HRH AOR 6 – Day 1 – 08-03-2018
Hafan Y Mor, Pwllheli
Review : Stephen Brophy (SB), Peter Scallan (PS)
Photography : Stephen Brophy
The beginning of March always means the annual trip to North Wales for the HRH AOR Festival, so an excited Rockposer Dot Com Team begins the pilgrimage from Ireland and Scotland at an ungodly hour on a Thursday morning. Sleep and comfort are pretty irrelevant over a Festival weekend, the important things are the music and the people.
The first night of the Festival is a thank you to the VIP ticket holders and features a shortened lineup and just an evening setup on the Main Arena Stage. This year sees four Artists that are familiar to all, taking up the baton this year – Dante Fox, Newman, Eclipse and the legend that is Joe Lynn Turner.
Dante Fox (SB)
To open up any Festival can be a daunting enough task and that’s irrelevant of your level of experience, in many ways you are the test bed for sound and lights Dante Fox took to the stage and looked eager to get everyone smiling and off to a great start. It has to be said that there were some issues with the sound to begin with, certainly too loud with everything becoming a little distorted, but that didn’t seem to stop anyone enjoying the bands set, which is a mix of songs from 2016’s ‘Breathless‘ album, the title track was worth the admission fee on its own, and also including some of the reworkings from last year’s ‘Six String Revolver‘.
Always a pleasure to watch Tim Manford play, clearly loves what he does and always has a great tone. Another highlight is ‘Firing My Heart‘ which is always a song that picks everything up, and this is a really nice way to start the Festival and Sue, Tim, Alan and Scott as always put in the maximum effort.
I missed Dante Fox due to lack of hot water and electricity in my caravan but got there in time for Newman. Considering my AOR connections, I really should know more about these guys but I don’t! They have released 11 albums in 20 years but I have only heard the odd track.
Fronted by guitarist/singer Steve Newman the band were one of the few on the weekend bill I would genuinely tag as AOR. They sounded pretty tight and musically adept but the mix let them down a little. Having heard some stuff before, I know Steve is a pretty good guitarist but he was focusing purely on vocals tonight and they occasionally let the side down, especially on the higher notes which can be difficult to hit if the onstage sound is poor. None the less the crowd certainly enjoyed their set.
Over the last few years Sweden’s Eclipse have steadily built on a growing reputation as one of the best live bands on the Melodic Rock scene, always brimming with positive energy power and no shortage of talent. Having released one of the top Melodic Rock albums of 2017 in ‘Monumentum‘, a lot of people were interested to see how those new songs would work live.
Right from the moment Erik bounds onto the stage there are no doubts about what’s to come and one of those new tracks ‘Vertigo‘ blasts off getting the crowd into the mood from the start. This evening we are treated to tracks from the last 3 excellent releases and why not, it’s hard to go wrong, but it’s not easy to pick highlights from a set full of highlights, every time you see them something has improved with Eclipse, because they are playing more the interaction with the audience is definitely better.
This is certainly one of the performances of the weekend for me, it’s great to hear the crowd singing along to an epic version of ‘Battlegrounds‘, or the way they place ‘Live Like I’m Dying Every Day‘ to vary the pace and balance things out, but this band are at their very best for me when they are at full pace, ‘Bleed And Scream‘ and ‘Never Look Back‘ fly past all too quickly, but as I scan the crowd as we go along more fists are raised, more people are singing and there is that big of a special feeling, if they continue as they are going Eclipse will be headlining these Festivals soon, as if they needed any more Philip Crusner (Drums) has pumped the guys up even more and added even more fire and passion, this band is brilliant to watch as always.
Joe Lynn Turner (PS)
Joe Lynn Tuner needs no introduction and not surprisingly he drew heavily on his Rainbow days for this AOR set. His band was superb and provide a very early Rainbow/Deep Purple backdrop for Turner to weave his magic. With two songs from ‘Bent of Shape‘ and the hit singles from the other Rainbow albums it was a safe set, with some calling it boring, but not in my opinion.
He also touched on his Malmsteen era but I was disappointed he didn’t do ‘Heaven Tonight‘. However, the highlight for me was the inclusion of ‘Endlessly‘ from his first post-Rainbow album ‘Rescue You‘. It was a genuine moment of AOR bliss for me. Finally, in addition to his own Rainbow career he dedicated a version of ‘Long Live Rock’n’Roll‘ to Ronnie James Dio. While the band eased through the song, it didn’t really work for JLT in my opinion. None the less, a great closing set for the first night.
Great start to the weekend, as always HRH AOR isn’t just about the bands you see on the stage, but also the friends old and new you meet around the venues, and Thursday night you can’t move but to bump into someone, friends or band members, the atmosphere is great and there’s definitely a lot of fun to be had at Hafan Y Mor over this weekend.