LIVE REVIEW: HRH AOR Days one and two

Welcome to north Wales and the sixth outing of HRH AOR: a mix of rock, sleaze, glam and even a bit of blues…

Thursday DAY ONE: all acts to be on the main stage.

It kicks off with Dante Fox formed in 1989 by female lead vocalist Sue Willets. They are a melodic rock band and I always say that there must be a few nerves on stage when you’re the first band of a three day festival, and I’m afraid it showed tonight; not helping them by having numerous sound problems she looked very nervous on stage and her voice at times was very pitchy.

I read that Sue was once voted by Classic Rock magazine  no 19 out of the top fifty female vocalists alongside Cher, Annie Wilson and Stevie Nicks. Well tonight was a bad day at the office as she showed very little emotion or crowd interaction, the band themselves were tight enough but for someone with such an accolade I was disappointed.

Band no 2 London five piece Newman celebrating twenty years together this year they have produced up to now eleven studio albums and their very first self titled album became so rare to get hold of that in 2014 they re-recorded it as a limited edition and this followed on from a succesful UK tour with Vega and many European venues.

Fronted by powerful vocalist Steve Newman, they play aor melodic  rock with strong chorus’s and great guitar work. Showcasing many  songs off their recently released  Ariel album, they entertained the medium sized crowd and you could see the band enjoyed the reaction.
Band no 3  Eclipse a four piece glam/hard rock band from Stockholm Sweden consisting of charismatic lead vocalist guitar, bass, Eric Mårtensson, Magnus Henrikson guitar, Magnus Ulfstedt bass, and drummer Philip Crusner. The moment they ran on stage, they oozed personality, full of excitement and hard and heavy playing  and with Mårtensson bouncing and jumping and never letting up, he was like a rock n roll jedi thrusting and waving his bright red mike stand  around the huge crowd like a light sabre.

I loved their energy and  their emotion and I look forward to seeing them again .

Final act of the night, Joe Lynn Turner, the legend known for his work with Rainbow and later Deep Purple. After his first band Fandango, he joined Rainbow to replace Graham Bonnet’s short stay with them, where Bonnet’s voice was powerful and always remembered for their hits All Night Long and Since You Been Gone,  Ritchie Blackmore noticed they were sounding more commercial and pop-oriented so needed someone with more of a rock image and feel, Joe ticked all boxes.

He later pursued a solo career and even sang background vocals for Cher, Billy Joel and Michael Bolton and also had a short association with Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force and then Deep Purple. In the early nineties through to 2008 he released nine studio albums and two live, not forgetting his 1985 album Rescue You.

I was quite excited about seeing him as I had witnessed both Dio and Bonnet sing with Rainbow and this was the holy trinity. It was worth waiting to see him: he came out to a rapturous applause and screams and sang his heart out, with songs from his early albums and some Rainbow songs including a great performance of Straight Between the Eyes.The packed crowd sang along to the whole set and he proved that he is still as good now as he was in the early days. Thanks Joe, another one off my bucket list.

Day Two…
Day two was to be split between two stages: Stage 1 the mash up, and Stage 2 the glam/sleaze stage, obviously you don’t get to see every band due to clashes.
Stage one first band The King Lot, a Scottish trio who I describe as melodic with a hard and heavy edge. The three members are Jason Sweeney bass & vocals and drummer & vocals Chris Gillon, last year saw the departure of guitarist Michael Fairbairn so the newly joined young axeman Jay Moir has been enlisted and Jason says he has brought a heavier sound to the band.

I really enjoyed these guys with Jason throughout the set joking with the reasonably sized crowd .They showed no nerves about having to kick off the first big day and on the main stage too.

Staying with main stage for Cruzh, an aor band from Sweden, it’s pronounced Crush not cruze as I thought. With  bassist Dennis wearing a fur wrap around his shoulders and forever raising his hands in the air to the crowd and the lead vocalist Tony Andersson being  the two stand out performers I hung around to see what they would be like.

Andersson has an impressive vocal range and they showcased their self titled recently released album but at times Andersson’s high falsetto was painful and I thought he was trying to communicate with dogs at one time it was so high.

Over to stage 2 for my first band of the day or Crimes of Passion. This group from Sheffield were one of the bands of the weekend.

Vocalist Dale Radcliffe commands a stage with his powerful vocals  and stage prescence: a special shout out to Joey Roxx or the bassist in the basque as I like to call her.

She really lived up to her name, but the whole band were incredible: they had the packed crowd headbanging away to hard and heavy rock and is it any wonder this band were asked by Biff from Saxon to tour Europe with them and he makes  a guest spot on their song Blackened Heart, with appearances on stages all over the continent and recognition from Metal Hammer magazine they can only go on to bigger and better things.

I hung around for Iconic Eye, a midlands aor five piece. I had been chatting to the very pretty front lass Janey Gould side stage just before they were going on and she was really excited to be here and perform: I’m sorry Janey but you tried too hard tonight and your vocals at times were very off key.

Returning to main stage to catch some of the Australian Jac Dalton, the first thing I noticed was the so obvious wig he was sporting. FFS man if you’re going to wear one don’t get it from a fancy dress shop.

Wig aside he is a great frontman with good vocals. They play old fashioned 80s rock and at times come across as very cliched, the crowd enjoyed them but when I heard him steal a line from Mad Max 2 and introduce a band member as the Ayotolla of rock n rolla that did it for me and I was outta there.

Back to stage 2 and good friends and locals to me Empyre. These guys from Northamptonshire don’t fall into any genre: they have a unique sound of their own, at times grungy they have a dark and atmospheric sound which has to be seen live, with the mean and moody (love you man) front man Henrik (NOT HENRY) and his amazing vocal range with his haunting guitar breaks, along with Did Cole very talented lead, the wonderful Grant Hockley bass, and Jack Bowles the shy drummer (yes they do exist). I can’t say too much as I will come across as being biased. It wasn’t a huge crowd for them but you all missed something special and anyone who was at the after party and saw their 1 am set will know what I mean. Buy their ep Something Remains, but most of all catch these guys live for a special experience.

Still in stage 2 for next band local Welsh boys Fire Road, as to be expected with a Welsh band the place was rammed. A long friendship with singer Kelly Jones, frontman Richard Jones was part of the band Tragic Love Company which would later become the Stereophonics, but Jones wanted his own band so contacted local musos he knew and Fire Road were born. Not shy on stage, the small part of the set I saw was entertaining and they pleased all the crazy locals.

Main stage to see a bit of Radio Sun, a power/pop rock band from Australia and their third time appearing at HRH. The lead singer seemed to spend a lot of the time talking about  looking after hair ??? thankfully he had a decent voice….The main stage was getting very full now so I decided to stay there for the night.

The reason for the huge crowd was for the next act Aaron Buchanan & The Cult Classics. I had seen them before at HRH 10 on stage 2 and was impressed, but this was the main stage and I was really looking forward to seeing the perfomance.

It was evening now and he was there to make an impression, and he definitely did that…. He has so much energy on stage he wears you out watching him, for the whole hour’s set he never kept still, gyrating and jumping around like a kangaroo on speed. With his sister Laurie on guitar, Tom McCarthy guitar, Mart Trail on bass and Paul White drums, he sang a fantastic version of Fire Fire from his former band Heavens Basement and just to outshine every one else attempted a stage dive from which he went base over apex and later whilst performing I am Electric  climbed into the crowd to perform a handstand,  to quote him: “A show without risks isn’t a show and I’m in this job for the lifestyle”. That sums him up perfectly: he grabs you by the balls and never lets go till the end, amazing.
Catching my breath and carefully making my way through the massive crowd for a beer I awaited the penultimate band of the night BulletBoys, as far from aor as you could possibly get, playing no nonsense heavy metal (yessss!!) these LA rockers were formed in 1987 by former Ratt and King Cobra lead vocalist Marq Torien, who is the only survivor of the original lineup, in fact this band has been through well over thirty band changes.

The current line up is Torien lead vocals, Nick Rozz guitar, Chad MacDonald bass/backing vocals, and very newly joined drummer Anthony (Tiny) Biuso. (Jerome posted the selfie man thanks for that). Marq has been compared to Dave Lee Roth of Van Halen, and I totally agree.

With a very extended guitar solo and Tiny’s drum solo, they only managed eight songs in their hour long set but when solos are played this well I don’t mind. They deserved to have a longer set: I loved their old school style and would definitely recommend you going to see one of their shows if you are a fan of  AC/DC and hair metal: they set the stage alive.

Headliners for tonight were Night Ranger, who win the prize for the biggest fkn drumkit of the weekend: it got rolled out onto the side of the stage like some massive spaceship, I only hoped that the drummer was going to be as impressive as the kit. I had been hearing whispers all day about them but I have to say I was totally unimpressed: I found them to be posers, full of themselves and the music was ok, I suppose, loaded with slow ballads. Half way through the set I felt myself dropping off and in my opinion, and it’s only mine remember, (DON’T SHOOT THE MESSENGER) a festival night should end fast and furious, BulletBoys should have headlined and had the 90 minute set as  they were firing on both barrrels; I’m afraid to say Night Ranger were firing blanks.

A bit of information about a band on stage 2, Naked, my partner and photographer told me about. Swedish band, singer said he had a cold but sang as best he could: second guitarist was late arriving due to guitar problems, and the singer was reading most of the lyrics off the floor as he joked he didn’t know them, doesn’t sound like I missed much.

A quick mention to the late band of the night on stage two Degreed: another Swedish band, they like their aor:  nice vocals and they shouted they were blown away to be playing at the festival at this ungodly hour, only caught two songs as off to the after party now.

Review by Dave Martin
Photos by Carol Henson a.k.a. Lady Gigger