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HRH AOR 2 - Thursday 20th March

posted 10 Apr 2014, 13:12 by Paul Woodward   [ updated 10 Apr 2014, 13:17 ]

Review by Woody

I’ve always been a big supporter of Midlands rockers Dante Fox and it’s great to see them perform to the largest gathering for any band that played tonight. The Fox have become regulars at HRH and it seems they have won a favourable fan base amongst the HRH audience and it was fantastic to not only see them greeted so warmly but also to see many in the crowd really getting into their set and singing along!

Their set felt really short always a good sign of a good gig! The Fox as always were fantastically entertaining and it’s great to see the current line-up solidifying the live power of the band. It’s also great to hear Keyboardist Pete Lakin fully emerged in the band with his delightful keyboard additions to the two new tracks aired tonight especially on ‘How Will You Know? (Where To Find Me)’. Vocalist Sue Willets for me will always be the focal point of the band and she seemed to relish performing in front of a big and appreciative audience. Sue is a great performer and again tonight she was flawless and her voice is beyond beautiful, she creates truly stirring and emotive melodies like no one else can seem to do. She did show some slight nerves on the two new tracks the aforementioned one as well as the ballad ‘A Love Affair’ but considering this was the first time she sang these songs live these were very minor vocal wobbles and didn’t affect our enjoyment of these tracks and judging by crowd reaction these new songs seemed to really impress people.

The set had a rockier edge to it which of course allows Guitarist Tim Manford to crank up his guitar and let rip, the heavier edge went down well with many in the crowd I saw and it felt like Tim noticed this and kicked it up a notch making sure all the songs managed to have a powerful guitar presence. I always love seeing these guys live and every time I see them it always seems better than the last!  We were treated to ‘The Last Goodbye’ which has become the bands solid opener in recent times, ‘Firing My Heart’, ‘Lucky Ones’, ‘Lost Mans Ground’, ‘Who Still The Innocence’ and of course the song they always finish with ‘Remember’. Anyone who knows anything about Dante Fox will know that Sue and Tim originate from the Black Country although the live somewhere posh now, so when a crowd member shouts ‘Up The Villa’ in reaction to Sue’s accent it was cool to hear Sue’s reaction. Now most musicians would just let something like this slide knowing the fickle nature of a an audience especially a boozed up one, but it was great to hear Sue state with much humour and a wry smile that she’s not from Birmingham she’s from Dudley and that people should know the subtle difference. Dealt with wonderfully I felt I normally don’t deal with been accused of been a Brummie so well, my reaction is normally quite violent and followed by a two hour speech on why I’m not a Brummie and that the Black Country is a totally separate entity. Oh and you best hope there isn’t a computer handy or the power point presentation gets dragged out!

There was a long gap before United Nations hit the stage and it saw the crowd that had gathered for Dante Fox dissipate quite quickly. The hardcore AOR’sters soon flocked back to the front again once they started playing their first song though. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking WHO? I like to pride myself on having quite a good knowledge of AOR bands but these guys have never come to my attention until very recently. Originating from the Eighties I’m told they gathered a cult following in their day amongst British AOR fans, but today their line-up features Black Country vocalist Lee Small, which is what has piqued my interest in this relatively unknown band.

Their set felt like the story of two bands with some songs which had a strong typical early ‘80’s English AOR feel akin to bands like Bronz but mixed in with songs with a more straight ahead modern melodic rock flavour which we are used to nowadays – an evolution of their sound but without leaving the melodic rock path! With no offence meant to the band but the star on show here was Small who put on an energetic performance and a stirling vocal performance, he was quick to banter and draw the crowd into the band’s songs which made me quickly warm to these guys. It was the more modern sounding stuff that grabbed my attention as I found some of the older sounding material a little too cheesy (yes – too cheesy even for me!) but on the whole I was really entertained by United Nations and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for music and gigs from them.

My favourite song was ‘You Cheated’ a full on melodic rocker which pushes all the right buttons, a melodic rock hit if ever I heard one. They also ran through ‘Violation Of A Nation’, ‘Too Much Information’, ‘I’ll Be Your Man Tonight’, ‘She’s Got The Looks That Kill’, ‘Black Hearts’, ‘Shock To The System’ and ‘When We Live Forever’.

The biggest name appearing tonight was Doogie White’s La Paz and I’ve really enjoyed their recent albums so I was quite looking forward to seeing them perform. Their heavier blues driven edge definitely woke me up and got me rockin’ and on the whole I enjoyed their set. It wasn’t a flawless one mind, maybe it was a bit of tiredness given the lateness of the bands slot but White’s vocals weren’t always as good as I know they can be it wasn’t a major thing and his exuberant stage presence definitely made up for it as he entertained and dragged the audience into the show. An appreciative audience made their voices heard throughout but I sometimes felt the set got a little stodgy and I think a mix of tempos on their set list selection could have helped with the flow of their set. But in fairness besides a few minor gripes it was a great set and it was really cool to actually see this cult act live!

Amongst their set we heard ‘This Boy is in Love With You’, ‘Lessons in Love’, ‘Old Habits Die Hard’ and ‘Little Miss Treated’. I had originally intended to watch tonight’s late band ‘The Spin’ but as tiredness crept in and an early start in the morning I decided to call time on what had been a great start to the Festival!