Hard Rock Hell 13 Day 3
Saturday 9th November
And so begins day 3, the final day of HRH 13. And let me say from the off that I am happy to eat my words, as contrary to my cynical predictions at the end of day 2, the HRH generals have listened, learned and acted. Kudos to them. At the preplanned meeting of the HRH inner sanctum, known as The Dark Circle (no magic tricks were harmed in the making of this presentation), members were given their regular chance to discuss and provide feedback. Sources tell me good things - the HRH generals listen and provide positive feedback, including some proposed additional improvements for next year over the fixes they want to make at this year's event. Knowing commander in chief Jonny, he will be good to his word.
Stage 2 opens first where we are pulverised by Pulverize. Don't say we weren't warned. The Leeds based Rap Metal band, front a male and female vocal line up who scream the Be Jesus out of us and each other. Brutal stuff that has me applauding with my hands over my ears. I wouldn't recommend you try that. Again, I would have liked to have stayed for more of stage 2 but the ability to switch between the stages is awkward so I opt for another day on stage 1. It's a shame as there are some excellent acts on stage 2. Special mention to my local outfit Stonewire who rocked the place. So to stage 1 and the changes made by the HRH team are subtle but a big improvement. The VIP area has been rejigged to provide standing at the front with the seating at the sides. Still no photo pit and I'm sure those forced to be seated weren't happy, so there is still work to do. But the atmosphere, and sound, has definitely benefited.
Openers on stage 2 are a Polish 5 piece called Chemia, who are somewhat Rock royalty in their home town of Warsaw. They have performed alongside some big names. Their name means Chemistry and is a nod to their experimental musical nature. As a result, their sound covers every aspect of Rock - Melodic, Prog, Punk and Classic. The sound is a fine mix of Les Paul and Telecaster which switches ably from Rock to Blues to Hardcore. Frontman Luke Drapala does a fine job of injecting excitement into the slightly jaded audience - did I mention the fine ales? With the new arena set up, the crowd soon come to life. It's hard not to find something you like in this varied set. Their short set ended with an anthemic 'Gotta Gotta Love Me' which is a classic live Rock song that we all joined in on.
Next up, and clearly back to the 80's Metal theme are Melbourne's Ablaze. This is not an AC/DC clone, rather a collection of every 80's Metal standard - long hair, cowboy boots, squealing guitars and whisky drinking. The latter were included if you were lucky enough to be at the front barrier as the bottle was handed around during the introduction of the band members. Both Ben Anderson and Matt Dynon sport Ibanez guitars, which even my non-guitar geek friend admired, and create some fine Van Halen sounding stuff. They are almost formulaic in their Australian hard drinking, no thinking, Rock till you drop approach to music. But that has negative connotations, which it really shouldn't - these boys are good. Not that they give a damn, they are just having a good time and are happy for you to join in. So we do. Tracks included 'No Chaser', from their 2018 first album of the same name, 'The Hard Way' and 'Pick Your Poison'. Alcohol fuelled fun all the way and the day is yet young.
And now the day takes a rather bizarre twist as the somewhat unusual Zodiac Mindwarp And The Love Reaction take to the stage. Although, to be honest, the frontman 'Zodiac Mindwarp' himself did appear to be somewhere else. His body had turned up but his mind appeared to have gone to another place, possibly assisted in some way .... What followed was a set of Psychedelic shenanigans that was really guitarist Cobalt Stargazer (I don't think that's his real name) playing some blistering licks whilst ZM's body came and went whilst muttering what I presume were lyrics.
No stranger to controversy, some of those more audible mutterings were somewhat questionable. So I left them doing a unique cover of Thin Lizzy's 'The Rocker' to fight my way to stage 2 to see the 3 piece Brighton riff rockers, The Rocket Dolls. These boys have been putting the hours in recently - I saw them at Ramblin' Man - and are due to release their third studio album shortly - thanks in no small way to their fans who crowdfunded it. We are treated to 'The Grip' and title track 'The Art Of Disconnect' as part of their set. Worth a listen, we may be seeing these guys playing bigger stages before long.
Diamond Head have seen many a large stage. Today, however, they are squeezed onto the main stage, which only just accommodates them. Another alumni of the NWOBHM academy, their honest and open Rock sound has been emulated and covered by many. Their set is another mix of old and new as classics like 'Lightning To The Nations' and 'It's Electric' rub shoulders with new tracks like 'Messenger' and 'The Belly Of The Beast' from their forthcoming album 'The Coffin Train'. But its closing classic 'Am I Evil', with its stirring intro and epic range that epitomises why Tatler and the boys are still making great music for over 40 years.
Penultimate act, and truly an icon, is German songstress and iron maiden, Doro. It is no stretch to call the blonde bombshell the queen of Heavy Metal. Dressed to seduce in classic black leather and studs, the most notable thing of Doro's look is not the glamour, the Rock outfit or the dark eye make up, it's the warm smile and total enthusiasm. We are watching an artist who really knows her game. The lyrics won't win any awards, its typical fist pumping stuff with repetition and chanting the name of the game. She exhorts the crowd to raise their fists, in her Teutonic lilt, which the gladly do. It would be like pantomime if it wasn't so Shakespearean. 'Night Of The Warlock' is a theatrical masterpiece. There are a number of Warlock tracks, Doro's 80's band including 'I Rule The Ruins', 'Burning The Witches' and 'Fight For Rock', as well as modern tracks like 'Soldier Of Metal', the closest we get to a ballad. Taken from her latest album 'Forever Warriors/Forever United', it soon turns into a headbanging frenzy. After a cover of Judas Priest's 'Breaking The Law', she closes with the chanting extravaganza 'All We Are'. But before she can exit the stage HRH, C-in-C Jonny appears to present her with the HRH Angel Of Rock award, much to the delight of everyone. She truly is an angel of Rock. So we get an added bonus of 'Warlocks East Meets West' from her as a bonus track before she is finally teased away from her fans. Its difficult who adores who most, Doro or the fans. Mutual admiration.
And so to the final act of the weekend. Michael Monroe is quite simply amazing. A quiet shy character off stage, once he hits the stage he is an explosive bundle of energy that does not stop from the first minute until the last. Looking like a cross between Keith Richards and Goldie Hawn, the blonde bombshell has a large dose of Iggy Pop in there too. And a sprinkling of Stephen Tyler. If that isn't a winning mix then nothing is. With guitarists Rich Jones and Steve Conte we get two distinct sounds that go to make up the Michael Monroe vibe. Jones sports a hollowbody through a Fender amp giving us a Rock and Roll vibe whilst Conte's white Les Paul through the Blackstar amp smacks of the Sex Pistols Steve Jones rig and Punk sound. Put them together and you have an explosive but catchy mix. Bassist Sam Yaffa has been a constant companion of Monroe from his early Hanoi Rocks days through the Demolition 23 days, so we are treated to a setlist including tracks from all previous incarnations.
Monroe just doesn't stop. Jumping, singing, dancing and grinning. And he loves a prop. When he isn't waving a fan, a baton, a light wand or a bright red top hat, he is making shapes with his mike stand, twirling it like a cheerleaders baton, and on more than the odd occasion, putting it through the unusually low ceiling. But his frenetic stage presence is most heartily felt when perching precariously on the barriers, held aloft by his adoring fans, whilst he dutifully drips sweat upon his faithful human pedestals. He grins like he is on the strongest of narcotics, although we know the fantastic Finn is clean as a wolf's whistle. And his smile is so infectious. He only stops when playing his beloved red saxophone on tracks like 'Last Train To Tokyo' or 'Harmonica'. Tracks from the new 'One Man Gang' are showcased - 'Junk Planet' being a cracking example. But for me, down the front getting plastered with perspiration, its tracks like '78' and 'Trick Of The Wrist' from his 2011 'Sensory Overdrive' album that really hit the spot. Its happy time. After a brief break we get a three song encore finishing with a Stooges classic 'I Feel Alright' and then he is gone. Like a whirlwind he has swept all in his path and left them wondering exactly what happened. Michael Monroe happened.
And so another Hard Rock Hell has reached its conclusion. Its been a tough couple of days for the HRH team, putting in long hours and working their fingers to the bone. There are things to change and issues to deal with but there is no doubt that HRH13 has been a success. And we can trust the HRH team to make things even better next year. But we have to remember all the excellence of the last three days. The staff have been amazing, security friendly and beers first rate. Accomodation is fine - no sleeping in a tent in a muddy tent for us - and most importantly, the bands have been pretty damn good. Coupled with the familiar faces, old and new, its been a friendly few days - maybe excepting out fighting VIP's. So the HRH troops will be marching back to Norfolk again next year, they have already responded to the HRH clarion call. Ugly Kid Joe, Skid Row,The Wildhearts and Phil Campbell are just some of the names confirmed which has resulted in HRH 14 having nearly sold out already. Next year, everyone will be a VIP. Very Impressed Punters. Rock on.
Michael Monroe setlist
(Navajo Joe By Ennio Morricone)
One Man Gang
Last Train to Tokyo
The Pitfalls of Being an Outsider
Not Faking It (Nazareth cover)
Ballad of the Lower East Side
Old King's Road
Black Ties and Red Tape
Motorvatin' (Hanoi Rocks song)
This Ain't No Love Song
Don't You Ever Leave Me (Hanoi Rocks song)
Malibu Beach Nightmare (Hanoi Rocks song)
Up Around the Bend (Creedence Clearwater Revival cover)
Dead Jail Or Rock & Roll
Nothin's Alright (Demolition 23. song)
Hammersmith Palais (Demolition 23. song)
I Feel Alright (The Stooges cover)