Night Ranger – High Road Album Review

Release Date – 6th June
Frontiers Records

Iconic arena-rockers Night Ranger are set to release their eleventh studio album, ‘High Road’.  The cover art for ‘High Road’, incorporates elements of the artwork from the band’s previous releases (very clever).

Of the new album, front man/bassist/songwriter Jack Blades commented, “It’s almost summer and a great time to take a trip down the High Road’!  Our new record features classic Night Ranger feel-good, high-energy kick-ass rock n’ roll.  We can’t wait for our fans to hear.”  Drummer/singer Kelly Keagy added, “We’re so proud of this new record and excited to get back on the road to bring the new music to our fans.” The strength of the songwriting is the key here, and if you’re an existing fan, then you cannot fail to be disappointed and every track has Night Ranger thru the middle like a stick of rock!!
‘High Road’ is instantly memorable, form the opening keyboard bars to the punchy chorus and follows on from where ‘Growing Up In California’ left off, only this is MUCH better. I can picture an 80s video with the gang in a mustang convertible going down the 101, even if the real video doesn’t show this, this is what the song is evoking in my mind, its an instant classic
‘Knock Knock Never Stop’ has both Blades and Keagy sharing vocal duties, and it has them proclaiming ‘Rock And Roll To The End,’ and is more of a statement than a song, as I expect these guys to be doing exactly that. ‘Rollin On’ is pretty heavy by Night Ranger standards these days, and harks back to the earlier stuff – stuff being ‘Seven’
‘Don’t Live Here Anymore’ gives the first solo opportunity for Kelly Keagy to flex his pipes, and he is a good a singer as he was 30-odd years ago. It’s a cowboy song of exquisite quality, brought up to this standard with Gillis’ and Hoekstra’s blinding guitar work. Gillis has to be one of the most underrated guitarists in rock
I’m Coming Home is another road song and again features the dual vocal attack. ‘X Generation’ sees Hoekstra and Gillis trading licks, and coupled with Keagy’s rasping vocals it’s a blend of classic sounding Night Ranger with a 21stcentury kick. Night Ranger wouldn’t be Night Ranger if it weren’t for ballads, and ‘High Road’ has two of them in ‘Only For You Only’ and ‘Brothers’ falling almost into country then rock. Country is good I tell ya! ‘St. Bartholomew’s’ is another kiss ass rock track and they throw the kitchen sink at it. ‘LA No Name’ sees us out. An acoustic instrumental and is a subtle end.
It’s fair to say that Night Ranger have pulled out the stops for ‘High Road’. It is definitely a summer feel good album if ever I heard one and probably their finest in about 30 years, and stands up well alongside the established classics that Night Ranger have offered. Who says there’s no life-blood in modern melodic rock? These wily old dogs can still show the new breed a thing or two with some quality radio friendly rock n roll. This will surely sit at the top of people’s melodic rock gems of 2014.
Score 85/100

Night Ranger is: Jack Blades (bass guitar, vocals), Kelly Keagy (drums, vocals), Brad Gillis (lead & rhythm guitars), Joel Hoekstra (lead & rhythm guitars) and Eric Levy (keyboards).
High Road;
Knock Knock Never Stop;
Rollin’ On;
Don’t Live Here Anymore;
I’m Coming Home;
X Generation;
Only For You Only;
Hang On;
St. Bartholomew;
L.A. No Name (Bonus)

California Breed – ST Album Review

Many, many bands have hotly anticipated albums. Many again are classed as supergroups. Can’t say I particularly like the term ‘Supergroup’ as it’s a way of describing big names from other bands coming together. California Breed is just a band, but I suspect that have the capability to be a ‘super’ group rather than a ‘Supergroup’. Their debut is one that is definitely highly anticipated.
If you’ve been under a rock for the past few months, then you don’t deserve to listen to this. Sometimes when bands break up it’s a bad thing. As was the case with Black Country Communion, but I doubt anyone expected that California Breed might be a band with even bigger hype. The proof they say is in the pudding – only this pudding is a Michelin starred pudding, but more on that in a second.
Its no fluke that CB picked the right producer – Dave Cobb (he of Rival Sons), has gone back 30-40 yrs and completely avoided Protools and gone analogue tape. One notable mention is that the album was recorded as ‘live’ as it could be, even to the surprise of the band themselves, and boy has this methodology paid dividends.
Its taken me back to the early 80s and my teens when the music industry was a different animal. Albums were hyped, and mobile phones and the internet were an age away. You had to read stuff like Sounds, then Kerrang to know what was going on. All that led to an excitement when you put the needle on your vinyl album. This is exactly the same feeling I had when getting this beauty home.
Straight up on ‘The Way’, the aural assault from the combined force of Bonhams fluid drumming, Watts economic guitar playing, and combine this with trademark bass and silky blues vocals from Hughes and its…Bang….right from the off. It harks back to the days of Zeppelins Black Dog, and this has just about the same bite! The first few bars of ‘Sweet Tea’ remind me of a rocked up ‘Nutbush City Limits’, and coming together for a great chorus and proves a great choice for the single. The quality just keeps coming – Andrew Watts playing is fantastic. How a lad of his young age is playing this style, with the influences he has a such an age, is just amazing. There must be 25yrs between him and Bonham, and 40 with Hughes. It proves that age has no bearing at all, and having Watt in this band has taken years off of the other two. Forget Bonamassa, Watt is heavier, classic rock influenced, and has the tools to be one of the best.
‘Midnight Oil’ is the Rolling Stones on steroids, and with additional soulful female BV’s adding to Glenn’s vocals. Cobb has captured the vocals live, and in doing so, this is probably the best he has sounded in over 25 years. ‘All Falls Down’ starts off as a moving piece and soon picks up into a crescendo, rising and falling like the sea
‘The Grey’, ‘Strong’, and ‘Invisible’ all kick off with a certain power and strength, allowing Hughes to do his bit and take them to a higher level. Bonham like Hughes never sounded better. Take ‘Days They Come’, Bonham’s drum break is like father, like son! ‘Spit You Out’ has Hughes double tracking the vocals to nice effect. ‘Scars’ fades out like it shouldn’t be allowed as Watt is ripping the studio up with his playing. ‘Breathe’ sees Hughes go into his Robert Plant phrasing, and is a fitting end to a truly fantastic album, an album that is rock solid from beginning to end
The deluxe version (for an extra fiver) has a bonus track, ‘Solo’, and sings about the ‘California Breed exhilaration’ of which he is not wrong. Also included is a DVD including videos for ‘Sweet Tea’, and ‘The Way’, and an interesting (but short, 20mins) ‘making of.’
Many bands try to replicate 70s recorded albums and fail miserably. Fair enough the CB guys didn’t always know what Cobb was up to, but he has achieved a masterstroke – California Breed is one of themust have albums to own this year, or any other year. Dig out the flares, platforms, patchouli oil and crank this sucker up, and party like its 1975.
Score 95/100
California Breed are –
Glenn Hughes
Jason Bonham
Andrew Watt

Frontiers Festival – Day 2, Live Club Trezzo sull’Adda, 2nd May 2014


Where day one was a national holiday, and saw the venue ram packed, Day 2 (I suppose being a normal work day) saw a drop in numbers. Not many, but enough to notice.

First up for day 2 was Adrenaline Rush. Quite a few entered the hall to witness these young Swedish guns. Basically if you’re a hot blooded male (who isn’t at a rock gig?), then it’s hard not to be distracted by front-woman Tave Wanning. Absolutely gorgeous and also having the triple whammy of a.) Being able to sing, and b). Having excellent stage presence, c.)The being gorgeous bit. Day 2 takes off with a force of a hurricane. I find it amazing the Adrenaline Rush, who are basically kids, want to take up melodic rock, when there has to be other profitable avenues. Thankfully they did, and AOR will definitely gain from having AR in its line of sight. By the second song and their first single ‘Change’, you can tell that Tave has been to Serafino’s ‘rock school’ as she pulls all the moves out of the rock handbook. ‘No, No, No’ definitely sees them paying more than a passing nod to Dokken (nice!). They even manage to fit in a decent cover of Rainbow’s ‘Long Live Rock And Roll’ for their finale. Adrenaline Rush are destined for great things – I promise you! (7.5/10)

Now, whoever thought to put Moonlandon after Adrenaline Rush was sorely mistaken. They are probably the first (and last) Estonian band to be on the bill. Whereas AR were all blood and thunder, Moonland were the rock equivalent of fluffy kittens. I like kittens, but to be fair, it was like watching a band who met in the corridor 5 mins before they were to go out on stage. Lenna Kuurmaa looked out of place, seemed to lack confidence (issues clearly with in ear monitors didnt help her cause), and struggled. Her voice was very good, nice and warm, but I feel that a few warm up gigs would have done them the world of good. ‘I Cant Go On’ bordered more on pop, and based on the gig, the title could have been a prophecy. By the time they got to ‘Another Day In Paradise’, Moonland just about hit their stride. It was a bit harder and edgier than the rest of the songs. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and await the album (5/10)

L.R.S. (LaVerdi, Ramos, Shotton)were here to kick start the day’s proceedings. This was also their first ever gig. Moonland –That’s what happens when you get seasoned professionals together – they just know how to put on a performance, and was 100% improvement on Moonland, all this before a single note was sung by Laverdi. Here is a bloke who was definitely glad to be here. In his excitement he forgot to put his shoes on!!! ‘Walk Away’ was just like listening to Journey, and that’s a big complement. After 27 years away from rock music TLV (despite working constantly) has really looked after his voice. Having Alessandro Del Vecchio on board really makes a difference, as the harmonies from him and Shotton on ‘Universal’ were just excellent. The Storm’s ‘I’ve Got A Lot To Learn About Love’ is up next. It doesn’t matter if LaVerdi doesn’t know all the words, he seems to be enjoying the experience like a fanboy! Shotton takes the mic for Von Grooves ‘Once Is Not Enough’, before levelling the place with 21 Guns’ ‘Knee Deep’. If ever there was a masterclass in having a limited time and hitting you right between the eyes, then this was it. I only hope I get the opportunity to see them again (8.5/10)

Pretty much everything up until now and what is to proceed follows a similar melodic path. Eclipse on the other hand go for the Spinal Tap route. What I mean by this is, one louder, one heavier, and one metal-er. Their heritage is there for all to see, but they have chosen a slightly different path than the rest, and their entrance livens up the audience. Let’s face it, after Moonland anything different is welcome, and Eclipse feed off the good vive that was left behind from LRS. As a part of W.E.T., Erik Martensson takes a side role, but with Eclipse it’s definitely the chance to show off his energy and vocal talent. It’s a very animated performance – swinging his mic stand like a flag, and even a dodgy performing mic didn’t affect his performance. As a four piece they have all the bases covered, it’s a very accomplished and sonic performance. Their set is heavily weighted towards ‘Bleed & Scream’, and quite rightly so. ‘Battlegrounds’ has this Thin Lizzy ‘Black Rose’ vibe, ‘A Bitter Taste’ has some exemplary soloing from Magnus Henriksson. Erik Martensson has quite a bluesy tone to his voice, and definitely channels his inner David Coverdale/Whitesnake for ‘Bleed & Scream’, and have proven that they have come a long way since their UK performance at Firefest (other festivals are available). Finishing with ‘Breaking My Heart Again’, not only does it sounds like a Whitesnake song, but it’s a song that Whitesnake have been trying to write for years, without success. Eclipse will take some Eclipsing! (8.5/10)

Red Dragon Cartel are a bit of an unknown entity to me. Little time familiarising myself with their music makes it difficult to get a good grip on the set, apart from the non-Red Dragon Cartel songs that will come up in their set. I personally think the sound is poor, Darren James Smith makes himself difficult to hear clearly. Perhaps down to our position in the venue? That said, every bugger else sounded as clear as crystal. Despite having a new album, only four out of the eleven songs today are from the debut. Like Snakecharmer the day before the audience want to hear former bands in Ozzy and Badlands. The crowd livens up when Jake E Lee’s other bands have been represented –  opener ‘The Ultimate Sin’, and closer ‘Bark at The Moon’ get the greatest shouts, but for me it’s the Badlands tracks that make the biggest impression. DJ Smith handles Ray Gillen’s vocals really well, especially on the extended ‘Rumblin Train’ with Lee wringing the neck and every note out of his Strat. Also ‘Shine On’ and ‘High Wire’ are well represented. Despite Jake E Lee living on his past success (most of which happened 25 years ago), I expected a little bit more (6/10)

Pretty Maids are one of the few bands over the whole weekend that have kept going and never been tempted to have a break. The band revolves round guitarist Ken Hammer, and singer Ronnie Atkins. Out of all the bands appearing Pretty Maids certainly went for the look out of all the bands over the course of the three days. All went for full on stage gear, and drummer Allan Tschicaja had the biggest ego/drum riser of them all. The Danes open up with the powerful ‘Mother Of All Lies’, and its more Power Metal than AOR, and it’s a pretty damn good start. After 2 days of revelling, it’s time for a break as Im certain Ronnie’s singing ‘I See Goats!’ Of all the audience prior to today, the Maids have the most number of T-shirts on show. ‘My Soul To Take’ from the new Frontiers album borders more on pop than rock, but fits in with the established stuff. ‘Please Don’t Leave Me’, a John Sykes cover is a highlight of the set for me especially (as a non-fan) that it’s a song I never new was a hit for Pretty Maids. The biggest cheer is towards the latter part of the set for ‘Back To Back’, ‘Red Hot And Heavy‘ and the closer @future World’ Again’. After this gig the guys are staying in the same hotel- from the back of the hall you couldn’t tell, but close up these guys ain’t exactly pretty!! (8/10)

Stryper for me where the whole reason for attending Frontiers Festival. A fan from the beginning, this what my first ever Stryper gig. They had a lot of expectation to meet, and I’m happy to say that they delivered. Seen by some as a bit of a joke, Stryper have a great formula – great front man – check; great songs – check; harmonies – double check! Once the bands intro comes on “Battle Hymn” it suddenly becomes a religious experience and I WANT A BIBLE! Stryper are as tight as a nut. Opening up with ‘Sing Along Song’, it’s more of an invitation than a title, as the crowd all join in for the chorus, even the naysayers! When they play ‘Calling On You’, the harmonies are off the Richter scale. The songs off the new album fit well with the old, they are much heavier than anything they have done before which for me is a great plus. These are hard songs to sing, and Sweet keeps within a range that’s comfortable but still proves he’s one of the best singers in rock. His guitar playing is not shabby either! Even a death metal riff prevails with ‘Marching Into Battle’. Stryper then head into a couple of covers, Priests ‘Breaking The Law’, and a belting version of Kiss’ ‘Shout It Out Loud’ which probably hasn’t been sung this good

for a number of years. It’s a no frills set up on stage. None of the yellow and black set, only a few small examples now exist on their stage clothing. The only thing (apart from the guitars) that’s still yellow is Robert Sweets hair. Thankfully there were no solo spots, just Stryper pulling out the shots. Like Jake Blues, at the end of the gig I am converted and I have seen the light. Hallelujah! Best band of the festival so far (9/10)

Pics courtesy of Sam Compton

Frontiers Festival – Day 3, Live Club Trezzo sull’Adda, 3rd May 2014


As it’s the weekend, Day 3 returns to a rammed Live Club. First to benefit from this are Crazy Lixx, who are more in the Motley Crue school of rock than melodic rock, and their sleaze/glam rock style definitely kicks a few of the previous days hangover into touch. WTF, ‘Whiskey Tango Foxtrot’ definitely has its polish due to the twin guitar attack of Dawson and Liam. Frontman Danny Rexon leads the line well, and takes his persona from some pretty decent rock gods. The latter half of their set was pretty damn good – ‘Riot Avenue’, ‘Blame It On Love’, ‘21 Till I Die’ and finishing with the excellent ‘Heroes Are Forever’, which at this rate should see them fulfill their prediction (7.5/10)

I was looking forward to seeing this Norwegian rock goddess. I was hooked from the debut album, and Issa rocked up looking resplendent in high heeled thigh length boots which at one point nearly became her downfall. Opening with Boulevard’s ‘Dream On’, Issa was in the benefit of a pretty shit hot band, and backing vocals again come from DelVecchio. ‘Invincible’ is sandwiched between two of her finest songs ‘Angels Crying’, and ‘I’m Alive’, after which she discussed the weather ‘’Im so pale, I’m from Norway’’. Well it’s not Norway Issa, it’s the fact you live in bloody Yorkshire that gives you that pale complexion. Finishing with Aviators ‘Can’t Stop’, Issa definitely made a mark with the crowd (7.5/10)

Jeff Scott Soto is a quite different proposition in doing his own thing. Only this time the order of the day is the colour black. He has surrounded himself by a set of fairly young guns from South America and beyond. The question is, when you’ve been doing the rounds as long as JSS has, what on earth do you pick to choose, as the choice is immense – Takara, Malmsteen, Talisman, Soul Sirkus and his own solo stuff. For ‘Take You Down’, guitarist Jorge Salan knows how to rip the place up, and again, like other bands over the course of this festival, the harmonies are sublime. ‘21st Century’ allows Jeff to show off his funky side, and ‘Believe In Me’ and ‘Holding On’ are performed live for the first time in almost 10 years. When it comes to Jeff’s extended medley the crowd go absolutely nuts – Talisman is the order of day and he throws the kitchen sink, cabinets, taps and plug at us all. Seal’s ‘Crazy’, and Madonna’s ‘Frozen’ (not the Disney one) get an outing. After some discussion with the management to try to lengthen his set, he asks to play the riff of what he wants to sing. That song is Steel Dragons ‘Stand Up And Shout’, and for the first time today the Live Club was almost levelled. The bar has well and truly been raised for today (8.5/10)

If one bloke gives of the vibe ‘rock star’, then that bloke is John Waite. He’s the only one to make an effort and go all Barney Stinson on us and ‘suit up’ for the occasion. One thing is for certain, he still possesses an excellent voice. Guitarist Keri Kelli’s hair has the look of a panda/badger hybrid. Waite brings out his big guns playing songs from his exemplary past – The Babys ‘Back On My Feet Again’, ‘Every Time I Think Of You’ and ‘Head First’, to the Bad English crowd pleasers, ‘When I See You Smile’ (singing a capella for most), and ‘Best Of What I Got’. ‘Missing You’ was a must, and then finishing with Led Zepellin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’, quite unexpected, but  a bloody good version. Page and Jones need look no further should they want a replacement for Plant, I shit you not. My only misgiving was that there was something Missing (no pun intended), probably a keyboardist to fill in the gaps. Good, but I expected a little more (7/10)

Despite my final comment concerning JSS, if today’s event was a party, prior to Danger Danger it’s the musical equivalent of pass the parcel.  Suddenly it becomes the equivalent of 2000 revellers turning up at your mum’s house for the party of a lifetime. Once they come onto the stage Ted Poley proclaims “We’re Danger Danger and we are going to kick your asses”. If ever a statement was true to its word, this was it. A few people had reservations about today’s performance based on a previous UK performance where a lot of pissing around was evident. Today, it’s a very different and downright focused Danger Danger. One thing that immediately strikes me is how good Ted Poleys voice is. It took me by surprise I admit, and DD hit the ground sprinting with ‘Rock America’. Even tech difficulties with Steve West didnt halt the flow “we have technical difficulties, whereas in the old days we had testicle difficulties” proclaims Poley. If ever a band was going to make the most of a limited set then Danger Danger were the AOR equivalent of a typhoon/hurricane combined. For ‘I Still Think About You’, Poley decided to walk thru the bar area, to the end, and decided to walk his way from the back of the hall, through the crowd. He got about 50 feet covered before being mobbed and had to make a hasty retreat. DD saved the very best until last for superb renditions of ‘Monkey Business’ and ‘Naughty Naughty’. Quite a few bands proclaim to be part bands, but after this performance no one quite does it like Danger Danger (9.5/10). Firefest revellers watch out! P.S. Think I may have been subjected to some tomfoolery as looking back on my notes I apparently like boys cocks! Rob Evans, you’re a twat!!

I was a bit worried about how Winger would respond to the Danger Danger whirlwind that landed on Trezzo ‘sullAdda and kicked everyone’s asses. Straight from the off, Kip Winger proves he has one of best vocal ranges over the whole festival, and is in fine fettle indeed. Whilst not the original line up. Winger have 75% originals covered in Reb Beach and Rod Morgenstein. Completing the line up is the versatile ‘other bloke’ that no one seemed to get his name as Roth was on duties with Starship. Opening with the new ‘Midnight Driver Of A Love Machine’, its a well-received new track that fits in well with the ‘classic’ Winger repertoire. Winger have certainly been the whipping boys for a number of years, but they are definitely a musicians band as even Ted Poley was spotted at the side of the stage singing his arse off for the likes of ‘Pull Me Under’ and ‘Blind Revolution Mad’. Even Winger can make their own fans despair a little. Technically superb, they can even border onto progressive at times, but when they do this on the last couple of songs, their intention comes over as being pretentious, rather than down to ‘look at us, aint we cool’. Musically and vocally Winger were very good, but having the slot after Danger Danger and before Night Ranger, they had to pull out all the stops, just to compete, and on this part they just lacked that little extra that was needed (7/10)

Night Ranger were here to show EVERYONE over the course of the last three days how to put on a show. They have probably been doing this gig every weekend for the last 10 years, and it’s a polished performance as the door knockers in Mr.Sheens test laboratory. Intro playing is AC/DCs ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’, an unusual choice for a melodic rock band, but a welcome warmer upperer. Jack Blades has to be one of the most energetic front men I have ever witnessed, and certainly belies his years. Basically its 3/5 of the original line up, with Blades, Keagy and Gillis, with both Eric Levy and especially Joel Hoekstra fitting in nicely. Night Ranger offer up one hell of a set list  – ‘A Touch Of Madness’, ‘Sentimental Street’, ‘Secret Of My Success’, intertwined with a couple of Damn Yankee songs :- ‘Comin Of Age’ and ‘High Enough’. I like both songs (a lot) but I don’t see the need for NR in playing them, especially when they have such an extensive and excellent back catalogue. That said, NRs harmonies are sublime, especially when you have Blades and Keagy in tow. Definitely, you won’t be seeing Gillis on many guitar award, but you have to see him to believe him, as he truly is one of the finest rock guitarists of his generation, wringing every note and emotion out of his guitar. ‘Dont Tell me You Love Me’ spills out into Deep Purple’s ‘Highway Star’ as a close, before coming back for the obligatory Keagy classic ‘Sister Christian’, and they prove that (you can still) ‘Rock In America’, Milan or any other country.

Night Ranger are a well-oiled machine. I would love to see then at their own gig where they could maybe play a little longer, but as a first time Night Ranger gigee they go right into my top bands I’ve ever witnessed in my 35yrs of gigging. All this from a band who should be past it, but are nowhere near it. Fan-fucking-tastic! (10/10)

Congratulations to all the guys at Frontiers for putting on one of the best festivals ever! Bring it on next year

Pics courtesy of Sam Compton

Frontiers Festival – Day 1, Live Club Trezzo sull’Adda, 1st May 2014


So, here we are for the very first (hopefully of many) Frontiers Festival. The venue in question is one of the finest I’ve visited, the Live Club in Trezzo sull’Adda situated on an industrial estate halfway between Bergamo airport and Milan. Frontiers seem to have pulled a bit of a master stroke. Sure its only bands on the Serafino Perugino Frontiers label, but what a line up it is. Probably one of the finest melodic rock line ups there has been…ever! In the history of AOR line ups…EVER!!!

On arrival the allocation of tickets is poor. This is the only criticism I have over the whole festival. Even arriving an hour before the gig started, I would say a good 60% had yet to enter by the time the very first band – State Of Salazar hit the stage. There were a few disgruntled punters, but that was soon washed once they say the venue and atmosphere. Visitors were from all over the world – Italy, Greece, Spain, Sweden, Germany, UK etc. It’s a bit like Field Of Dreams, if you get the right bands, then they will come!

State of Salazar were ok, but Frontiers missed a trick here by having a few of the bands having albums in the pipeline a few months ahead. All the songs are new to the crowd, and whilst the audience responded well, there just seems to be a spark missing. Based on first impressions, SoS have a bright and promising future ahead of them (6/10) 

With Dalton however, the ante was definitely upped. Not seen by these eyes before (or many others probably), Dalton were a very nice surprise indeed. So a couple of them look too old to be away from their day care centre but Dalton play a style of AOR that’s very hard not to like, and with songs like ‘Hey You’, ‘Love Injection’ (oo-er Missus!), and ‘You’re Not My Lover’, have the melodic loving audience wetting themselves – their album will be on a lot of peoples want lists come the Autumn (7.5/10)

Three Lions were here representing the first of two back to back Blighty bands. I have to admit that the debut album is a bit of a belter, and today their live performance kicks the album into a cocked hat! Three Lions (Bailey-o, Burns-o, and Morgan-o) came with 2 added cubs, and it made for a rounded and fuller experience. If Dalton were good, then Three Lions pissed all over what came before and truly set a marker not just for Snakecharmenr but for the rest of the remaining bands, AND the next two days – yes they were that good. Opening up with ‘Holy Water’, Three Lions make their statement and a lot of people immediately take notice. ‘Twisted Soul’ was fantastic, a 70s Classic Rock Vibe with a killer riff from Burns, and ‘Kathmandu’, to me anyways is Three Lions’ ‘Stargazer/Heaven & Hell’, and sees Nigel Bailey wringing every note possible out of those velvety pipes – I suppose that’s what 20 beers the day before does for you. ‘Don’t Let Me Fall’ has them playing a special version – Jap x with the album version and was a rather nice alternative. ‘Hellfire Highway’ followed, ending with the excellent ‘Trouble In A Red Dress’. Me, I’d have had them swap with Snakecharmer and play the whole album, but I’m not Serafino. This is one band I would ask back next year without a doubt. (9/10)
Where Three Lions mantra is ‘We have upped our game, so up yours” the gauntlet from the UK lions (+2 cubs) was cast firmly on the stage for Snakecharmer, who come out of the blocks faster than a speeding sloth. It’s undoubtedly the ‘all star’ cast of the day when you have the likes of Moody, Murray, Wiseman, Ousey and Wakeman peddling their classic rock wares. When you look at the rest of the bands around them, Snakecharmer seem to be outcasts and their brand is not as pink and fuffy as the rest of the melodic rock line up that’s here – not just today, but for the whole weekend. It’s plain to see from the off that the Snakecharmer guys are old hat at plying their trade, Ousey’s vocals are outstanding, considering he is a waif of a bloke and he takes every opportunity to present his soulful vocals. Let’s face it, 90% of the audience are here for the Whitesnake songs, and they will be coming, but first it’s a chance to show off the debut album. Songs such as the excellent ‘Guilty As Charged’, ‘My Angel’ and ‘A Little Rock and Roll’ are well received, but for me the place partly emptied for a retreat to the bar when Moody does his slide guitar solo, and it’s the same solo (pretty much) as my first ever gig seeing Whitesnake in 1982! The crowd do come alive for the classics – ‘Slow And Easy’, ‘Here I Go Again’, and ‘Fool For Your Loving’ and they are given a nice slant by Ousey. Despite having a great singer, Snakecharmer seem a little souless and there’s definitely that spark missing to set them on their way (7/10)

W.E.T. are one of the best melodic rock bands plying their trade today. Today’s set weighs heavily on their latest album, and there’s good reason for that. W.E.T. absolutely make use of the fact that they have another bonafide quality singer stood alongside JSS on guitar, because in Erik Martensson they have a guy whose higher register takes JSS’s vocals to a new and higher dimension. Add in the vocals of the other three, and its harmony hairspray, I mean heaven. Jeff Scott Soto commands the stage like a General, plying his trade with supreme confidence – hair flicks, karate kicks all applied with style. Which is not said of his clothing style! That said, it’s not about the clothes – it’s about the music, and W.E.T. have great songs in abundance. It’s great that there’s whims/projects for Serafino to occasionally get off the ground and more importantly become a touring/ live entity. Right from the off, the first thing that hits you are the harmonies, with ‘Walk Away’ getting the full treatment. ‘Learn To Live’ again highlights how good a singer Martensson is, but we find out more of this tomorrow. ‘Comes Down Like Rain’ is a poignant tribute to Marcel Jacob, and JSS shows off his sort Journey period with the very Journey-esque ‘If I Fall’. W.E.T.s set is over all too soon for this AOR faithul crowd, but they definitely leave their mark on the audience (7/10)

Hardline are one of those bands plying their trade with just one original member. Hardline would definitely not be Hardline if it were not for two people- original member Johnny Gioeli, and the Frontiers go to guy for keys, production, writing and a set of pipes that deserves its own platform, the extremely talented and diminutive Alessandro Del Vecchio. Over the 3 days you’re hard pushed to find someone as excited to be on stage as Gioeli – he’s a freakin whirlwind, never stopping, running around the stage like a kid living the dream. I never thought that Gioeli was the best rock singer in the world, but fair play to the guy he is a different league live. The set weighs heavily on Hardline’s debut album, and quite rightly so, but it’s a Frontiers fest, so ‘Fever Dreams’ and ‘Danger Zone’ get an airing from the new album. Ale and Anna Portalupi are two of the smallest musicians playing anywhere in the world today, what they lack in height they make up in kickass playing. At one point Gioeli makes the mistake of engaging Ale in a sing off. Bad move! It was probably the first of many resounding applauses for DelVecchio over the weekend. We all want to hear the debut, and Hardline don’t let us down – ‘Dr Love’, ‘Life’s A Bitch’, ‘Taking Me Down’, and one of the best melodic rock anthems ‘Hot Cherie’. Due to limited time, I could have done without keyboard, drum and guitar solos. That said they were still pretty good (7/10)

My co-conspirator is not the biggest fan of the Modern Day Tesla. Or should that be Jeff Keith. He (Jeff) has more of a whine to his vocal style these days, but I’m firmly planted with with the rest of the audience, I think they are almost as cool as they day I saw them originally (4/9/87 to be precise). Jeff Keith enters with a certain swagger. I can’t fathom if that swagger is due to a drink too many or some other reason. When he says “It’s great to be here”, I don’t have any confidence he knows exactly where he is. Tesla let the songs do the talking for them. Opener ‘I Wanna Live’ fits in perfectly with Tesla’s more classic output the past 30 years, and Rude and Hannon complement each other, with Lucketta and Wheat pounding the band forward. A little book appeared for Keith for the 2 new songs ‘MP3’ and ‘Ricochet’. ‘MP3’ has a real dirty riff from Hannon, and both songs show a potential fruitful relationship ahead with Frontiers. Tesla give the baying crowd more bang for their Euro with the second half of the set, with crowd singalong fave ‘What You Give’, followed by the likes of ‘Signs’, and the stand out moment for everyone, ‘Modern Day Cowboy’, which is Tesla’s must play song. The encore is short, but makes up for by playing ‘Coming Atcha Live’, an excellent way to end the inaugural day 1 of Frontiers festival. I would have preferred a couple of more songs such as ‘EZ Come’, and ‘Edisons Medicine’ but you can’t always get what you want. Despite that, everyone, me included went back to their respective hotels, extremely happy and looking forward to day two (8.5/10)

Pics Courtesy of Sam Compton

H.E.A.T Gig Review – Manchester Academy 3, Monday 19th May 2014

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 Quite a few (almost packed to the rafters) were in attendance for H.E.A.T’s last date of their UK tour at a hot and humid Manchester Academy 3. For those who witnessed H.E.A.T at Manchester a few years back (about 25 people all told), then a packed academy shows (and knows) how far this Swedish quintet have come. Those in the audience this evening know that H.E.A.T are marked for greatness. The only question mark seems to be that it’s taking a little longer than expected. There is no doubt H.E.A.T have the fire in their bellies, and with their latest album, a set of songs that WILL take them to the next level and beyond.

It’s no surprise that tonight’s set it heavily weighted towards the last two albums, and the acquisition of Grönwall has taken H.E.A.T from being a good band, to a stellar band. Going from support band Supercharger to H.E.A.T is like the difference in sound between a wax cylinder and CD! Entering to the very appropriate “The heat is on” by Glen Frey, the Swedes set their phasers to ‘stun’ right from the off – Grönwall prowls the stage like a maniac – jumping, punching, hardly ever keeping still. Who says you have to mime when you’re as active as this dude. ‘Point of No Return’ and ‘A Shot At Redemption’ show how far H.E.A.T have come is a short space of time with Grönwall (from Swedish Idol to bonafide Rock Idol) – both are songs that Jon Bon wished he could still write – and they become a different proposition in a live setting – totally electrifying and captivating. ‘Mannequin Show’ would have been cool had they segued into ‘Oops I did it again’ (just for a laugh of course as everyone has surely made the comparison by now!)

H.E.A.T do pay homage to their more melodic past with ‘Beg, Beg Beg’ (and a little of Zeps ‘Rock and Roll’ thrown in for good measure), alongside ‘Danger Zone’, and only ‘Late Night Lady’ from the debut / Leckremo era.

Grönwall proves he’s a dab hand with the guitar also, playing acoustic for the first part of ‘Tearing Down The Walls’. Since H.E.A.T have dropped down to the one guitar, Erik Rivers seems to have grown and is enjoying the limelight. His playing is fluid and compelling, and the ladies present certainly seem enamoured!

Support band Supercharger snuck up on H.E.A.T mid ‘Downtown’, half naked and serving drinks to the boys, and from here on the set (after being nothing short of perfect) took it up another notch – probably because it was the finale of their tour, so everything was timed to perfection for this Manchester crowd.

As it was the final night, Supercharger joined them for Roxette’s ‘You Got The Look’, and both bands completely looked as if they were having fun even if it was slightly ‘winged’. ‘Breaking The Silence’ and ‘Living On The Run’ finished the set, 20+ songs in total, and made this gig a truly memorable one for those who attended.

H.E.A.T truly deserve to be playing bigger and better venues, and at this rate it isn’t long in coming. Utterly fantastic! 

Pictures courtesy of Jeff Price