Gig review: HARD ROCK HELL AOR – Pwllheli, Wales, 10-11 March 2016 (Joe Lynn Turner, Tyketto)

HARD ROCK HELL AOR, Pwllheli, Wales, 10-13 March 2016

Thursday 10 March

With a mass of indoor festivals throughout the year mainly at holiday camps out of season, Hard Rock Hell and it’s offshoots – AOR, Hammerfest,  Prog and  Blues – are fast becoming favourites, selling out in ridiculously quick time.  I even booked my ticket for next year’s event at the weekend, and it had almost sold out, that is how well these events are are organised .

After 2015 huge success getting some of the biggest names in the AOR genre, I had my doubts they could top it in 2016, and after hearing a few of the artists appearing I felt slightly disappointed…but a few left me in no doubt that they still have a relevance in 2016 and warranted their places on this bill.

Thursday night is pre-festival party night and usually the chance to bed into the weekend ahead in a slightly less manic pace,unfortunately nobody thought to tell the Quireboys that though, more of which later.

Last year the Thursday night was held in the smaller of the stages compared to this years main arena, giving a chance for the smaller bands to play on a big stage  with the full sound and lights that the headline bands have.

Beautiful Strangers - HARD ROCK HELL AOR, Pwllheli, Wales, 10-13 March 2016

Beautiful Strangers are building a healthy following in the South Wales area of late and a lot of that is down to the constant gigging they do, they will play anywhere and anytime and it a testament to their hard work that they get picked to appear on a bigger stage .

Over the last 8 months or so i have witnessed this band grow on the local scene , and in that time the guys in the band have become more cohesive, with the standard of their material growing along with their live performances.

An interesting 45 minute slot  with some great slices of classic melodic rock tinged with a bluesy undertone provided by guitarists Mike James and Richie Lewis. Pick of the bunch were ‘Shame Shame Shame’ , ‘Domino’ and ‘Love You To Death’.

Knock Out Kaine - HARD ROCK HELL AOR, Pwllheli, Wales, 10-13 March 2016

Knock Out Kaine blasted onto stage with 16 Grams, a full out rocker of a song with one of the juiciest hooks I have heard in a long time.  Dean Foxx on vocals decked out in shades covers every inch of the stage with a swagger that belongs to someone packing out arenas.

The energy in the arena went up two fold when they took to the stage and only slowed down temporarily when Dean strapped  on an acoustic guitar for ‘Backstreet Romeo’ and ‘Copperhead Road’ (Steve Earle cover ).  Quite hard to pinpoint this band to a certain genre as they have a bit of an eclectic sound with hints of  punk and glam about them, nevertheless another great slot on, supposedly, the pre-warm up night !!

Quireboys - HARD ROCK HELL AOR, Pwllheli, Wales, 10-13 March 2016

If it is party night then there is only one band that can pull it off with style and that is the Quireboys. Having never really bonded to their music back in the 80′s  and only half taking an interest when catching them live on various festival bills in recent years, Spike and the guys tonight showed me the error of my ways.

Kicking off with the Guy Griffin and Paul Guerin guitar intro of ‘Black Mariah’ setting the pace for the evening with the crowd while Spike cavorts and dances with his mike stand  resplendant in his white suit, a la Travolta, holding the crowd in the palm of his hand.

Quireboys - HARD ROCK HELL AOR, Pwllheli, Wales, 10-13 March 2016

Spike is the definite focus of the crowds attention, especially the young lady who received the red carnation from his buttonhole.  The band show no sign of slowing down or giving less than 100%.  A contender for performance of the weekend.

The unmistakable piano intro of ‘There She Goes Again’ is the first bonafide classic played tonight  giving the crowd the chance to sing along.  With a  career as long as theirs it is easy to forget how many great songs they have, including  ‘Misled’, ‘This Is Rock N Roll’, ‘Mona Lisa Smiled’, ‘Tramps and Thieves’, ‘Hey You’ and ‘Seven O’clock’.

In fairness, the Quireboys could have headlined any night this weekend and had the same reaction they received tonight. A band that has perfected their show over a long and successful career and long may they continue.

Setlist: Black Mariah/Too Much Of A Good Thing/ Misled / The Finer Stuff / There She Goes Again/ Gracie B / This Is Rock N Roll / Mona Lisa Smiled / Tramps And Thieves /Hey You /Sweet Mary Ann /7 O’Clock /  Encore.. IDont Love You Anymore / Fool To Cry / Dont Bite The Hand.

Veronica Freeman - HARD ROCK HELL AOR, Pwllheli, Wales, 10-13 March 2016

At around quarter to midnight the remaining crowd, which had dwindled to treble figures and mostly men ( you can see why) were treated to ‘The V’ , or Veronica Freeman from the band Benedictum, playing tonight as a solo artist with a backing band consisting of stalwart Nigel Bailey and a couple of members from the band Lawless if I am not mistaken.

Whilst the music played by the band was of a great standard, the same can’t be said of the strength of the songs and also of Veronica’s vocals.  A lot of the crowd like myself gave it around four to five songs before retiring for the night, which seemed a more inviting prospect than the sound coming from the stage.

Friday 11 March

Estrella - HARD ROCK HELL AOR, Pwllheli, Wales, 10-13 March 2016

Like last year with the Swedish outfit Reach, Scottish rockers Estrella came, saw, and conquered main stage opening slot. From the opening double of ‘Rock City’ and ‘She’s Got It’, the band had everyone on the packed floor arms stretched and singing along to fun, mega-catchy songs with all the 80′s cliches in the book visually and audibly.  Vocalist Paul Gunn is a very formidable frontman and with his long mane of blonde hair not unlike Mike Tramp in terms of stage presence and vocals.

The songs are full of all the finer ingredients from the 80′s SunsetSstrip golden age fused with 70′s style Sweet choruses, which is a must for an AOR festival and Estrella played as if they were the headline act.

When reviewing any show/gig/album etc, it is really only one person’s opinion, so any artist should only really take it as that; however, when a packled floor clears as quick as it did when Iconic Eye had gone through their first couple of songs, it should set the alarm bells ringing.

Disjointed songs and sometimes woeful vocals from Tim Dawkes, which were flat and struggling, and along with a rather disinterested attitude.  While the guitar solos of Neil Fraser were of great quality, they were a tad over played for what the song required and left myself and a few others shrugging our shoulders .

Kane'd - HARD ROCK HELL AOR, Pwllheli, Wales, 10-13 March 2016

Kane’d burst on stage with the musicians in the group playing a heavy type of intro for  what seemed an eternity, though was probably only a minute or so.  The reason might have been that the four guys were robbed of any attention after the three sisters came on stage.

Let’s not beat about the bush, each member of Kane’d has a fantastic voice, and could lead the band on their own as individual singers, but when they start to sing together through the choruses it becomes a bit messy and sadly a bit too cabaret for my liking.

Each song seems of a different style to what they are trying to achieve vocally.  Very heavy guitaring from Harry Elliott, (who is quite a guitarist it has to be said), along with a heavy undertow that seems more at home on the Hammerfest stage .

I would really like to see Kane’d develop a more melodic music style and with one individual voice to focus on. While having a great reception, I think in their current format and style their longevity must be limited.

Blood Red Saints - HARD ROCK HELL AOR, Pwllheli, Wales, 10-13 March 2016

One of my favorite albums of last year was the debut from Blood Red Saints and one of the bands I was looking forward to seeing live.  Starting things off with album opener ‘Kickin Up Dust’, the band replicated the sound of the album perfectly. Lee Revills’ guitar was at the forefront of the mix searing through the solos, a very underated guitarist though his taste in hats is rather suspect…

‘Mercy’ and ‘Best Of Me’ followed as it does on the album, giving a fluid start to the set – all with big choruses and massive melody.  Pete Godfrey is probably not the frontman to swing his mike stand around or pace the stage but his voice is golden and his banter between songs is comedic genius at times.

One new song ‘Staring At The Sun’, written by drummer Pete Newdeck (who is  now challenging Mike Portnoy for the amount of bands he plays in) gives us a taste of a tougher faster style which will hopefully develop with the second album.

Russ Ballard - HARD ROCK HELL AOR, Pwllheli, Wales, 10-13 March 2016

Almost everyone should be aware of the name Russ Ballard, more predominantly as a songwriter, though like myself you probably never realised how many great songs this guy has written for others.

A nearly full house by now, which in all honesty were people gathered for Tyketto up next, though the ones that were paying attention were soon singing along and dancing to the classics like ‘You Win Agai’n (Hot Chocolate) ‘New York Groove’ (Ace Frehley) ‘God Gave Rock n Roll To You’ (Kiss) ‘Hold Your Head Up’ (Argent), the list goes on and on, a  prime slice of classic rock finished off with ‘Since You Been Gone’ (Rainbow).

Tyketto - HARD ROCK HELL AOR, Pwllheli, Wales, 10-13 March 2016

When playing any kind of festival, the golden rule should be … hit them hard, hit them fast and tear the roof off and Tyketto did just that.

Opening with a montage of sound from the 25 years since their debut album Don’t Come Easy, before the band take to the stage and open with ‘Sail Away’.  It’s hard to believe Danny Vaughn is in his mid-fifties, the guy looks so healthy and with a voice that hasn’t aged at all.

Announcing to us they are playing the entire debut album tonight but backwards in running order or we would all leave early after opener ‘Forever Young’.

Tyketto - HARD ROCK HELL AOR, Pwllheli, Wales, 10-13 March 2016

With only two original members of the band these days, guitarist Chris Green has made that part his own and looks every inch the rock star.  Decked in the most garish union jack leather pants he gives everything in each song and I would find it strange not seeing him there now, alongside Chris Childs on bass and Ged Rylands on keys.

I don’t think I have witnessed crowd singing ever  like it was tonight  almost drowning out the band at times through ‘Wings’ and  ‘Burning Down Inside’ for which Danny Vaughn seemed genuinely touched and emotional,  and after the set closer ‘Forever Young’ Tyketto took their bows and adulatuion for one of the most memorable Hard Rock Hell AOR shows ever.

Joe Lynn Turner - HARD ROCK HELL AOR, Pwllheli, Wales, 10-13 March 2016

Following Tyketto wouldn’t have been easy for anyone but Joe Lynn Turner isn’t just anyone. With a backing band made up of quality musicians we were treated to a sweep of Joe’s work with Rainbow and a brief song by Purple.

Hitting us from the start with ‘Death Alley Driver’ and ‘Power’, Joe showed us how good his pipes still are segueing into ‘Can’t Let You Go’ and ‘Street Of Dreams’ before taking a breather to address the crowd.

A twelve song set, no doubt cut a little short by an earlier delay but nevertheless a spine tingling display of a legend at work.

Joe Lynn Turner - HARD ROCK HELL AOR, Pwllheli, Wales, 10-13 March 2016

It is a shame he didn’t include some of his songs from the Yngwie period or even some of the more recent Sunstorm stuff.  But old faithful  ‘I Surrender’  got one of the biggest cheers tonight and maybe a tactical ploy to show fans that Mr Blackmore had made a big mistake in not hiring him for the upcoming Rainbow etc shows.

Closing classics ‘Man On The Silver Mountain’ and ‘Long Live Rock N Roll’ cemented JLT’s headlining:  I thoroughly got lost in the set and enjoyed every moment.

Setlist: Death Alley Driver/ Power/ Cant Let You Go / Street Of Dreams / Miss Mistreated /Stone Cold/ I Surrender / Endlessly / King Of Dreams / Spotlight Kid / Man On The Silver Mountain / Long Live Rock n Roll

Album review (Joe Lynn Turner, and interview)

Review and photos by Darren Griffiths

Saturday 12 March

Josh Taerk’s latest Sunday Session was streamed on Sunday 17 July.

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David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 GMT, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 31 July 2022.

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JAIME KYLE Driving With The Brakes On (Conquest Music)
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09:00-12:00 LESSMAN VOSS Rock Is Our Religion (Atomic Fire Records)
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