It’s festival time again, and first on the Rock-Zone UK each year is the annual pilgrimage to North Wales for the Hard Rock Hell AOR event. It only seems like yesterday since the first one was held (initially in Rotherham) and yet here we are at number 6. It is always a pleasure to cover this one, the organisation is second to none and the line up is always something that means the crowd and the bands are in a truly happy place and 2018 iwas to be no exception. There are always some welcome returns to grace the event and this year was no exception but for this avid fan it is the oportunity to see some bands for the first time that mean it is a must in the annual plans for Rock-Zone.
The first day, as ever, is named the pre-party andsees a very lovely easing in to procededings with only a four band bill for starters. This meant that, following some much better logistical planning from Team Rock-Zone, the journey was much less fraught and arrival at site was inplenty of time to set up in the media zone and see all o fthe bands this fair evening. Sure the Beast from the East had not visted Cap HRH without impact – many vans suffering from no water supply and 30 minutes from arrival we were informed our accomodation was one of the ones affected. I think our view on this was “So what” as the festival is always such a great weekend perhaps baby wipes and a bit of unplanned stink would be a price well worth paying. That said, upon arrival, our van was with water aplenty and the central heating was working a treat so all we needed to do was get out there and get the party started.
First up were Dante Fox who are no strangers to the HRH AOR welcome having played the first event back in 2012 and have been a welcome addition since. Playing a set infused with songs from their back catalogue and, of course, tracks from their latest release “Six String Revolver” the soaring vocals of Sue Willetts matched with Tim Manford’s glorious guitar sound were the perfect start to an AOR festival. The arrival of new drummer Scott Higham has clearly infuseed the band with some great impetus and they lloked like they were havig a fine old time kicking things off.
Next were Newman who are another band well known in these here parts. Celebrating 20 years as a band, Steve Newman and his minstrels set about showcasing why they have achieved such longevity within the UK AOR scene. Polished, fun and again a top notch sound meant that, once again, the team at Hard Rock Hell had thought about this line up and boy did it work. A classy set with evidence for all to see that Steve and his merry men were having a whale of a time.
Huzzahs and hoorahs were in full effect from this here writer as Eclipse were next to ghit the stage. Regular readers will know that we have been long time fans of Eclipse but what you may not know is that we have seen the band at least once on every visit to the UK since discovering them. Clealry more at the Hard Rock end of the AOR spectrum, Erik Martensso’s golden touch seems to just go from strength to strength and tonight was no exception. AS he whirled around the stage, throwing shapes and his red mic stand , the jam packed main arena were left in no doubt that Eclipse really are the kings of melodic rock for the new millenium. Speaking to Erik after the show he said he felt that he lacked energy tonight … well if that was without energy, the headliner must have been quite happy as I would not have liked to have followed Eclipse on stage tonight. Personally, a 70 minute set was too short – I love every song they have in their arsenal so loved every second of the set but kept thinking I hope they play this or that … whihc was clearly impossible. A very strong song selection, a great showcase for them as a live band (acoustic interludes, great harmonies, super strong stage craft). Without a doubt, they were the band of the day for me
First night headliner Joe Lynn Turner is another who has been to HRH before. Always a great response to his class performances and tonight was no exception. The crowd were lapping up every second of the set. With a career of so many highlights you would be hard pushed to not pick something from the set that you couldn’t enjoy. Still an amazing voice and a great way to finsih off day one … and so that is what we did. These old bones need plenty of rest for these big events and bed was calling but also the anticipation was rising for days 2 and 3.
Photgraphy Copyright : David Wilson and Darren Thompson 2018