Today there is shock and sadness after a series of coordinated terrorist attacks occurred in Paris last night. A definitive atmosphere hangs in the air during the last day of Hard Rock Hell 9, with thoughts particularly for those involved in the Eagles of Death Metal gig at the Bataclan. However, the show here must go on.
Regardless of the crappy weather and sobering thoughts in world news, Hard Rock Hell veterans Black Spiders pull in a near full-house crowd. These boys know what they’re doing, in fast-paced, old school, raw, rock n roll style. Kicking off with ‘Si, El Diablo’ and ‘Stay Down’ it’s full throttle from the off. “Are you drunk yet?” enquires frontman Pete Spiby to which he receives a pretty lacklustre response. “Sounds like one chalet!” he says before starting the faithful chant of “Fuck you Black Spiders!” The riffs come thick and fast, with amongst others ‘Stick It To The Man’, ‘Creatures’ and the superbly tongue-in-cheek ‘KISS Tried To Kill Me’. I’ve seen the band four times in the last few years but this is a first where Spiby hasn’t taken up the role of third guitarist – strange, but perhaps I’m just behind on all things Black Spiders. He reminds us that “Shit happened this week” dedicating the Motörhead soundlikey ‘Teenage Knife Gang’ to Phil Taylor, and a solid set is brought to a close with ‘Blood Of The Kings’. Leaving with “If we don’t see you in the bar, we’ll see you in your chalet later” – as ever, Black Spiders don’t disappoint anybody here.
The main arena is once again rammed, so it seems folk know a lot more about Gun than I might have imagined. Vocalist Dante Gizzi (the bands bass player until 2010) appears a little unsure of himself, but after taking time to tell us a story about his and his brother and guitarist Jools Gizzi’s Grandfather sailing to Prestatyn – he settles into his performance. With the first verse and chorus of ‘Better Days’ I’m suddenly transported back to 1989 with recall about the bands debut single and album, and it’s from here that Gun have some identifiable meaning to me. The entire set has a good proportion of the room dancing and clapping along, be it to older tracks ‘Something To Believe In’ and ‘Welcome To The Real World’ or new titles ‘One Wrong Turn’ and ‘Hold Your Head Up’, Gizzi dedicating the latter to the people of Paris. “So sad” he says “We only played there a couple of years ago.” Highlights are ‘Inside Out’ mixed up with The Police’s ‘So Lonely’ and of course the Cameo cover ‘Word Up’ which sends the place nuts. Finishing up with ‘Steal Your Fire’ and ‘Shame On You’ Gun cap off a show of real exuberance and quality.
** Prior to Rock Goddess, Hard Rock Hell founder Jonni Davis steps out to request a minute’s silence for those killed or affected by last night’s terrible incidents in Paris. With proud comradery the majority of those present in the main arena take part. It’s a profound moment in time, regardless of the very small minority who choose to ignore it. **
I couldn’t help but be a little excited with news of a reformed Rock Goddess appearing at HRH. After all, this is the girl band I had a teenage crush on! However, things don’t get off to a great start with a poor sound during opener ‘Satisfied Then Crucified’ from the self-titled 1982 debut album. It’s a little better for ‘God Be With You’ but as the set progresses with the likes of ‘You’ve Got Fire’ and ‘Make My Night’ there’s not a big improvement. Jody Turner’s voice, once a wondefully dirty, threatening, tease to the ear, does now sound a little “comedic”, although she can still knockout a decent riff and nimbly traverse a fretboard. Tucked away at the back her sister Julie remains a solid drummer, even if she does look like she’d rather be anywhere else. The opposite can be said of bassist Tracey Lamb who flies around the stage, beaming from ear to ear, pulling shapes and clearly enjoying herself. With a couple of new songs and a bunch of oldies – although not ‘My Angel’, but at least the debut single ‘Heavy Metal Rock n Roll’ – I hate to admit I’m disappointed. The set of songs played just sounds really weak, and in retrospect perhaps that’s because they always were.
Never a fan, I’m not sure what I’m going to make of Faster Pussycat. I do recognise set opener ‘Where There’s a Whip There’s a Way’ and even find myself grooving along, as you do. There’s an old school glam clan in the packed house who give a massive welcoming response to main man Taime Downe: “Hard Rock Hell! You guys having a good weekend? It’s all about the pussy!” he screams. And from there it’s time for HRH to party like it’s 1987. ‘Cathouse’ is followed by ‘Slip Of The Tongue’ before 2006’s revival single ‘Number 1 With a Bullet’. Downe takes time to mention Paris and Eagles of Death Metal: “My heart goes out to all those guys. What happened makes my stomach turn.” he says with a real sense of sadness. There’s a bunch of great covers – ‘Don’t Change’ by INXS, Carly Simon’s ‘You’re So Vain’ and sandwiched in the middle of ‘Bathroom Wall’ is The Supersuckers ‘Pretty Fucked Up’ lead by bassist Danny Nordahl. The Betty Blowtorch track ‘Shut Up And Fuck’ and the brilliantly memorable ‘Babylon’ send the crowd bonkers and bring the set to an end. I’m left with nothing to say, other than Faster Pussycat were absolutely fantastic.
It feels like the world has crammed itself into the main arena to see metal legends Saxon. Further to their 35th Anniversary Tour the band are back out to promote ‘Battering Ram’, their 21st studio offering. They kick off with the title track with Biff Byford thanking those who have bought the album and “those who are going to buy it tomorrow.” Other newbies played are ‘Destroyer’, ‘Eye of the Storm’ and ‘The Devil’s Footprint’. They stand-up well but it’s classic Saxon we want, and of course it’s what we get it with ‘Motorcyle Man’, ‘Power And The Glory’, ‘Heavy Metal Thunder’ and ‘And The Bands Played On’. Byford’s vocal is faultless, as is the guitar work of Paul Quinn and Doug Scarrat, while Nibbs Carter bounces around to the pounding of Nigel Glocker. Biff mentions Paris and the band take their foot off the pedal for ‘Broken Heroes’, before we’re back into full, indisputable, rock authority with ‘Never Surrender’, ‘20,000ft’, ‘747’ and ‘Princess Of The Night’. An encore of ‘Wheels Of Steel’, ‘Strong Arm Of The Law’ and ‘Denim And Leather’ bring the classic Saxon jukebox and HRH 9 to an end. For everybody attending I think it’s fair to say it’s been a blast!
Review & Photography: Steve Johnston