gave us ‘Moody’s Blues’ which took me right back to yesteryear. The same fun solo which drew great audience participation led into ‘Slow an’ Easy’, ‘Here I Go Again ‘and ‘Fool For Your Loving’. It’s a shame their appearances seem only to consist of festivals as smaller venues would be an ideal setting to reminisce the golden years.
I was nervous for Blaze Bayley. Having seen him recently with a reformed Wolfsbane playing in front of around 50 people I feared that an attempt to sing from his Maiden days would be a disaster. I think that Maiden made a mistake employing him, compounded by writing songs more suited to the operatic bombastic style of Bruce Dickinson. Blaze’s voice did not suit that and it was evident that touring was never going to be a success leading to Blaze leaving after two albums. Oh how I wish he sung then as well as he sang at HRH. As Blaze himself said on stage he has never sung better in his life. He is going to be touring and singing thirty songs from his life in bands. I think he will pull it off without a problem. A set list of ‘Lord of the Flies’, ‘Futureal’, ‘Judgement of Heaven’, ‘Lightning Strikes Twice’, ‘Sign of the Cross’, ‘Blood on the World’s Hands’ and an almighty ‘The Clansman’ and ‘Man on the Edge’ was, in my eyes and maybe controversially stunning. I sang along so loud I lost my voice. His backing band was spot on and if you closed your eyes it could have been Maiden. He was funny, his crowd participation worked and I think he surprised a lot of people. When he tours, go.
Using the same backing band Paul Di’Anno came on not giving the crowd chance to catch their breath. Again my favourite times in the late seventies were listening to the first two Maiden albums. I loved the rawness, the punky edge and Di’Anno was a brilliant front man. However today it was sad to see Paul hardly being able to walk, bloated and with a massive beard looking like a shadow of his former self. He was still the same belligerent Paul telling about his toilet problems. He told us this was his last ever UK gig and he was going to live in Brazil. He gave us his all, it’s a shame his all consisted of speeding up the lyrics or using thrash metal like growls of high pitched screams. He divided the audience some preferring Blaze and some loving the punkier sound. However it was a privilege to see him one last time. ‘Sanctuary’, ‘Purgatory’, ‘Wrathchild’, ‘Murders in the Rue Morgue’, ‘Remember Tomorrow’ dedicated to Clive Burr, ‘Genghis Khan’, ‘Charlotte’, ‘Killers’, ‘Phantom’, ‘Running Free’ and ‘Transylvania’ are still fantastic. The material really carried him through. He was joined by Blaze for ‘Iron Maiden’ and then after a blistering ‘Holidays in the Sun’ by the Pistols he was gone. The end of an era. No he didn’t sing too well but it still was one of the Godfathers of the NWOBHM scene one more time. Thanks Paul for the memories, enjoy your retirement.
Michael Monroe is still a livewire form the moment he ran out on stage he was a whirling dervish. Spinning around, climbing on the barriers, playing sax whilst still being able to preen his blonde looks and pose was the direct opposite of Di’anno. Fourteen songs from a glittering career came and went so fast. ‘Horns and Halos’ kicked us off, ‘Trick of the Wrist’, ’78’ from the last album right up to Hanoi Rocks’ ‘Malibu Beach Nightmare’ were met by a really excited crowd. He has never slowed down and obviously loves being the centre of attention still. Another highlight of an awesome day.
Airbourne were billed as the headliners of the weekend. I understand they refused to do interviews and wanted to come in and get out. But they destroyed the place. Rightly or wrongly they could be called AC/Bourne but they do exactly what it says on the tin. Straight forward, no messing rock n roll. Yes we’ve seen the beer cans get smashed onto sweaty long haired skulls before but it still makes us laugh. With a head down no nonsense approach they grabbed the crowd by the throat and didn’t let them go. 11 songs starting with ‘Ready to Rock’, and ending with ‘Running Wild’, nothing really sounds different from the song before but plenty of bands get away with it. We wanted a good time, we wanted to raise a glass with these Aussies madman and they allowed that. The sound was perfect for them, the lighting spot on. Overall a great headliner.
Leaving The Answer to finish off the main stage after Airbourne was a strange decision with many thinking it should have been the other way around. I didn’t.
The Answer always delivers. Their brand of hard rock and blues is simply awesome. They were blessed from the off with a clear sound, slightly underpowered but it allowed the instruments to be heard properly as well as Cormac’s great tones. With a simple but effective drum beat connecting the rhythm section the songs ebb and flow. The new album, produced by Toby Jepson gives a more commercial feel which sounds better live than on record. It had more power and drive. Kicking off with ‘New Horizon’ and finishing with a stunning version of my favourite song ‘Preachin’’ the band triumphed. They made a crowd already exhausted from Airbourne even worse. The energy of Cormac is intoxicating. His hair alone has a mind of its own and with manic dance moves causing it to cover his face his is one frontman worthy of the title. They improve year on year. One of the tightest bands out there I hope to see them headline bigger and better places. Their sound works in an arena or a smaller club equally well but more people need to see them play and support one of our biggest prospects.
Due to the clashing of bands there were a few bands I missed out on however I did manage to see Spit Like This, a glam punk band from London. They had bubble gum goodtime songs and a mesmerising front man Zion and a gorgeous and flirty bass player Vikki I really enjoyed their frantic set. Vikki told the crowd the photographers were trying to film her knickers but she had the last laugh as “I’m not wearing any” was a great way of getting attention. Zion is a mix of Iggy Pop, Michael Hutchence and Jagger. Their latest album Normalityville Horror was showcased. It won’t win any prizes, but if you are looking for attitude and fun, look them up.
Hard Rock Hell is a great festival. It remains relatively small, and I should imagine most punters return year after year. Well organised and safe, affordable and easy to navigate it remains a highlight of the calendar.
A few complaints. The bookers need to look at quality not quantity. There were too many forgettable bands all playing the same style of heavy metal. This is a festival which deserves the odd curve ball as the crowd were open to suggestion. Maybe look at the scheduling as too many choices had to be made when better acts clashed.
A tiring weekend which was so enjoyable.
See more of Lisa’s photos from Day 3 here;