DAY 1 – Thursday 8th March, 2018
Hi, dear reader, you know I do all this for you, you smart and clever individual. Anyway here we are for my 5thouting to the HRH AOR festival in, Hafan Y Môr translating to ‘The Haven’, at Pwllheli. That’s Pwll = pool, and ‘heli’, short for helicopter.
We are at AOR VI (No 6 for you Millennial’s not knowing how to count in Roman Numerals). HRH now have many brands, and the AOR one being a particular favourite of most of my gigging friends, and acquaintances. They have got to the point, where, even before HRH AORVI has played its last note of the festival, AOR VII is almost sold out. Now, I could cut my balls of to spite my face and have a little bit of a mini rant. You could theorise that the good people of HRH could take the piss – they have your money (or a lot of it anyway) for 2019s event. Knowing that it’s sold out, they could (hopefully won’t) put out an average line-up. I only say this as, considering VI is purely AOR this time, there are bands on show over this weekends that are either
a. On the wrong stage – insert band name here, but my choices are Degreed and Midnite City
b. Clearly in no shape or form an AOR band – here’s my four penneth worth – Aaron Buchanan and the Cult Classics, Enuff Z’Nuff, Joan Ov Arc
I understand that changes had been made by the organisers due to late cancellations, Great White aside. We appreciate all their efforts to give a mixed and excellent line up despite any obstacles they are presented with. Which is what makes HRH a sold out even 12 months in advance (almost).
Anywho, we arrived a tad late on the Thurs evening, thanks to the shite traffic getting out of both Wrexham and then Chester. One of my fave melodic rock bands, Dante Fox was missed completely unfortunately. We entered the main stage to the very busy and very loud set of UK melodic rock stalwarts Newman. Steve was in fine fettle and introduced the young whippersnapper of the band (Harry) as a 19 yr. old. Newman started this, 20 years ago and probably has gig t-shirts and undercrackers older than this fella. What we heard was a strong selection from his latest album ‘Aerial’. Musically Newman are excellent, but on a couple of the songs, particularly ‘If Its Love’ Steve Newman’s voice wasn’t the best I have heard him do. My comment aside, the set was going down a storm with the Pwllheli massive. Of particular quality for me were ‘Stay With Me’, ‘Primitive Soul’, and the early Newman classic (and set closer) ‘One Step Closer’.
If I were measuring in paint colours it would be a ‘magnolia’
Eclipse were up next, and are a different proposition altogether. Right from the off, you can tell that the Swedes are rehearsed to within an inch of their lives. I like the ‘running on to the mic’ and shapes being thrown, but it looks as if it may be a bit too clinical. That said, Eclipse performed one hell of a set. ‘Vertigo’ from ‘Monumentum’ is up first and goes down a storm. I suspect that Eric Mårtensson would love to have been born 20 years earlier, and been a contender for a slot in 87-89 era Whitesnake. Even becoming ‘ol ‘snake-hips’ himself when Erik proclaims ‘Are you ready to rock?’ Eclipse fall into the ‘every song an anthem / killer’ category. This is no way an issue, and I love their music, but I want them to have their ‘Stargazer’, ‘Heaven and Hell’, or ‘Blackbird’ moment. Something that takes them from near contenders, to Heavyweight Champions of the world. Mårtensson is a very likeable and excellent front man, and you can see why he is very much in demand as a co-performer (W.E.T.), writer and producer. The man has an ear for an anthem. Stand out songs for me were The Storm’, the Celtic influenced ‘Battlegrounds’, ‘I Don’t Wanna Say I’m Sorry’. They just need to make the next (big) step, and victory is theirs for the taking.
Headliner for the Thursday night was Joe Lynn Turner. I make no bones that Rainbow are my all-time favourite band, and JLT is a big part of my musical life. Considering Joe is no spring chicken, he is 66 (a bloke of his age shouldn’t be in a sleeveless jacket indoors); he is still in great shape, both physically and vocally. Its two years since his last appearance at HRH AOR, and his set hasn’t altered much in this period. Hey, if its not broke, then don’t fix it. Alongside Joe is his axe slinger of choice, one Jorge Salán, who does an excellent job of stepping into Ritchie Blackmore’s shoes, and that aint an easy fill. For me, as a Rainbow lover its off to a flying start – Death Alley Driver, and I surrender just trip off the tongue, with the B side classic ‘Jealous Lover’ third in. How this song never made the cur for ‘Difficult To Cure’ is an absolute travesty. We get ‘Dark Days’ from his ‘Slam’ album, followed by ‘Spotlight Kid’ and ‘Street Of Dreams’. At his point, JTT could have farted the next song and I’d still be happy as a pig in shit. Salán is a very good foil for Turner and some of his solos were close to Blackmore’s. A couple of rarely played Rainbow tracks for Bent Out Of Shape followed, the raucous ‘Drinking With The Devil’, and guaranteed sing-a-long-a ‘Stranded’. The filling between the two BOOS sandwich was a treat from his very first solo album, ‘Endlessly’. I swear to God that had he followed this up with ‘Rescue You’, I would have needed to be carted out in an ambulance. Sadly this was not the case, but second best was a song from the classic album he did with Malmsteen, ‘Rising Force’. Just 45 mins in, that was the set. Done. An encore dedicated to the great Ronnie James Dio in ‘Long Live Rock and Roll’ completed it. As a 51 year old bloke, if you have asked me 3 years ago if I’d get to see a Rainbow heavy, electric set, I’d have crawled though broken glass to witness it. Even this time, if I were any closer to him, I’d be receiving a restraining order. But, this is now my third JTL gig in the last 3 years and on each one I have been left feeling a little bit wanting more.
JLT was marked for a 90 min set, and like his 2016 appearance, it was all over after an hour. I felt a little bit short changed, even if I didn’t pay for my ticket. Considering his extensive and excellent back catalogue, JLT could go from performing a very good concert, to being absolute classics. Even if he dropped ‘LLRNR’ which isn’t his to begin with, and replaced it with 3 or 4 others – ‘Déjà vu’, ‘Heaven Tonight’, ‘Tearin’ Out My Heart’, and ‘Rescue You’. That would be SOME gig. Do it Joe, you know you can.