Day two of Hard Rock Hell and plenty of previous night partying is evident around the Haven caravan park today. A mass of hungover denim and leather is quite a sight on a winter’s morning inside a summer holiday camp, but it’s not long before this vibrant metal weekend party is up and running again.
Throughout the day, across the two stages there are well received performances from bands including Wildside Riot, Screaming Eagles, Crucified Barbara and Kyrbgrinder. I catch bits of them all but don’t get my reviewer head on until around 2.30pm when Tygers Of Pantang take to the main stage.
Tygers Of Pantang
NWOBHM veterans Tygers Of Pantang have a long on-and-off history, with line-up changes a plenty including the notable inclusion of guitarist John Sykes before he went on to achieve success with Thin Lizzy and Whitesnake. With 19 past members, original guitarist Robb Weir has kept the band alive, enabling them to appear 35 years since their original formation at Hard Rock Hell this weekend. Kicking off with a newbie ‘Keeping Me Alive’ followed by ‘Love Don’t Stay’ from 1981 – front man Jacopo Meille swaggers around the stage propelling his huge vocal talent out into the HRH crowd. A ‘classic’ band this may be, but there’s no doubt from the off that the material is appealing to a modern audience. Robb Weir clearly has no problem in landing the best man for a job, with latest addition Micky Crystal showing what an incredible guitarist he is – with some jaw-droppingly impressive shredding – as himself, Meille and Weir work together in true showmanship for the gathered mass. There’s plenty of old school rockers here today who remember the classic 1981 album ‘Spellbound’ with the tracks ‘Gangland’, ‘The Story So Far’ and ‘Hellbound’ going down a storm. In addition ‘Suzie Smiled’, ‘Raised On Rock’ and ‘Don’t Touch Me There’ from equally early albums are firmly acknowledged. It’s a great show from Tygers Of Pantang and whilst I’m gutted not to hear their 1982 hit ‘Love Potion No. 9’ (a cover of The Clovers song) I’m suitably impressed by what they bring to the early part of the day.
Representing the US of A on the main stage today is 80’s power-poppers Enuff Z’Nuff. The band has a cult fan-base around the world which includes radio personality Howard Stern, and it would also appear – from his introduction of the band onto stage – our own metal legend Krusher Joule. However, if I’m honest – of all the band’s I’m checking out today, I have minimum confidence about these guys. My expectations are soundly echoed as it becomes painfully clear that the only folk to show any real interest in what Enuff Z’Nuff have to offer, are those who know the band from their day. Unfortunately for original bassist Chip Z’Nuff and Co – there doesn’t appear to be too many of them here. I watch waves of people leaving as the set progresses, although enough (or should that be ‘enuff’) certainly stay for it not to be a complete waste of the band’s time. I’m no more familiar with the material than the majority, but at least during a somewhat lengthy mid-set medley of covers, I have the relief of recognition. It includes The Proclaimers ‘500 Miles’, Bryan Adams ‘Summer of 69’, Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin” and a couple of others before finishing with ‘Wrecking Ball’ by Miley Cyrus. Oh well, if nothing else, it all goes well in serving the party people with a sing-along. Finishing with their most (perhaps only) well known numbers ‘Fly High Michelle’ and ‘New Thing’ Enuff Z’Nuff leave Hard Rock Hell probably not having gained any new fans. Then again I don’t suspect that was the plan, at least I hope it wasn’t.
Phil Campbells All Starr Band
Phil Campbell is to me – like any rational human being – a deity, the other half to god himself – Lemmy. However, as much as I worship Motörhead and the work of the man, I’m not sure what I’m going to make of Phil Campbell’s All Starr Band. Taking to the stage on home turf, the reception for Campbell is emphatic. Kicking off with Sabbath’s ‘Children Of The Grave’ – we all know we are in safe hands here – before Ted Nugent’s ‘Catch Scratch Fever’ and ‘Iron Fist’ the first of seven Motörhead tracks to be played. In truth, it’s Phil Campbell with a bunch of talented young lads, playing some Motörhead songs and other covers. There’s nothing wrong with it, after all it’s Phil Campbell of Motörhead, playing classic metal tunes to a party crowd. It’s perfect for the occasion, it’s great for the day and if I’m going to review it in any way I’d have to say I’m enjoying it no less than anybody else here. Campbell congratulates the HRH organisers and thanks the other bands for playing. It’s cool, because if anybody is going to be the spokesperson for all attendees this weekend – this is the man for the job. Tina Turner’s ‘Nutbush City Limits’ is a slightly odd choice alongside ‘Orgasmatron’, ‘Over The Top’, ‘Killed By Death’ and ‘Ace Of Spades’, but it’s completely forgotten as the Stones ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ and Zeppelin’s ‘Communication Breakdown’ bring to an end this entertaining set.
Black Star Riders
Main headliners Black Star Riders are in essence a re-branded Thin Lizzy. The current line-up – apart from drummer Jimmy DeGrasso replacing original Lizzy man Brian Downey – are the same members who made up the latest incarnation of the band. Now writing and recording new material Ricky Warwick and Damon Johnson along with veteran lead guitarist Scott Gorham and bassist Marco Mendoza are able to continue with the legacy created by Phil Lynott, whilst adding a present day interpretation of the band under the name Black Star Riders. It’s a packed house that gives a massive welcome to the band as they open up with the title track from the debut album ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’ following on with the Thin Lizzy classic ‘Are You Ready’. For the most part of the set the tunes alternate between Black Star Riders and Thin lizzy, which proves quite distinctly what both Johnson and Warwick believe – that the new material has a “classic Lizzy vibe”. It goes without saying that a proportion of the crowd are not as familiar with Black Star Riders songs as they are with the likes of ‘Bad Reputation’, ‘Jailbreak’ and ‘Massacre’. But for the majority of those who are rocking out to such timeless classics, they give what they can during ‘Before The War’ and the singles ‘Hey Judas’ and ‘Bound For Glory’. Warwick – as he never fails to do – gives mention to the late, great Phil Lynott, ensuring us that he is with us tonight. He introduces the legend “Scott The Glendale Gunslinger Gorham” to a huge ovation before a stunning rendition of ‘Emerald’ has the place pumping with Gorham and Johnson delivering that unmistakable Lizzy twin guitar sound. The harmonica is out for ‘Cowboy Song’ prior to the huge finale that is ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’. The band return to endulge us in ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ and ‘Rosalie’ – for which they are joined on stage by Phil Campbell. And then, before we know it, the extravaganza is over, we are left breathless and Black Star Riders are able to claim an outstanding performance that will remain with those here for some time to come.
To complete the evening come Welsh, ragga-metallers Skindred, a band I’ve seen and enjoyed on several occasions. I had given thought to what better place for them to be playing and finishing their festival year than at Hard Rock Hell, and as AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’ and the Star Wars Imperial March gets everybody loosened up and ready to go, I’m already asking myself was I right, or was I right? Hurtling us into a powerful, buoyant show is ‘Ninja’ from the album ‘Kill The Power’ set for a 2014 release. From here the alt-rock-reggae-metal-punk-athon steamrolls through an awesome back catalogue of tracks including ‘Babylon’, ‘Rat Race’, ‘Doom Riff’ and ‘Cut Dem’. You really have to witness Skindred to get what it’s all about. Front man Benji Webbe – along with the big riffs and hooks at his disposal – can win over the most cynical of onlookers. The overall performance from the entire band is always top draw, and it must take a musical mind of stone not to be infected. If ‘Kill The Power’ and ‘Trouble’ doesn’t do the job, then Metallica’s ‘Sad But True’ is sure to draw in those left undecided, with ‘Pressure’ and ‘Nobody’ dragging them right through to the end. There’s little time to relax before an encore of the Prodigy’s ‘Breathe’ sends the place wild in preparation for ‘Warning’ and what many have waited for – the “Newport Helicopter” – when Benji gets everybody to take off their T-shirts and wave them high in air. It’s a sight to see, and as an end to a brilliant show, it goes to prove that Skindred are indeed a band to finish a Hard Rock Hell night. Of course I was right.
Review & Photography: Steve Johnston