Rockingham – Nottingham, Trent University – 22 October 2017 Print E-mail
Written by Mark Ashby and The Dark Queen   
Thursday, 02 November 2017 04:00

Making his second appearance of the weekend, this time on lead vocals, Nigel Bailey may claim to have a ‘Bad Reputation’, but, right from the off, he proves once again that he has a deserved one for getting a rock ‘n’ roll party started and in style, as he invites to partake of some ‘Holy Water’: hey bai, we’re a wee bit ahead of you in those stakes, as the steins are already half drained and being raised in salutation to another successful day. Possessed of a fantastic voice, as evinced by the massive held note near the end of ‘Dirty Little Secret’, he’s supported by a group of equally fantastic musicians, who are tighter than a gnat’s chuff and augmented briefly by a guest appearance of his good friend and Blood Red Saints frontman Pete Godfrey for ‘Jezebel’. Hell, even the bar staff are having a little boogie while pouring steins of the reasonably priced lager…


Bailey 1


One thing I love about the AOR/melodic rock genre – apart from the sheer quality of the songs and the musicianship – is the simple fact that the singers can actually do just that – sing: they can hold a note, and deliver the songs with passion and commitment. Moritz’s Peter Scallan is another prime example of this, and of how the UK in particular seems to possess some of the best voices in the business at the moment: many of them may be more mature than some of their, in particular, Scandinavian counterparts, but they sure as hell know how to deliver a quality rock song, as well as hit a high note that can make your ball hairs curl. All aided by a superbly tight band who interact easily, delivering huge, hummable hooks, choruses that instantly make you want to sing along and melodies that just stick in your head for ages afterwards. A terrific set from a band to whom I wish I’d paid more attention before now - but rectified that very quickly indeed by raiding their merch stall after one of the sets of the weekend.


Moritz 8


Airrace have always been one of those “might have been” bands of the British AOR – always being there, grafting away but never really making it into the spotlight many of their contemporaries, and successors, have enjoyed. And, to be honest, they always were one band which always have been on the periphery of my radar but never quite made it front and centre – and this afternoon’s performance is evidence of why… The recruitment of former Serpentine singer Adam Payne is perhaps the best move band founder Laurie Mansworth has made in many a year, as he is charismatic and energetic, with an easy and likeable manner, as well as an incredible range – as evidenced on new single ‘Eyes Of Ice’ and his Lazarus-like resurrection of ‘I Don’t Care’. The rest of the band don’t quite manage to match his energy but nevertheless the result is an accomplished, enjoyable and polished set which bodes well for the latest stage of their journey.


Airrace 6


Just shy of the halfway point on their 15th anniversary European tour, today’s Finnish invaders Brother Firetribe get the biggest pop of the day so far, and deservedly so, as their set is slick and polished, just like their songs. When I last saw the Helsinki five-piece, I made a lot of enemies by referring to them as a hard rock version of A-Ha: and, the comparison is still relevant, as their hooks just drip in commerciality, but they possess enough of a grunt not to sound overly twee. Like his predecessors on the Rockingham stage, Pekka Ansio Heino knows how to work a crowd, exuding charisma and confidence in equal measure, while the band are tauter than a tightrope as they walk that fine line between pop and hard-edged rock sensibilities. An entertaining and enjoyable set from a band who have definitely matured into a smooth live act who know exactly what their audiences want and how to deliver same.


Firetribe Brotherhood 11


As anyone who read our Über Rockingham guide will know, Dare were one of the bands we were most looking forward, but things don’t get off to an auspicious start as first Darren Wharton can’t hear his monitors and then bassist Nigel Clutterbuck’s wireless system just dies, forcing him to hard wire into Vinnie Burns’ system. But, from thereon in, it’s a masterclass in the genre: Darren’s voice is rich, soaring around the room with the grace of a gliding eagle, while Burns’ guitar harmonies cascade with the effortless of a waterfall crashing into a forest pool. The songs, mostly drawn from the recent ‘Sacred Ground’ album, are graceful and gracious, played with love and humility, allowed to breathe and follow their own destinies by a band confident enough to allow their children to grow and find their way into the audience’s hearts and souls. Of course, there are certain songs in their repertoires that bands cannot not play live, and, perhaps in preparation for its imminent 30th anniversary, the second half of their set concentrates on their 1998 ‘Out Of The Silence’, with ‘Abandon’, ‘Into The Fire’ and ‘The Raindance’ getting the biggest reception of the evening, before ‘King Of Spades’ and ‘Return The Heart’ bring things home in emotional, lighter-waving style. A bit tasty.


Dare 10


Great White were always going to be an interesting watch, especially as I (undoubtedly like many others present) grew up in the era when they were fronted by Jack Russell, so to finally see and hear them live without that distinctive voice was always going to provoke a weird mixture of feelings… There is no doubt that the impressively buffed Terry Ilous (formerly of the vastly under-rated XYZ) has an equally impressive set of vocal chords, and a stage manner to match; and he proves early on that he’s more than capable of standing loud and proud in front of this re-invented line-up with a sparky version of ‘Lady Red Light’, which he totally makes his own.


Great White 11


It's lascivious, lewd and loud: it’s rock ‘n’ roll, muthas, and we fuckin’ love it! The old songs snap and bite with every ounce of intent that they’ve always possessed, while the new ones grunt and growl with a renewed hunger and desire from a band determined to re-invent their legacy while paying respect to same by paying them due homage through faithful interpretation. ‘Save Your Love’ invokes the biggest singalong of the evening with the band turning the clock back a full 40 years to make it sound like it was yesterday. And ‘Rock Me’ still raises the hairs on the back of your neck and gets your hips shimmying to its infectious groove, while ‘Once Bitten Twice Shy’ raises the roof.


Loverboy 2


After keeping us waiting for a full 50 minutes and taking to the stage ten minutes late, it’s very obvious, very quickly, from our perch right above the stage, that Loverboy are committing one of the cardinal sins in the Über Rock rock ‘n roll rule book – and that is the fact that Mike Reno is, at best, using backing tapes to overdub his vocals and at worst is pure miming, at least during the opening part of the set. He’s constantly jerking the mic away from his mouth and you can’t hear his breathing (even though he’s obviously struggling in that regard): plus, at least twice in as many songs, he misses his cue – albeit by a split second, but he misses by enough to make it obvious. Disgust, justifiably, starts to spread through a small corner of the audience, and fans who have travelled thousands of miles ask “why is he doing this?” The lengthy instrumental breaks exacerbate the issue, which serves to make this a hugely disappointing end to an otherwise hugely entertaining weekend. A real pity to see artists of this calibre stoop to such depths. Having said that, there is a massive section of the crowd who don’t notice – or just couldn’t give a damn about what is going on!


Loverboy 3


Nevertheless, as I said, once again a great weekend, superbly well organized and filled with friendship and surprises, with the only negatives (apart from that just reported) being one asshole security guard, one asshole pervert and a bus crash on the way home… but nothing so major as to have us already booking our pew for the 2018 iteration – although 2017 is gonna be a hard year to follow!


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