Another female 3 piece Rock band take to the 2nd Stage in the opening slot on the final day, hailing from Cardiff, Häxan are Sam (Vocal/Guitar), Harriet (Bass) and Charlotte (Drums). Häxan were one of the new bands to me at this Festival, but really enjoyed their set. Due to another band dropping out they had the opportunity to play a second set later in the evening, which is always great for a young band, you have generally got a larger crowd that are really up for it, and that appeared to be the case as they received a really good reception. Straight ahead Rock ‘N’ Roll, no BS, throwing in a Led Zeppelin cover for good measure, with the track “Breaking Down the Walls” probably the highlight, look forward to seeing how these guys develop.
It was great to see Summers back on the stage at HRH AOR V, having not seen them for a couple of years there have been some lineup changes with Olly Browning and Tim Hills joining the band on Guitars and Tobi Stathers on Drums. Hopefully we will get to see a bit more of them again now, definitely a welcome return. Another band that are no strangers to the HRH AOR crowd and with a lot of tracks from their 364 album the guys kick things off in high gear with the excellent track “Sometimes”, big choruses is what this band is all about, if you are someone that likes a band to get you singing, Summers are another such band, by the end of this day you could be voiceless. Although their music is generally uplifting the band take a personal moment to dedicate a song to the Manager in the US who was set to undergo very serious surgery, a good band and a really good bunch of guys, let’s hope we get to see them again soon and with some new music.
Unquestionably one of the bands of the weekend, and not just one of my favourites, with The Radio Sun there is just something about how they go about delivering a show that makes it hard not to join in, have to admit I was singing away in the Photo Pit. Another wonderful performance by a band that has rapidly become part of the furniture at HRH AOR and we are clearly not in the minority on this showing, the reaction to the band is a step up from last year and with the knowledge that the guys are going to be backing Paul Laine an hour later just keeps the party going. As good as some of these songs sounded acoustically 24hrs previously, plugged in they just excel, Steve’s guitar just sings beside Jason’s, the music and the joy that emanates from it really is infectious, and once again Steve’s guitar tone is a highlight all on its own. It’s not just the fun and the upbeat songs though, they are just so tight, from the so solid backline, through wonderful guitar work and the special harmonies that tie it all together, this is a band to be welcomed back as many times as they can be, a welcome addition to any Festival. It would be quite easy to criticise a band to include a cover version in their limited time slot, but then that song is Andy Taylor’s “I Might Lie” and their version is so damn good who cares. Set highlights, everything really, “One In A Million”, “Standing On The Edge Of Love”, “Maybe” and “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head”; seriously they are all excellent, everything makes you move, smile, sing along. Next year the guys deserve a longer set a bit higher up the bill. Once more an absolute pleasure to see this band do what they do, if you haven’t been lucky enough to see them live yet then do so the next time they visit this part of the world, you won’t regret it.
A band that always put on an entertaining show and with an excellent back catalogue of anthems behind them VEGA are another band on top form this weekend. Nick Workman is always one of the more energetic frontmen at any event, and the band write songs that demand you raise your fist in the air and sing with all you can muster. What a way to start a set, “Stereo Messiah”, the monster that is “Kiss Of Life” and another blinder in “Gonna Need Some Love Tonight”, when you set a tempo like that right from the start sometimes a band will just fall a bit flat, not this afternoon, VEGA are determined to keep the party absolutely rocking. Definitely a very polished group of live performers, this is a band that’s always great to catch and this year they seem to be determined to keep pushing hard and progressing. Another thoroughly entertaining set by a band that always tries to ensure you have a smile on your face when they walk off the stage.
Stepping back out onto the stage after a break of an hour, The Radio Sun hit the stage as the backing band for former Danger Danger lead singer Paul Laine. With a set full of tracks from his time with Danger Danger, some wonderful songs that the guys made sound awesome. Steve, Jason, Rob and Ben obviously have a really good connection with Paul, he produced the latest “Outside Looking In” album and is working on the next release also, and the chemistry is just right on stage with the guys. Even though Paul is working his way through a bottle of Jack Daniels during the set it doesn’t seem to be affecting his vocal performance, with D2 highlights being “Under the Gun” and “Beat the Bullet”, there’s no doubt that the crowd are enjoying the music, and fair play to the two guys at the front that allowed Paul to stand on their shoulders and keep him steady. Add in a couple of the best songs from Paul’s first solo album, namely “We are the Young” and “Dorianna” which is always the perfect ending to a set, it really is a cracking song. The set wasn’t perfect, the incident with the bottle was both unnecessary and the kind of thing that could ruin not only the performance but be very dangerous. Still yet another very entertaining set.
The former White Lion frontman Mike Tramp takes to the stage with the now very normal smile on his face, having been lucky enough to see Mike many times over the past few years with his Acoustic shows, it really is a pleasure to watch him play. This time around it’s with a full Electric band, so people are probably expecting a louder more brash version of the songs, but I wasn’t, the more recent albums have been excellent, but have been written around the base of a guitar and vocal, so maybe for some the set this evening is a little sedated, but it’s still very well put together. Lots of White Lion in the set, rocking versions of “Tell Me”, “Little Fighter” and a terrific version of “Broken Heart” that just built up to a cracking finish with twin guitars and the band just kicking it at the front of the stage, time only allows for one “Freak Of Nature” song, “What I Am”, but that alongside Mike’s own solo material was mixed really well, that material is definitely different, with more of an Americana feel to it, but they are really good songs and as with anything else musically some people will love it and some won’t, I’m a fan of all his work, he still has the voice and more importantly the right attitude, he’s playing music for the love of playing.
Although sadly clashing with LA Guns over on the Main Stage one of the sets of the weekend was taking place over on the 2nd Stage in the form of UK band Bailey, damn they were excellent, and I think it said it all that they also had one of the best crowd reactions of the whole weekend with the sizeable crowd in attendance shouting for more and continuing to sing their name for quite a while after the final notes finished. It was a shame not to get to see more than a couple of tracks from LA Guns, with Phil’s vocals not being audible for a considerable part of the first track, by all accounts they were on top form. Great guitar work throughout from Adrian Boyd and Paul Hume, and the band just sound terrific. Bailey are a bit of a UK Supergroup, containing members of Demon, Three Lions and Lifeline, all are excellent musicians and Nigel Bailey is one of the hardest working and most talented on the scene, and a terrific singer to boot. Highlights are “Jezebel” with the equally excellent Pete Godfrey (Blood Red Saints) stepping in as special guest and the closer “Trouble in a Red Dress” that powered along and had the crowd singing after the band had said their goodbyes, they should be back and in a higher slot on the Main Stage next time around perhaps.
The most energetic performance of the whole weekend, without any doubt, Michael Monroe is a beast live. No slowing down from start to finish he demands your full attention, whether it’s the way the band are attacking the songs, the movement on stage, Michael swinging microphones around his neck and even in the quieter moments where he is simply sitting on the drum riser and singing it is all captivating. The set, as many over the weekend is made up of tracks from throughout his career with Hanoi Rocks, Demolition 23 and his own solo material, with a couple of interesting covers thrown in for good measure. His own material such as “78” and “This Ain’t No Love Song” is all done with 100% effort and passion, really great to watch and the audience is lapping up every minute of it. Joining the crowd more than once, walking around the rails that lead up and down from the stage area, even a fall didn’t slow him down, what a performer. Brilliant set, and honestly this could have been a headline slot, it was that good, were it a seated show this was a standing ovation performance, ending things with a blinding version of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Up Around the Bend” there seemed to be a sea of arms in the air and it certainly wouldn’t have been a bad thing to have another hour of these guys.
Taking the Headliner slot on the final night Slaughter put on an interesting and in the end slightly disappointing set, mainly through its construction, the band came flying out of the blocks with “The Wild Life” and “Burnin’ Bridges” and as always Dana Strum (Bass) hits the stage like a man possessed. In fact the energy levels of the band are right up there with anything we’ve seen all weekend, Jeff Bland (Guitar) and the wonderfully crazy Zoltan Chaney (Drums – seriously who plays a cymbal with another cymbal) it all works visually and there’s nothing wrong with the sound and the playing, Mark still has presence as a frontman, and while they were doing their own tracks it was working well, but when we hit towards the middle of the set they decided it was a good idea to do some covers, but something just didn’t sit well with the choice, it just seemed a little lazy and uninspired, maybe on another night it would have worked differently. It of course was great to hear “Fly to the Angels” and the brilliant set closer “Up All Night” which did put a bit more gloss to things. Some nights a band just doesn’t work for you, and tonight that was how this set hit me, maybe next time they will grab me by the throat and rattle my cage, there were certainly enough people front of stage having a great time while they played.
Closing out the weekend were Swedish Rockers REACH over on the 2nd Stage, the band has had some changes over the last year or so and although they have reverted to being a 3 piece their sound has been beefed up. With Robert Majd now on bass and being his usual energetic self, joining the excellent Marcus Johansson on drums and Ludvig Turner taking over vocal duties as well as guitar it’s a really good balance to the band. The sound has changed but not the attitude or passion. A set of classy Melodic Rock songs from a band with a bright future, tracks like “You Called My Name” is if anything enhanced with the slightly grittier vocals, along with a great version of “Tell Me” and a great cover of Gary Moore’s epic “Empty Rooms” all go to help make a great atmosphere with a swelling crowd as the set progressed. Great way to finish off the Festival and as with Bailey a band I’d like to see back over on the Main Stage soon. Looking forward to some new music from the guys and hopefully more live dates in the UK.
Words and Photographs by Stephen Brophy.