Hair Metal Heaven – Hull, City Hall – 27 August 2017 Print E-mail
Written by Ben Hughes   
Saturday, 09 September 2017 04:00

On a beautiful bank holiday Sunday, as children play in the fountains in the sunshine outside Hull City Hall, a few thousand rock fans descend on Hull City Centre. It is hangover central and if, like me, they have read last night’s posts on social media, many are wondering if the festival was actually going to be on today! Even before the doors have opened it starts to go pear-shaped. Wildside have cancelled (although they later claimed they were never booked to appear – Ed), now Canadian band Diemonds have been moved up a slot and a band called Hell’s Addiction will now open the day’s events. That works out good for me actually: Diemonds will get a bigger crowd. In fact the first five bands all run pretty much to order and things seem to be going swimmingly well...

 

Hair Metal Heaven banner

 

Hell’s Addiction, if you want to be pedantic, would be more suited to Ramblin’ Man Fair than Hair Metal Heaven. They are firmly rooted in ‘70s rock, not a bad thing at all, they sound great and go down well as an opener. They remind me of Stillwater from Almost Famous for some reason: I think it’s vocalist Ben Sargent’s delivery and stance with a mic more than anything. Worth checking out again, methinks.

 

Next up are Princess Pang. A band I never in my wildest dreams thought I would ever see reform, let alone see performing at Hull City Hall! Featuring an all original line up, minus drummer Brian Keats (who sadly passed away in 2010). As there are no recent pictures or any idea what they have been up to for 20-odd years, I am more intrigued about seeing them than any other band. What will they look like and more importantly what will they sound like? Turns out the years have been kind to Princess Pang. The band dive in straight into ‘South St Kids’: they look fit and healthy and they sound great. Vocalist Jenny Foster runs on dressed in tight black leather, looking better than she did all those years ago. Turns out she still has that voice too, pulling out her best Stevie Nicks moves and sounds. Ballad ‘Baby Blue’ was a highlight of their debut album and is up next: a great song played with conviction, it gives me goosebumps, even if the backing vocals were a bit off key; great stuff.

 

‘Find My Heart A Home’ is dedicated to the deceased drummer. Guitarist and Scott Wieland look-a-like plays the intro riff to ‘Trouble In Paradise’, their most well-known song that got heavy MTV rotation back in the day and many people in the crowd seem to know it too. And ‘China Doll’ finishes off a surprise, high energy set. As Jenny announces from the stage, they will be recording a new album soon, and that is something I look forward to hearing.

 

I have been waiting a good few years for Toronto band Diemonds to play in the UK. They have been on the Über Rock radar since day one and they are one of the priority bands for me to see this weekend. This is their debut performance and to be honest it couldn’t have gone better.

 

Diemonds HMHPHOTO CREDIT: Photo courtesy of www.facebook.com/Diemonds/

 

Diemonds kill it from the moment they blast on the stage. With metallic riffage and stadium sized choruses, how could they fail? In her tiny leather hot pants and not much else, the diminutive Priya Panda owns the stage for their entire slot. A great voice and a ton of attitude, she prowls the stage and with her foot on the monitor marking her territory she seals the deal. Guitarist Daniel Decay is something else, the live wire guitarist is all over the stage, a mass of flailing locks, doing jumps, duck walks and peeling off insane licks on his flying V. The band are full on energy and they look like they are having fun up there and that’s what it is all about. They are probably heavier than a lot of people were expecting but their style and delivery is totally sleazy ‘80s metal in a good way. Their songs are bad ass! ‘Never Wanna Die’ is heavy as, and ‘Take On The Night’ and the following ‘Get The Fuck Outta Here’ are modern metallic anthems, make no mistake. They are the new breed and should be embraced and there should be more bands like this on the bill. They finish with a great cover of the Kiss classic ‘C’Mon and Love Me’ and pretty much set the bar for the rest of the event. Someone please bring them back to the UK for more gigs soon.

 

It all seems to be running pretty smoothly right now. I meet with friends and take a breather in the sun, grabbing beers and food, as I am not too bothered about missing some of Leatherwolf’s set. Loosing track of time, and enjoying the beer and the company, I miss them and the following band Shark Island. In hindsight I maybe should have stayed inside as it’s a long time before anyone plays on that stage again…

 

We wait patiently for Loudness to take the stage... nothing! My friends go back to the bar, I wait over an hour along with the rest of the crowd and still no band, so I also go to the bar. It is over two hours before Loudness finally take to the stage, but by the time word filters back to the bar we have missed most of their set. A lot of people are pissed off, no one knows what is going on, there has been no announcements from the stage and no staff have a clue what is happening. The lack of communication is the biggest problem here. What will happen now? It is a bank holiday Sunday, there will surely be a curfew. Who will get pulled? There is not enough time for D-A-D, Reckless Love and the headliners to play full sets now. Are the headliners going to get pulled at the last moment? Bearing in mind last night’s Michael Monroe shambles, this would be a disastrous end to Hair Metal Heaven. Is Sebastian Bach even in Hull? I wonder…. Questions, questions and no answers. All of a sudden I spy an LED lit two-string bass being placed onstage. At least D-A-D are here: I head for the front.

 

D-A-D

 

All troubles are forgotten as soon as ‘Jihad’ kicks off one of the greatest sets of the whole weekend. They sound amazing from the off. Jesper sounds as good as ever and bassist Stig is dressed in a green jumpsuit and a helicopter pilot helmet: he looks like Action Man with a perspex two-string bass with blue lights in it. We chant the “no fuel left for the pilgrims” refrain as the song reaches the climax. A high energy set follows. With eyes pretty much glued to the extraordinary bassist as he clambers on anything he can, while switching between the perspex bass and the most ridiculous bass I have ever seen, an Iron cross body and a Fokker bi plane as the headstock!  D-A-D are a band who never went away, they have been consistently at it since ‘No Fuel Left For The Pilgrims’ brought then to worldwide attention, they have the songs in their arsenal and are a world class live act. ‘Girl Nation’ sounds great, ‘Scare Yourself’ is a wall of noisy in the rousing chorus and it has the singer down in the pit getting some crowd participation going. ‘Bad Craziness’ with its ‘Day Tripper’ riff is still a bad ass song. But it’s closer ‘Sleeping My Day Away’ that steals the show. As soon as Jacob plays that riff, man it just gives me goosebumps every time, and live is no exception. It’s jammed out to an extended version and a great finale. What an awesome band they turn out to be.

 

Where do I start with Reckless Love? C’mon, in all their auto-tuned glory, it’s debatable that they can even be classed as a rock band. The ultimate hair metal parody band, maybe? I used to put them in the same league as Steel Panther, but no, these guys are for real. Live, here tonight in Hull City Hall they sound great. They are entertaining and high energy make no mistake. Someone has obviously got David Lee Roth and Vince Neil DNA and grown their own rock star, as frontman Ollie has it all, looks charisma and a great voice. Ok, they have more backing tapes than a Motley Crue show, but they are fun and the crowd lap it up. Opener ‘Animal Attraction’ comes on like prime Def Leppard, big song, big chorus. ‘We Are The Weekend’ is massive euro pop metal at its finest.  But ‘Beautiful Bomb’ is a horrible song in any environment. At times they make Danger Danger sound like Metallica. But against all my judgements, the penultimate band of Hair Metal Heaven lived up to that title and triumphed.

 

On paper, the Rock n Hull Allstars seems a hastily put together band of whoever was available at the time. Sebastian Bach, George Lynch, Vinny Appice... legends fair enough but, and I mean no disrespect, Chris Wyse on bass and Brent Woods on guitar... do you know who they are without Googling them first? No one even knows if they are going to get a song in tonight or not either. It’s getting close to midnight as the crew hastily sets up for the headline set. The word going round is that the curfew is midnight and things could get shut down, so a big roar goes up as the lights go down and the band crank straight into Dokken’s ‘The Hunter’. On strides a larger than life Sebastian Bach and all is well in the world as he screams through a spot on version of the classic. Another Dokken classic ‘Alone Again’ follows with Bach hitting the notes just fine.

 

Rock N Hull Allstars

After the Dokken one-two, George Lynch is pretty much resigned to the background on rhythm guitar - which is a shame. Of course, there was going to be a Skid Row song or two, ‘18 & Life’ and ‘I Remember You’ follow in quick succession before a Ronnie James Dio tribute 1-2 of ‘Mob Rules’ and ‘Stand Up And Shout’, Bach telling the audience the last time Vinny played this very room was in 1983 with Dio.

 

Pointing to the tattoo on his arm the crowd goes wild as we know it’s ‘Youth Gone Wild’ time. Bach may not be able to reach those notes these days, but it’s still a great performance that gets the whole room singing along and forgetting the past 25 years ever happened. Loudness guitarist Akira Takasaki and Priya Panda from Diemonds join the band for ‘Rock n Roll Crazy Nights’ which is apparently Sebastian Bach’s favourite song of all time. Before ending a much shortened set with a run through of AC/DC’s ‘Highway To Hell’. Great set and a great performance that was well worth waiting around for.

 

All in all, Hair Metal Heaven 2017 was an all-round success. Personally, I saw bands I never dreamed I would ever see and some I never wanted to see and they all lived up to and exceeded my expectations. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be in Hull, standing in a pub ordering a drink next to the guitarist from Princess Pang as the rhythm section from Vain are sat across me at a table drinking beers.

 

Sure, the promoters took on more than they could handle, but fair play for them doing it. They did it because they, like you and me, are fans of this genre of music and they wanted to do something special - and in that they succeeded. There was always going to be teething troubles for a first time festival but they realised the dream, did what no one else has done and bought together some of the hottest rock bands from our past and present together for one weekend and for that they should be praised. Sure, the organisation wasn’t the best, yes the sound wasn’t the greatest at times, but the venue was fantastic, there was no queue for the toilets ever, the atmosphere was great, the people were beautiful and the bands... the bands were excellent. The hiccups can be forgiven, they will learn from their mistakes and hopefully will come back stronger and more organised for Hair Metal Heaven 2018. I will definitely be back for more.

 

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