As morning broke in Pwllhelli, we were greeted by sunshine (but it was still a bit cold). The last day of the festival meant a number of highlights awaiting but first up for Mr W was an interview with Magnus and Erik from Eclipse (the results will be online soon). After that, and several cups of strong coffee, came the first band of the day, Euphoria Audio.
Braving the graveyard slot, these boys managed quite a good turnout and produced a set that was enjoyable and exposure like this and more shows can surely mean bigger crowds and success to come. Songs clearly aimed at the AOR market and that is where the focus should start, more shows will hone their live performances so that these boys can fulfill the potential shown in the songs.
A quick sprint down to the “Secret” acoustic stage enabled us to witness the first bit of an Eclipse in Pwllhelli (see what we did there?)The two songs, the very catchy “The Storm” and the Gary Moore inspired “Battlegrounds” only hinted at the power and might that was to follow … it looked like Eclipse might just be Mr W’s annual Sweedish addiction for 2015.
After the swift visit to the “secret” venue, an even swifter return to the Main Stage was needed to catch that youthful bundle of Swedish energy that is Reach. Great songs from their album “Reach Out to Rock” really energised the crowd (although we have to admit that we were disappointed that they didn’t include their awesome cover of Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” – still, can’t be too greedy for great music can we?).
Next up were old friends of Rock-Zone UK, White Widdow. Rounding off a busy few days (a UK tour and Jules fronting Tigertailz on Day 1!) … the Aussies introduced two new band members and showcased songs from new record “Crossfire”, along with old favourites and a cover of an Aviator song to really cement their place in the hearts of the die-hard AOR fans. For me the songs from “Crossfire” really came alive when performed, er, live – a revisit of the album on reurning home really proved just what a step up the latest album is. Let’s hope that White Widdow can return to Europe and the UK sooner rather than late.
Crazy Lixx stepped up to the big stage well, going down a storm as the crowd started to build to ever bigger numbers. So much so that Houston were going to have a tough time following them, or so we thought! Really, we couldn’t have been more wrong. Houston have had a massive press buzz about them for two albums and two “mini” albums/EPs. Likened to Journey (amongst others), everything we heard told us that we would LOVE them! Starngely, the concensus in the Rock-Zone offices was, although brilliantly put together, to our ears they seemed a bit sterile (like some studio projects can be). Yet live, the band blew us away – the high cideals and comparisons really struck a chord and not just because the press told us to, the crowd lapped it up.
Each HRH festival seems to find Davey becoming obsessed with another Swedish mega band. Last year it was ColdSpell, the year before H.e.a.t – this time it was Eclipse. Erik Martensson is a whirling ball of energy singing with a power and passion that truly deserves super-stardom. Magnus Henriksson must surely be the greatest rock guitarist that you need to hear … and the rhythm section of Robban and, the other, Magnus bring together an awesome package (so much so we needed to see them again a few days later in Wigan!). Playing songs from albums number 3, 4 and 5 (have a listen to the interview with Erik ad Magnus to hear why they didn’t pick anything from albums 1 and 2!) , “The Storm” was the “ear-worm” song for the next three weeks.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2aszvFFoGpo]
All too soon we were nearing the end of the festival. Only three bands left. First up, Romeo’s Daughter and their ultra cool, extra special brand of UK AOR. With a set including some material from their forthcoming album, “Spin”, what we witnessed was the consumate ease with which Leigh and the band grabbed the crowd and held them firm. Since returning from Pwllhelli Rock-Zone have received a preview copy of “Spin” and the verdict is … their best album to date! Slightly darker but still with all of the elements that made Romeo’s Daughter such a great band – and there is lots of Craig’s guitar in the mix on the new record … the man is grossly under rated as both a guitarist and a song writer.
You could see the climax coming, more people than ever in the Main Arena and more photograhers in the pit than during the whole weekend. David decided to enjoy FM rather than face the Photo Pit scrum, and instead girded my loins for the headline act. FM did what they always do – a brilliant set, performed with style and class. The set seemed quite familiar from the last couple of times Rock-Zone have seen them (let’s not forget the new album “Heroes and Villains” is not out for a few weeks) but, hey, isn’t that what audiences really want? Songs they know, love and have a really great time with.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLtQrPItXt8]
Apart from one show (once!) in Scotland, this was Night Ranger’s first UK performance outside of London and, boy, did they show us what we had missed out on. All the hits, favourites from current album “High Road” and interspersed were a few nicely chosen covers to reflect the careers of Jack Blades (“High Enough” and “Coming of Age” from Damn Yankees), Brad Gillis (“Crazy Train” from his brief stint with Ozzy Osbourne) and Keri Kelli (“Schools Out”) … let’s hope they meant it when they talked about the Night Ranger five year plan to re-engage properly with the UK and Europe?[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYg81RuME3g]
With that, it was the end for 2015. HRH United was the best yet and we have already signed up to make sure that Rock-Zone UK can be there in 2016.
You can see a whole load more photographs on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rock-Zone-UK/101422619912048
Tickets for next year’s extravaganza are on sale now (with some packages sold out before the end of this year’s festival!). Get yours now at https://www.hrhaor.com/tickets/
You REALLY don’t want to miss out.
Videography courtesy of Mick Parry