Day 2 of the wonderful HRH AOR VII was all planned out with a list of groups in front of me that I wanted to cover over the 2 stages, what could possibly go wrong ? First group I needed to cover was VEGA on the main stage but with 15 minutes to kill, it made perfect sense to pay a visit to the smaller stage to check out HAXAN this all female 3 piece group who seem to be making waves with their particular brand of hard rock.
Enter SAM / guitar vocals, CHARLOTTE / drums and HARRIET / bass, who made my day being the next generation of youngsters playing savage riffs the likes of which SABBATH would be proud of.
With an arsenal of top material such as “Out Of The Woods” and the slow menacing “Lady Luck”. Their debut album ( Bring The Thunder ) is due for release this spring and judging by the monstrous “Killing Time”and “Gravedigger” this album is going to be killer. HAXAN is the face of the future and proves that Metal is alive and healthy, and very safe in the hands of these girls.
After witnessing this group twice this year I knew what to expect and talk about reliable, with a slightly revised set list vocalist “Nick Workman” is a photographers worse nightmare, never standing still with his non stop work rate and enthusiastic approach.With the whole band encouraged by this they played all the fan favourites like the huge “White Flag” which never fails to hit the spot.Another nice touch was the groups last minute decision to play “White Knuckle Ride” and this is where VEGA come into their own showing the melodic side to the group that few artists can replicate so well, “What The Hell” from the groups second album brings me out in a big smile because that has always been a personal highlight for me and I can never get enough of that track.Vega on tonight,s performance once again prove that they are worthy additions to any festival.
I saw a few “Romeo Daughter” T shirts being worn around the venue and was aware that their popularity was never in doubt, so walking back into the 2nd arena it was a welcome site to see how many people had turned out to watch this iconic group. Walking out centre stage is the raven black haired “Leigh Matty” who wastes no time in hitting the ground running with “Heaven In The Back seat”
with its solid chunky guitar riff from “Craig Joiner” who has always been such a underrated performer. Looking over at stage right on bass is the familiar face of “Rhino Edwards” of Status Quo Fame, who for whatever reason is helping out tonight. “Matty Leigh” with her warm friendly demeanour is such a breath of fresh air as she sings her way through “Attracted To The Animal” “Touch” and the beautiful”Bittersweet” with a vocal not a million miles from “Chrissie Hynde” of the pretenders. With the sound man doing a sterling job with the group sounding crisp and clear it was all there for the group to seize the moment, “wild Child” “Enemy” and “Radio” make the set fly along with the group as tight as a drum, with Rhino having a ball with plenty of daft dad dancing moves which just added to the occasion. With just the four albums released so far in their long career I think is safe to say after a few words from the stage that there may have been some very small mutterings regarding a new album in the next year or two. On tonight,s showing maybe a stop gap of a live document would tick us all over.
The human tornado that is “Jizzy Pearl” with one of the most distinctive hair raising recognisable voices in rock has landed in Wales and wants everyone to stand up and take notice, so with no further ado the tattooed bastard son of “Jim Morrison” rips into “Spinning Wheel” and without drawing breath its head first into the chaotic “Boozed” talk about a statement of intent. The musicians backing Jizzy are top notch,with all members hammering away trying to be heard over the banshee that is “Jizzy Pearl”. with a highly affective light show working to great affect, and with “Yukka Man”up next the LOVE/HATE fans are just going bat shit crazy, talk about ripping the venue to shreds !! “Your Gonna Miss Me When I,m Gone” taken from the splendid new album slots in perfectly with the older well established material as is as good a product that Jizzy has released with any previous band from any previous decade. The closest were going to hear in Wales to a rap/rock crossover is “Evil Twin” with a rare appearance of a more melodic sounding guitar the work rate on stage is a sight to behold, with the funky bass intro of “Why Do They Think They Call It Dope” to the rip roaring sing along that is “Wasted In America” the hits keep coming and the temperature keeps rising. With everyone trying to draw breath the group have one more song to throw at us and no show will ever feel complete without the timeless “Black Out In The Red Room” and not until the song has ended and the house light go up does a triumphant Jizzy Pearl stop swinging and swaying and being the ultimate showman. A fantastic hours entertainment and another stand out moment at HRH AOR Wales.
How loud does this sound system go ? more importantly how hot is this arena going to get ? With a strict one in one out system at the door it was evident too many people were trying to get in to the building and because of fire and health/safety regulations people just couldn’t enter. I did hear from security that the capacity was a strict 1000 with upwards of 300 extra people trying to get in which just shows the pulling power of WAYWARD SONS.
2 years is a very short time in any ones book and what Toby Jepson has achieved with the group is nothing short of amazing, from playing every tiny dingy basement club to now being main support to UFO at this years event is all down to a superb first album and incendiary live performance of which I have been lucky enough to witness on a couple of occasions. Loud and heavy best describes tonight,s
show with “Killing Time” hitting you square in the guts as it sludges out the marshall speakers and pounds on in relentless fashion. Guitarist “Sam Wood” with his blonde mane stretching way down his back has that captivating rock star look and pulling out the moves whilst Toby Jepson hot foots it across the stage with either duck walks or high kicks, its a visual treat and not to forget “Nic Wastell” on bass who refuses to be left out of the action.The now familiar intro to “Crush”and the place is bouncing with band members visually enjoying themselves and the catchy song oozes class and a feel good factor. With keyboardist “Dave Kemp” adding some 12 bar blues before it morphs into “Blondies” Union City Blues without missing a beat. “”Ghost Of Yet To Come” is next up and the tempo refuses to recede, and again in a simple twist its a cover of “No More Heroes” by the Stranglers and the place is rockin. “Young Gods” from Toby,s Little Angels days makes a welcome appearance although the acoustic based intro is replaced with a harder edged sounding full electric, Closing the set is “Something Wrong” from the debut album and to be honest they could have finished with “Achy Breaky Heart” by Billy Ray Cyrus” and it would have still been job done, its performances like this that makes being 200 miles from home in a windswept caravan all the more worthwhile.
What words can best sum up the Legend that is UFO, I think few people can deny them that title, and after 50 years, time has been called from vocalist “Phil Mogg” and who can blame or deny him the chance to put his feet up and have a long and happy retirement. Its a sad announcement but a honest one, but on tonight.s showing they looked and sounded fantastic with classic after classic being performed. Opener “Mother Mary” took a little time for Moggs voice to settle down but by the second song “We Belong To The Night” reared its head it was all systems go with “Andy Parker” smashing seven bales of shit out of his impressive drum kit. “Vinnie Moore” has had the unenviable task of trying to replace “Schenker” on guitar and is more than capable of achieving that while also adding his own twist on things. “Phil Mogg” ringmaster general and the only man I know who can get away with both a shiny silver belt and a pair of braces at the same time, gets stuck into each song with plenty of passion, “Baby Blue” with its rise and fall sections is classic UFO although released in 2004 it has all the trademark touches that the group were releasing in the 1970s and is a fantastic live song. The set list is like your favourite pub juke box, “Only You Can Rock Me” “Cherry” “Doctor Doctor” “Too Hot To Handle” not forgetting 2 huge moments that will stay with me long after the weekend is over, firstly “Love To Love” with its “Paul Raymond” piano led intro that builds and builds into some of the most seismic power chords witnessed in Wales for many a year with the song ebbing and flowing and all band members on stage weaving this classic track together and the icing on the cake is Moggs note perfect performance. The other highlight is what many people consider the groups defining moment and that is “Rock Bottom” which showcases Vinnie Moores fretwork and very rarely does this track ever clock in under the 10 minute mark a jaw dropping example of musicianship, and precision that is also very captivating and a privilege once again to witness. No UFO show would be complete without the rock heavy “Shoot Shoot” which is stretched out and jammed along to while the group take their time to wind down the gig. Although this is a final tour and goodbye, its a nice touch that they see fit to include lesser known songs like “Blow Your House Down” or digging deep into the past and pulling out “Makin Moves” whoever put the set list together and whittled it down to 15 songs needs a medal because without exaggeration they could have played a 4 hour set and someone would be unhappy.
What a way to end the day to have witnessed a band so important to British rock Music and after all the years of keeping us entertained I have to give UFO performance of the day closely followed by
“Wayward Sons” who have so many bright years ahead of them and will without doubt be one of a few UK bands that will keep the rock flame burning brightly while UFO enjoy a well earned rest