Concert Reviews

Camden Rocks Hot

Added by James Gaden     July 08, 2016    
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May this excellent festival continue to thrive!

As with any festival, it's impossible to cover everything and I have have covered as many Rock acts as possible in the time available.

Damn Dice have the unenviable task of hitting the stage at shortly past noon, but to their credit they already have a decent sized crowd in the large Electric Ballroom venue. If you saw these guys a few years ago, make it your business to see them again as the difference is night and day. Devotion and hard work has meant better songs, better stagecraft and an overall more professional offering. These guys believe in what they do and their unwavering enthusiasm and falling to the floor passion while playing reminds us of the old days of NWOBHM when bands thought anything was possible... and as a result it was! The music has a heavier bass line, but the melodic top notes and initial heritage as a Glam band shine through a bit like the iridescent peacock finish on Marco's black bass. The catchy singalong chorus lines are still straight out of the eighties, but with the more powerful voice of singer Alex, a heavier approach and skilful playing honed through application taking the band into the future. I expect to see them on tour with a much bigger band very soon.

Venues then switch to the Cuban which again is packed for 2pm when Anita Chellamah, formerly of the Cherry Bombz (Andy McCoy and Nasty Suicide), takes the stage with her band mate Timo Kaltio from the old days. Still a sexy firecracker with her long dark tresses, Chellamah is a ball of energy and as charismatic as she always was. Still Rockin' Flamenco style with flame licked boots, she is in great voice and holds the crowd in the palm of her hand from the first. This, as she points out, is her first electric set for thirty years and with the expert Blues and Rock 'n' Roll guitar from Kaltio, they still have that feline groove and offbeat charm that only fans of bands like Hanoi Rocks can understand. The set is full of new material, with not a HR cover in sight, reflecting justified confidence and a triumphant return.

Next up is Ginger Wildheart with an acoustic set with backing from two Japanese cats, Toshi and Ai. Technical problems mean Ginger's guitar is not working properly, but what could have been a disaster is turned by the experienced front-man to his advantage as he gets the crowd singing "football chant" style to 'Geordie In Wonderland'. As such, proceedings take a better turn than he had planned and, following a virtually A Cappella version of 'Don't Worry About Me', the atmosphere is that of the British on holiday when it rains; nothing is gonna spoil the fun and as such, the gig becomes much more memorable as a result. Wildheart's chorus lines, part football chant, part Slade seventies Glitter Rock are truly English fare and the faithful crowd sing so loud Wildheart is beaming with pride at his fans' reaction like a proud father as he exclaims "that sounds fuckin' gorgeous". The angelically sang chorus has him exclaiming "it's the best thing I'll hear all day". Wildheart's music is beautifully simple and, therefore, in its universal quality holds something for all. This was one of the most fun and full of life acoustic sets I have seen in a long time.

Hot on his heels were The Peckham Cowboys. Full of groove and grind, this is (again) extremely and peculiarly British and there is an instant atmosphere of the seventies through a heroin-induced haze. There's no doubt the roots of this stuff is in Rock music gone long by, but like The Quireboys, bassist's Nigel Mogg's former band, the retro approach is so full of style and cool it's a welcome return and in no way any cheap repeat. Further, with the "Sarf London" thing goin' on, there's also a touch of "have a go" thuggery (beloved of fans of Ska bands such as Madness) about these lovable English gentlemanly rogues in hats, waistcoats and evening attire with a down at heel "lend us a tenner" and wry smile charm. But while these boys may give the impression that they don't take themselves seriously, there are decades of experience in the band and behind the slightly camp vintage boutique aesthetic lies a serious dedication to their craft and deep knowledge of Blues and other genres gathered in a delightful Rock 'n' Roll melange. Only the extremely skilled can create a holy mess so flawed yet sublime. The set closes with 'Rock 'N' Roll Star' and a big drawn out seventies staccato finish. Grand gestures – the British love them and expect nothing less. Authentic Rock 'n' Roll, old-skool style; you can't buy it or fake it, watch it and weep...

Back over to the Electric Ballroom to catch the final few tracks of the set from Gun who have a faithful and loyal following for their meat and potatoes straight-forward Hard Rock. Unsurprisingly, their Rocked up version of Cameo's 'Word Up' goes down well and gets the party atmosphere going. But a great guitar solo and passionate delivery of 'Steal Your Fire' shows the band at their finest and has the band declaring it's worth the four hundred mile journey to this festival. By the time their last song 'Shame On You' is blasting out, the people are dancing in the aisles...

And finally for me, Reckless Love pack out the Electric Ballroom and enjoy wolf whistles from the crowd as they take to the stage. Straight (and appropriately) into 'Animal Attraction', these boys are living the Metal dream of enthusiastic fans and fainting female adulation. But, like true professionals, they always deliver and while we assume they are human and face the same trial and tribulations as the rest of us, I have never seen a bad gig from these guys. This evening is no exception and Olli Herman screams, head-bangs, high kicks and twirls his way through a faultless set once more. In the first real break, he stops to acknowledge wholeheartedly that Camden was the place the band's career started. Although the excellent new album draws from many genres of music, Metal is the core and it is great to see the band Rock up the Poppier tunes from the new album, such as 'Child Of The Sun', to produce a consistent Metal set that sits side by side with the old favorites without any compromise. Awesome new single 'Monster' is accompanied by a classical sounding guitar solo from Pepe Reckless, one that is worthy of Yngwie Malmsteen himself. However, much to our disappointment, Herman doesn't fill in the missing rude word in the chorus, although some of the crowd enthusiastically oblige. During most of the show, including 'Beautiful Bomb', Herman continually climbs the monitors constantly working the crowd in a manner most would find exhausting! With their big commercial Rock anthems, Reckless Love's material is ideally suited to crowd participation such as the sing-along during 'On the Radio'. Unashamed eye candy, the crowd drink in the drum riser striding, bare chest-beating and fist pumping which is an essential element of a true Metal show and the transfixing hip swivelling has no lesser pedigree than directly back to the King of Rock 'n' Roll himself. All killer, no filler, these guys always raise the bar.

In short order, I would have paid the entrance fee for the festival for any one of the bands I saw. Camden Rocks was great value for money without doubt! We just dearly wish we could have caught the excellent Amorettes and Warrior Soul too! Early bird tickets for next year have already gone on sale. May this excellent festival continue to thrive. Yowzah!

Dawn Osborne

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