Home Gigs HRH SLEAZE 2021 – o2 ACADEMY SHEFFIELD – DAY 1

HRH SLEAZE 2021 – o2 ACADEMY SHEFFIELD – DAY 1

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Review by Darren Smith for MPM

It seems like a lifetime ago that I was in Sheffield covering the 2019 version of HRH Sleaze and there was many a time since March 2020 when I thought that maybe, just maybe I would not get to cover another one.

With Covid still playing a major factor in whether or not live events go ahead and how they go ahead, a major pat on the back should go to the organisers of HRH Sleaze 2021 for pulling a line up together that was still worthy of the ticket price as the so many bands were forced to withdraw due to covid related travel restrictions.

Absentees from the proposed 2020 line up included Michael Monroe, L.A. Guns, Jizzy Pearl’s Love/Hate, Pretty Boy Floyd, Kickin Valentina, Bullets & Octane and more. Their replacements included The Quireboys, Wayward Sons, Tigertailz, The Mercury Riots, Gypsy Pistoleros, South of Salem, Stevie R Pearce and The Hooligans and a host of other suitable acts. It meant that Sleaze was good to go and from my own personal point a view a much needed roadtrip and weekend away was in the diary. Hell yeah!

So with the car packed, the onboard entertainment sorted off we set on the drive from the Sussex coast to Sheffield. It had been a while since I had been over the Dartford Crossing and boy have I not missed it.

The joys of that 2-3 mile tunnel under the Thames meant that much music was enjoyed as sitting queuing up to get under it added nearly 3 hours to our journey time. At least I still didn’t need a passport to use it in this post Brexit world as that was at home.

After a very tired Metalplanetmusic team arrived in Sheffield we took the opportunity to chill ourselves out on what was left of the Friday night before the 2 days of debauchery and rock n roll shenanigans that would hopefully lay ahead for us.

Waking on the Saturday morning, nicely refreshed after a good nights kip, we were what can only be described as buzzing. A fantastic days music lay ahead and covering events like this is what we do this for and we couldn’t wait. With covid tests done and passed, we set off for the venue, with lots of chatter about what bands we were looking forward to seeing that we knew and which bands we were looking forward to exploring.

After the trials and tribulations of getting to Sheffield yesterday, it was in some ways nice to get into the swing of things with some early afternoon acoustic sets from Twister and Stevie R Pearce, both who would also play the main stage later in the day in full electric rock mode. Twister in fact had the honour of opening both stages at HRH Sleaze 2021 and they grasped that opportunity gladly with open arms.

The two sets themselves were equally sublime but distinctly different as Twister took to the stage as a full band, whilst Stevie R Pearce was joined by his rhythm guitarist Lance Skybaby for a very chilled acoustic duo performance. At around 25 minutes each set, it got the brain into gear, the pen working and set the ball rolling for a stunning weekend ahead.

There is something I really like in seeing bands perform stripped back versions of their music and neither of these acts disappointed, it was just a shame that because their sets were for HRH DC and Royalty only that not more of the weekends gig goers got a chance to witness the beauty in the different takes on the song

So with the acoustic sets done, it was time for the party to really get started on the main stage and like I said, once again that was down to Northern rockers Twister. The band, no strangers to the Hard Rock Hell stages, after winning 2019’s Battle of the Bands took their time on stage to perfectly showcase not only 8 tracks from their debut album ‘Cursed and Corrected’ but also gave witness to what an eye-catching live act they are in the process.

Opening with ‘Save Us Yourself’ and going straight into ‘Young and Affected’,then ‘Natural Survivor’ they set a very early high bar for the rest of the acts to follow. Then followed the anthemic ‘Call To Arms’ which to my ears has a My Chemical Romance Vibe to it.

This was an all action start to the main stage that was getting noticed as the crowd was really starting to swell and engage. In Stevie Stoker, the band have a truly charismatic frontman and that was so noticeable on the infectious and catchy ‘Trading Hearts’. The slower paced but incredibly powerful ‘Monroe’ came next before the pummelling ‘Fist Fight By The Waterside’. There was dancing, there was headbanging and there was singing and why the hell not.

That just left ’64 White Lies’ to bring their energetic set to a close and at the end of that if anybody was feeling tender after a Friday night out, it would have clearly blown any feeling of self-pity and lethargy out of the water.

The Takeaway Thieves took to the Sheffield stage next and they treated the HRH faithful to a wonderfully dynamic, loud, and raucous performance that was worthy of a slot much higher up the bill. Opening up with a mind melting salvo of ’13 Feathers’, ‘Snakes and Daggers’, ‘Soothe Me’ and ‘I Wish You Were Dead’ they upped the anti from the previously high level set by Twister.

I sat there knowing how much I had missed this high octane rock n fecking roll that I was witnessing. Having caught them 2 years earlier on stage 2, I knew that Takeaway Thieves were good, but boy, this was mind blowing good. They have obviously taken the covid enforced lay off and used it to a whole lot of good and have come out all guns blazing.

They are worth seeing just to watch bassist Adam Hall who uses every inch of the stage like a jack rabbit on acid as he helps lay down the bands rhythm. There are riffs aplenty throughout the bands set from the six string duo of Neil Hunter and Ben Gibson and Pete McLoughlin’s vocals are just perfectly gritty and powerful. This step up from stage 2 to stage 1 is really suiting them. It is a bigger stage with a bigger sound and they are putting in a bigger performance. New single ‘Spider’ precedes ‘Hot Cat’ which is a huge down and dirty rocker made up of all the correct ingredients for a sex fuelled sleaze anthem.

That leads into another new track ‘Lose It’ before the fast and frenetic ‘Slippin Slidin’. This is all power, all energy, all go! You cannot take your eyes of the stage for one split second as the Takeaway Thieves command your full attention in a performance that must have been powered by Duracell batteries. ‘Honky Tonk’ and ‘This Is Rock and Roll’, with a musical pace that a F1 car would do well to keep up with brought the Thieves high-powered set to a close. If the crowd weren’t tired before the last track, they must have been after as it was a delightful slice of turbocharged AC/DC inspired, punk fuelled rock n roll. Sleaze is back baby….hell yeah!

And now ladies and gents for something completely different in the form of The Gypsy Pistoleros. If Flamenco inspired Sleaze was not a musical genre a few years ago, it is now and this motley bunch who are now on stage are the forerunners of it. If they are nothing else, they are eye catching, photo genic and visibly mesmerising.

There is a double bass, a trumpet/horn, Mexican style outfits, sombrero’s, make up (lots of it) and a cast of characters that you would not want to meet in a dark alley at night. Whether the crowd were exhausted after the full on set from Takeaway Thieves or whether they were conserving their energy for Midnite City who are following I don’t know but at the start of the Pistolero’s set there was a real lethargy in the audience and at times a look of confusion.

The band however were here to entertain and entertain they did. Their 9 song set, of which 7 came from their recent ‘The Mescalito Vampires’ album, went by in a flash of flamenco guitars, some spellbinding double bass playing from Gaz Le Bass and a truly captivating live performance fronted by the striking Gypsy Lee Pistolero, who stands front and centre like an extra from a Mexican Night Of The Dead.

Opening with ‘Gonna Die With A Gun In My Hand’ they brought a real touch of theatre to the venue. ‘Viva La Revolution, Viva Zapata’, ‘Soho Daze, Just Another Friday Night’ and ‘Cisco Kid’ came next before ‘Lost In A Town Called Nowhere’ and ‘Roses and Gallows and The Wild Preachers Daughter’.

They were winning the crowd over and the delectable ‘The Names Django’ complete with sublime bluesy guitar solo definitely helped. That gave them two songs to go and more points gained with ‘Hotel De La Muerta’ and its catchy sing-a-long chorus before getting everybody jumping and singing with a storming version of Ricky Martin’s ‘Livin La Vida Loca’ that most definitely got the sleepy sleazers jumping, singing and meant that the Pistoleros left the stage to a rapturous round of applause.

By the time Midnite City took to the stage, the numbers inside the venue had swelled and you could sense the anticipation as people waited for their set to start. There was a real electric atmosphere within the crowd as the bands intro tape started rolling and you could sense the buzz as people clamoured for a good spot to see the UK’s No.1 Hair Metal band rock Sheffield to its core. You got a feeling very early on that this was a set that nobody wanted to miss.

Straight from the get-go, frontman Rob Wylde was in exceptional form as he played to and interacted with the expectant crowd. If there was an electric vibe before they came on, it was now stratospheric. Opening track ‘Crawlin In The Dirt’ from their 2021 opus ‘Itch You Can’t Scratch’ was come and gone before you could blink and the heat continued to rise with ‘We Belong’ from the bands self titled debut, before ‘Atomic’ saw a return to this years release.

This is quite clearly high quality polished melodic hard rock that is built for arena’s and big crowds and Midnite City have drawn the biggest crowd of the day so far. Who cares that the sun is beating down outside, this is just phenomenal and nobody was going to miss it.

Watching on as the band continue on with ‘Ghosts Of My Old Friend’ and ‘I Don’t Need Another Heartache’ it is clearly apparent that Midnite City are a well oiled high class rock n roll machine and every single member is on point to make this a scintillating tip-top performance. From the rhythm section of Pete Newdeck (drums) and Josh Williams (bass), through Shawn Charvette (keyboards) to the six string sorcerer that is Miles Meakin, every working part has been tuned to the highest level and in Rob Wylde, the band have a frontman extraordinaire, a master of his art if you will.

One Step Away’ takes us back to the bands debut album in a performance that is just mind blowing and exceeds the bands placement on the bill today. There was no need for Wylde to prompt the audience to sing through power ballad ‘You Don’t Understand Me’ as they were already doing it in lung busting fashion and then lapped up every note, beat and second of the heavily keyboard laden ‘They Only Come Out At Night’, another arena rock power ballad, but one with enough meat on it to really give it some balls.

Fire Inside’ follows, a track which to my ear, would have been a sure fire Top 40 hit with heavy MTV rotation in the 80’s/90’s and that leads into ‘Girls Of Tokyo’, a really pumping slice of hard rock from the Japanese version of the bands album. The Sleaze crowd were most definitely a Midnite City crowd and they hung on every word, note and movement that Rob Wylde and the band offer.

Atmospheres like this are why I love live music so much and I am obviously not the only one, they are just life affirming. The set is brought to a close with ‘Summer Of Our Lives’ which gets everybody clapping and then ‘Give Me Love’ from 2018’s ‘There Goes The Neighbourhood’. What a rip-snorting way to bring their hour on stage to an end. It epitomised everything that is great about the band and their set.

It was classy, it was fun and you just know that some 30 years ago radio and TV would have gobbled up every release and made mega-stars out of Midnite City as they have everything. That was dazzling, entrancing, spectacular, masterful and worthy of hundreds more superlatives and the band got the reception and send off they so richly deserved.

The act given the task of following that were Stevie R Pearce and The Hooligans, and follow it they did. Hitting the Sleaze stage for the 2nd time in the day, Stevie R Pearce and his band of merry gentleman tore it up in quite formidable fashion. With their new album Major League Son Of A Bitch being released that day through Off Yer Rocka records, this was the perfect place for the band to have an “unofficial” album launch party in front of the gathered Sleaze massive. They hit the stage running in no uncertain fashion with a blistering set that included eight tracks from their new opus and four from 2018’s self titled release.

Album title track ‘Major League Son Of A Bitch’ got things off to a raucous start, with Stevie cutting some mean licks on his six string weapon. ‘Over The Top’, ‘I’m On Fire’ and ‘Rush Of Blood To The Head’ followed with Pearce cutting a somewhat mean figurehead as he leans into his mic stand, belting out passioned lyrics whilst ripping out sumptuous chord after sumptuous chord. ‘Information Not Advice’ and ‘Flesh Wound’, like all the preceding songs are taken from the new album and lead into another new track, ‘Lunatics By The Pool’ which is proper loud and dirty rock n roll played at 100 miles an hour with a bit of a punky vibe to it.

This is not stuff for the faint hearted and I love it. Stevie tells the receptive crowd that this is the sixth time he has played on an HRH stage, with three different bands but this time it is great to be here, playing his own music, and what great music it is too. Machine gun drumming and a subliminal staccato style riff are resplendent throughout ‘Rip It Out’ with Pearce still leaning into that mic, pearing through his sunglasses, with his long mane of hair almost constantly over his face.

Soul On Fire’ gives a little respite for the enthralled crowd and they join in on a mid track sing along. Then it is real pedal to the metal stuff as the no thrills 4 piece close out with a trio of raucous rockers. A chugging riff and monstrous guitar sound are just to die for in ‘Bad Day’ and those drums still sound like gun shots just blasting out into the Sheffield air. This is kick ass, in yer face, headbanging, no nonsense rock n roll of the highest quality.

The crowd which had constantly grown during the set got fully involved during ‘Hooligan’ and took the atmosphere to another level again. The angst fuelled, angry, impassioned lyrics clearly hitting home during a track that is just all about power, power and more power. The intensity and mightiness of the bands hour on stage was brought to a bruising end with the musical onslaught of ‘Folsom Prison Blues’, a delightful crescendo of noise if you like but one that summed up perfectly what Stevie R Pearce and his band of Hooligans are all about. That was, for me riotous, raucous and just perfection!

After the ferocious intensity of that set from Stevie R Pearce and The Hooligans, The Last Great Dreamers took to the stage to play a set of pleasing and joyful power pop and rock interspersed with some god old fashioned classic rock and roll. It gave everybody a bit of a chance to catch their breath but without losing any of the atmosphere that had built up over the last few hours in the main stage arena.

Any fans of the band would have instantly noticed that vocalist/guitarist Marc Valentine was missing and tonight the Dreamers would be performing as a 3-piece, with guitarist Slyder taking on 100% of the lead vocals, accompanied by Rik Pratt on drums and Tim Emery on bass. Talking of Emery, if there had been an award at HRH for the sharpest dressed man, he would have walked away with it hands down as he prowled the stage throughout their set, immaculately dressed, like a flashy modern day dandy.

The band treated the fans and the uninitiated to a career spanning set with songs taken from all four of their albums, with their debut, ‘Retrosexual’, celebrating its 25th anniversary. Moving through their set from opener ‘No.1 Wonderboy’ to ‘I Think I Like It’ and ‘Lunacy Lady’ and then ‘Glitterball Apocolypse’ the band won the crowd over instantly. This was fun, enjoyable and something completely different and as they say, variety is the spice of life.

The Way We Collide’, ‘13th Floor Renegades’, ‘Superboy Disaster’ followed and I have to say, although they were missing a member, it didn’t detract from the fun and entertainment the band provided or the quality of the music they played. ‘Crash Landing In Teenage Heaven’ led into ‘Turn It Up’ before the guitar driven rock of ‘Primitive Man’ took us into the closing stages of their set.

Far From Home’ was a moment of sheer delight, really good time happy music, with a hugely infectious beat and plenty of vibe to get even the shyest attendee shaking their hips for the love of rock n roll. ‘Lady Don’t Need You’ a track written by The Silver Hearts, who were an early incarnation of what became The Last Great Dreamers was the penultimate song played and that just left the punchy, chanty ‘Oblivion Kids’ with its exquisite chugging riff to bring their set to a close. There were lots of smiling faces in the assembled congregation and it was a perfect way to build up to tonight’s two main acts. Go see The Last Great Dreamers if you can as they put on a performance that guarantees enjoyment.

For me, there are not many artists who have provided me with the amount of musical pleasure that Toby Jepson has done over the years. Whether it be with his previous band Little Angels, as a solo artist or with his stupendously brilliant “new” band Wayward Sons, I just cannot get enough of the man and his music.

I am of a certain vintage when it comes to gig going and it would be a close run thing between Toby (in one of his guises) or The Quireboys as to who I have seen the most times live. Going to see the Wayward Sons, never ever fails to get me excited and when they were announced on this Sleaze line up, for me it just put an extra layer of icing on an already well decorated cake.

Right from the get go, it was evidently apparent that the Sons were going to take the venue and the crowd by its hypothetical scruff of the neck and put in a performance more than worthy of their pedigree. The only sad note from the last time that I saw the band, before covid and what seemed like a million days without live music, is that keyboard player and Toby’s long time stalwart, Dave Kemp is no longer with the band.

That obviously meant a necessary change to some of the songs so I was intrigued to see how that would sound. A big entrance heralded the bands arrival on stage and they tore straight into a blisteringly red hot ‘Any Other Way’ and then straight into ‘Don’t Wanna Go’, wow, wow, wow, they were on fire. The volume had definitely been taken up a notch or two, as always and this was just exhilarating stuff. The joy on the faces of Jepson, guitarist Sam Wood, bassist Nic Wastell and from behind his more than snazzy drum kit, Phil Martini is a joy to behold. They have drawn the biggest crowd of the day so far and as Toby points out through the set, he never ever knew they were a sleaze band.

Even Up The Score’, the title track from their new album is up next and is followed by another newie in ‘Big Day’. Four songs in and every member is contributing a very equal 25% to this outstanding performance. You have the dynamic and captivating Wastell, the power and rhythm of Martini and in Sam Wood, surely one of the most versatile and enthralling guitarists around.

There is nothing I can say about the bands erstwhile leader that hasn’t been said many times over his 30+ year career, but he is putting in here, a performance here that would suitably grace the stage at Wembley Stadium, a venue he has played before. ‘Ghost’ from the bands debut album is sandwiched between four new songs as ‘Bloody Typical’ and ‘Faith In Fools’ follow it and on the basis of those four new tracks, I have a feeling that the best of the Wayward Sons is still yet to come. Each and every one of them is just full of hooks, melody, power and all the other ingredients that make their music so compelling.

This one hour set is about the music, about being back playing to a live audience and the band do not mess around. They get 13 songs in and those new songs aired go down really well with the Sleaze crowd. ‘Alive’ precedes ‘Fake’ the last new track of the set and on hearing them I can honestly say with a real buzz of excitement that the new songs are definitely as good, if not better than the previous output from the band, if that is possible.

The four track finale to their set is just incredible, with ‘Crush’ and ‘Small Talk’, both formidable slices of music, leading into an astonishingly brilliant ‘Joke’s On You’. The volume, the intensity, the atmosphere has gone through the roof. What a songwriter Toby Jepson is, this music he is now producing with the Wayward Sons is quite breath-taking and as much as I love Little Angels and they will always be a massive part of my playlist, here he is now, creating a whole new musical legacy and one that should take him back to that hallowed stage of the Hammersmith Odeon.

Until The End’ is a more than suitable set closer and leaves me sitting, writing and watching on with a grin like a Cheshire cat. I know I am not the only one. Thank you Toby, thank you Wayward Sons, that was fecking amazing!

If ever there was a festival made for its headline act or a headline act made for a festival then HRH Sleaze and Tigertailz fit that match perfectly. Ever since they released their debut album in 1987, the British rock fraternity have had an affinity with the band that goes way deeper than their music. Since sadly losing Pepsi Tate back in 2007, the band have had a number of different line ups but the one that takes to this Sheffield stage tonight to entertain with an energized and totally intoxicating performance have been together since 2016.

That line up of Rob Wylde (vocals), Jay Pepper (guitar), Berty Burton (bass) and Matt Blakout (drums) grab the opportunity to perform to their congregated disciples with open arms. Returning after a three year absence, they are faced with a venue rammed to the rafters with baying punters who just want to get a glimpse of their idols and enjoy the music of this now legendary British hair metal / glam metal / street punk outfit who they have so sorely missed.

After all this is Saturday night and this is party time and Sheffield is just about to witness one hell of a party to waken it from its Covid induced slumber. A 90 minute adrenalin fuelled sleaze rock celebration of Tigertailz career lay ahead for those in attendance and what a 90 minutes it was.

Wylde, looking completely refreshed after his earlier performance with his other band Midnite City, does not stop moving, whipping the crowd up into a frenzy as the band tear through ‘Sick Sex’, ‘Squeeze It Dry’, ‘Noise Level Critical’, ‘Love Overload’ and ‘I Can Fight Dirty Too’.

A look of sheer joy is etched on the faces of each and every member as the crowd lap up a performance that is quite simply astounding. I hang my head in shame when I admit that this is the first time I have ever caught the band live. I cannot answer why, but I know I have made a mistake of stupendous proportions.

This is exactly what I love, this is what I live for, this music gives me the adrenalin and life force to get through the week and I just want to get down in the crowd and party with everybody else. ‘Star Attraction’, ‘Shoot to Kill’ and ‘She’s Too Hot’ take us to the set mid point before Jay introduces ‘Dirty Needlez’ a track written by Pepsi when he was going through an Industrial phase and listening to the likes of N.I.N.

The track itself is different to what went before, it is seriously heavy and sees bassist Burton leaning out over the monitors with his bass slung low across his knee. The beautiful ‘Heaven’ is dedicated to everybody that has been lost over the last year or so and then it is party time.

There is plenty of singing and dancing to ‘All The Girls In The World’ and ‘Twist and Shake’ as they bring the bands set to a close. Encore, surely an encore, at least one anyway. The crowd are going nuts and demanding the return of their long missed heroes and finally those heroes oblige and return to the stage.

This reminds me of so many gigs I went to in the 80’s, this is what gave me the rush to get a constant fix of live music, this is what makes life worth living, atmospheres, performances and days like this.

The majestic anthem that is ‘Call Of The Wild’ starts a run of 4 songs that the band have returned to play. Tigertailz completely and totally epitomize what HRH Sleaze is about and the crowd are revelling in the glory of the situation. They are soaking up the music, the atmosphere and I dare say reliving moments and memories of yesteryear in the process.

In an almost subconscious nod to the past that the band started out in, it is a joy to see the crowd looking stage-wards, arms in the air, clapping, singing and with hardly a mobile phone screen in sight. Pure enjoyment and fulfilment is being had. ‘Murderess’ and ‘Living Without You’ lead to one of those songs and one of those moments as Tigertailz bring their set and Day 1 of HRH Sleaze 2021 to a close with the iconic ‘Love Bomb Baby’. A legendary track brings a much sought after awe-inspiring performance to a close. That was just monumental and an epic way to end the day.

Now to get back to the hotel, come down from cloud nine, have a coffee, get some sleep and be ready for more of the same tomorrow.

Photography by Darren Smith for MPM

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