Rockingham – Nottingham, Trent University – 21 October 2017 Print
Written by Mark Ashby and The Dark Queen   
Wednesday, 01 November 2017 04:00

“It’s far too early for us rock stars” proclaims Cruzh frontman Philip Lindstrand (pulling double duty having stood in on guitar for Blanc Faces the previous evening), hopefully somewhat self-deprecatingly, as he refers to the 12.30 kick off for the second day of this feast of classic and melodic rock. But, then, it’s never too early too rock ‘n’f’n’ roll, as the event’s official hotel had found out, with the most diehard reveller finally departing for their pits at the impressive hour of 6.45 am, before the first of the next day’s party animals start things all over again just a couple of hours later… Yep, as the UR team head in search of wifi, our German friends are necking the steins into them already!

 

Cruzh 2

 

The Swedish quintet – recently augmented by the arrival of Lindstrad, with original singer Tony Andersson now concentrating on his role behind the keyboard – are the perfect fit for Rockingham and the nigh on perfect starter, with their typical Scandi-sleaze meets AOR sound. It’s glitzy and dirty, with the right amount of bite in its delivery. Andersson is an impressive and amicable frontman and quickly has the impressively big crowd eating out of his hand, his presence matched only by that of bassist Butabi Borg, who shimmies and sways look a good ‘un all the way through their taut set. Their sound is characterized by huge vocal harmonies and infectious melodies, and they earn a suitably massive response, ensuring that everyone is well and truly in the party mood – whether they want to be or not.

 

The Amorettes 4

 

Slade’s ‘We’ll Bring The House Down’ preludes the arrival of those feisty Glaswegian lassies The Amorettes – and, as usual, they proceed to do just that, proving they have more balls than many of the male artists on the rest of the weekend’s bill. The girls bring a totally different sound to proceedings, but their brand of pure, honest, rock ‘n’ roll is all the more refreshing for its rootsy, in your face honesty. If there were any hangovers from those 6am hangovers, they are well and truly blown away as Gill, Hannah and Heather blast them into oblivion and prove, once again, that these r’n’r sistas definitely can do things for themselves and are leading the charge of new generation British female bands.

 

Vega 2

 

Vega frontman Nick Workman immediately invites us put ‘Put Your Hands In The Air’ and, to be honest, despite the still relatively early hour, very few of us need to be asked twice, and right from the off the place is bouncing again. Workman has an easy charm which works well with the enthusiastic crowd, who are now well and truly in the mood for a party – and Vega are more than capable of delivering the soundtrack! As usual, their sound is slick and well-oiled, with each of the band members turning in tight and precise performances while bouncing effortlessly off each other, and Marcus Thurston once again proves he is one of the best guitarists in the genre, with his combination of crunching riffs and soaring harmonies.

 

Fortune 3

 

I got into a bit of trouble last year for, speaking as possibly a minority of one, saying that Fortune didn’t really float my boat. Obviously, the opposite is true for many Rockinghammers as, by popular demand, they are back for a repeat performance. Again, they don’t do it for me personally: their admittedly well-crafted mid-paced AOR is just that – all played at more or less the same tempo, without any real depth or texture. They do have their moments: the chorus on ‘Don’t Say You Love Me’ is extremely hummable while ‘Dearborn Station’ again stands out as a superbly sharp slice of melodic rock. Yes, the songs are good and they’re all superb musicians, but they just lack that cutting edge. But, everyone else seemed to love them, and that’s all that really counts at the end of the set, isn’t it?

 

Dave Bicker 11

 

Before he even walks on stage, Dave Bickler gets an absolutely massive reception – and deservedly so, as he proceeds to reward the fans with a hit-strewn set from his Survivor years, while also proving, right from the off, that’s he’s still in terrific voice. Of course, he’s now a solo artist and there are previews of his own forthcoming album, such as the early pop of ‘Hope’, which is rich and atmospheric and showcases the lower end of his voice to great effect and a few well-chosen covers (although they, like John Parr the night before beggar the question of “why?”). With Nigel Bailey and his crüe (sic) working as his supporting cast, the tightness of the band both with themselves and the singer is incredible: the sign of a totally professional set up, they are immaculate and faultless and they are rewarded with a suitably rapturous reception from the adoring crowd. Bickler himself seems genuinely humbled by the response. And, of course, there’s only one way for him to end this first ever UK performance, and the place goes ballistic as the opening chords of ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ thump out of the speakers to culminate this sublime performance by a master performer.

 

Harem Scarem 3

 

There’s no doubt about, Harem Scarem are one of the most eagerly anticipated acts of the weekend, and they definitely don’t disappoint: in fact, if anything, like Bickler before them, they surpass expectations with a set that just has the word “class” written all over its setlist! Exploring their full back catalogue with a beautifully selected set of fan favourites, as well as a few off-the-wall choices, Harry Hess proves why he is one of the best singers of his generation operating in this genre: although when drummer Darren Smith takes over lead vocals on ‘Sentimental Blvd’ he more than gives the main man a run for his dollars. Nevertheless, Hess proves why he is one of the most inspirational singers for many of the breakthrough artists who are following in his footsteps, and he and the band deliver a hard-hitting and thoroughly enjoyable set during which it is extremely hard to resist the temptation for a good old-fashioned burl around the balcony (if there was actually any room to do so!)…

 

For some reason, the last two sets start and finish early: OK, Dave Bickler had shaved 15 minutes off his allotted time, but Harem Scarem quit the stage 20 minutes ahead of their advertised curfew. By this time, it was known that headliner Vince Neil was in the building, so the expectation was that he might just grace us with his not insubstantial presence slightly earlier than planned: but, no, despite a quick and efficient turnaround, he keeps us waiting for more than an hour, with the sound guys tantalizing us by turning the backing tracks by ‘DC and Whitesnake up to almost gig level volumes…

 

Vince Neil 17

 

As the opening chord of ‘Dr Feelgood’ uncoils from the freshly installed backline, the audience erupt into a frenzy akin to sharks circling a freshly killed dolphin. The problems are immediately obvious, however: first of all, the guys from Slaughter are much better than musicians than Neil’s former bandmates could ever dream of being, and so actually make the songs sound much better than the originals. And, secondly, Neil’s voice is shot to hell: he tries to hit the high notes early on both ‘Dr Feelgood’ and ‘Piece Of The Action’ but ends up relying on the audience to carry him. This is no more evident than on ‘Home Sweet Home’, on which his attempts to hit the top end of his register (and, apart from one scream near the end, is so off key) are actually painful to hear. But, at least he doesn’t seem to be relying on backing tapes, like so many of his contemporaries, and he still knows how to entertain a crowd, warts and all.

 

It’s very much a crowd-pleasing set, with a good few unusual, at first glance choices: ‘Same Old Situation’ is the first song on which he more or less manages to hit all the notes, as it doesn’t bother the upper end of his range – until he attempts an impromptu scream, and then it falls apart, And, excuse me, but what’s this about quitting the stage half an hour into the set and leaving Jeff Bland to do a just that cover of ‘Heaven And Hell’? Fuck off dude: this is billed as Vince singing all the Crüe hits, so do just that… fortunately, the brief setback is recovered quickly with a reasonable rendition of ‘Kick Start My Heart’: yes, Vince is still way off key, but the audience are loving it, and lap up the throaty roar that introduces the triple headed finale of ‘Girls Girls Girls’. 'Wild Side' and ‘Live Wire’: well, what else is he gonna finish on before jumping into his plush limo and hightailing it back to his equally plush hotel in Manchester?

 

Vince Neil 10

 

I must admit, the second night’s headliner turned in a far more impressive performance than that which I, and probably many others, had been dreading, finishing off what had been an entertaining day in a suitably similar manner. You can say what you like about his voice, and his rather portly figure, but he did exactly what he was paid to do – and that was entertain, so fair play well done sir, and well done to Rockingham for taking the gamble: by and large, it paid off.

 

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