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HRH AOR VII - Presthaven Beach Resort, Prestatyn (UK) - 14-16 March 2019

Thursday

Thursday was the gateway to the festival with just four bands in the evening crowd on the main stage. The New Breed kicked things off with plenty to offer in the vocals and guitar department. They were doing pretty well with their own material, so I was surprised to see a cover of 'Whole Lotta Rosie' mid set which was OK, but I was far happier to hear their own new slightly punky single, "for those who have really never given a fuck", 'The Young And The Reckless'. While they seem to be drawing from a number of styles this was the one that left an impression.

Knock Out Kaine were up next and despite the surprising declaration "haters welcome" all was well with plenty of eighties guitar solos in songs like 'Fire And Smoke', the slightly more Americana 'I'm Coming Home' and even the rap influenced 'Boxes', until the further surprise that guitarist Lee Byrne is leaving after twelve years which did take the wind out of everyone's sails a bit, despite's Byrne's efforts to keep the energy up by jumping onto the barrier and playing directly into the crowd during 'Time'.

Dave Bickler, formerly of Survivor, was well received despite the fact that his voice seems to be much lower in register these days. He, therefore, happily got the crowd to help him with the high notes and they readily obliged particularly enthusiastically for the "Eye" note of the famous 'Eye Of The Tiger' chorus. There were some very nice guitar solos and Bickler won the goodwill of the crowd by saying good things about Jimi Jamison and doing a very decent version of 'Burning Heart', which proved another crowd pleaser with its big riffs and melodic refrains.

Tyketto headlined the final night with their special set celebrating 25 years of 'Strength In Numbers' by doing all the songs on that album to provide something different to their usual set, which was similar but not the same as their recent London gig at the Islington 02 with the rare B side 'Wait Forever' (but no version of 'Wings' with Kane'd this time). As well as 'Reach' from the excellent new album we also got 'Big Money'. While the latter is not my favourite it was good to see the new album getting more attention as it is a fine release.


Hard Rock Hell AOR VII Tyketto Live

Danny Vaughn's strong and clear voice makes the band a safe pair of hands for a quality Rock show every time. There was plenty of humour while everyone was freezing their asses off in the wind and rain of the grey weather in Wales in songs about summer days and last sunsets. Danny also paid tribute to Wales as the place where it all began for Tyketto in the UK in Cardiff. Chris Green's guitar solo got a big cheer in 'Rescue Me' and there was a fine version of 'Forever Young' in which Danny did a duet with Nick Workman where Workman gave Danny a run for his money despite the latter's superb voice. 'Standing Alone' and its great soaring notes were the final song in a very worthwhile night.

Friday

Burnt Out Wreck
provided a seasoned Hard Rock start on the main stage with tracks mostly from their debut album 'Swallow', which was critically acclaimed featuring their AC/DC style; traditional, straight down the line Rock 'n' Roll designed to appeal to a mature Rock audience, but with one track 'Rock Ain't Dead' as a reminder that Gary was the drummer of Heavy Pettin' before he became the vocalist in this his own band. He looked far more comfortable fronting the band than he perhaps did when he first took on the role, with fist pumping and more engagement with the crowd. No doubt they would be higher up the bill if they had more than one album and that's probably in their future.


Hard Rock Hell AOR VII Burnt Out Wreck Live

Romeo's Daughter were also sounding great. Leigh Matty is always a class act and coupled with Craig Joiner, who was looking well despite reports of recent illness, they took on the crowd head-on by starting with 'Heaven In The Back Seat', showing their determination not to be defined by that one song when they continue to produce great songs and new albums. Accompanied by John 'Rhino' Edwards of Status Quo they provided big melodies and lush juicy vocals, assisted by excellent sound in the venue, and proceeded to knock the crowd dead with 'Attracted To The Animal', 'Touch' and 'Radio', perfect renditions of Pop Rock records like 'Bittersweet' that should have been way bigger in sales than life dictated, and exquisite versions of 'Alive and 'Enemy'. Finishing with 'I Cry Myself to Sleep At Night', 'Inside Out' and 'Wild Child', Romeo's Daughter proved they are not just a one hit wonder and with a new album reportedly on the way we can't wait to see what new amazing songs they will deliver.


Hard Rock Hell AOR VII Romeos Daughter Live

Jizzy Pearl delivered a heavier, high energy set designed to change things up, starting with 'Spinning Wheel' and 'Boozer' and continuing with perennial 'Tumbleweed' and 'Fuel To Run's unmistakable primal screams sitting alongside harder tracks like 'Yucca Man' and 'Spit'. Fitting seventeen tracks into a festival performance is quite an achievement and by mid-set we were getting big important song after big important song, illustrating how many great ones Jizzy has. After 'Mary Jane', 'Straightjacket' and (if not for its bad language should have been a global hit) 'Don't Fuck With Me' we got into my favourite Jizzy song, the wonderful 'You're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone' which taps into something delightfully wild. With a reference to the 30th anniversary of the 'Blackout...' album next year, Jizzy threatened to change things up a bit "with a Mohawk or another f'n surprise" evidencing his ever moving creative mind. He has lost nothing of his intensity or energy and tirelessly worked the crowd to fever pitch, mock boxing with the crowd during 'Evil Twin'. In the home straight the huge songs 'Wasted In America' 'Why Do You Think They Call It Dope' and 'Blackout In The Red Room' were finished with a big roar from the crowd. He was undoubtedly a hard act to follow.


Hard Rock Hell AOR VII Jizzy Pearl Live

Wayward Sons were super loud. Unfortunately, they were new to me and it's hard for me to say more as they were so popular the venue exceeded capacity and so after getting some dinner in the break after Jizzy I was unable to get back in until numbers went back down. Next time!

UFO were Friday's headliner and it was a landmark moment given their announcement that they will be calling it a day (and the subsequent sad death of Paul Raymond). They undoubtedly deserve their place in Heavy Metal history and Phil Mogg looked very much in control of all he surveyed, settling into his stride pretty quickly. It was a long set of fifteen songs or so.


Hard Rock Hell AOR VII UFO Live

Highlights included 'Only You Can Rock Me', 'Rock Bottom' (with its monster guitar interlude) and the song covered by so many bands in awe of the masters, 'Doctor Doctor'. There was blistering guitar in, for example 'Too Hot To Handle'. Given Raymond's recent untimely death this gig is now thrown into further relief and poignancy as an "I was there" moment to be sure.

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Saturday

The Wicked Jackals took the second stage by the balls and for a relatively unknown band early on attracted a decent audience, who were fighting over the set list by the end of the show. Although a relatively young band they have a mature sound with a broad appeal like AC/DC crossed with some broader influences that just add to their commercial value. They are obviously aware of this with their choice of cover song 'Nutbush City Limits'. Most of their material is original, however, and the resultant commercial songs like 'Scream' are instantly accessible and what's more they look the part, unlike a lot of younger bands today. I always thoroughly enjoy their set. This afternoon was no exception.


Hard Rock Hell AOR VII The Wicked Jackals Live

Bai Bang, the Swedish classic Glam band, also added a touch of style and substance to the second stage and are able to pull a decent audience away from the main stage. Diddi always gives his all to his performance and they worked hard to engage and entertain the crowd early on in the day.


Hard Rock Hell AOR VII Bai Bang Live

Last Great Dreamers took the baton and ran with it. Veterans of the stage, sharing about six HRH performances between them, they confidently took control of the fairly sizeable second stage room and made the most of the rougher sound compared with the main stage for a trashy, sleazy, Pop Punk sound exemplified by their flagship song 'White Light Black Heart'.


Hard Rock Hell AOR VII Last Great Dreamers Live

Midnite City made playing the main stage look easy with their confident and classy AOR, mixing tracks from their debut and stunning second album offering the whole package in terms of a big Rock show. They were one of the best bands of the weekend and have to be climbing the pole to be higher on the bill as I type.


Hard Rock Hell AOR VII Midnite City Live

Electric Boys opened confidently with the excellent single 'Hangover In Hanover' from their top five of the year album 'The Ghost Ward Diaries', Justifiably so! It's a hell of a song and one of their very best. It's great to see a band still at the top of the game. Classy playing and Rock star cool made the Electric Boys also one of the best bands of the weekend. The set list was pretty much the same as their London show, old and new combined with highlights including 'Mary In The Mystery World' where Conny Bloom was master of the vertical shred, and 'Electrified' with its simply riveting funky bass lines. Like Richie Kotzen, this band listen to more genres than Rock and their experience and chops shine clearly through all they do. They took the pace down a bit with superb new tracks, the ballad 'Gone, Gone, Gone' and the unusual and poignant 'Frozen In'. Old favourites were still there, 'Rags To Riches' and 'All Lips And Hips', but my favourite moments were the new material including 'You Spark My Heart'. A shining example of a classic Rock band that are still punching way above their weight.


Hard Rock Hell AOR VII Electric Boys Live

Pretty Boy Floyd were clearly super excited to play HRH and word is that singer Steve Summers had consumed a whole bottle of Jack Daniels and had a hangover the next day. Certainly his performance was larger than life and he had so much to say to the crowd that he engaged them at length pretty much between every song. He wasn't even three songs in before he was running around the auditorium way deep into the crowd. Of course, all of this meant that it was a little chaotic on stage. Nevertheless, he did succeed in delivering a Rock 'n' Roll show every bit as messy as the days of the Sunset Strip which was his avowed intention. He even successfully encouraged a girl on the front row to flash her body parts for merch (something not seen by me since a Crüe show some time ago). The band clearly hold a candle for a bit of early Mötley and did a couple of their songs as covers in tribute including 'Live Wire', one of the rougher more punky numbers that that band did. PBF don't need to do this, they have an endless supply of Pop Punk magic equally as trashy as any MC number, especially when delivered drunk. It ended up being one of the most memorable performances of the weekend. Hey, it was not and never will be a night at the Opera.


Hard Rock Hell AOR VII Pretty Boy Floyd Live

Ted Poley also had a wealth of fine material to choose from. Despite almost being unable to come due to kidney stones, he was very much present and bouncy, chirpy and smiley, determined to deliver a great show. He too ran all over the auditorium and he spent decent amounts of time in the VIP and seated sections of the room serenading the guests. It was good to see a mixture of Danger Danger classics like 'Bang Bang' and fine melodic tracks from Tokyo Motor Fist. Explaining that although intending to work hard over the next three years he warned the crowd he's gonna retire at sixty, making them keener to appreciate big tracks like 'Monkey Business and 'I Still Think About You'. Midnite City were happy to get on the stage to sing with him towards the end, keenly aware of his historic contribution to their genre.


Hard Rock Hell AOR VII Ted Poley Live

The main stage closed and this left Heavy Pettin' to close the festival as headliner for the second stage, which they carried off with aplomb. Original members were Hamie on vocals and Gordon Bonnar, and the band played all the hits 'Love Times Love', 'Roll The Dice' 'Shout It Out' 'Rock Me' and 'Rock Ain't Dead', the second version of this song this festival (see Saturday and BOW above). Singer Hamie looked like he's lost weight and was looking younger and the band were tighter than their London performance a few months ago.


Hard Rock Hell AOR VII Heavy Pettin Live

It looked a little crowded on the second stage for this band that was used to playing stadiums back in the day. Still, they are only just back on the scene and getting to close the festival seems like a good compromise while proving themselves to be worthy of a main stage appearance next time.

Review and photos by Dawn Osborne

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