HRH XII - Day 1, Hafan y Mor, Wales 08.11.18

CHRIS STONES

PHOTO CREDITS: LINDZRS MEDIA PHOTOGRAPHY / STEVE JOHNSTON PHOTOGRAPHY

The opening of the festival is always worth attending and tonight is no exception. Flames, dancers and a heavy backing track - what else could be done to spark the fuel to get the HRH motor running?

 

EDENS CURSE are given the honour of opening the event tonight and do so  to a healthy crowd, many of whom have embraced this year’s military camouflage fancy dress theme. Thankfully, the decor in the main arena isn’t khaki so most are easily spotted despite their best efforts.

 

Nikola Mijic (Vocals), Thorsten Koehne (Guitar), Paul Logue (Bass), John Clelland (Drums) and Christian ‘Chrism’ Pulkkinen (Keys) are in the middle of a UK tour that has seen them start in Scotland and seemingly bounce across the British Isles until they finish up at Winter’s End in a few days.

 

Opening with ‘Masquerade Ball’, the performance is polished and is melody-laden with guitar and keys swapping solos across the driving engine room of Logue and Clelland. ‘The Great Pretender’ takes the direction in a mean and moody direction initially but Mijic’s vocals are excellent with his trademark power and range carrying across the track. The band keep things fresh with the addition of guest singer Helen Hurd for ‘Angels and Demons’ as they close the set. A solid start.

 

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MYKE GRAY is next to grace the stage and does so to a growing crowd. He is accompanied by 

VOODOO BLOOD’s Kimberly Ann Jennett (vocals) tonight following the unavailability of Phil Conalane. With the opening tape of Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ pummelling the PA, the band set off on one of the most powerful sets I’ve seen in recent months.

 

Jennett has the pipes for power blues and with a hint of Janis Jopiln’s grit, she instantly steals the show. Given Gray performs under his own name and his band members are less well known, Jennett has shaken things up. The first two tracks are pure impact before the pace slows slightly again allowing the vocal strength to shine in ‘House of Love’.

 

Of course, it would be an own goal to ignore Gray’s skills on guitar. He avoids the temptation to showboat, instead playing tastefully even when soloing. This makes for a well balanced performance that provides space for everyone on stage. ‘Take Me Down To The River’ is a sensational track and must be a highlight for most of those gathered. Great show. Recommended.

 

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ROCK GODDESS don’t muck about. They play straight forward rock n roll rooted firmly in the NWOBHM with power chords galore and a concrete crumbling rhythm section. The crowd have been warmed up even more for the third band on the bill tonight and they don’t disappoint.

 

Jody Turner (guitar & lead vocals), Julie Turner (drums & backing vocals) and Jenny Lane (bass & backing vocals) are as powerful a threesome as many five piece bands. Tracks such as ‘Back Off’ from their 2017 EP are unashamedly strong and leave the crowd in no doubt as to the attitude of the band.

 

With a new album ‘This Time’ due for release in February 2019, there is a buzz about the band and what the album might hold. Based on tonight’s performance and hearing one of the tracks ‘Why Do We Never Learn’, I reckon it’ll be worth getting your hands on. If you fancy a pledge, there’s even the chance of dinner with the band. That’s a new one!

 

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PHIL CAMPBELL AND THE BASTARD SONS need no introduction having played HRH before. Their touring schedule is significant and there recent album ‘The Age of Absurdity’ has earned new appreciation so tonight could be considered a regular gig for the band.

 

Those that know the band, will understand that the band don’t play regular gigs - they always put on a show. Campbell stands alongside his three sons Todd (guitar), Dane (drums), Tyla (bass) and vocalist Neil Starr and ploughs through a range of songs from the Motorhead catalogue as well as his own material. Each track has a shot of adrenalin that makes for an energetic show.

 

New tracks such as ‘Get On Your Knees’ is a crowd participation opportunity and this crowd are entirely up to the challenge. Campbell enjoys this band and the inclusion of a Ramones cover is as much about having fun playing as it is delivering another missile from the arsenal.

 

The now ubiquitous crowd giving their middle finger to the band is all done in good humour. Starr is a confident frontman and his request for anyone in the crowd to come onstage to wrestle Todd is a fitting introduction to a track I’ve never heard played live - ‘The Game’ by Campbell’s former band. 

 

It’s arguable that these chaps are a headliner for HRH but nobody is complaining at having them here tonight. In fact, the crowd love ‘em. The inclusion of ‘Ace of Spades’ is expected and that song just never gets old when played live. The air raid sirens that precede Motorhead’s ‘Bomber’ are haunting but are quickly silenced by yet another explosive delivery as this last song is launched. This has been a lesson in power and the lesson held everyone’s attention. Job done.

 

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MICHAEL SCHENKER FEST is currently touring the UK with the legendary guitarist pulling a number of his old bandmates along for the odyssey. What this allows is him to dip into the full depths of his back catalogue, something that has already been a huge hit with rock fans.

 

Schenker has reunited with Ted McKenna (drums), Steve Mann (guitar/keyboards) and Chris Glen (bass) to provide a platform for four of his vocalists from across the decades. Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet, Robin McAuley and Doogie White are all given a number of tracks to sing and they do so with magical nostalgia.

 

Tracks are played from Scorpions, UFO and Schenker’s own catalogue with highlights coming from all eras. White’s vocals are particularly strong in tracks such as ‘Vigilante Man’ and McAuley is also formidable with older material. Bonnet’s voice is instantly recognisable but there ere moments when his range is pushed.

 

The powerhouse of Glen, McKenna and Mann are impressive and drive the night flawlessly. Schenker himself is on form and again, it is only some vocal performances that dulled the sheen on the night. Schenker’s rendition of ‘Holiday’ and the instrumental ‘Captain Nemo’ are sublime however and the main man is clearly in a good place musically these days.

 

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