Pete Feenstra presents a weekly Rock & Blues Show, every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio. In this sequence he plays tracks from many of the artists that performed at this year’s event (118:52)
With such a good line-up this weekend there were a lot of clashes between the two stages – Reds and Center – but with a bit of planning you could catch pretty much all you wanted. This year there was the extra addition of the Introducing stage where bands are voted on for a slot on the main stages next year.
The festival as a whole offers all you need, great stages, beer and food and all under cover in the Skyline Pavilion. It’s a tried and tested format and works very well indeed.
Over the weekend though it became more noticeable that although the Center stage was well equipped for both sound and light the stage in Reds was definitely the poor relation. The PA had issues and lighting system was somewhat flakey and inadequate, although I personally thought that Reds had the best atmosphere.
In spite of those timing clashes, the weekend was another great way to witness some classic rock bands all under one roof. Next year Giants Of Rock has been moved forward by a week so it will run 29th January to 1st February.
The Urban Voodoo Machine are a wild and wacky collection of troubadours that give a larger than life show that draws you in. As aptly named Lucifire (the mad saxophonist) introduced us to the set that mixes up a unique blend of bourbon soaked gypsy blues and mariachi theatrics you knew you were in for something special.
With jazz and rockabilly styles thrown around it is a high energy set that included ‘Crazy Maria’ and the strange ‘Love Song’ that includes the line “So I fu….d your sister, Tried it on with your mother, Kicked the shit out of your brother, But darling, I’ve always loved you…” An extraordinary and thoroughly entertaining set.
The Yardbirds are fronted nowadays by the very capable Andy Mitchell and with original members Chris Dreja and Jim McCarty they have been remaking some of the original classics and writing new material to bring the band alive and kicking up to date.
Pete Feenstra writes: The Yardbirds rolled back the years in the form of guitarist Ben King and harp playing vocalist Andy Mitchell, whose exuberant approach emphasized the enduring value of a great back catalogue.
The spotlight seemed to be on guitarist Ben King who made light of the weight of historic expectation with some ripping solos that shifted from the staccato ‘I’m Not Talking’ to full on rock, with the climactic ‘Dazed & Confused’, either side of exploring some ethereal sounds on ‘Still I’m Sad’.
The song maybe from a bygone era, but King’s signature sound and Jim McCarty’s influential presence continue to keep the band relevant.
Simon Dunkerley writes: I have never seen Colosseum live but did catch Chris Farlowe about 15 years ago and was knocked out by his performance. With this, their last tour, the room was packed wall to wall and it was a truly exceptional set.
Farlowe whilst looking a lot frailer than last time I saw him just had that timing and style to make it work and sound brilliant. With outstanding drumming from Jon Hiseman and a sublime performance from Clem Clempson it was truly an outstanding set and worthy to be part of their final tour.
Pete Feenstra writes: Happily Chris Farlowe remains in peak form if not physical condition, and it’s his exuberance that drives the band on through ‘Walk in the Park’ and ‘The Way You Waved Goodbye’, while guitarist Clem Clempson adds two incredible solos, firstly on Dave Greenlade’s ‘No Pleasin’, before switching to slide on the proggy ‘Los Angeles’. There’s also time for a poignant dedication to Jack Bruce on ‘Morning Story’.
Jazz rock and fusion may be way out of style, but Colosseum still set the standard in terms of intensity and virtuosity.
Simon Dunkerley writes: One of the biggest bands of the weekend was Black Star Riders. With Ricky Warwick and Scott Gorham sharing centre stage we got a setlist consisting of classic Lizzy tracks and tracks from BSR’s first album ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’ but unfortunately omitting anything from their new album except for ‘The Killer Instinct’.
Scott Gorham’s snarling riff and a trademark solo colours ‘Hoodoo Voodoo’ before the dual guitar-led ‘Kissing The Ground’ and catchy hook of The Killer Instinct evoke Lizzy at their best. The rest of the set is Lizzy covers all the way, and a great reception confirms the band’s current high standing. Pete Feenstra
‘Emerald’, ‘Cowboy Song’ and ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ all hit the spot and ending with an encore of ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ and ‘Rosalie’. They aren’t a Lizzy tribute and don’t profess to be, and it shows in the release of the new music, but I must admit there is still an uncanny likeness in the sound.
The Amorettes who despite clashing with the ultimate party band in Reds, The Quireboys, pulled a great crowd. This ballsy three-piece Rock band from Bonnie Scotland kick out tight hard rock tracks which is enhanced by their great onstage presence.
In a festival in which 70% of the bands are from the 70′s, The Amorettes remind us that there is a hard rock future out there. Pete Feenstra
Bassist Heather throws all the moves and hammers out the thunderous bass lines linked with the hard and steady drumming from Hannah whilst Gill provide the rock riffage and great vocals. Pulling tracks from both their debut album and new album they certainly kicked out a great rock set and injected some grunt into the proceedings.
The Quireboys are Rock and Roll personified and are out to have fun, Spike wandered on stage tonight with a rather out of place coffee (?) or at least that’s what he told us! Despite the sound quality being very poor and Spike vocals being lost for over half the set, they just about recovered and with a ever more inebriated audience.
Starting off in Reds Nalle and his Crazy Ivans lifted the cobwebs from our morning fug with a laid back bluesy set of covers.
Del Bromham is well known for his work in Stray and more lately his solo and Blues Devils work and for a long time now the links between him and Johnny Winter have been discussed; partly for the uncanny resemblance and also that he plays the same Gibson Firebird.
Pete Feenstra writes: Where he triumphed with a 7 piece band at Skegness, he struggled here with a broken amp, and a loose assemblage of Johnny Winter Songs, of which ‘Rock & Roll Hoochie Coo’ and Bony Maronie (as part of three segued rockers) were best. ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ featured some fiery slide playing that the rest of the set failed to emulate.
Simon Dunkerley writes: Slack Alice, as they did last year, played a great set which pulled largely on their compilation ‘Never Never Ever Give’ and they even managed a great rendition of ‘Another Piece Of My Heart’.
Whilst original vocalist Chris Stocker was on form and as exuberant as ever in his delivery the standout track of the set for me was ‘Preacher’ which saw some amazing slide work from Chris Preston. A bass guitar solo from Alan Sagar – whilst technically brilliant – was unfortunately spoilt by the lacking sound system and ended up sounding muddy, a great pity.
The Introducing stage got its first airing here at GOR and over the weekend gave the chance for eight bands to play for the public vote to win a slot on next year’s lineup, a great idea!.
Today we had Daytona Catchups, Scott Freeman and the Tokyo Sexwhales (on name alone these guys should win!), Aaron Keylock and Federal Charm.
While Federal Charm played a great set on the day the young blues master Aaron Keylock wowed the swelled crowd of 460+ punters and was victorious. Definitely one to catch next year.
Aaron Keylock’s fiery riffs and hard edged rock reminds me of a younger Marriott. Sadly his voice doesn’t match his energy. Federal Charm on the other hand had the songs, the riffs and two Les Paul’s to do them justice. Pete Feenstra
Hundred Seventy Split, consist of former members of Ten Tears After: Leo Lyons (original TYA) and Joe Gooch along with the immensely talented session drummer Damon Sayer.
It was a step back in time to classic rock blues whether they were playing TYA tracks or their own. ‘Where The Blues Began’ had a great driving rhythm which was undercut by the powerful pounding bass line, a great set and a pleasure to catch what I could of it.
Pete Feenstra writes: Leo is a fantastic bass player and Joe Gooch has the voice and songs to step from under the TYA shadow, but as a power trio they desperately lack a front man.
They jammed impressively enough on ‘Where The Blues Began’ with some suitable ‘crossroads’ imagery, while ‘Dance On Your Tombstone’ was lumbering rock blues. Joe indulging himself in a fusion sounding solo on ‘No Deal’, and adding power chords to ‘Going Home’, but not the TYA song, which they played later.
They also slip into ‘Love Like A Man’ suggesting they haven’t quite jettisoned the TYA heritage and rock with a flourish on John Hiatt’s ‘Tennessee Plates’. A good band in need of an image.
Simon Dunkerley writes: In what would turn out to be a masterclass of prog rock, The Enid – led by founder member Robert John Godfrey and featuring the theatrical vocals and visual performance of Joe Payne – transcend mere prog to deliver an exquisite performance of musical delight and visual splendour.
Featuring tracks like ‘Dark Hydraulic’, the set sees Robert leading and orchestrating from the piano which mesmerizes the audience before ending the proceedings with an awesome version of ‘Mocking Bird’ which left quite a few soggy eyes in the audience.
Keeping the prog action going in Reds was Focus, who try as they might didn’t really work for me. Maybe I was still on a high from The Enid, the rest of the crowd seemed to enjoy the set although they were compromised with Family appearing simultaneously on the main stage in another programming blip.
Pete Feenstra writes: Attired in a black suit that offset his red accreditation badge, Roger Chapman cut a restrained figure, who apart from copious amounts of swearing was obviously concentrating on making the best of the Family classic back catalogue.
Poli Palmer’s gentle vibes opening suckered us into ‘Top Of The Hill’, and with no Rob Townsend in sight John Lingwood worked tirelessly alongside bass man Gary Twigg, to thunder their way through ‘Hung Up Down’.
Horn player Nicky Payne doubled on harp and added a wonderful range of tones and horn refrain on ‘Hey Mr. Policeman’, while the jovial ‘Sat’d'y’ Barfly’ featured Paul Hersh on piano. And perhaps only Roger Chapman could have suggested changing ‘How Hi-the-Li’ to ‘Hi-de-hi’, it is Butlins after all!
The arrangements were superb, the playing exquisite, and Roger hoarsely battled his way through ‘Between Blue & Me’ and shaped his phrasing round the lyrics of ‘Weaver’s Answer’. He only really cut loose on ‘Burlesque’ and ‘In My Own Time, but by the time of ‘Sweet Desire’ the whole room was rocking.
Simon Dunkerley writes: Family didn’t quite do it for me. Roger Chapman seemed to have a constant whinge going on about playing at Butlins and maybe this tainted his performance for me, certainly when he appeared the next day in Reds with The Shortlist he was back on form and gave a great show.
Pete Feenstra writes: Mick Ralphs Band disappointed with obvious pub rock fare from ‘Going Down’ to ‘Born Under A Bad Sign’. Worse still the singer looked like he’d escaped from an early Canned Heat line-up and his vocals barely passed adequate.
The whole set was just about rescued by Bad Co’s ‘Feel Like Making Love’ and the closing ‘Can’t Get Enough’.
Simon Dunkerley writes: Magnum spent much of the day doing dutiful signings and meet ups with the roaming fans and could be seen a number of times over at the fantasy artist Rodney Matthews’ stall; most will know Rodney designed their classic album covers.
Magnum’s enveloping sound filled the room with a portentous feel that was lapped up by a capacity crowd. Pete Feenstra
With a shortish hour long set tonight pulling tracks from the latest ‘Escape From The Shadow Garden’ back to the classic ‘On A Storytellers Night’-era, the band was as rock steady as ever. And Bob Catley delivered an almost unfaltering vocal performance.
Pete Feenstra writes: Reds opened midday Sunday with the crowd pleasing Cregan & Co who recalled Jim Cregan’s days as a song writing band member Rod Stewart’s outfit. Predictably there were plenty of sing-along moments on ‘Baby Jane’, ‘Young Hearts Be Free’ and ‘Hot Legs’, before Jim widened his musical flashback to include Cockney Rebel’s ‘Make Me Smile’.
Ho do you follow that? Remarkably the Climax Blues Band did just that and more. Together with new singer Graham Dee they stormed Reds. Dee is every ounce as dramatic as The Enid’s Joe Payne, but much more rock and roll.
He attacked the crowd with a ferocity that shook off any lingering hangovers or Sunday afternoon languor. Climax were always good for deep funky grooves, and slow building solos, but with Dee at the helm they tore in to their own back catalogue with vengeance.
They connected with the crowd on the guitar and sax double lines of ‘Towards The Sun’ and even on the balledic ‘Last Chance Saloon’ and most obviously on the clincher, ‘Couldn’t Get It Right’. Lester Hunt added his own bluesy work out on ‘Take Me Back To Georgia’ and by the time of ‘Let The Good Times Roll’, they’d earned themselves a well deserved ovation.
Simon Dunkerley writes: Roger Chapman seemed more relaxed this time round than during his Family set and kicking off with ‘Moth To A Flame’ and ‘Midnight Child’ seemed to overcome over his gripes with Butlins!
On the Introducing stage, Welsh rockers The Texas Flood blues rock is full of catchy riffs and tight bass lines and the occasional cheesy lyric. In comparison Virgil And The Accelerators varied from the raw blues of ‘The Radium’ to the heavier blues rock of ‘Army Of Three’. Virgil is a phenomenal guitarist whilst younger brother Gabriel on drums and the ever steady Jack on bass provide a very powerful and seasoned rhythm section.
With great sets also from Albany Down and Bite The Buffalo, The Texas Flood won their passage to next year’s GoR.
Pete Feenstra writes: Faced with building an early evening crowd opposite Bernie Marsden, Deborah Bonham did just that with a mix of rock, soul and blues and a band featuring Fun Loving Criminals drummer Frank Benbini.
Deborah may come from a famous music heritage that she briefly referenced on ‘The Immigrant Song’ as part of a dedication to her brother Bonzo and her mum, but it’s the quality of her voice and songs that hit home.
She soared on the chorus of ‘Fly’ and the booming ‘Duchess’, while on ‘No Angel’ she dug deep, and slumped to her knees for some soulful phrasing. It was at this point that I looked round and realised every member of the crowd was focussed on her performance, in a triumph against the odds.
Her adversary tonight was the Hawaian shirted Bernie Marsden who despite his recent excellent ‘Shine’ album, relied mainly on Whitesnake crowd pleasers such as ‘Walking In The Shadow Of The Blues” and ‘Ready & Willin”. The subtleties of a deep toned instrumental ‘Strictly Latino’ was lost in the general hubbub.
Simon Dunkerley writes: Bernie Marsden was with Whitesnake when I first saw them in 1981 and still bangs out a great guitar lick. Back then he might have done a bit of backing vocals but nowadays he takes care of all the vocal duties and perhaps surprisingly makes a decent job of it.
Manfred Mann’s Earth Band‘s set was again fraught with technical issues, this time a ghost in the keyboards that kept playing randomly! The set was mainly based on their post 80′s work but did however include some of the earlier hits including Springsteen’s ‘Blinded By The Light’ and ‘Davy’s On the Road Again’ and a momentously long version of ‘Mighty Quinn’.
Pete Feenstra writes: Sadly Manfred’s set was a disappointment. Apart from a few wonderful moog noodles and some workman like guitar form Mick Rogers, the band was hopelessly off the pace. Indeed by the time of Dylan’s ‘You Angel You’, an embarrassed Robert Hart all but gave up trying to encourage a call and response on a song the crowd either didn’t know, or simply didn’t like.
The problem tonight seemed to be a combination of malfunctioning keyboards (the plan was for Manfred to come to the front of the stage with his keys strapped round his neck) and also the fact that the arrangements – usually the band’s strength – just didn’t work. Springsteen’s ‘For You’ for example, lacked Chris Thompson’s emotive nuance, and a horribly slow arrangement of ‘Do Wah Diddy Diddy’ led to people leaving.
Mick Rogers’ questioning glances across the stage seemed to ask what next? It all felt somewhat shambolic, which is a shame because they have a great back catalogue and should do better.
Simon Dunkerley writes: These days Slade features Dave Hill and Don Powell who are continuing the band’s legacy with Mal McNulty taking on most of the vocal duties. If you can set aside any preferences for Noddy, this was an engaging and fun-filled set.
Rounding out the weekend, Eddie And The Hot Rods with the same vigour and energy as that other well-known Canvey Island band, Dr Feelgood. During their hugely energetic set, we heard the inevitable ‘Do Anything You Wanna Do’ and a great encore of ‘Gloria’.
Pete Feenstra writes: If there was a common denominator underpinning the most successful bands on the festival, it was simply the drummers and in Simon Bowley, Eddie & The Hot Rods have a powerhouse anchor, who helped rip their way through a breathless set including ‘Telephone Girl’, ‘Quit This Town’, ‘Do Anything You Wanna Do’, ‘Gloria’, and ‘Born, To Be Wild’.
Last year at the Skegness Rock & Blues Festival, the Hot Rods got a last minute call to headline Saturday. This year they had to do it in the early hours of Monday morning. End result no contest and a stonking end to three days of variable rocking!
Review and photos by Simon Dunkerley.
Additional reporting by Pete Feenstra.
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