HRH AOR VII DAY 2 - Presthaven Beach Resort, Prestatyn 15.03.19



Not so much as fairies wearing boots but certainly the seagulls sounded like they were during a fitful night’s sleep. The relentless pounding of the after-party still ringing in my ears, the wind picked up and blew any trace of the evenings frivolities away as myself and a fair few hundred bleary eyed music fans wandered up to the arenas for a full schedule of melodic marvelousness. 

Beginning with a couple of acoustic sets was the best thing to lull everyone back into the mood. 

First up were THE NEW BREED who after their electric set the previous evening were probably ready for something a bit gentler, the sunglasses hinting as much but a flood of music and some banter gave everyone something to properly wake up too. It’s a good stripped back set and really nice to see the support these guys seem to have gained over the weekend.

SCARLET REBELS continued to draw more of the early crowd as they took their turn at the unplugged session. Again another set that allowed the band to banter easily with those watching whilst showing the depth of their music. It’s amazing to hear the clarity of the vocal and hear the songs so clearly. Awesome job guys especially having ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ as a crowd sing along, lots of smiling faces around the room as the band departed to prepare for their later electric set. A set which due to stage clashes later in the day, I was unable to catch but by all reports was more than impressive. Next time guys, I’ll be there.

The force of nature that is EPIC’s Tanya Rizkala brought Stage 1 to life with some seriously smooth melodic tones. This lady can sing and the band can play, Tabbie Williams from MIDNITE CITY lending his talents to the bass. I love this ladies voice, it reverberates as the melodies flow through the banks of PA’s. Soaring solos from guitar maestro Mario Agostine add to the hugeness of it all.

Someone has now put money in the meter and we are up and running on full power on Stage 2 as SILENT JACK pump out the volume through the dark lights and absolute fog of smoke. They’re definitely on the stage, the floor is vibrating with the rumbling of the bass and waves of harder edged vocals rip through the smog. I couldn’t catch much of their set and I am unfamiliar with them as a band. I will check them out and catch them again soon.

BURNT OUT WRECK are next on Stage 1 as the experienced band fronted by Gary Moat who has left his sticks behind to front this classic rock sounding band. It’s a great set, I would like to hear more but unfortunately both stages are now up and running at the same time, impossible to catch much I’m afraid. I will catch them on tour though – I heard enough to know these guys are good and of course with Adrian Dunn on guitar, it is going to sound that bit special.

THE RADIO SUN are huge fan favourites here at HRH with this being their 4th outing, every time they play, they absolutely pack out the room. It isn’t just the hugely catchy melodic songs such as ‘Heaven On Earth’ and ‘Hold On Tight’, it’s the personalities of Steve and Jase that have you laughing one minute then singing along the next. Aussie humour and delicious music, always a winner and I hope these guys keep coming back – despite Jason informing everyone that he was leaving the band which was just a ruse, these guys are a bundle of energy and fabulous to watch.

KISS THE GUN bring the heavier edge to the rock on Stage 2, a blur of blue light and smoke, the powerful vocals of this female fronted band flood around the room. They are good, I stay and watch for a while as I’m so drawn to their sound.

HAXAN this all female 3 piece group who seem to be making waves with their particular brand of hard rock. These girls are amazing, hard and heavy, pulses of rhythm knocking into you and some absolutely cracking songs. ‘Out Of The Woods’ and ‘Lady Luck’ stand out particularly. Their debut album is due for release this spring and judging by the monstrous ‘Killing Time’ the album is going to be pretty awesome.

Hot footing it back to Stage 1 just in time to see VEGA. I am so pleased I did, the first truly well-lit set so even with the energetic Mr Workman making us photographers work hard to get our shots, at least there was light!! And there was immense sound too – this is a lesson in how an AOR band should sound. So many fan favourites, it wasn’t just the crowd that were dancing about in time to the music, everyone was, staff, photographers – impossible to keep your feet still when the music is so good, the melodies and key changes just perfect and the lyrics so catchy. ‘White Flag’, ‘Saving Grace’, ‘Human’ ‘White Knuckle Ride’ all bombarding our ears with class. Hats off to the VEGA lighting guy and also to the sound guy, totally fabulous. This is where VEGA belong, on a big stage producing fabulous big noise and feeding off the energy from the crowd. They always deliver, I’ve seen them a fair few times over the years and the consistency is always there, a show not just a gig.

One band I had been looking forward to massively was ROMEOS DAUGHTER who have had an enforced leave of absence due to a major health issue for guitarist Craig Joiner who is now back to full fitness and looking well. The very beautiful, raven haired Leigh Matty rightfully takes her place centre stage to a fabulous reaction with Andy Wells behind the drum kit and guest bassist, John ‘Rhino’ Edwards providing the rhythm section. Oh how I’ve missed these guys, from the minute ‘Heaven In The Backseat’ full of solid chunky guitar riffs explodes in my ears, the setlist is just a delight for any RD fan but even for those not totally familiar with their songs, the melodies and lyrics are pure AOR. So many great songs, ‘Attracted To The Animal’, ‘Touch’, Bittersweet’, of course there is the iconic ‘Wild Child’ too. Well guys I have missed you and its fab to have you back and sounding so good, there was also mention of new music! I must add that ‘Rhino’ was a great addition to their sound. Wonderful!

In complete and utter contrast to the two monster AOR sounding bands I’d just seen was FAHRAN. More hard rock than AOR it’s the twin guitars and bass attack that blows your socks off from the first few bars. Matt Black has an astounding voice, so controlled but big enough to ride over the top of the gorgeous guitar sounds flowing beneath it. Josh Fahran on drums is a sight to behold with his energetic approach and flying hair, smashing the drums with so much power it punches you in the chest from the back of the room. The whole band deliver, not just musically but in the energy stakes too. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay to watch the whole set, a shame so I will catch them on the road soon hopefully they will tour their soon to be released album ‘Vapours’. Tearing myself away, I headed back to Stage 1.

JIZZY PEARLS LOVE HATE enters the stage to a rapturous welcome. To quote a friend ‘The human tornado that is Jizzy Pearl has one of the most distinctive, hair raising, recognisable voices in rock, and he has landed here in Wales!’

He rips into ‘Spinning Wheel’ and without drawing breath its head first into the first of many chats. The musicians backing him are all really top notch and sound very polished and tight, with a highly effective light show working to great affect (not in a good way for us togs!) and with ‘Yukka Man’ up next the LOVE/HATE fans are just going crazy. ‘Your Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone’ from the new album slots in perfectly with older well-established material. ‘Why Do They Call It Dope’ and a rip-roaring singalong of ‘Wasted In America’ sees the temperature in the room soar. What was the one song we were all waiting to hear ‘Black Out In The Red Room’ of course and it blew the roof off! Not until the song has ended and the house light go up does a triumphant Jizzy Pearl stop swinging and swaying and being the ultimate showman. Love him or hate him, you have to pay tribute to the showman. Follow that WAYWARD SONS!!

The challenge appears to be accepted! I like WAYWARD SONS, I love their hard rock edge, their storytelling lyrics, the charisma on stage that is Toby Jepson, the tight musicianship from each and everyone of the band members. I’ve seen them play tiny venues, support slots, growing and building on their music and reputation, not riding on the coat tales of previous career paths, this is a band who know how to rock and tonight is no exception.

It’s loud! It’s supposed to be, and awesome quality PA’s ensure that the sound is clear and clean and the loudest it has been for anyone yet. It is also hot, incredibly so – the room is at capacity with eager fans not able to get in to the packed area. With a strict one in one out system at the door it was evident too many people were trying to get in to the building and because of fire and health/safety regulations people just couldn’t enter. I did hear from security that the capacity was a strict 1000 with upwards of 300 extra people trying to get in which just shows the pulling power of WAYWARD SONS.

Loud and heavy best describes the opening with ‘Killing Time’ hitting you straight in the guts as Nic Wastell stalks across the stage with his bass matching Phil Martini in the beat stakes to provide the sucker punches to the ribs whilst Sam Wood and Toby Jepson tackle the senses and blow out your brains with the guitar melodies, licks and riffs. Dave Kemp on keys fills everything in to make the sound so complete, the crowd are bouncing – the floor is moving. ‘Crush’ blends into Blondies ‘Union City Blues’ still one of my favourite mash ups ever! And what could make the set even better and complete my day – being in the pit when they played the LITTLE ANGELS classic ‘Young Gods’ – one very, very happy tog here even if the lighting was so blue they all looked like Smurfs on the photos!  This album has been immense for the band and all the tracks sound absolutely splendid live. ‘Ghosts Of Yet TO Come’ among the highlights of the set. The performance they give is second to none – the band are saturated with sweat, the fans are too! Nothing to criticise, nothing to pull a part or say they could improve on – I know they have a new album on the way and I can’t wait to hear it, the few new tracks they have been playing continue in much the same way as the first album does and it is a winning formula. Some had questioned HRH’s decision to have them on just before Mr Mogg and chums but seriously, what a fabulous way to lead into tonight’s iconic headliners, there couldn’t have been a better band to do so!

Unfortunately, due to clashes and also getting in and out of the arena I had to miss CORVUS, TOMORROW IS LOST and THE BRINK all, who I have been told, put on really strong sets. I’m familiar with all and hope to catch up with them on the road soon.

What words can best sum up the legend that is UFO and after 50 years, time has been called from vocalist Phil Mogg and who can blame or deny him the chance to put his feet up and have a long and happy retirement. It’s a sad announcement but an honest one, however on tonight’s showing they looked and sounded fantastic with classic after classic being performed.

Opener ‘Mother Mary’ took a little time for Moggs voice to settle down but by the  second song ‘We Belong To The Night’ reared its head, it was all systems go with Andy Parker smashing seven bales of shit out of his impressive drum kit. Vinnie Moore has had the unenviable task of trying to replace Schenker on guitar and is more than capable while also adding his own twist on things. Mogg is the ringmaster and the only man I know who can get away with both a shiny silver belt and a pair of braces at the same time. ‘Baby Blue’ with its rise and fall sections is classic UFO although released in 2004 it has all the trademark touches that the group were releasing in the 1970’s and is a fantastic live song.

The set list is like your favourite pub juke box, ‘Only You Can Rock Me’, ‘Cherry’, the hugely iconic ‘Doctor Doctor’, ‘Too Hot To Handle’ not forgetting 2 huge moments that will stay with me long after the weekend is over, firstly ‘Love To Love’ with its Paul Raymond piano led intro that builds and builds into some of the most seismic power chords witnessed in Wales for many a year, with the song ebbing and flowing and all band members on stage weaving this classic track together and the icing on the cake is Moggs note perfect performance.

The other highlight is what many people consider the groups defining moment and that is ‘Rock Bottom’ which showcases Vinnie Moore’s fretwork and very rarely does this track ever clock in under the 10 minute mark.  A jaw dropping example of musicianship and precision that is also very captivating and a privilege to witness.

No UFO show would be complete without the rock heavy ‘Shoot Shoot’ which is stretched out and jammed along too while the group take their time to wind down the gig. Although this is a final tour and goodbye, it’s a nice touch that they see fit to include lesser known songs like ‘Blow Your House Down’ or digging deep into the past and pulling out ‘Makin Moves’.

Whoever put the set list together and whittled it down to 15 songs needs a medal because without exaggeration, they could have played a 4 hour set and someone would be unhappy.

What a way to end the day to have witnessed a band so important to British rock Music and after all the years of keeping us entertained I have to give UFO performance of the day closely followed by WAYWARD SONS who have so many bright years ahead of them that will keep the rock flame burning brightly while UFO enjoy a well-earned rest.

My personal huge thanks to Steve Bruty for keeping the notes for this one – so much to take in and remember! Thanks Steve.

Rushing back to Stage 2 for the After-show we were treated to 2 fabulous sets, one from BLACK STAR BULLET who I’ve seen a couple of times and again, they keep and build a crowd. Not an easy job when UFO have just left the main stage! The four-piece rock and roll band from the Midlands consisting of Andy Tite on guitar, Trev Goddard on vocals and guitar, Martin Hughes on bass and Gav Hunt on drums have a highly polished professional set which delivered the goods easily.

The final band of the day were CAPTAIN BLACKBEARD who are a joy to behold, visual, energetic and a fabulous female vocalist with some serious power-pipes. Swedish rock and roll pummelled and rocked out big time to a thinning crowd. People had started to drift off a little towards the end of the set as it had been such a full on day but nothing to be taken away from CAPTAIN BLACKBEARD, at all. It would be nice to see them invited back so those of us too weary to be kept from our beds could catch more next time.

Let’s hope the Seagulls have also gone to bed tonight!!