Day 3 – Sunday
As the final day started we wouldn’t have been surprised to see Bobby Kimball sliding out of the curtains reminiscing about his appearance on Toto IV but … instead Chantel McGregor got the juices flowing with a set that combined hard hitting blues rock with just the right amount of commercial allure.
We’ve followed her slow but steady progress over the years and, while you’re more likely to find out about the latest make-up techniques on her Twitter feed than news of a new album, she’s worked tirelessly to build her audience initially courting the blues festivals that attract a largely older male audience.
Her all-too-short, 45 minute set majored on her most recent album – Lose Control (2015) – one that saw a further shift towards the mainstream, but a highlight was a blistering instrumental ‘April’ from a new album due later this year.
Like any young artist, she’s got competition every which way she turns but the climatic ‘Walk On Land’ demonstrated both her song writing and guitar prowess – and her broader potential – whilst ‘Take The Power’ could become a modern-day feminist anthem.
With her engaging and down to earth Yorkshire-bred banter she deserves to succeed more than most, and it was telling that 45 minutes after her set ended she was still selling and signing CDs.
Larry Carlton in the mid-afternoon Sunday slot may have seemed a reasonable choice for jaded rockers. But it’s questionable whether his brand of smooth jazz is suited to what is essentially a rock festival and, judging by the thinning crowd, many voted with their feet.
Those that remained may have preferred to hear more familiar nuggets from a career defined by his seminal work with Steely Dan on several key albums. The one concession – ‘Josie’ – was particularly well received whilst the rest of the set was a masterclass in the jazz fusion he’s peddled for four decades.
Of the weekend’s Introducing Stage bands, Manchester outfit Mohawk Radio were clear stand outs, with vocalist Mia Page’s vocals some of the most powerful and melodic on offer – on any of the weekend’s stages.
But it wasn’t just that it was also the immediacy of their material, and her endearing stage presence, that marked the band out as ‘ones to watch’. It was something of an injustice that they missed out to Black Whiskey for a chance to play next year on the main stage. We demand a re-count!
Deborah Bonham is something of a GoR veteran, having appeared here on two previous occasions. She was last seen by your scribes as special guest of Paul Rodgers on his last tour but without her band and as such, we thought, a missed opportunity.
Thankfully tonight’s set was “full on”, perfectly showcasing her warm personality and excellent vocals. Amongst the highlights ‘Religion’ (from The Old Hyde) and ‘Painbirds’, a song she’s made her own. Deborah is a versatile performer whose set list edges towards R&B but as her early recordings show she has also turned her hand to melodic rock/AOR. Tonight, ‘No Angel’ was a particularly fine showcase where Deborah gave her all in true Joplin-esque fashion.
Snakecharmer were perhaps the weekend’s biggest disappointment. Without Harry James (Jon Finnigan deputising) and now with Simon McBride on guitar something more might have been expected than a perfunctory rock and roll set that bands like Free and Bad Company made their own back in ‘the day’.
Frontman Chris Ousey did his best Rodgers impersonation, not helped by a dubious vocal mix and looking like he’d stopped by on his way to the gym. The material from the band’s lack lustre ‘Second Skin’ was overshadowed on the night by the inevitable Whitesnake crowd pleaser ‘Here I Go Again’. It summed their performance up in a nut shell.
Nazareth (or what remains of them – bassist Pete Agnew) had the distinction of closing this year’s event and as the final bar orders were placed the Main Stage rang out to classics such as ‘This Flight Tonight’ and ‘Razamataz’. The punters seemed happy, and vocalist Carl Sentance did a far more convincing job than Chris Ousey had done in Reds.
But for those of us who saw the band in their heyday, whilst a ‘best of’ might have been a pleasant trip down memory lane, like all too many bands with missing parts it becomes increasingly difficult to weed out the tribute bands from the real thing. The same could be said of centre stage headliners Slade. And sadly, it’s not going to get any easier.
And so, another Giants of Rock drew to a close. The line-up each year surprises, frustrates and enthrals in equal measure. In truth, there’s usually enough variety to suit most tastes whether you are looking for something obscure, new, or simply entertaining.
Of course punters can argue about scheduling clashes, delays, and sometimes dubious artist choices but – as big events go – Giants of Rock takes some beating.
As ever the Butlins organisation and catering is second to none and for those looking for a long weekend escape from the routine and the humdrum, or merely wish to revisit their youth, they’ll be in good company.
Review by David Randall and Pete Whalley
Photos by David Randall
Giants of Rock 2019 takes place Friday 25 Jan 2019 – Monday 28 Jan 2019 (3 nights)
Bands so far announced include Skid Row, Brian Downey’s Live & Dangerous and Atomic Rooster with many more to follow.
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Power Plays w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)
GUMSHOE When Things Started To Ignite (indie)
THE NEW ROSES Heartache (Napalm Records)
EMPYRE New Republic (indie)
PISTON Leave If You Dare (indie)
SPREAD EAGLE Sound Of Speed (Frontiers)
Featured Albums w/c 24 June (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 FORTUNE II (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 BARBE-Q-BARBIES Borrowed Time (Dissonance)
14:00-16:00 HEATHER FINDLAY Wild Horses (Black Sand Records)
Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)
ELEANOR McEVOY I’d Rather Go Blonde (2010)
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