GIANTS OF ROCK 2019 DAY 3 - Butlins, Minehead 27.01.19



Early doors on ‘Centre Stage’ today is the last of 2018’s ‘Introducing’ stage winners, London’s BLACK WHISKEY, made up of Simon Gordon (vocals), Kev Ingles (guitar), Rich Bannister (drums) and Craig Nabbs (bass). Launching into the titular track from their album ‘Dry Bones’, as Simon says, “Looking good for a Sunday morning!”, and it is, a lot of people have turned out to see this band. They have a classic rock sound with a relentless, driving, bass/drum combination that soon has the audience eating out of the palm of their collective hand. This is overlaid with melodious guitar hooks and impressive harmonious vocals, and they use all the stage to interact with the audience, throwing out a quip or two. “I’ve checked with Butlins staff and they’re licensed for you to have a dance, even this early in the morning!”. The crowd respond well, dancing and singing lines back, there’s even call for an encore, ‘The Idle Rich’, from ‘The Heavy Train’ album.

VEGA fairly burst onto ‘Centre Stage’, their effervescent frontman Nick Workman impressing with both his stage presence and vocal ability. He is like a magician, drawing the crowd in with his contagious energy, making people rise up from their seats and move into the standing area at the front as they band perform the title track of their second album ‘What The Hell’. Marcus Thurston and Michael Kew (guitars), Tom Martin (bass), James Martin (keyboards) and Michael Hutchison (drums) play so interactively, having just come off a week-long tour (with SKID ROW). Seemingly they were “all struck down with the lurgy, so this next song seems appropriate”, ‘Last Man Standing’. This is followed by ‘Worth Dying For’, the first single from their new album ‘Only Human’, and by the last song of their set, Nick is running from along the front of the stage, and the floor is actually bouncing. A truly expressive, memorable set. At the merch stand, the band sell out of their new CD in rapid time too!

FOCUS are next onto ‘Centre Stage’ and Thijs van Leer, Pierre van Der Linden, Udo Pannekeet and Menno Gootjes entertain the prog rock fans among the crowd with a selection of pieces, including the slightly discordant ‘Eruption’. Looking around the room, it is clear that fans of this band are in their element at the atmospheric spectacle.

Over at ‘Reds’ this afternoon, MAN, comprising Martin Ace (bass/vocals), Malcolm Morley (keys/guitar/vocals), Josh Ace (guitar/vocals), James Beck (guitar) and Shane Dixon (drums), play a laidback set to a rather subdued crowd.

Legendary blues guitarist ELLIOTT RANDALL takes to the stage next in ‘Reds’ and gets the audience gently swaying as his soulful classics and accomplished musicianship hold their attention. ‘Reelin’ In The Years’ is a highlight’.

CARL PALMER’S ELP LEGACY take the final afternoon slot in ‘Reds’ and Carl Palmer, Paul Bielatowicz and Simon Fitzpatrick put their noteworthy talent and experience into a stunning set the audience truly appreciated.

Last act of the afternoon on ‘Centre Stage’ are the mighty kings of AOR, FM. Steve Overland (vocals/guitar), Jim Kirkpatrick (guitar), Merv Goldsworthy (bass), Pete Jupp (drums) and Jem Davis (keyboards) are pretty popular around here, and it’s not hard to see why. Centre Stage is rammed, and as the band take to the stage and run through their totally professional, smooth performance, the sound clarity is consistent, it looks utterly effortless and the band play as a tight unit. The audience looks to be having the time of their lives, dancing and singing along, and the band look like they are having a damn good time too.

First up on the ‘Introducing’ stage tonight are LUKE DOHERTY BAND, a blues/classic rock band from Newport, South Wales, made up of Luke Doherty (lead guitar), Simon Parrot (drums/vocals), Mal Preest (bass/vocals) and Paul Morgan (vocals). Although they play a great set, they suffer from a disappointing turnout. Luke on guitar is especially captivating.

London’s ACTS OF VENGEANCE are up next to bring some heavy metal onto the ‘Introducing’ stage. Michael Reith (drums) and Sam Tracii (vocals/bass) take no prisoners as the galloping drum and throbbing bass combo set the tone of their set. Andrew Came and Marty Mach’s dual lead guitars attack the crowd as melting riffs and twin solos burst from the stage. Sam tells us that the band filmed a video for next song ‘Hurricane’, then “decided that our faces were better suited to radio!”. Another highlight is the spine-tingling ‘Baptised in Blood’, about Dracula, which has the crowd headbanging.

SCARLET REBELS (formerly called VOiD) are the penultimate band of the weekend onto the ‘Introducing’ stage and give an energetic performance, particularly by exuberant lead guitarist Chris Jones. Along with Chris, Wayne Doyle (vocals/guitar), Gary Doyle (drums), P (bass), and Josh Townshend (keys/guitar) power through their set of original material with gusto, a high point being ‘Head In The Ground’, dedicated to Teresa May, Boris Johnson and Donald Trump. The audience clap along with no prompting and seem to thoroughly enjoy this band, so much so that they are asked to do one more song. At the end of the night, they are crowned the last winner of the public vote and will return next year to play on the big stage.

The last band of the weekend on the ‘Introducing’ stage is Cardiff’s HÄXAN, who are Sam Bolderson (vocals/guitar), Harriet Wadeson (bass) and Charlotte Bolderson (drums). With their heavy rock tracks and ballsy attitude, the trio gives the lads a run for their money with a set of melodious bangers including ‘Lady Luck’ and ‘Killing Time’, the latter from their debut album which will be released in the Spring. All three girls play proficiently, the vocal harmonising on ‘Bring The Thunder’ is stunning, and the crowd applaud accordingly.

Paul Manzi arrives on ‘Centre Stage’ looking suitably flamboyant in a black and gold frock coat, and proceeds to lead the spectacle that is CATS IN SPACE. Accompanied by Greg Hart (guitars/vocals), Steevi Bacon (drums/percussion/vocals), Dean Howard (guitars/vocals), Jeff Brown (bass/vocals) and Andy Stewart (piano/synth), Paul has the audience just where he wants them; he is like the ringmaster of his very own circus. Wowing the crowd with ‘Hologram Man’ from new album ‘Day Trip to Narnia (out March 1st) and the band’s first single from three year’s previous, ‘Mr Heartache’, before slowing things down for the ballad ‘Scars’.

Over at ‘Reds’, blues guitarist ROB TOGNONI plays a cracking set which includes a cover of Rory Gallagher’s ‘Shadow Play’, which we hear is outstanding. Rob is accompanied by Mike Hellier on drums and Gas Rackham on bass.

The last band of the weekend to perform at ‘Reds’ are Sweden’s H.E.A.T, who have also just come off the SKID ROW tour. Singer Erik Grönwall is like a firework, he has so much energy; he climbs down from the stage into the packed crowd and jumps up onto tables in the seating area as he continues to sing, making sure that everyone in the whole bar gets involved. What a frontman! You cannot help but feed off his ebullient enthusiasm. The rest of the band, Dave Dalone (guitar), Jona Tee (keyboards), Jimmy Tay (bass) and Crash (drums) take this all in their stride, and play as a tight unit even as Erik cartwheels across the stage inches from them, they are clearly used to his glorious antics.

The time has come for headliners SKID ROW, and ‘Centre Stage’ is rammed at this point. There is dry ice aplenty as the band explode onto the stage to the opening bars of ‘Slave To The Grind’. There are old favourites galore, from the band’s first two albums, including ‘Sweet Little Sister’, and then singer ZP Theart asks us if we had a good weekend. Of course, it’s almost the end of that good weekend and most of the crowd have made numerous trips to the bar, so everyone is screaming and shouting “yes!”, he leans over in his dangerously low-cut hipsters and says, “Well, we’re about to bring this shit down!”. Scotty Hill headbangs, swinging his impressive mane as he throws out shredding solos in ‘Piece Of Me’, while Snake Sabo, who doesn’t look to me like he’s aged a day since 1991 plays the intro to ‘18 and Life’ and the place erupts. Bassist Rachel Bolan takes a turn at lead vocals for ‘Psychotherapy’, which he dedicates to The Ramones. Drummer Rob Hammersmith keeps up a driving beat throughout. Then it’s ‘Makin A Mess’ and time for something truly spectacular: Scotty and Snake stand on platforms and take turns to play killer riffs and face-melting licks. It’s like their guitars are having a duel and it’s the most amazing, impressive sight. After all that excitement, there is just enough time for an encore of ‘I Remember You’ and ‘Youth Gone Wild’.

Rounding off the whole weekend in style, Norfolk’s BAD TOUCH, comprising Stevie Westwood (vocals), Rob Glendinning (lead guitar), Daniel ‘Seeks’ Seekings (guitar/vocals), George Drewry (drums/vocals) and Michael Bailey (bass) shake ‘Centre Stage’ to its very foundations with their southern-infused brand of rock that is at times understated but always delivered with enough swagger to convince you of its authenticity. Not many bands can get away with a cover of ‘Whole Lotta Love’ as a finale but these guys do just that, and the crowd lap it up.