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HRH AOR 2 - Friday 21st March

posted 10 Apr 2014, 13:21 by Paul Woodward

Review by Woody

I arrived at the main AOR arena just in time to catch another long time British favourite of mine Newman and like Dante Fox the previous night it was great to see a good sized crowd waiting for them. Although Newman is a British act they don’t have much opportunity to perform live so are dependent on the Festival circuit in order to get the chance to perform to a crowd on a decent stage. They definitely have a decent stage today! I hadn’t expected the main arena and its stage to be as large as it was but it instantly filled me with excitement and it’s cool to see bands in the genre I love on such a big stage as opposed to the smaller stages I have become used to.

Steve Newman has been around the scene for a long time but it has only been in recent years he has been more active in the live arena and he has slowly but surely mastering his stage craft and establishing a solid backing band which now also feature drummer Pete Newdeck. So what we witness here is a confident performance from band who knows how to deliver the goods and please their audience. Newdeck’s wealth of live experience shines through and he gives the band a solid back bone and gives the songs a stronger booming resonance than I ever heard before. Newman is totally at ease on stage and gets this audience involved and singing along regardless of the early slot and hang over’s!

They kicked off with two new ones from their latest album Siren ‘Killing Me’ and the infectious ‘Some Kind Of Wonderful’ which really got the party started! For me though this set selection was well picked as the mid section of ‘Stay With Me’, ‘Feel Her Again’ and ‘If This Is Love’ was just a pure AOR delightful for us unashamed genre anoraks! We also got ‘Pray For The Day’, ‘Heaven Knows’ and set closer ‘One Step Closer’ which has never been my favourite Newman tune but seeing and hearing how beloved this song is by the crowd today really gave me a different view on it and more appreciation for it.

Summers have been buzzing around the periphery of the melodic rock scene for a few years now but since their debut album 364 was released the band have slowly but surely been building their fan base. I find these guys aptly named as they produce a really uplifting and fun time sound. They hit us all guns blazing and make the most of the abundance of space the main stage here gives them. They are rambunctious and energetic which entices the early in the day crowd to get involved and are easily captivated by these youngsters who seem so natural on stage.

They have a youthful naivety to their songs and whilst normally that would make me feel their music lacks depth, I actually find their songs quite refreshing and they are a great band to crank up when you’re looking for a bit of carefree escapism. They do have some slight modern touches which are probably down to the guy’s ages and the music they grew up with but on the whole these guys from their image, to their stage presence to their slick and smooth rock style scream we love melodic rock!

I think the song that really captured me the most in their set was a new one ‘Your Heart’ and considering its new the crowd seemed to agree with me in this been a killer tune judging by the applause it garnered. We also heard amongst others ‘Too Late’, ‘Sometimes’, ‘Superhero’, ‘Billy’, ‘Terminator’, ‘Let’s Go Round’ and ‘I Came Here To Rock’.

I’m sure between this set and their high profile support slot with Tyketto they have won many new fans and I’m sure we will be hearing a lot more from these guys in the future!

It was obvious from the crowd that gathered for Tigertailz there was plenty of Tailz maniacs ready to join in! The current Tailz line-up includes Aussie vocalist Jules Millis and I although they did play a couple of heavier metallic tracks towards the end of their set it does feel like this new line-up do veer more towards the sound and style of the bands glam sleaze origins. The band also revelling in the irony of playing their heavier stuff at an AOR festival, but the crowd gathered today didn’t seem to really care and rather than sending the anoraks to the exits the crowd reaction they received was without a doubt one of the best any band got over the entire weekend. Jay Pepper as always is very vocal in getting the crowd revved up and excitable and obviously relishing playing on Welsh soil.

Millis continues to impress me and this was without a doubt his best vocal performance I’ve witnessed and I found him to be an energetic and engaging front man. I’ve only over seen the Tailz on a small stage and as I’m watching this four piece own this stage and crowd it occurred to me these guys aren’t designed for small intimate gigs, they are meant to be rocking on bigger stages like this and judging by this noisy crowd it wouldn’t be hard for me to find lots of others who agree with that sentiment. The Tailz definitely delivered, whether you’re a fan or not of their music there’s no denying what an entertaining band these guys are.

Amongst the set we heard ‘Sick Sex’, ‘Living Without You’, new track ‘One Life’ from their recent EP, ‘I Can Fight Dirty Too’, ‘Heaven’ which Millis dedicates to his White Widdow band mate George Kristy who tragically passed away late last year and of course Tailz bass man Pepsi Tate before kicking in a riotous performance of crowd pleaser ‘Love Bomb Baby’.

The next band was originally meant to be Chasing Violets a female fronted AOR band but I’m mystified as a group who obviously isn’t Chasing Violets take to the stage. I have no idea behind this late change and I was really disappointed as Chasing Violets were one of the acts I was most looking forward too. It turned out the band who replaced them were called Bad Touch and they are a blues driven hard rock band and they really didn’t impress me at all. To be fair to them I was really disappointed at this late change and the fact they were about as AOR as Morbid Angel really jaded my opinion of their performance. If I see them again my opinion may differ but I thought they were very similar to a hell of a lot of bands dealing in this style of music at the moment and found them quite bland.

It seems hard to believe given their popularity Pink Cream 69 have only played live three times in the UK - especially as these German’s boast an English singer in David Readman. This rare opportunity to see this band had me very excitable and they didn’t disappoint and they put on a really entertaining set with songs plucked from albums spanning their entire career. A well picked crowd pleasing set list I felt and most genre diehards felt this performance was when the festival kicked in properly as PC69 took proceedings to the next level.

It was great to hear Readman can bring his studio performances to life really easily live and it never fails to amaze me how versatile a vocalist he is and even change his vocals to suit a certain song, band or genre. Although I was a little more awe struck by American bass man Dennis Ward who is a melodic rock genius and I won’t hear anything different from anyone – the fact he sang on two of my favourite AOR albums of recent times by Khymera especially the songs written by The Martin Brothers (Vega/Sugar Town). Ward has a calm quietly confident stage presence and it was a real treat to witness him live. Readman is the focal point of this band though and he works the crowd easily and frequently engages members of the audience.

I think new songs like ‘Special’ and ‘Wasted Years’ from their latest album ‘Ceremonial’ slotted into their set with ease and I really appreciated the slick smooth melodic rock edge of them which didn’t fell unbalanced amongst their more metallic tracks – in fact ‘Wasted Years’ was probably my highlight of their entire performance. We also heard ‘Keep An Eye On The Twisted’, ‘Hell’s Gone Crazy’, ‘Lost In Illusion’, ‘Talk To The Mirror’, ‘Break The Silence’, ‘Do You Like It Like That’, ‘No Way Out’, ‘Livin My Life For You’, ‘Welcome The Night’ and set closer ‘Shame’.

A Fantastic performance from a band with a wealth of killer songs, I just wish they could play the UK more frequently because they seriously are the dog’s danglies!

I’ve been fortunate to see Bonfire on a couple of occasions in recent times and have always enjoyed them live and some of their songs are amongst my most played of all time so I was very much looking to catching them live once again. I did laugh to myself though as the band took to the stage and Bonfire guitarist Hans Ziller and bassist Uwe Kohler rushed in comedy run genius style to their mic’s I’m sure it was unintentional but it tickled my funny bone immensely!

These guys are old hands at this live performance lark and they delivered an entertaining performance utilising every move that’s in the rock star stage craft manual. One thing let things down though and that was the fact their set was beset by a poor sound which hindered the songs impact as the mix was totally wrong. It didn’t affect the flow of the show or even dampen the audiences rising excitement as Bonfire maintained everyone’s high spirits following on from PC69. But it did disappoint me when personally favourites ‘Tony’s Roulette’ and ‘Sweet Obsession’ lacked that spark that usually accompanies them when they are performed live as the songs seemed drowned out.

That said I still enjoyed their performances and I’m sure the band were unaware of just how bad the sound was for them I believe it was far worse in other parts of the venue being near the sound desk obviously enhanced my experience of their set. Vocalist Claus Lessman is always very chatty and filled with humour even if not all his quips hit the mark but what I think is really cool about Claus is he always tries to learn bits and pieces about the areas he’s playing and engage the crowd with these things he’s discovered. I think this friendly banter approach with an audience really warms him and endears him to any crowd he plays for.

For me personally the highlights were ‘Sword and Stone’ which probably got the best crowd reaction too, ‘Hot To Rock’ and the rambunctious set closer ‘Bang Down The Door’ which left many in this crowd with big grins on their faces. We also heard ‘Bells of Freedom’, ‘Never Mind’, ‘ Don’t Touch The Light’, ‘Fantasy’, ‘Give It A Try’ and ‘Under Blue Skies’.

Next was the ever popular House Of Lords who suffered by far the worst sound of the entire festival with most notably vocalist James Christian’s been totally lost in the mix at times. They soldiered on very professionally and despite the sound issue leapt the crowd rocking and engaged and maintained the awesome atmosphere that they previous acts had built up. Christian didn’t speak much in between songs a stark contrast to Bonfire’s Lessman, but instead concentrated on filling the set with as many songs as possible.

It was interesting set list selection, not as obvious as I would have imagined although of course we got the hit’s ‘I Wanna Be Loved’ and the ballads ‘Love Don’t Lie’ and ‘Can’t Find My Way Home’. It was a brave selection which worked really well and enhanced their reputation for playing sweeping epic grandiose melodic rock. For me though it was the newer songs that I really enjoyed the most ‘Battle’ been particularly rabble rousing and in need of some fist pumps to accompany it but the slickness of ‘Swimming With The Sharks’ was my personal favourite of their entire set.

Although the sound did hamper my enjoyment the buoyant atmosphere around the venue made up for it and kept everyone in good spirits as they ran though the likes of ‘Sahara’, ‘Big Money’, ‘Cartesian Dreams’, ‘Come To My Kingdom’, ‘Permission To Die’ and set closer ‘Pleasure Palace’. As I’ve come to expect from the current line-up of House of Lords backing James Christian, Chris McCarvil, Jimi Bell and BJ Zampa always deliver a solid and reliable performance it was a shame the sound let them down. I always enjoy these guys and I’ll always be there when they come to town!

This festival belonged to Tyketto from the opening chord of set opener ‘Burning Down Inside’ to the closing note of ‘Forever Young’ they were just totally freakin’ awesome! The large crowd were noisily appreciative and I just drank in the wonderfully upbeat atmosphere provided by them as we all enjoyed a fantastic set of fun time rock n roll delivered to us in style by one of the best bands in the world of melodic rock.

Danny Vaughn as always was an engaging front man who puts a lot of energy and emotion into his performances. He always finds it easy to connect with his audience and knows how much making that connection can enhance the audience’s enjoyment of a live performance. Vaughn is one of those front man I won’t hear nothing bad said about because he always delivers live, he’s never half arsed and acknowledges the power and importance of his songs on his fans and that’s something I appreciate as a fan. Sadly Tyke guitarist Brooke St James wasn’t available for this current run of live dates but they brought in English guitarist Chris Green, I had no doubt Green would do the band proud as I’m huge fan of this talented guitarist from his time with cult AOR rockers Pride and I wasn’t wrong. He never let a smile drop from his face and his enjoyment of playing with the Tyke’s was a mirror of the crowd he was playing too. The backbone of the Tyke’s drummer Michael Clayton and Bassist Jimi Kennedy of course brought the rock in the usual flawless style we have been accustomed since the band reunited in 2004! I think the inclusion of Ged Rylands on Key’s helps enhance the Tyke’s live experience especially on those tracks with strong Keyboard moments.

It was cool to hear new Tyke songs fit into their set with ease and be greeted by the crowd like standard Tyke classics. ‘Dig In Deep’ was thoroughly rousing and ‘Sound Off’ been smile inducing fun. I always find myself drawn to songs from their second album ‘Strength In Numbers’ and amongst my many highlights were ‘Rescue Me’ and ‘Meet Me In The Night’ which the band delivered with gusto, it has long been my favourite Tyke track and it always gives me chills when they play it! I always fear they won’t include it in their sets so I always feel an involuntary smile creep across my face every time I hear that opening guitar lick knowing full well what’s coming! We also heard ‘Faithless’, ‘Seasons’, ‘End Of The Summer Day’s’, ‘Sail Away’ and ‘Lay Your Body Down’. They topped the night off in epic sing along style with the trio of emotional ballad ‘Standing Alone’ dry eyes are for big girls blouses, followed by the joyous anthems ‘Wings’ and ‘Forever Young’! In short Tyketto were awesome, everyone should love Tyketto because they are awesome, so be awesome and love Tyketto. 

They played Wolverhampton the following night it was the first time I’d missed the Tyke’s in the Black Country since they reformed in 2004. Something I was disappointed about and even considered leaving HRH AOR early to catch. It turns out that that this show was one of their finest gigs ever, one of epic monumental unforgettable proportions and I can’t believe I missed it! The first time I miss them by going to a gig outside the Black Country....bugger....I always tell people the Black Country shows are always a bands best it’s not me trying to big up local gigs it’s an undeniable fact.... there’s a lesson in this for me....I think it may involve sticking to gigs in the black country....because they are guaranteed to be awesome and apparently they are still awesome even if I’m not there....something I’m not very happy about.

Things had been running roughly 15 minutes late and it was well after 11pm before the delightful Robin Beck came onstage. The crowd had sadly thinned out considerably following the end of the Tykes set and although there was a few die hards like myself still keen to see Beck, the atmosphere did subside a bit and tiredness crept into the audience’s responses and in many cases a long day of drinking taking its toll. Although she didn’t get the crowd reaction and involvement she truly deserved I fear it was mainly down to having a bad slot rather than a lethargic uninterested crowd. I think some little adjustments to the timings and having the Tyke’s on a little later would have seen Beck get a more rapturous response from her fans. This didn’t stop Beck from coming out and giving us a wonderful set of glorious soft rock topped off by one of the finest female vocalist’s in the genre. It may be a bit sad to admit but actually getting to see Robin Beck live and in the flesh was a moment I won’t soon forget especially as she was vocally flawless as she performed all those songs I know so well.

It was great to hear ‘If You Were A Woman’, ‘Don’t Lose Any Sleep’, ‘Hold Back The Night’, ‘Save Up All Your Tears’, ‘You’re The One’, new song ‘Wish You Were Here’, ‘Cat Fight’, ‘Tears In The Rain’, ‘First Time’ and ‘Hide Your Heart’. Sadly though Beck was the first victim of the Festival running behind schedule and her set was disappointingly cut short to get things back on track for final band Bonafide to take the stage at their original time. I decided to call time on my night as Beck reluctantly leaves the stage trying to get permission for one last song. I always hate it when bands are told to get off the stage!