Gig review: ROCKINGHAM FESTIVAL- Nottingham Trent University Student Union, 20-22 October 2017

Loverboy -  ROCKINGHAM FESTIVAL, 20-22 October 2017

Though this was the third year of Rockingham Festival , the natural successor to the much loved Firefest in its autumnal Nottingham position, it really felt as if the Festival came of age. Having settled on a format that works at the well appointed Nottingham Trent University, the organisation was immaculate, and there was an increasing buzz on social media,  while on the Saturday the melodic rock festival posted the first but surely not its last house full signs.

DAY 1- KIX, JOHN PARR, BLANC FACES, MAVERICK

The formula set last year was closely followed, with a Friday featuring four bands in a later start which gave those of us travelling longer distances or working the opportunity not to miss anything.

Proceedings were opened by Maverick, the Northern Irishmen who are quietly building quite a name for themselves. Kicking off with ‘All For One’,  they were heavier than the average for this festival with a metallic sound and image, yet the very melodic vocals of David Balfour made the songs highly listenable at the same time. They also won brownie points with an attitude that was suitably appreciative of the festival with David expressing his love of bands like Harem Scarem.

Maverick -  ROCKINGHAM FESTIVAL, 20-22 October 2017

A number of songs from most recent album ‘Big Red’, notably ‘Renegade’, ‘Whiskey Lover’, complete with singalong, and ‘Mademoiselle’ received an ever more favourable audience response, which reached a new peak during ‘Forever’. With an appropriate closer of ’In  My Blood’ Maverick got the festival off to the best possible start.

Blanc Faces provided a complete musical contrast, being on the pure AOR side of the melodic rock spectrum, but an equally impressive one. Ponytailed singer Robbie Le Blanc has one of the classic smooth but expressive AOR voices,  and also seemed overcome by the emotion, reaching for a towel to dry his eyes as he contrasted their first UK show before a packed house singing every word, with  a scene in the USA he described as dead.

With a set that drew equally from their two albums, highlights included opener ‘Here’s To Us’ and ‘Falling From the Moon’, with bassist and brother Brian sharing the vocals. There was also a smattering of rockier though no less melodic numbers like ‘Staying Power’, which saw guitarist Philip Lindstrand play extended solos, while pulling some very entertaining if rather scary facial expressions.

Blanc Faces -  ROCKINGHAM FESTIVAL, 20-22 October 2017

Disaster beckoned mid set when Philip broke a string and spent some time backstage but the brothers effortlessly filled in showing some great vocal harmonies on covers of  ‘I’m Your Captain’ and ‘Georgy Porgy’. Fortunately they were allowed to see out the scheduled set with ‘Edge Of The World’ and ‘Turn This World Around’ rocking things up a notch before a closer of a fun cover of ‘Stay With Me’.

Though I would have loved to hear some of their own material, their fine ballads in particular, it was a thoroughly enjoyable set which proved a revelation to many, in a similar vein to Fortune’s performance last year.

Originally Honeymoon Suite were due to fill the second slot but the lure of a tour on Canadian home soil with Foreigner proved too strong.  So a more home-grown legend was drafted in the shape of Nottinghamshire-born John Parr, something of a coup as not every festival could boast an artist with a US no 1 single to their name – though there was to be another one tomorrow!

As JP came on stage looking barely changed from the eighties with an enviably bouffant barnet for a 64 year old, his keyboardist played what sounded like the unmistakable intro to ‘Highway Star’ Indeed it was – a classic song without doubt and well delivered, but not what this particular crowd had come for. Luckily a somewhat funky ‘Naughty Naughty’ livened things up followed by ‘The Best’, though I cannot have been alone in bellowing ‘Gillette- the Best a Man Can Get’ to the chorus.

John Parr -  ROCKINGHAM FESTIVAL, 20-22 October 2017

The set was starting to look good with the big chorus hook of ‘Restless Heart’, and ‘Time’ an impressive grower, even though he seemed to be singing too far away from the mike and was barely audible. However in excess of ten minutes was taken up by an interminably dreary cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Oh Well’, moving from acoustic to an electric jam, and as I looked up to the VIP balcony the sight of a friend with hand perched gloomily over his chin said it all.

The Keith Moon tribute he wrote for Roger Daltrey, ‘Under A Raging Moon’ was an unexpected treat with some frantic drumming and very ‘Who’s next era’ synthesiser sounds, let down again by the vocals being drowned out, but a new nadir was reached as they played a lengthy Beatles medley to a bemused and largely silent crowd.

While artists of his age were inevitably influenced by the so-called Fab Four, this was not what people had come to hear. It was hard to escape the feeling that – through ignorance or otherwise – he had misjudged the mood of the one crowd guaranteed to know and appreciate his solo material, not a variety set aimed at a working man’s club crowd, scoffing chicken and chips out of a basket.

With the set overrunning it meant he also rather rushed the inevitable ‘St Elmo’s Fire’ (and did he get some of the lyrics wrong?) though there was a great crowd response. While an entertaining performer and backed by skilled musicians, notably guitarist Keith Atack, John Parr’s set was,  to put it diplomatically, a disappointing missed opportunity.

No such allegations could be laid against Kix. Favourites of the cruise and US festival scene, to my knowledge this was the Maryland band’s first appearance  on UK soil in over a quarter of a century. Loose-limbed singer Steve Whiteman was a great character, encouraging participation, and it was hard not to warm to his admittedly goofy stage presence and between song banter,  though when he began a call and response section with the chant to the White Stripes ‘7 Nation Army’ I could not help myself responding with a satirical ‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn’.

Meantime his band, long haired and clad in some great seventies inspired threads, showed a great sense of dynamic stage movement, regularly stepping on speaker crates at the front.

Kix -  ROCKINGHAM FESTIVAL, 20-22 October 2017

Their style was rather basic for my tastes, with simple riffs and innuendo laden lyrics (‘Love Me With Your Top Down’) owing much to AC/DC, and yet from my temporary vantage point in the balcony I could see heads flailing and outbreaks of pushing, shoving and air guitaring from fans delighted to finally see them, justifying their inclusion at headliners.

‘Midnite Dynamite’ had a naggingly catchy riff and they even played some more recent songs like ‘Wheels In Motion’, while the big US hit ballad ‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’, with off-stage keyboards and delivered by Steve wearing a purple beret was a complete musical and lyrical contrast to the rest of the set.

‘Girl Money’  saw the arrival of the dancers who have become a Rockingham fixture (one I could personally do without) with Steve cheekily saying ‘I’m getting married’ as he led them off stage before encores of ‘Cold Blood’ and ‘Blow My Fuse’, the latter for me easily the most enjoyable of the set.

While not a Kix fan the energy and stage craft they showed in a 70 minute set could not be faulted, and sent everyone off in good spirits for the rest of their  evening- for those most loyal Rockingham ticket purchasers, a special acoustic performance by many of the acts appearing over the weekend, for me a night dancing to melodic rock classics at the ‘Forever Young’ night at the Salutation Inn.

DAY 2- VINCE NEIL, HAREM SCAREM, DAVE BICKLER, FORTUNE, VEGA, THE AMORETTES, CRUZH

No Rockingham, or indeed any melodic rock festival would be complete without another in the production line of young Scandinavian bands, the latest being Cruzh whose debut album earned many new friends. However as they opened with ‘Hard To Get’, it was swiftly apparent that since the album they had a new singer who turned out to be Philip Lindstrand , spotted the previous night on guitar duty with Blanc Faces.

Cruzh -  ROCKINGHAM FESTIVAL, 20-22 October 2017

While having a smooth, melodic voice, he didn’t look as comfortable on stage in this role, while the band had a rather disjointed image and this was mirrored in the music. Despite keyboards being refreshingly prominent in the mix and some great melodies on the likes of ’In And Out Of Love’ and in particular set closer ‘Set Me Free’, the songs did not flow naturally and felt half-finished.  On this evidence their promise is as yet unfulfilled.

Eyebrows were raised at the inclusion of the Amorettes on the bill as the feisty Scottish power trio, who have toured extensively,  do not obviously sit under a melodic rock banner. They would not have changed this perception with a basic, uncompromising and almost punky sound on the likes of ‘Let The Neighbours Call The Cops’ and ‘Rock Me Roll Me’.

The Amorettes -  ROCKINGHAM FESTIVAL, 20-22 October 2017

However they were as impressively tight and professional as I have yet seen them, and after singer and guitarist Gill Montgomery led a singalong to set closer ‘Hot And Heavy’, increasingly their anthem,  I eavesdropped on several favourable comments including a fan saying they had given the festival the kick up the backside it needed.

Vega were an unusual inclusion on the bill in the sense that, unlike most of the acts, they have toured the UK extensively in the last couple of years both with high profile support slots and their own headline tour, and indeed I had seen them in London only a month before.

Their anthems such as opener ‘Hands In The Air’ were as high  energy as ever, yet I found myself enjoying them less than previously, partly through over familiarity and partly with Nick Workman’s vocals being too low in the mix at least from my standpoint near the front, which was a recurring theme for most of the first two days of the festival.

Vega -  ROCKINGHAM FESTIVAL, 20-22 October 2017

However it was hard to resist the likes of ‘Every Little Monster’ and ‘What The Hell’, with its ‘hey heys’. The set flew by and arguably the highlights were left to last with the positive message of ‘White Flag’, ‘Saving Grace’ showing a slightly different dynamic with its insistent ’yay-yay-oh’ chorus and Nick diving into the now vacated photo pit and into the crowd, and first album favourite ‘Kiss Of Life’ with its bouncy chorus.

Fortune provided an exception to Rockingham’s all new line up:  having made such an unexpectedly favourable impression last year, they were brought back for another shot. All the same trademarks were there – the laid back unhurried AOR with all the instruments clearly audible on the likes of openers ‘Deep In The Heart Of The Night’ and ‘Thrill Of It All’,  the smoky vocals and serene presence of singer Larry Greene and the band smiling their way through, particularly extrovert bassist Ricky Rat.

Fortune -  ROCKINGHAM FESTIVAL, 20-22 October 2017

The main difference was an EP of new material being made available at the show and two songs ‘Don’t Say You Love Me’ and ‘Fool I’ve Been’ both impressed, losing nothing in melody but a tad more uptempo and contemporary. Of their 1985 self-titled favourites, ‘Heart Is A Lonely Hunter’ lifted a set in danger of being a bit one-paced, and ‘Dearborn Station’ got a particularly warm reception.

‘Through The Fire’ from Top Gun had the air of one of the anthems that graced eighties blockbuster movies,  but I was surprised the set ended rather anti-climactically just as I was expecting  their best known song ‘98 In The Shade’.

As with many things in life the thrill of the first time can never be replicated, and good though Fortune’s set was,  it inevitably suffered in comparison with last year’s surprise.

As compere Steve Price said in introducing the next act, Rockingham always tries to provide something a bit different and  this year’s most unexpected draw was the original Survivor singer Dave Bickler. Though he had a rather diffident stage presence and looked a bit different from the old days, casually dressed and  minus the  trademark beret, his set was a treat, not least for those of us who never got to see the Survivor UK show where he was scheduled to share vocals with Jimi Jamison just before the latter’s sad passing.

Dave Bickler -  ROCKINGHAM FESTIVAL, 20-22 October 2017

After opening with ‘Feels Like Love’, he then did a Jimi era Survivor favourite ‘High On You’, in very respectable fashion, helped by the same band of musicians who had backed fellow cult AOR figures Stan Bush and Kevin Chalfant at Rockingham, notably fluent guitarist Adrian Boyd.

Even more unexpected was a new song ‘Hope’ which augured well  for an album and with the crunchy guitar riff of ‘Caught In The Game’ all was looking good.

However I had been concerned at seeing a setlist of his from the States this year, and sure enough he was afflicted by what you might call John Parr syndrome with covers of ‘Can’t Get Enough’, admittedly with an impressive dual guitar solo from Adrian and Paul Hume, and  ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’, and later in the set we got ‘All Right Now’ which can be heard in a pub any night of the week.

While I understand his motivation  in paying tribute to some of his British musical idols, the irony was that this, of all audiences,  was yearning to hear his own material with the early Survivor. It was therefore something of a relief to hear Chevy Nights – more songs from his finest hour ‘Premonition’  would have been very welcome – and even the B side obscurity ‘Rebel Girl’.

Dave paid a moving tribute to Jimi before Andrew Bailey played the opening keyboard intro to one of the great AOR anthems of all time in ‘I Can’t Hold Back’, which Dave did justice to, before the inevitable closer of ‘Eye Of The Tiger’. It was a great moment to finally hear such an iconic song delivered by its original singer – albeit that it was a straight version rather than the embellished showcase his fellow Survivor alumnus Jim Peterik dragged out at Rockingham two years ago.

I looked at the clock and he was several minutes short of his allotted hour long slot, and with the covers taking the edge off the set, it was not quite  the memorable occasion I had been anticipating. At this stage, while stronger on paper than the 2016 lineup, the Festival needed an outstanding performance to lift the occasion and Harem Scarem provided it.

The Canadians have had mixed reviews before as a rather disengaged live act, but their years apart have clearly brought them back with a fresh hunger, as evidenced by new album ‘United’ being one of the best of 2017. They opened with the title track and ‘Here Today Gone Tomorrow’ which showcased their trademark  blend of muscle and melody.

Harem Scarem -  ROCKINGHAM FESTIVAL, 20-22 October 2017

A good rule of thumb to measure the enjoyment of an HS show is the percentage of songs taken either from their most recent releases or from their first two albums before they dabbled in more alternative sounds during their varied career.

This setlist certainly fulfilled that criteria, with the crowd going wild to the strong choruses of ‘Hard To Love’ and ‘Stranger Than Love’. It also makes a difference that drummer Darren Smith reinforces the admirable Harry Hess to create a vocal wall of sound that is almost Leppard-esque. He got his own turn at the mike during ‘Sentimental Boulevard’, though he took his exuberance too far flinging out drumsticks, one of which caught me on the side of the head as I forgot to duck!

Harem Scarem -  ROCKINGHAM FESTIVAL, 20-22 October 2017

Pete Lesperance, who has let himself become a silver fox, enhanced the songs with concise yet technically intricate solos and there was a good mix of styles  from the melodic hooks of ‘Slowly Slipping Away’ to the ballad ‘If There Was A Time’ and frantic riffery of ‘Change Comes Around’,  plus a solitary cut from previous album ‘13’ in ‘Garden of Eden’.

‘No Justice’ was treated as an anthem but they ended with a couple of new songs in ‘Sinking Ship’ and ‘No Regrets’, which equally fulfilled these criteria. The set therefore was a perfect blend of old and new and even the inexplicable omission of ‘Saviours Never Cry’ could not stop me acclaiming the performance  of the weekend so far.

So to headliner Vince Neil whose inclusion was, it’s fair to say, mired in controversy. Certainly the biggest name yet booked for Rockingham,  the former Motley Crue singer was the main reason the Saturday sold out and I would wager that it also gave the organisers more economic leeway in booking some of the more cult acts.

However many were gleefully predicting a car crash, such negativity based on reports of his performances this year with short sets in which he spent more time off stage than on while his band, drawn from Slaughter, filled in with covers. On the other hand, during the long gap before his show, as the PA volume was turned up, a packed floor seemed in party mood and there was a sense of anticipation in the air.

As he came on stage to sing parts of ‘Dr Feelgood’  in a high-pitched wheeze that unkindly reminded me of Minnie Mouse, I was in the sceptical category, but as he continued with more Crue classics in ‘Piece Of Your Action’ and ‘Looks That Kill’, I began to warm to the show. He seemed happy to entertain and was devoid of the arrogance I’d feared, while his band were excellent and drummer Zoltan Chaney’s hyperactive antics – including jumping off a speaker stack onto his stool and playing with outstretched feet sprawling over his kit – were compulsive watching.

Vince Neil -  ROCKINGHAM FESTIVAL, 20-22 October 2017

I was a bit surprised he played the ballad ‘Home Sweet Home’ which was enlivened by a superb guitar solo from  Jeff Blando, and Vince even donned guitar for one of the Crue’s more melodic friendly moments in ‘Don’t Go Away Mad’. Only after ‘Same Ol Situation’ did he take the stage break, and time certainly did not drag as the band played a great version of ‘Heaven And Hell’.

When he returned it was to a trio of glam classics that few can match in ‘Kickstart My Heart’, ‘Girls Girls Girls’, with the dancers making an inevitable appearance, and ‘Wild Side’. Now I was fully into the spirit of the show, the atmosphere was thrilling as we witnessed a man usually delivering these songs before arenas doing so to a packed but fanatical mid-sized student union hall.

The show was on the short side, but a good five minutes after it ended and with many out of the door returned for an encore of ‘Live Wire’. I disappeared for my traditional post show curry with friends, but there were a lot of people whose late night snack was to eat a large slice of humble pie.

DAY 3- LOVERBOY, GREAT WHITE, DARE, BROTHER FIRETRIBE, AIRRACE, MORITZ, BAILEY

Rockingham Sunday began with a worthy showcase for three of the UK’s home grown melodic acts who don’t get enough touring opportunities. Opening proceedings were Bailey, essentially the band that had supported Dave Bickler so well, with eponymous singer Nigel casting aside his bass guitar. He is a confident frontman and his deep, almost Coverdale esque vocals help give their music a bluesy and very British sensibility.

Bailey -  ROCKINGHAM FESTIVAL, 20-22 October 2017

The set balanced songs from their own ‘Long Way Down’ release – of which ‘In The Name Of The King’ was the most impressive-  with songs from his other projects.  He brought on Blood Red Saints Pete Godfrey to duet and provide the higher notes on the frantic ‘Jezebel’ from the Lifeline project  and played a couple of 3 Lions songs (sadly without Vinny Burns who was in the house with Dare) in ‘Holy Water’ and easily the standout cut of the set, the catchy ‘Trouble in a Red Dress’, one of the best songs of recent years in the genre.

Moritz were making a rare live appearance to tie in with latest album ‘About Time Too’ and on opener ‘Fire’ I was struck how  Peter Scallan’s vocals had the rough-edge tone of fellow Scots Frankie Miller and Dan McCafferty.

Moritz -  ROCKINGHAM FESTIVAL, 20-22 October 2017

In more AOR mould, though no less enjoyable,  were ‘To the Moon and Back’ and the sweet ballad ‘Should Have Been Gone’: however in a short set further curtailed by technical difficulties, what made them a touch different was the pleasing variety of styles on offer from  a lengthy bluesy ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is’,  to ‘Unwanted Man’ which reminded me of Deep Purple. ‘Same But Different’  was a grower that ended a pleasant surprise of a set.

The current incarnation of Airrace is now down to one original member in guitarist Laurie Mansworth but he has picked well with a new lineup including son Dhani on drums and in particular new singer Adam Payne – who manages to combine both the voice and slight frame of predecessor Keith Murrell.

Airrace -  ROCKINGHAM FESTIVAL, 20-22 October 2017

Songs from their original album ‘Shaft Of Light’ such as opener ‘Caught In The Game’, ‘I Don’t Care’ and ‘First One Over The Line’  were classic British AOR  and sent me scurrying to the merch desk afterwards for a CD to replace the cassette I played to death in the eighties.

They also previewed two new songs and ‘Eyes Like Ice’ grew on me, while ‘Men From The Boys’ had a tougher, more guitar heavy feel. The epic ‘Brief Encounter’ – albeit with what seemed like a shorter closing solo from Laurie than before – ended a set which nicely whets the appetite for this winter’s tour with another Brit AOR phoenix from the ashes in Lionheart.

Brother Firetribe were one of the most eagerly anticipated bands of the weekend. Amazingly they have been in existence 15 years, but as the brainchild of Nightwish guitarist Emppu Vuorinen  are limited in their full-time commitments,  with just four albums over this time, and this was a very rare UK show.

Brother Firetribe - ROCKINGHAM FESTIVAL, 20-22 October 2017

Their sound is classic melodic rock but with a modern freshness to it while singer Pekka Heino , looking a cross between Christian Slater and David Beckham, has a crisp voice and an easy stage manner. The crowd were singing along to old favourites like ‘One Single Breath’ and ‘For Better Or For Worse’, while anthems such as ‘Indelible Heroes’ and ‘Taste Of A Champion’ pay homage in almost knowing fashion to their classic eighties predecessors.

However other songs, and notably a generous selection from the new ‘Sunbound’ album such as the mellow ‘Heart Of The Matter’ and moody ‘Shock’ were more adventurous variations on the theme.

The likes of ‘I’m On Fire’ and ‘Heart Full Of Fire’ (are you spotting a song title pattern here?) had people roaring along, even if ‘I Am Rock’ was a rather too cheesy set closer.

For many they were the  band of the weekend and I hope this,  combined with reports of a very well attended London show the same weekend, is a springboard for a more sustained push on the UK market between Nightwish commitments.

Dare are one of the giants of British AOR, perhaps second only to FM, and yet have had a chequered career style-wise, and tour much less frequently than many of their contemporaries, so their performance was going to be something of an unknown quantity.

Dare - ROCKINGHAM FESTIVAL, 20-22 October 2017

The return of guitarist Vinny Burns has inspired something of a return to their classic sound, but the opening few songs such as ‘Sea Of Roses’ and ‘Sacred Ground’ majored on the atmospheric, celtic-flavoured direction their career took in the new millennium.

The best of all was ‘Days Of Summer’ with a great melody and evocative lyrics, and Darren Wharton – looking more and more a melodic rock Ian Hunter in shades and curly hair – was visibly feeding off the warmth the audience was giving him.

It’s also fun to play ‘Wharton bingo’ at a Dare show, such as how long he will take to pay tribute to mentor Philip Lynott and he did so as the band covered ‘Emerald’ but gave it an intriguing new twist, with a slowed down, folkish approach. Another sure bet is his bromance with bandmates and sure enough the arms regularly came out around the shoulders of Vinny and Nigel Clutterbuck, the old bass player returning to the fold.

As the set moved backwards through Dare history, the pair were also invaluable support on backing vocals to fill out a double from 1991’s heavier  ‘Blood From Stone’ album in the anthemic ‘Wings Of Fire’ and ‘We Don’t Need A Reason’, itself uncomfortably  close to Emerald.

Dare - ROCKINGHAM FESTIVAL, 20-22 October 2017

The rest of the set was a glorious romp through classics from their ‘Out Of The Silence’ debut, with the crowd going crazy.  Darren’s breathy, atmospheric vocals always bring a shiver to my spine on ‘Abandon’ and its arguably even better follow up ‘Into The Fire’,  before ‘The Raindance’ had people chanting.

Vinny’s fluent guitar work is always a delight to listen to and he was particularly outstanding on another Lynott tribute in ‘King Of Spades’ while ‘Return The Heart’,  combining the best of early Dare with the direction they later took, again had everyone swaying arms and chanting along.

These songs were a big part of my life between about 1989 and 1991 and this was the best Dare performance I have seen since those heady days. It was one of the best sets of the weekend and certainly my favourite.

Proof that Rockingham had pulled out all the stops with their 2017 lineup was the fact a first appearance in the UK for nearly a decade did not even grant Great White headline status. Since those days they have parted company with singer Jack Russell but the diminutive and rather quirky Terry Ilous was a good replacement, working the crowd and with a similar enough voice even if lacking some of the former’s power.

Most the rest of the classic line up are fortunately still there, in particular tall, stooping  guitarist Mark Kendall. His bluesy style was much more economical than some of the faster or flashier players  over the weekend, but I could have listened to his lovely tone all night. It enlivened what otherwise would have been run of the mill songs like ‘Call It Rock n Roll’ and some unexceptional new material like ‘Big Time’.

 He rescued ‘Lady Red Light’ with a great solo when it threatened to become rather ragged, but he really came into his own when the pace dropped for ‘House Of Broken Love’. ‘Desert Moon’ was an enjoyable romp and the grooves of ‘Mista Bone’ as salacious as its lyrics.

Great White - ROCKINGHAM FESTIVAL, 20-22 October 2017

After ‘Save Your Love’,  delivered by Terry largely just to the accompaniment of Michael Lardie’s keyboards, had taken the pace down, ‘Can’t Shake It’,  never my favourite, nevertheless worked well as a live rabble rouser, setting the scene nicely for a closing duo. The long intro to ‘Rock Me’ only heightened the anticipation before the crowd punched the air to the chorus, an epic song topped off by Mark’s long solo, before the inevitable fun closer in ‘Once Bitten Twice Shy’.

Few would have quibbled that this was headlining material, but that honour was rightly reserved for Loverboy. Most of the big AOR hitmakers that ruled America in the eighties – Journey, Night Ranger and Styx to name but three -  have eventually made it to these shores in more recent years and loved it so much they have returned, yet this was the Canadians’ first UK show since 1988, when they supported Def Leppard and also did a one-off show at the Marquee I was privileged to see, even though I was less familiar with their material back then.

At that time, they were promoting the ‘Notorious’ album and as if to come full circle they opened with the title track with Doug Johnson’s bubbling keyboards and harmonica playing. However other than the double bandanas tied around his head,  Mike Reno looked barely recognisable from those days and not in good physical shape.

Loverboy - ROCKINGHAM FESTIVAL, 20-22 October 2017

It was perhaps quite a testing song to open with, and he also had a rather distracting habit of titling his microphone up and down, but on ‘Only The Lucky Ones’ – part of an inevitably generous selection from the ‘Get Lucky’ album – and ‘Queen Of The Broken Hearts’ with some very eighties keyboards, he was sounding pretty good.

‘Take Me To the Top’ was given a lengthy and different treatment with Doug stepping forward to deliver a sax solo which, together with his keyboard solo and a snatch of ‘Riders On The Storm’, turned Rockingham into a sultry jazz club for a few minutes.  The tempo then increased as ‘Its My Life’ featured some tasty slide guitar work from Paul Dean, although my recurring thoughts watching him were what was Larry David doing stage left and why was he wearing Citizen Smith’s Che Guevara beret?

Loverboy - ROCKINGHAM FESTIVAL, 20-22 October 2017

It was the same tried and trusted Greatest Hits set perfected year after year at casinos and festivals across the pond, so any anoraks expecting obscurities or maybe a cut from the excellent ‘Just Getting Started’ album of a few years back were going to be disappointed. Nevertheless the quality of the band’s slick and professional playing shone through and compensated for a relative lack of movement on stage.

Mike sounded in fine voice on the ballad ‘This Could Be The Night’, while, interspersed with an atmospheric ‘When It’s Over’ which he said was his favourite song, the keyboard-driven catchy hooks of ‘The Kid Is Hot Tonite’ and ‘Hot Girls In Love’ had me and several others shouting along to the choruses and punching the air.

However the growing momentum of the set was brought to a juddering halt with an interminable jam between admittedly excellent drummer Matt Frenette and bassist Spider Sinnaeve. While this has been a staple of their set when I have seen it in the States, half an hour from the end of a tiring three day festival, it was testing people’s endurance, not to mention with a 10 o’clock curfew looming ever closer.

Fortunately they pulled the set around, the opening bars of ‘Turn Me Loose’ bringing a rapturous reception from those who had grooved to it at rock clubs over the years and were now finally hearing it live, albeit with Mike wisely avoiding straining for the higher notes, with Paul let loose on guitar in the second half of the song, before a suitable climax in the bouncy ‘Working For The Weekend’,  before Mike was helped rather gingerly from the stage.

Luckily the curfew was not strictly enforced so we had a bonus of a fun encore of ‘Lovin Every Minute of It’, complete with crowd singalong and Paul unexpectedly delivering  some of his heaviest guitar work of the evening.

Perhaps lacking the dynamism and excitement of some of the younger or heavier acts, Loverboy nevertheless delivered a set of melodic rock classics with the class of consummate pros. It was a great end to the best Rockingham yet and, with 2018 dates already confirmed, speculation was soon starting as to what bands next year could top a memorable festival.

Review and Photos by Andy Nathan


Get Ready to ROCK! Radio

More information
Listen in to Get Ready to ROCK! Radio…
Click the appropriate icons at the top of the page.


Power Plays w/c 6 November


SALVATION JAYNE Juno (indie)
STRAWBS The Nails Of The Hands Of Christ (Esoteric Antenna)
7 MILES TO PITTSBURGH Same Sized Soul (indie)
ELECTRIC DUCKS Something In Your Eyes (Store For Music)


Featured Albums w/c 6 November (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 KEE OF HEARTS Kee Of Hearts (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 VANDENBERG’S MOONKINGS Mk II (Mascot)
14:00-16:00 SAMANTHA FISH Belle Of The West (Ruf Records)



Email This Page
This entry was posted in All Posts, GIG REVIEWS and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply