|HRH AOR – Pwllheli, Hafan y Môr Holiday Park – 11 March 2017|
|Written by Mark Ashby and The Dark Queen|
|Thursday, 16 March 2017 15:20|
The third and final day at Camp HRH dawn crisp and bright, with even a touch of heat drifting in from the Irish Sea. It was a promising sign. And so it proved to be, as your Über Rock team managed to rattle off our interview commitments – and squeeze in a couple extra – in record time… Hell, we even have had time for a relaxing pint (purely for medicinal purposes, you understand) before heading up the hill from the media centre to the main arena to check out the day’s action… Little did we know that events once again would conspire to ensure that we didn’t get to see everything that went down…
As with any festival, it’s impossible to catch every band, and with some hugely significant clashes, we decided to concentrate on the bigger of the two arenas, for what promised to be the strongest bill of the weekend therein.
Bringing their rock ‘n’ roll action from the south coast of England to the south coast of the Llŷn Peninsula, Summers immediately make an impact – not least because of vocalist Crash’s rather distinctive stage gear… yeah, tight jeans, an unbuttoned shirt and a cheap cowboy hat are rather de rigeur, but this cool mofo is actually wearing a curtain tassle around his neck with the pride of one of those Tom Selleck “medallion man” fuckwits of a bygone era!
Musically, the band kick ass big style, blowing off any cobwebs from the morning hangovers and injecting sunshine into the darkened arena. Their sound combines absolutely huge harmonies with intertwining melodies, underpinned by massive, crunching rhythms which remind of a young Def Leppard jamming with a nascent Bon Jovi, but without the cheesiness. In addition to an understandably heavy reliance on their excellent ‘364’ album, they preview some tunes from their as-yet-untitled newbie, which bode well for those anticipating its arrival.
Australia’s The Radio Sun had been my big discovery of AOR 2016, and I have to say that it was a joy to rediscover them again 12 months later. Hitting the stage with an energy level than the ceiling, their huge harmonies are beautifully and passionately delivered, and are accompanied by massive melodies which weave around and between each other, all the while backed by raucous riffs and rumbling rhythms which, in turn, are punctuated by catchy-as-fuck choruses. Showing a massive sensibility for the style of music they play, and aware of the need to deliver as big a punch as possible in as short a timeframe as available, they race through a set drawn from their two most recent albums, ‘Heaven Or Heartbreak’ and the absolutely stunning ‘Outside Looking In’… and they’re not done yet, as we’ll discover shortly…
If there’s one band on this bill almost always guaranteed to deliver a massive pop then it most definitely, and defiantly, is Vega. Their recipe is simple: more massive melodies coupled with huge fuck-off hooks and insane singalong choruses, all combined with the insatiable charisma of frontman Nick Workman. It may be only just gone 4pm on a Saturday, but it’s been a long weekend – and Vega are the one band guaranteed to provide the ‘Kiss Of Life’ to anyone who may be flagging early.
They earn a justifiably huge reception, but then ‘What The Hell’ were they worried about? They knew they were going to get ‘Hands In The Air’ – and they’re right there, alongside the throats being ripped hoarse. Vega once again prove that the future of British melodic rock is in extremely safe hands and that neither they nor we are anywhere near raising a ‘White Flag’: rather, we’re all proudly raising the colours for the scene.
There’s a sense of déjà vu as the members of The Radio Sun take to the stage once again: but, they are doing double duty today (just as they had done on the acoustic stage the previous afternoon) by acting as backing band for the one and only Paul Laine, making a rare solo outing on these shores.
While the band prove that they are no mere hired guns, but are more than familiar, and comfortable, with both the man and his material, laine himself is in tremendous voice and filled to overflowing with a joyous energy which flows straight into every corner of the room. ‘We Are The Young’ he declares: yes, we may be, if not in body most definitely, and defiantly (sic) in spirit. Laine also proves he is a great showman: he makes a great play of pretending to be drunk, swigging from an empty bottle before making a big show of tossing it into the crowd (the health and safety boys must have shit themselves at that point). He even pretends not to remember what albums he’s playing songs from.
One thing which is not play acting are his technical problems: the strap on his guitar (borrowed from Lee Revill of Blood Red Saints) refuses to stay attached, and the vocal mix seems to suddenly encounter the same problems as the previous evening. But, all of this does not prevent him from delivering an otherwise flawlessly entertaining performance – rounded off with a stirring version of ‘Dorianna’ (“the song that got me the job in Danger Danger”) - which not only highlights a career enjoying a definite renaissance but also was my personal highlight of the weekend.
Check out our interview with Paul Laine HERE.
There’s a total change of pace with Mike Tramp: one which, to be honest, seems to be at odds with what has gone before and what is to come. His entrance seems to take the tech crew by surprise, as the adverts on the big screens behind the stage are still running when he introduces himself, before undertaking a relatively laid back set which mixes up White Lion and Freak Of Nature tracks with his own solo material.
With Tramp so often touring as a solo artist these days, it has been a while since I have seen him with a full band: it has to be admitted that they are tight and precise, and extrapolate his considerable back catalogue with precision, aplomb and not a little panache. Tramp himself is his usual storytelling form and, despite being something of an antithesis to his challenge to believe in the enduring power of rock ‘n’ roll, it’s a solid set which perhaps provides a welcome relief to all the high-energy shenanigans going on around him.
Little did we know, as The Dark Queen queued to return to the pit for the re-united classic LA Guns line-up of Phil Lewis and Tracii Guns, that this would be the final act of rock ‘n’ roll we would see this weekend: but, the lighting engineer had conspired otherwise… as had his companion on sound. Despite their fast ‘n’ furious entrance, the mix on Lewis’ vocal is atrocious, meaning in that regard he is almost non-existent, despite his leaping and twirling around the stage…
Taking us right back to the days of the old ‘Hollywood Tease’ (an unusual but effective choice of opener), Lewis and Guns attempt, with no degree of bravura, to wind the clock back to the glory days of the Strip: and the bones and muscles be creaking a bit (and, in the case of Lewis, the hair now needing replaced between songs) but the grooves are still there, and the desire to create some red hot ‘Sex Action’ is still there, as the dynamic duo, obviously enjoying being reunited, deliver with a vigour and enthusiasm which belies their late middle age.
This is no pat, cash-driven reunion, as there is a clear camaraderie between the vocalist and guitarist as they rattle through their back catalogue at a fast and furious pace… But, halfway through comes the cut-off point for us, as, due to the incessant strobes which totally ruin the evening, just as they had threatened to do over the earlier parts of the weekend, we’re forced to beat a hasty retreat to safeguard DQ’s health, marking a somewhat low key end to what had otherwise been another great couple of days of great music, great craic and all ‘round mighty rock ‘n’ roll nonsense…. ‘Till next time droogies \m/
All content © Über Rock. Not to be reproduced in part or in whole without the express written permission of Über Rock.