|High Voltage - London, Victoria Park - 23rd & 24th July 2011|
|Written by Ross Welford|
|Friday, 05 August 2011 05:00|
Nothing beats the sight of the wall of black that is the metal festival. Walking from the tube station to the site entrance surrounded by metal comrades about to go into battle whilst bemused joggers try and find an easy route through is a great sight and a great feeling indeed (although the two prog fans having a heated discussion on the type of keyboards used on some band's album did make me chuckle - each to their own I guess?). Every type of metal fan is here and the Sun God seems to have nodded his approval for the weekend. I came to the first High Voltage last year and was impressed by pretty much all of it, so much so that I knew I'd be back this year regardless of the line up.
So here we are, Saturday 23rd and Priest and Slash seem to be everyone's main focus for the day. I quickly get my bearings and slip straight into the beer tent (how did that happen??) - £4 for a can is pretty much standard these days for corporate robbing bastards I think to myself and wander off to get in place for the first band of the day, Michael Monroe. Nickelback's 'Animals' plays on the PA and there's a hefty crowd awaiting the Finnish legend. An Amazonian intro plays and out they come, including newly recruited ex-Backyard Babies sleazeball Dregen. Effortlessly cool and looking every inch the rock star, Monroe leads from the front even if at times he seems to have sniffed too much hairspray. What follows is a master class in entertainment. Running further than his mic lead will let him countless times and climbing the stage set whilst singing - dangerously impressive - the band run through classics both old and new including 'Hammersmith Palais', '78', 'Mystery City' and, of course, 'Dead, Jail Or Rock N Roll'. The crowd love it, I loved it and every single person looks at each other as if to say "Impressive" : Follow that High Voltage........
I get to the Metal Hammer stage to see it's considerably shrunk from last year (I know the prog fans complained a lot about noise bleed last year) and, all in all, I don't think the bands they're putting on are anyway as good as last year but that's why I'm here - to check out some new up and coming bands. Attica Rage hit the stage with their brand of Scottish biker metal and although the travelling fans and Germans seem to love it, it's a bit too predictable in my opinion. The lead singer isn't helped by the low mix on his mic and their tribute to Motorhead's Wurzel ('Overkill') sounds messy - this won't be the last time sound quality is mentioned this weekend, unfortunately. A quick dash back to the main stage to catch new favourites Rival Sons is next and their brand of Zep meets the Doors meets the Black Crowes is average at best. Thinking you're Jim Morrison is fine, thinking you've already made it when you haven't isn't. They play blues standard 'Baby, Please Don't Go' and it's easily the best song they play. Disappointing to be honest (They will redeem themselves, good people....read on!).
Whilst we're here, who let 25 blue faced morris dancers dressed in black in?? Fucking hell, what a bunch of annoying twats. I don't particularly want to know when you're shaking off your cock in the pisser - yes, they were that fucking annoying that you could hear every movement they made! I digress, Nottingham's Ravens Creed up next, a constant dirge of sound (don't panic, it's what they were aiming for) and the singer summed them up best by stating "If you've got a floppy fringe and buy Kerrang! fuck off and get a burger - you ain't going to like this." A storming song in the shape of 'Imperial Leather' is a highlight. Top band only let down by the smoke effects that made it look like someone was having a bbq next door. Check 'em out - the UK underground scene is still out there and alive.
As I walk away, I get sucked into the prog stage - now I'd like to point out it was Alice In Chains' 'Down In A Hole' that made me do it as it was playing over the PA but I thought as I'm here....... Keyboards and computers being set up got me nervous to start with and as the atmospheric bell chimed on stage for the first time, It was like the Pied Piper had called as row upon row of people flocked to the stage. I panicked as the flock of tie dye and beards encroached my space, I looked for a way out and all I could see were the toilets - Irony???
I got to the main stage to hear the last drippings of Queensryche - well received by all accounts. What I needed was some ROCK and who better than Thin Lizzy? A massive crowd that love these hits - say what you want about this incarnation but you can't argue with the songs; 'Waiting For An Alibi', 'Jailbreak', 'Rodeo', 'Whiskey..' - God, you know them all whether you're a fan or not. Michael Monroe turns up for a sax solo but NO ONE can hear him as yet again the sound dies and it makes the crowd chuckle more than anything else. Whilst Thin Lizzy are no doubt a top band and Ricky Warwick can definitely sing, I find him a charmless frontman that just looks angry all the time? Not once did he smile. I always got the impression Phil Lynott would kick the shit out of you, then help you up and take you for a beer whilst telling a cheeky story. On this performance, Ricky would kick and sulk off. That said, top performance and it's a thankless task I guess?
News filters through that Electric Wizard have cancelled their headline set on the Metal Hammer stage. Short notice but Rival Sons pull out the stops to do another set and take their place. Whilst I wasn't there, I spoke to a few people who said that they put in a great performance that took away their arrogance from the earlier set and redeemed their selves. Good effort that made me want to give them another chance.
Slash - or The Product as he should be known? - is up next. I've got nothing against Slash but he needs to work harder for my love. Yes, he was in GnR but so was Dizzy Reed so impress me...with a Snakepit song! Jesus, c'mon man. Whilst Myles Kennedy is doing his best Axlisms (better than Axl these days?) they play 'Night Train' and 'Rocket Queen' and the crowd suitably show their appreciation......as The Product stands to the side and doesn't move. Help your singer out for fuck's sake, get involved! Even when a young Slash wannabe is pointed out by Myles Kennedy, everyone smiles except Slash? It's a tad unconvincing for me until Todd Kearns takes to the mic to sing a blistering version of 'Dr Alibi'. Yeah, now we're talking. That song seems to take the band up a notch and 'Sweet Child', 'Paradise City' and Velvet Revolver's 'Slither' benefit from it. You'll hear great reports of Slash at High Voltage I'm absolutely convinced BUT he moved once and only during the last song. Kearns won the plaudits with that one song for me.
So to Judas Fucking Priest...............
Or is it Rob plus Judas Priest these days?? This review could pretty much write itself. They're such a huge band with a colossal back catalogue and are so professional that you know what they do. If you've never seen them, GO already!
The sound is great and in KK Downing's replacement, Richie Faulkner, they've found a man that seems to have given all of them their edge back. He really does stand up to be counted and applause must go to him for that. You get the feeling there's a BUT don't you??? Well Rob Halford doesn't exactly gel with his band mates, there's no love and when he puts on his cape, he look like he's just finished the London marathon and it borders on the edge of panto a little too closely. The crowd are loving it regardless and when they start 'Breaking The Law', arguably the biggest cheer of the day goes up. Then Rob sings the excellent track 'Painkiller'.....whilst bent over. For the WHOLE song? I'm looking around thinking "Is he ok?" A cry comes from the side of me - "Stand up you cunt!" - Made me laugh and good to know it wasn't just me thinking it. Great band that deserve the love of their front man - Fight were shit remember, Rob?
As I walk off to the strains off 'Hell Bent For Leather', I reflect and think it's been a good day. Now where's that Dizzy Reed solo album......................
Day 2 and what better way to start than with a nice mug of tea? For those about to brew.....we salute you. My feet hurt from two weekend festivals on the trot and I'm thinking about prog bands so I instantly kick myself in the ass, grab a beer and catch Furyon on the MH stage to shake those thoughts out of my system. A big crowd is here to catch them (no one else is playing yet) and their brand of rock, which is a bit BLS sang by a cock rock vocalist, is hitting the spot. A melodic singer that makes this bunch a notch above the average style that normally gets paraded as Wylde-esque. By the third song, the band has got the crowd on side and no doubt made some well deserved new friends.
Heaven's Basement open up the main stage and I'm thinking how many chances are this lot going to get? I've never been massively disappointed by them but they seem to have stayed at the same level for so long, that maybe their time has passed? Well, I was proved wrong. Dirtier, heavier and with new singer, Aaron Buchanan, in the band they seem hungrier and more passionate than ever. Maybe realising what a great chance this was in front of a large audience, they grabbed it with both hands and put on a great short set including the riffing excellent 'Executioner's Day'. Glad I gave them another chance, they deserved it.
Up next for me was a band that I reviewed on CD and I hoped they did the business equally well live - The Treatment. For a band this young, they come across as one perfectly oiled machine, tight as fuck and in lead singer Matt Jones, they have a massive advantage over the rest. That lad can sing and keep an audience interested. Reminded me of a young Josh Todd, when he managed to keep his shirt on. The crowd reaction is great, they even manage to get the crowd's arms swaying in the air like it's a Bon Jovi concert with no effort at all. The impressive 'Nothing To Lose But Our Minds' was especially good. A band well worth checking out and they'll be deserving of a chance at the next level soon enough.
Gentlemans Pistols were next up and good god they've got an image problem. Now I realise it's about the music but the bass player looked like Weird Al Yankovic in a red and pink tank top and the singer, although great to listen to, made the strangest little movements like he was some disco king? Very strange to look at - took away a bit of the gloss off the band for me but with songs like 'Widowmaker', I'm sure they'll make enough money to shop somewhere other than a charity shop.
So I've ventured over to the main stage again to see a massive crowd waiting for Michael Schenker. Now I hope Slash watched this and took some notes because MS not only knew he was the star with his name up there but he worked the crowd and interacted with his singers. It's a hard job being the singer and not being the focal point in a band, so the fact MS took some weight off their shoulders yet let them have the space at the same time made a big difference. Not only was he on fire but you roll out a Scorpions classic like 'Another Piece Of Meat' and the crowd will love you like crazy. Oh you want more? How about Michael's brother Rudolf turning up for the party? Not enough still?? How about Pete Way also turning up for a bit of 'Rock Bottom'?? Yeah, that Pete Way, in red and black stripped spandex too! Even new tune 'Before The Devil Knows You're Dead', with its Saxon styling, gets a massive cheer. Party time or what? Obviously that's not enough is it, so not only have you got singers Doogie White and Michael Voss....they only go and get Jeff Scott Soto out as well to sing 'Doctor Doctor'! Amazing finish. We might as well go home now I'm thinking?
The irony of the woman's shirt in front of me that says "Thunder 20 years and out 89 -09" is not lost on me, this being their 580th comeback gig since disbanding two years ago. The crowd is massive and as they come out to AC/DC's 'Thunderstruck' they've already won the crowd over such is the love for this band. The sound gets cut TWICE during 'Back Street Symphony' but like the pros they are they carry on regardless (did they even notice??). I leave the masses to it and head to see one of the hardest working bands in Britain today, Black Spiders. Due to Thunder maybe, the crowd is smaller than I expected but who cares when they start with 'Kiss Tried To Kill Me' and follow it up with killer tunes such as 'Stay Down', 'St.Peter' and 'Just Like A Woman'? The ever mad Tiger Si on drums is painted head to toe in black because it's his birthday (well, you would, wouldn't you?) and the band are on top form only let down by the sound which makes singer Pete Spiby sound lower than the rest of the band. The money men don't seem to like them but I'd say fuck that, go see them live and tell me they're not worth the money. You'd be mad not to see them.
Now Black Country Communion are a supergroup but I just don't get them? I know I'm in the minority and I try to like them but really just think they're ok. Now Bonamassa played last year and he looked every inch the cool heir to Clapton but today he's come dressed as a failed golfer. Seriously - Khaki jeans, blue shirt from Millets and a plain cap that makes him anonymous. Bonham (or 'The Seed' as the Chili Peppers call him!) plays in his own world and by now I'm already convinced it should just be Glenn Hughes up there. During an instrumental wank break, Stu says to me "Has the spaceship taken off yet?" - a little bit too self indulgent I agreed. 'The Ballad Of John Henry' gets played and it's a great rendition but proof is about to be produced that I am indeed correct and that all we give a fuck about is Hughes; Deep Purple's 'Burn' starts and the place goes mental. Seriously great song played like it was the last time they're allowed to play it. Hughes states "We are a brand new band and we play rock 'n' roll".....yeah, but Deep Purple rule.
So all we've got left is Dream Theater. A lot has been talked about here about are they a headline band or not? The general consensus was that they should have been special guests instead but it's too late for that because they're up and, what is that in the middle of the stage?? Well apparently it's a drum kit. A VERY LARGE drum kit. I'm not saying it's big but if you put the A Team in that kit they'd be able to make a tank, a machine gun and still have enough left over for a normal size kit!
There are a lot of DT t-shirts about but it's nowhere near as busy as last night. Fans will no doubt criticise this comment but they don't seem to have any songs? Not live anyway? They occasionally sound a bit like 'Somewhere In Time' Maiden, but without the gallop of Steve Harris. The drummer is sweating his bollox off (probably trying to drug B.A.??) yet the singer is indulging in a bit of Slash 'This is my spot' non movement.
Then it hits me............This is prog. Say what you want but this is prog rock. So how do I cure that feeling of keyboard atmospheric horror?? I leave for the t-shirt tent to check out the Hardcore Superstar, Motley Crue and Skid Row shirts that I can't afford whilst getting chatted up by some Belgian dude. And I stay chatting to him.......anything's better than prog.
Photographs by Trudi Knight - www.bandsonstage.co.uk