|HRH AOR – Pwllheli, Hafan y Môr Holiday Park – 10 March 2017|
|Written by Mark Ashby and The Dark Queen|
|Thursday, 16 March 2017 03:30|
Well, it had all gone too smoothly. Our trip from Norn Iron to north Wales had been uneventful. Our flight to Birmingham had actually arrived ahead of schedule, we had managed not to kill any sheep (well, not knowingly) or get stuck up any mountains on our drive to the Llŷn Peninsula and we’d already enjoyed some great rock ‘n’ roll action. However, on day two, our best laid plans started to unravel… as they tend to do….
Due to interviews being cancelled, postponed and/or rearranged – a situation handled with their usual professionalism and untiring devotion by the HRH media liaison team - it was early evening before we finally made it as far as the main arena, meaning that, apart from herself managing to grab a few quick minutes of Romeo’s Daughter – who apparently killed it – the first full set of the day that we manage to catch is that of Jizzy Pearl and his current incarnation of what used to the band known as Love/Hate.
As previously reported here on Über Rock, Pearl’s current tour is marking the 25th anniversary of the ‘Wasted In America’ and sees him and his band playing it through in its entirety – and he’s not about to make an exception for a festival appearance. The crowd lap it up, and by as early as ‘Miss America’ and ‘Cream’ the singalongs are huge. Despite having hooked up with the singer just two gigs previously, the band are tight and inject a new vigour into both the songs and their creator: if anything, the former sound fresher than merely having been given a lick of paint, as the musicians display a seemingly impossible sense of familiarity with the material, and the latter is clearly enjoying bringing them back to vibrant life as the 50-minute set, which finishes with a rowdy-as-fuck rendition of previous album title track ‘Black Out In The Red Room’, flies by apace.
The fact that Bang Tango had had to cancel the rest of their UK dates was seemingly guaranteed to make what turned out to be a unique appearance all the more special: unfortunately, it didn’t quite turn out that way… Yes, it’s gritty and determined and filled with midlife spunk, with Joe Leste virtually spitting the lyrics to the likes of ‘Dancin’ On Coals’ with as much vigour as when it was first released in ’91. Yes, that cheeky, sleazy groove still permeates their sound, and the band are assured and confident in their crowd-pleasing run through of their back catalogue. But, there’s just something missing: maybe it’s the awful sound mix, maybe it’s the largely apathetic reaction of the majority of those farther back than the first couple of rows, but, apart from a beautiful rendition of ‘Wrap My Wings’ it’s just a little pedestrian and uninspiring, when it could have been so much more…
Unfortunately, a much-anticipated appointment with this evening’s headliner means we miss Autograph. It’s a real shame, as they were one of the bands we were most looking forward to seeing, especially after their storming appearance at the last ever Firefest a few years back… and, apparently, we missed another terrific performance! Ah well, that’s the vagaries of this job, and this environment: you can’t be everywhere at once, boo hoo.
By the time we make it back, they haven’t managed to sort the sound problems, especially on stage, as FM, and particularly frontman Steve Overland and keyboardist Jem Davis obviously are having extreme difficulty hearing themselves during opener ‘Digging Up The Dirt’. Although these specific issues seem to be resolved by ‘I Belong To The Night’, the front of house mix on Overland’s vocal remains hit and miss, meaning it’s a strain to actually try and listen to what he’s singing. Which is a real shame, as the band deliver their usual polished and cohesive performance, to deliver a masterclass in melodic rock craftsmanship. The sound improves as the set progresses through the big pops of ‘Let Love Be The Leader’, ‘Love Lies Dying’ and (of course) ‘That Girl’ to closer ‘Other Side Of Midnight’ (even though we’re not quite there yet…). FM never fail to deliver, no matter the adverse circumstances in which they may find themselves, and tonight their professionalism shone through.
If anyone thought the sound was being deliberately fucked with in order to make Lita Ford sound any better, then they were sorely mistaken: if anything, the issues, at least in the vocal department, get even worse for the perhaps the most anticipated act of the weekend. The mix is all over the place, and continuously cuts out, while that on the bottom end is also muddy and unclean… but, let’s leave the technical issues aside and get on with talking about the performance, shall we?
Taking to the stage to the distinctive intro to last year’s ‘Time Capsule’ album, and resplendent in her trademark red leather – it’s a three-piece, not a catsuit, though – the recently inaugurated ‘First Lady of Rock Guitar’ raises the biggest cheer of the weekend so far. Surprisingly, she is content to play rhythm guitar for opener ‘Gotta Let Go’, giving the supremely talented Patrick Kennison plenty of share of the spotlight in terms of lead work and solo spots. Nevertheless, there she is, ‘Larger Than Life’ right in front of us, proving that, indeed, ‘The Bitch is Back’ and ‘Playin’ With Fire’ in a way which is ‘Relentless’ in attaining its goal of getting the audience eating out of her hand.
The rhythm section of bassist Marty O’Brien and drummer extraordinaire Bobby Rock are tight and precise in their supporting role, with the latter even managing to pull off a solo spot with aplomb where many others send you racing to the nearest vomit bucket. In between the songs, Lita is animated in her interactions with the rabid crowd, speaking honestly about her relationships with men (on the intro to ‘What Do Ya Know About Love?’) and shamelessly plugging her autobiography telling stories of the same.
She even proves she has a sense of humour and is no iconoclastic rock diva, thanking the audience for “getting me all wet” and joking with her guitar tech as she asks him to “put it in the hole” – referring of course to the jack lead (why, what were you thinking you dirty rascals?) – when she wheels out her over-large double necker for ‘Close My Eyes Forever’. The humour goes even further when she drags an Ozzy lookalike on stage to lip synch to the song (which “Howie from Derbyshire” does to brilliant dramatic effect): the result of this particular ploy, however, is to allow Kennison to demonstrate what an amazing voice he possesses in addition to his fretboard talents.
Of course, there’s only one way she can finish, and she takes us past the midnight hour with the invitation to ‘Kiss Me Deadly’, which leaves everyone present hungry for more… but, it’s not to be, as previous over-runs have meant that the curfew has now been broken and it’s all over. Sound issues aside, it was great to finally see Lita in the (leather-clad) flesh… let’s hope she’s back on the next album touring cycle next year…
Watch The Dark Queen’s interview with Lita Ford HERE.
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