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VEGA @ Hard Rock Hell, Prestatyn (2/12/11)

posted 7 Dec 2011, 07:12 by Paul Woodward   [ updated 7 Dec 2011, 16:21 ]
Review by Woody
Photo's by Sean Larkin

When I found out VEGA were set to play this year’s Hard Rock Hell festival I was determined to get along and see the band live again. I was worried they would get lumbered with an early daytime slot, given the amount of bands playing throughout the weekend, so I was overjoyed to discover the guys had a nice night time slot although it did mean their set clashed with main stage headliners Magnum.

The VEGA guys have slowly been making new fans since the release of the Kiss of Life album which was released to critical acclaim twelve months ago. Betwixt some festival dates in the UK & Europe, most notably Firefest in October and some high profile support and promotion from the likes of Classic Rock Magazine and the offshoot CR presents AOR, the band are fast establishing themselves as one of the most fresh and exciting rock bands around at the moment. With songs that make bigger names new albums look stale, safe and boring these guys are truly rising stars in a music genre that needs a good shake up. Also given the reports of their phenomenal set and incredible reaction they received at this year’s Firefest many people are loving the VEGA sound, it’s easy for me to say bigger things await, but crowd reactions and the critical acclaim the band are receiving speaks far more than any words I can utter, it’s not a case of IF anymore it’s WHEN!

As I’m anxiously awaiting the band to take to the stage, I was a little worried that their didn’t seem to be much of a crowd and that clashing with Magnum was against the bands fortune tonight, but as the opening riff to ‘Into the Wild’ started bodies came flooding out of the woodwork and detached themselves from the bar and came forward giving the band a decent audience to play for! I’ve never been shy in hiding my love for this band and I do take some stick for how passionate and vocal I am about them but such is my belief in the band and more importantly how much I enjoy the band’s music, so to say I’m happier than a pig in shit by the time Nick starts belting out the chorus to ‘Into The Wild’ is beyond an understatement.

I have been fortunate enough to see the band once before, almost a year ago at JB’s in Dudley and whilst I loved their performance that day it was obvious the band were just finding their feet as a live unit. Now the band is a far tighter, slicker and entertaining live act than I previously witnessed. The guys exude confidence onstage and when you have crowds of all sizes singing your songs back at you and getting involved that confidence is justified. Nick has always been a great front man and I still remember him vividly performing with Kick at Wolvo Civic Hall supporting Thunder and winning the sold out crowd over back in the late 90’s! He is never afraid to get the crowd involved tonight and throughout every song he points the mike at the crowd and gets them revved up by encouraging them to sing, and the audience never disappoint by making their voices heard. He even gets the crowd to sing at one point by stating I want the guys in Magnum to hear your voices and it was a fantastic moment and you can see from Nick’s face he loves every minute of his time onstage! Nick refers to the crowd as the Hard Rock Hell choir, but I think the band have their own choir now – the VEGA choir! Nick’s vocals throughout the set were spot on, I’m sure he’d say different, but from a fans perspective you couldn’t have asked for a better vocal performance from anyone!
The band as a whole are far more solid with bass player Rob Wylde fitting into the mix with his easy, swaggering, attitude filled stage presence. Guitarist Nick Horne may be the understated performer of the bunch but his skills shine through and he has an air of Tony Clarkin of Magnum about him in his stage presence! Unfortunately due to piss poor lighting wild man drummer Dan Chantrey was left very much in the dark, but the pounding beats he pumped out got the crowd rocking and swaying, although I think some of the ones I saw fall over may have been because of the amount of booze consumed over this weekend!

James Martin’s keyboard’s were nice and high in the mix, which I absolutely loved, I had feared given this festival been a much heavier affair than what I would associate a highly melodic band like VEGA with I had worried that the key’s would be neglected as the sound guy would be geared towards heavy metal. Thankfully my worries were unfounded and all those lush and infectious keyboard licks lit up the rather large hall. James also helps rev up the audience by clapping and encouraging the fans to raise their hands. Guitarist Tom Martin is also far more mobile, confident and visibly enjoying his time on stage with a huge smile, swaggering around whilst knocking out some riffs with ease as the songs envelope and excite the increasingly vocal crowd.

The set was way too short; although I’m afraid I won’t be happy until I see a full 90 minute set from the gang, make it so guys. Also unfortunately we lost “Headlights” as the band were cut short, boo hiss, was tempted to shout “fook em, do it anyway”, I know this crowd wouldn’t have minded. So we got “One Of A Kind”, “A.N Other”, “Stay With Me”, “Into The Wild”, “Hearts Of Glass” and “Kiss Of Life” to close which the crowd reaction surely would have drowned out Magnum on the main stage! These songs are full of rich melodies and soaring harmonies, all brought to life with great aplomb by the entire band tonight and I absolutely enjoyed every last second of it, killer songs and a killer live act could you ask for more!
My highlight was “Staring At The Sun”, which has fast become my – it’s 3am, I’m half cut, I can’t sleep and I can’t stop thinking about you song! The song just resonated so much more with me tonight and the band brought it to life so well, I hope this song remains in the bands live set for many years to come. An amazing performance and although it was only a short set in comparison to many of the bands I’ve seen this year it’s by far the one that has moved me the most, if you haven't seen VEGA yet, prepare to be blown away, also probably advisable you bring your singing voice and dancing shoes as you’ll need them. Or if you’re like me a change of underwear!