HRH AOR Day 3 - Hafan Y Mor, Wales 10.03.18




With the rain falling, the final day of HRH AOR began with the bleary-eyed wandering down to the acoustic stage to be woken up gently by The Radio Sun.

The Oz rockers certainly put the hours in whilst in Wales, this being their third show of the weekend. A bit of conversation and some amusing stories to start with helped lift the fog of a heavy night and sleep before a few stripped back versions of their songs flowed out from the small dimly lit stage.


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Hand of Dimes frontman Nev MacDonald and keyboard player Neil Garland took the place of The Radio Sun to bring a harmonica fuelled acoustic set to those assembled. Nev has a strong voice and although I was unable to catch the full set, it was clear that we were going to be in for a treat later in the afternoon with the full band on the main stage.

Heading into the main arena I could hear laughter not music but then realised why, Blood Red Saints were on stage! Frontman Pete Godfrey was being hugely entertaining as always.  When the music did kick in though it was obvious why the band are on the main stage.  Formed in 2014 and, after a few shakeups to their line-up, their sound is consistently full of strong melodies, great vocals, and big riffs, courtesy of Lee Revill, ably assisted by Neil Hibbs, and a thumping bassline demonstrated perfectly by Rob Naylor and drummer Andy Chemney, showcased throughout the set of songs from their albums including tracks ‘Turn On The Night’, ‘Unbreakable’ and ‘Dangerous’. Really enjoyable and the added chat did make for a great way to start the main arenas off.

I have to say that the ‘Back For Good’ cover was just awesome and one of those moments etched on my memory. I was sorry to have to leave before the end but an interview with Fireroad was calling.


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Scurrying back to catch JOANovARC on the main stage, the ladies, Sam, Shelly, Deborah and Laura provided an afternoon slot laced with some solid tracks opening with ‘Live Rock n Roll’ but despite some rather excellent shredding going on and a cracking version of ‘Free Bird’, I felt that at times it was a little lacklustre and I wanted to see them have more energy on the stage. The sound was brilliant and the lighting for their set was too but I don’t think they exploited it enough with their performance.


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The same could not be said of Nunchucker who used every inch of space up on Stage 2. The band describe themselves as genre-less and I have to agree, a diverse mix of classic rock, metal, blues all thrown together in a pretty good way. The London based band captured the audience though not just the music but their energy – Mick Jaggeresque stalking around the stage from vocalist Chris Tate and some tasty tunes full of no nonsense riffs and rhythm.  Check them out, you won’t be disappointed.


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Hand of Dimes were one of the bands I was looking forward to catching at AOR. The former Skins bandmates Nev MacDonald and keyboard player Neil Garland have found a new lease of life with this band.

This is AOR, no frills and fancies, it is solid melodic classic rock, guitar and vocally driven with an ease that comes from experience and enjoyment. Precise, fluid playing and a banging beat to keep things moving along, the songs are ear-wormingly catchy, the hooks and riffs smoking hot. ‘Looking at You’, ‘Moonlight Mile’, ‘Bad Reputation’, ‘Jacobs Ladder’, ‘Guilty’, ‘Pinstriped Arrogance’ and finishing with the Skin cover ‘House of Love’ all played and sung beautifully, a really enjoyable set.


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Leeds rockers Chasing Dragons are explosive! Their punk fuelled aggression and expressive performances ensured that many people had wandered over to stage 2 to watch and listen.  Hard and heavy riffs, a thumping backline, this was almost the opposite of Hand of Dimes but nevertheless it was just as enjoyable. A vocal which was full of expression and emotion, storytelling lyrics, tight harmonies and a punchy power gave the crowd something to nod in time and appreciation too. An excellent set and a band I will catch again soon.


Check out their forthcoming live dates on their website and Facebook pages.

Back to the main arena where Little Caesar were about to grace the stage. Another ‘oldie but goodie’, they have been around since 1987 but never made to the ‘big-time’ due to a series of events around the time of their first album release. Their music is a combination of hard rock infused with blues smoke and melodic vocals. Ron Young has a voice for rock and roll and he uses it admirably. Catchy chorus’s and soaring riffs flood the stage as the band kick off with ‘Rock n Roll State of Mind’ and ‘Hard Times’, this is a band I would highly recommend seeing live, experienced but full of life and chemistry on stage.


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Enuff Z’Nuff are currently touring and their performance on the main stage showed that they are honed and tight. The band are fun – charismatic frontman and bassist Chip can still cut it live and Tony Fennell and Tory Stoffregen drive the guitar might of this pop rock band ably supported by the booming beats of Dan Hill on drums. The band are always consistent and tonight was no exception, the packed out arena enjoyed every minute especially for Gene Genie (Bowie) which seemed to light up the room. With 20+ albums under their belts, the band know how to play and work a crowd and that is exactly what they did.


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Last Great Dreamers brought their genre of pop/rock to the stage in arena 2, glam rock influences with riffs and attitude thrown in, the guys who are currently touring have an edge to their music which takes it from pop to something much more gritty and sleazy. Only catching part of their set, I am not qualified to give a wider review but I would recommend catching the band for one of their live dates.


Check out their Facebook and Website for details.

Another long-established band are Dare. The band fronted by former Thin Lizzy Keyboard player Darren Wharton have been in existence since the mid ‘80s and are off the scale when it comes to classic AOR.

Calming but full of energy – a strange combination of words and contradictory in their nature but they sum up Dare. A calmness to the vocal, a proficiency and obvious enjoyment and energy in their performance but also this explosion of sound and melody which is why they are gracing stage one. Their latest album ‘Sacred Ground’ has met with positive praise and the guys are about to tour with the mighty FM in the UK. A great set with several highlights with the Celtic feeling ‘Sea of Roses’, ‘Into the Fire’ and ‘Abandon’ from their classic album ‘Out of the Silence’ and the Thin Lizzy classic ‘Emerald’.


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The Quireboys had stepped into the breach last minute to fill out the late evening slot before headliners Skid Row hit the stage and as always Spike and the boys delivered a party feeling set of sing-a-long songs. Spike, complete with support boot on his leg after breaking it recently, did not let it hamper his usual stage presence. The band always seem to be touring and this brings a tight and polished performance, plus they seem to be enjoying themselves on stage, laughing and chatting and this was probably the best I have heard Spike sing too, his voice very strong with that lovely blues rich gravel.

‘Too Much Of A Good Thing’ began the set of staple favourites, ‘There She Goes Again’ will always be one of the AOR fans favourites together with ‘Hey You’, ‘Sweet Mary Ann’ and  the set closing track ‘7 O’Clock’. The mood in the room was high, smiling faces and in appreciation for the guys and a strong set but would that continue for Skid Row?


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Skid Row are without doubt a classic AOR band. Their former frontman was charismatic, charming, energetic, aesthetically pleasing (to some of us anyway) and most importantly a cracking powerful singer. How would the ‘new’ guy hold up to a crowd of classic AOR loving fans with high expectations and with such iconic songs. Currently on the road in Europe and the UK, the anticipation for what was to come was palpable in the main arena. I had been fortunate to chat earlier on in the day with members of the band and they were really looking forward to headlining and keen to let ZP Theart show AOR what he could bring to the band.

The arena was dark and heavy with expectation when through the smoke and lights blasted out the intro, Blitzkrieg Bop followed by the Air Sirens heralding the arrival of the band on stage. Cheers and whoops echoing through the noise as ‘Slave to the Grind’ with its gritty, heavy opening riff cracked through the PA’s. No easing Mr Theart into the set – full on and powerful and I’m hugely delighted to say ZP was up to the challenge. Snake and Scotti cranking up the guitars with their signature sound to epic levels within minutes and Rachel and Rob laying down rumbles and beats, all hard and heavy.

Smiling faces, fists in the air, it was a set of one hit after another. This was a true headliners performance. A soaking of the photographers and front rows with water courtesy of ZP who has a confidence to chat and work the crowd proved that not only are Skid Row still as strong as they have always been musically but they now a singer who can sing the songs and is also a showman.

‘Sweet Little Sister’, ‘Piece of Me’, ‘Livin’ on a Chain Gang’, ‘Big Guns’, the epic ‘18 and Life’ sounded splendid but it was ‘Quicksand Jesus’ and ‘I Remember You’ that proved ZP’s ability beyond question. A set of around 14 songs finishing with ‘Youth Gone Wild’ left the crowd exhausted and on a high. It was one of those gigs where you didn’t want it to end but as the smoke cleared and the lights came up a very happy crowd dispersed with a mountain of marvellousness embedded in their memory.


Bravo Skid Row!