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Steelhouse Festival 2018 - Ebbw Vale, South Wales (UK) - 27-29 July 2018

Friday 27 July

Dealing with only sporadic showers, Friday night's bands suffer comparatively lightly over the weekend. Openers Fragile Things perform despite singer Richie Hevanz having been injured by a savage dog bite and sporting a bandaged hand. Nevertheless, he is a commanding presence on stage having won the right to be there in a battle of the bands contest and kick off the festival well. Departed are also determined to make an impact, and if anything, have a more mature and bigger sound. Great vocals and a massive widdly solo at the end keep the energy up for an appreciative crowd.

Phil Campbell And The Bastard Sons roll out the quality Heavy Blues from their new album, a sound that's surprisingly close to Black Stone Cherry at times, as well as playing a few Motörhead classics, notably 'Born To Raise Hell'. The band are happy to be playing to a home crowd in Wales, the festival just being a short commute away, with Phil Campbell getting out his Welsh Dragon guitar for the occasion.


Steelhouse Festival 2018 - Phil Campbell Bastard Sons

He looks relaxed and happy playing the kingpin with humour and panache. His sons provide energy and, in particular, a passion for the Motörhead classics. After a rollicking 'R.A.M.O.N.E.S.', there's a fine version of Hawkwind's 'Silver Machine' that they dedicate to departed members of Motörhead and the crowd sing-along in good voice before the inevitable (and rightly so) 'Ace Of Spades'. The legacy of Motörhead is strong, but this band has other things to offer and their original material is well deserving of time and attention in its own right.


Steelhouse Festival 2018 - Stone Broken

Friday's headliner, Stone Broken, continue to provide staggeringly great Arena Rock and get more professional every time I see them; they are surely ripe now to crack The States. They are confident enough to insert an entertaining drum solo from Robin who looks like she is having the time of her life, enjoying the joke of a burst of old Hair Metal tracks 'Cherry Pie' and 'Girls, Girls, Girls'.


Steelhouse Festival 2018 - Stone Broken 2

They push their own boundaries with Rich playing keyboards for the first time live and give heartfelt thanks to the crowd, dedicating songs to those that mean the most and to the departed. It comes across as authentic, real and meant to be.

Saturday 28 July

Saturday is dogged by rain for part of the day, but the weather did clear up for the headliner, while the crowds are ideal for The Trooper stage in that they don't let the weather get them down.

Bad Flowers kick off in great humour despite the rain. Many people are watching from the shelter of the bar, so they have a bigger audience than it appears. It is somewhat of a coincidence that there is then a storm, given their tracks are called 'Hurricane' and 'Thunderchild'. Aaron Buchanan And The Cult Classics take the brunt of the weather with Buchanan literally dripping and losing his shirt half way through. Having to cut their set short due to lightning, they still make the most of the weather and the show, not letting it dim their spirit in the slightest and choosing to truly Rock in the rain.


Steelhouse Festival 2018 - Myke Gray

The weather begins to calm down for Myke Gray, thank goodness, as it is somewhat distracting to see lightning down to the ground with a metal stage full of electronics in the mix. He provides a set of good time Rock 'n' Roll à la Jimmy Barnes, with plenty of Skin classics like 'House Of Love' and 'Money' which he presents with a big smiley face.


Steelhouse Festival 2018 - Myke Gray 2

He's a master shredder capable of astonishing speed, but that is certainly not at the expense of the feel of the music – it's quality stuff! King King keep the good times rolling. There is a lovely clear guitar tone with masterful interludes as long as the solo from Lynyrd Skynyrd's 'Free Bird' and it is a joy to hear.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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Unfortunately, the bad weather returns for Dan Reed Network, but again they don't let that spoil the set and deliver with boundless energy. Myles Kennedy is also affected with many people enjoying both shows from the shelter some way away from the stage. Ironically commenting on the "beautiful day", he doesn't let the weather stop him belting out stuff from his solo album or involving the crowd with an acoustic version of Iron Maiden's 'The Trooper'.

Glenn Hughes always seems to have the luck of the devil, and sure enough, the weather clears up completely for him. Looking about thirty with his new longer hair, he is still singing like he always used to and to see him deliver the Deep Purple classics with such skill and his trade mark Falsetto is a real treat. Complimenting David Coverdale on his song-writing skills, he proves the rule that the greatest legends are also the most gracious. Concentrating on quality not quantity, there are fewer songs than a typical Rock set with each lasting longer often due to the solos.


Steelhouse Festival 2018 - Glenn Hughes

He concentrates on Purple Mk.III songs like 'Stormbringer', 'Might Just Take Your Life', 'You Keep On Moving' and 'Mistreated, the latter being the quintessential song to show off that Hughes' still has one of the greatest voices in Rock. We do get a stomp-along version of 'Smoke On The Water', however, it's a great version with Hughes not afraid to make it his own. Myles Kennedy joins in for an encore 'Highway Star' before the show closes out with, what else, but 'Burn'. Only Coverdale's presence could make the show more complete.

Sunday 29 July

Unfortunately, the weather is also bad for most of Sunday and the festival goes remarkably well considering neither The Quireboys nor The Dead Daisies make it due to transport difficulties. Adding to this, I have transport difficulties of my own with local taxis refusing to take people staying at hotels up the mountain. Imagine my surprise when Scott Gorham arrives at the hotel and grants me a space in his mini bus back up to the festival. This more than makes up for me not being able to get to the stage until Mason Hill and Massive Wagons.


Steelhouse Festival 2018 - Mason Hill

Both bands attack the stage with gusto, however, the festival only really got going for me with The Wildhearts. Despite the rain, the crowd stay with it and enter into the Dunkirk spirit of "the show must go on". Typically outspoken, Ginger Wildheart is not shy to mock The Daisies for not managing to land their helicopter in the storm and not getting a bus like everyone else. That said, he did not forget to concentrate on delivering Pop Punk hits one after the other; 'Baby Is A Headfuck', 'Vanilla Radio' and 'Nothing Ever Changes', it was party time and he wisely chose his better-known material.


Steelhouse Festival 2018 - The Wildhearts

He also didn't forget to entertain the crowd and at one point invites each and every one to sing any chorus except for the one from the song the band were playing at the time, which has people rolling in metaphoric aisles. His praise for that being "I want to take all of you home and fuck you". The missing bands did mean he got to play a longer set, but the energy didn't dip despite the weather and I guess that alone speaks volumes about the force of nature on stage as well as off. After 'Geordie In Wonderland' and 'Greetings From Shitsville', the weather starts to clear up. This leads Ginger Wildheart to comment that, "the collective Rock 'n' Roll hearts brought the sun out".


Steelhouse Festival 2018 - Black Star Riders

Luckily for Black Star Riders, once again it did not rain for the main headliner. Mixing Thin Lizzy with their own originals, starting with 'Jailbreak' which they follow with 'Finest Hour', there's no doubt their own material stands up to the Lizzy classics. Indeed, the fact that the majority of the songs they play are their own tracks shows the strength of the new material. Ricky Warwick really understands crowds, but in an instinctual non-manipulative way, and they entertain so well there is no sign that the crowd is pissed off by a third of the bill being a no show. Scott Gorham is still delivering the goods with the energy of a twenty year old and he looks happy and relaxed. Despite logistical difficulties, Damon Johnson delivers a lovely bluesy solo and nothing affects the band's one hundred percent performance for the crowd. We do, of course, get 'The Boys Are Back In Town', but finishing with 'Bound For Glory', the "take no prisoners attitude" of this band takes the day through to a successful conclusion, transcending all the difficulties of the day.


Steelhouse Festival 2018 - Black Star Riders 2

The festival organizers should also be praised for efforts to make the festival run as smoothly as possible with a big enough bar tent for those that wanted to shelter from the weather, the provision of mud boards very much needed by the third day and reduction of beer prices to compensate for the missing bands on Sunday. Personally, I had a great time despite the weather and the intimate, friendly feel of this festival makes it very likely I will return, despite the incredibly optimistic leap of faith involved in staging a festival up a mountain in Wales.

Review and photos by Dawn Osborne

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August 25, 2018
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