Rockingham – Nottingham, Trent University – 20 October 2017 Print E-mail
Written by Mark Ashby and The Dark Queen   
Tuesday, 31 October 2017 04:20

As anyone who read the recent Über Rock guide to this third iteration of the Rockingham festival will know, it once again promised to be a mixed bag of established, and favoured, acts, some new (and not so new) artists to check out – and at least one headliner who many were doubtful would actually deliver the goods… But that’s a story for the next instalment of our three-part review, which starts where it really should, at the beginning and a rather pleasant Friday evening in the centre of Nottingham, just a short dander from the pub where Midnite City had got many of us in the mood with their hot ‘n’ sweaty album launch show. In fact, we were enjoying ourselves so much at aforesaid that we completely lost track of time and had to get our skates on as the doors had already opened and the first act were due on stage virtually any second…


Maverick 5


By the time we actually manoeuvre our way through the rather over-zealous security check and make it into the packed – and, yes, you read that right – venue, Belfast boys Maverick are in full flow, and really have got the early comers jiving. This may be a makeshift line up of the band – with Stormzone’s Steve Moore standing in on second guitar – but musically and visually they are from that: they’re tight, professional and more polished than the marble stairs in our hotel. David Balfour once again proves he has developed into a strong and confident frontman, more than capable of holding an audience’s attention, and , and the lads deservedly garner a great reaction from the crowd, most of whom are clearly here to every note from every band to take to this Rockingham stage.


Blanc Faces 3


In the previously mentioned UR Guide, I admitted that, outside of his involvement with Find Me, I knew little about Robbie LaBlanc in advance of his band being announced as taking part in the 2018 edition of Rockingham: well, it was probably understandable, as this was only Blanc Faces’ second or third gig in something like 12/13 years! Well, I’ll equally quickly admit that he, and they, were one of the true discoveries of the weekend! Their quality, well-crafted AOR contained just the right combination of parp and hard-edged rock riffs, delivered with a rarely balanced mix of passion and pathos. LaBlanc has a great, understated voice, and the songs complement it superbly, while the band are tight and precise, their big melodies and catchy choruses all you really can ask for from a band in this genre. Finishing with a superb version of ‘Stay With Me’, Blanc Faces left many hoping that it won’t be so long before they grace us with both new material and more live appearances.


John Parr 4


The return of John Parr to more or less home soil had been eagerly anticipated – but, the result, to be honest, was something of a curate’s egg. Opener ‘Highway Star’ highlights the problem with the rest of the set: too many cover versions! Why, when he has such a massive repertoire of his own, does he feel the need to resort to churning out pub rock classics? Nevertheless, ‘Naughty Naughty’ provides a deserved early pop, proving that he still definitely possesses an impressive set of vocal cords, before he slows things down with ‘The Best’: but, by this time, we need a bit of a breather. A solo acoustic interlude proves that Parr is not only a damn good singer and a terrific songwriter, but also a very accomplished instrumentalist in his own right. He explains that the covers he is playing are by artists who have influenced him in his craft, before disappearing into an elongated Beatles’ medley… But, then he makes up for it with “that song” and the place is jumping, with everyone singing and dancing along and the man ensuring that, ultimately, he leaves us all with broad feelgood grins on our fizzogs.


Kix 13


Returning to the Über Kingdom of Rock ‘n’f’n’ Roll for the first time in nigh on three decades, Kix’s headline set was one of the most eagerly anticipated of the weekend – and, with the steins of beer and cider flowing freely in the UR company (we were joined by two friends from Manchester who had travelled down specially for this one set), they most definitely did not disappoint, in any department.


It's immediately clear that Kix are here to, indeed, rock our faces off (sic) as ‘Hot Wire’ explodes with pure r’n’r energy. Another thing that is immediately obvious is that Steve Whiteman still has the voice, and clearly has looked after it over the years: well, he is a vocal coach so he should know how to do that! And his energy level is also remarkable, bouncing around the stage like a performer half his age, collapsing to his knees to accentuate the passion of his delivery and then leaping back to his feet with the grace of a gazelle.


Kix 10


Equally, ‘Midnite Dynamite’ gets the joint jumping – quite literally: I swear, I could see clear air between boot soles and the floor at many points. ‘Not A Ring Around Rosie’ sees Whiteman engage in a harp duel with guitarist Jimmy Chalfant, while ‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’ still has the power to make grown men cry as Whiteman wrenches every ounce of emotion form the lyric, before they pick up the pace and set the ‘Wheels In Motion’ and then bring on the dancing girls (“hey Vince, are you watching?”) for main set finale ‘Girl Money. But, of course, this is the opening night party, and they’re not getting off that easy, so with Whiteman strutting and swaggering like a true rock ‘n’ roll frontman there’s the obligatory two-song encore, culminating in the iconic ‘Blow My Fuse’ – which does just that with some female members of the UR party!


A great start to the weekend… the party continued back at the official hotel until the way beyond the wee small hours of the morning: but, we’ll pick that story up tomorrow…


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