With Night Ranger polishing off Friday with such aplomb the omens were good for the Saturday, which on paper had a stronger line up. When arriving on site on Thursday I found out that The Quireboys were to stand in for Jack Russell’s Great White. Maybe a little bit disappointing as Quireboys have played here every year since 2016. Rumour has it Spike has bought a caravan on the park, just in case, for 2019…
Blood Red Saints have just had an album launch for their second album, a far more rockier affair than their debut very akin to Def Leppard/Winger in their prime. ‘Another Freak’ and ‘Love Hate & Conspiracies’ give the band a much meatier sound, which is also helped by adding another guitarist in Neil Hibbs.
Pete Godfrey (vocals), Lee Revill and Rob Naylor, the core of the band from their debut are not without their comedic moments even a singalong verse of ‘Back For Good’ by Take That which only adds to their appeal. Ultimately it is the music that does the talking in the first set of the day and by the time they finished the arena was pretty much packed with everyone witnessing one of the top 3 performances of the weekend.
Joan Ov Arc are one of the better female rock bands doing the rounds at the moment, they can mix it up taking turns vocally but more importantly they have the songs to back up some incredible playing, especially from lead guitarist Shelley Walker.
Another Welsh Rock band starting to make a name for themselves outside of the valleys are Hand Of Dimes. The age defying voice of Sir Nev MacDonald still has the ability to give goosebumps, and maybe more, with a rather large following of ladies near the front.
All the material – save the last song came from their well received debut album ‘Raise’ which is already a year old – including ‘Bad Reputation’, ‘Guilty’, ‘Pinstriped Arrogance’ justified their inclusion on this bill and they set about rocking this place to the rafters.
With a stand-in bass player in none other than Andy Robbins from Nev’s time in Skin, who hasn’t picked up a bass in 4 years, it seemed appropriate and fitting that they finish off their time onstage with Skins’ ‘House Of Love’. That unmistakable bass intro simply sent everyone into overdrive with everyone jumping and joining in on the chorus. The band went down a storm, look out for them on tour in April with Bernie Marsden, playing all the early Whitesnake material.
With a food and recharge break warranted, I then popped along to catch some of Midnite City featuring Rob Wylde (Tigertailz) and Pete Newdeck (everyone!!). Their debut album has gone down well, but what I had heard was ok but nothing that set my pulse racing. The live show faired better, filled with the obligatory stylised poses and pointing to members of the crowd for no apparent reason. Rob Wylde is a good frontman and the rest of the band put in a good shift.
Before Dare, Johnny from the HRH team came on and addressed the crowd about a terribly sad event that had taken away one of the Estrella band members, Nathan Gunn who had passed away a couple of weeks ago.
Dare are one of the bands that define the AOR genre, since their outstanding debut 30 years ago they have constantly delivered great albums though not enough live shows to satisfy demand. They also benefitted today from a sound that was spot on.
Opening with the atmospheric ‘Sea Of Roses’ Darren Wharton – arms out wide to greet the North Wales crowd to a rapturous welcome – they followed with ‘Home’ from their last album with Vinny Burns’ intro soaring through the darkness.
With Nigel Clutterbuck on bass, we have three of the members from the heavier second album and with that we had the double helping of ‘We Dont Need A Reason’ and ‘Wings Of Fir’e.
The set covers pretty much their history including ‘Emerald’, in honour of Phil Lynott, while the stage and crowd was bathed in a lush green throughout, It is the likes of ‘Abandon’, ‘The Raindance’ and ‘Return The Heart’ that have that special response, alongside Eclipse and Night Ranger. Dare may have just stolen the weekend. (They tour with FM in May - an AOR fan’s dream bill).
Whatever has been said about The Quireboys in the past can only be echoed here, I have covered them a couple of times when they have always put on one hell of a show and tonight was no exception.
Their brand of good time rock n roll always goes down well, they have the songs and the stage craft to give us a raucous party. Spike, whilst being accompanied by a boot for his broken foot, never seemed hindered at all the mic stand still being kicked around his head.
The often shambolic Spike, whether an act or not, is a great foil for the precise playing of Griffin and Guerrin on the guitars, with the loveable rogues delivering a good time – every time – with gems such as ‘There She Goes Again’, ‘Mona Lisa Smile’ and ‘Hey You’. It is time that these rabble rousers are treated like a national treasure.
Air raid sirens heralded the arrival of Skid Row exploding on stage for ‘Slave To The Grind’, quickly followed by ‘Sweet Little Sister’.
The spine of the band – Sabo, Bolan and Hill along with ZP – have found their grit again, that punkiness edge with attitude was upfront and in your face during ‘Piece Of Me’. ZP does a great job in reaching the notes in ‘Big Guns’ and matching what the Prima Donna Bach used to be able to do, especially in the following classic ’18 & Life’.
The majority of the set was from their first two albums, including a Ramones cover, a staple in their set for over 25 years in ‘Pyschotherapy’, sung by Bolan.
This seemed like a rejuvenated Skid Row, and what better way to move forward and record new music than to lay waste to the past, these songs need to be heard. Although the savage ‘Monkey Business’ could have done without the ten minute guitar jam when they could have fitted two more songs into a rather short 14 song set.
The emotive ‘I Remember You’ created a mass sing along before the swift kick to the balls in The 80s rock anthem in ‘Youth Gone Wild’.
With the average age of the crowd into their 40s, “Youth Gone Wild” may be pushing it but, nevertheless, it was “Youth rediscovered”. It was as if the nineties and noughties never happened. Where Night Ranger brought a feel of west coast/California the previous night, Skid Row brought the street punk edge of New Jersey with them. A great way to end a perfect weekend at HRH AOR.
Review and photos by Darren Griffiths
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Power Plays w/c 2 April 2018
TAX THE HEAT Taking The Hit (Nuclear Blast)
BLACKBERRY SMOKE Nobody Gives A Damn (Earache)
THE DEAD DAISIES Resurrected (SPV)
CATTAIL BREW Fool’s Gold (Capital City Music Factory/Cargo Records)
Featured Albums w/c 2 April (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 FRONTLINE State Of Rock + 2 (AOR Heaven)
12:00-13:00 GUS G Fearless (AFM Records)
14:00-16:00 TRACK DOGS Kansas City Out Groove (Mondegreen Records)
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