Hard Rock Hell VIII – Pwllheli, Hafan Y Môr Holiday Park, 15/11/2014

Kicking off the final day of Hard Rock Hell VIII is More (6), who make a solid stand on the second stage and close with ‘Atomic Rock’ to a positive reception.  Black State Highway (8) take the bull by the horns and give it a good kicking, breathing life into the day which, during an early afternoon slot is no mean feat. Showcasing a huge amount of bounce and energy and with songs that would sound great in arenas, they’re a definite shining light for 2015.  Special mention to frontwoman Liva Steinberga, too, who has a great set of pipes and a fantastic presence.

Blues Pills - Hard Rock Hell 2014The mainsStage this year sees Blues Pills (9) pretty much destroy everything that’s gone before them over the weekend. It’s a masterclass and fully worthy of the near-full audience that sees them. A captivating display of the finest blues rock which peaks with the quite brilliant ‘Devil Man’ – and Elin Larsson (right) has a voice that cuts through the room like ice [EL].  Resurgent NWOBHM-ers Vardis (8) may be playing only their fourth gig in a little more than 20+ years, but their hard-edged traditional blues-infuse rock shows a band who are definitely not living on past glories – although frontman Steve Zodiac does enjoy a few jokes at his own expense about no longer having long hair but a barnet as bare as his feet once were!  If anythong, their strong and confident set not only raises the bar for fellow veterans, in terms of the obviously still-present passion for what they do, but for may younger bands attempting to follow in their experienced footsteps [MA].

Back over on the second stage, all-female quintet Thunder Mother (7) prove that hard rock will always be a music genre for both genders as they tear into their set; tight as a drum and full of so many beans the cowboy hat being worn by singer Claire Cunningham is rather apt [EL].  Midlands trio Theia (8) (https://www.facebook.com/THEIAofficial) deliver commercial-edged crunching blues-rock very much in the vein of The Answer, and their performance is passionate, professional and tight in equal measures.  Frontman Kyle Lamley has charisma to burn (but maybe not the body for the stripped-to-the-waist look!), and, together with bandmates Paul Edwards and John Tolley, epitomizes a young band genuinely enjoying the exposure HRH is giving them.  I for one will be keeping an ear open for more… [MA]

Diamond Head (8) are one of the two ‘Bands-who-did-THAT-song’ playing tonight but they really know how to get a crowd going and the sing-a-long that goes hand in hand with the inevitable closer of ‘Am I Evil’ is absolutely huge. Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock (9) open with UFO classic ‘Doctor Doctor’ which is completely unexpected and yet brilliant. It sets the course for the guitar maestro – hunched low for most of the set and prowling with menace, he and his band place new numbers like ‘Before the Devil Knows Your Dead’ side-by-side with ‘Shoot Shoot’ and a fantastic ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’.  Closing song ‘Rock Bottom’, complete with extended solo, ain’t half bad either [EL].


Michael Schenker - Hard Rock Hell 2014With Schenker’s performance suffering from its atrocious sound, Bad Touch (7) more than make up for the disappointment with their grunting, grinding, 70s-inspired hard rock, which is a real crowd pleaser over on the second stage – as well as a perfect accompaniment to the equally delicious 12″ triple pepperoni (with extra jalapenos, of course) being wolfed down at the in-venue pizza parlour.  By way of a total contrast soundwise, New York progressive alt-rockers Jolly (5) also gains a good response from the small knot at the front – but, to be brutally honest, most fans are largely apathetic as they seem to be waiting for Blue Öyster Cult’s alloted time slot across the courtyard on the main stage… [MA]

Which brings us neatly to the main stage headliners, Blue Öyster Cult (7). Coming on to the Game of Thrones theme tune is a great move and the band are effortless for the duration of their set. Having four vocalists who can all sing and harmonise with one another is nothing short of extraordinary and there is plenty going on during the hour and a half they play for.  Unfortunately, following Michael Schenker tonight would have been a tough job for anyone and BÖC sadly can’t quite muster enough to top him.

Blue Oyster Cult - Hard Rock Hell 2014What’s also to their disadvantage is that many people here are waiting for just one song, which takes the gloss off great renditions of ‘Harvest Moon’ and ‘Burnin’ For You’; even ‘Godzilla’ doesn’t quite reach the dizzying heights it can do.  But the moment Buck Dharma turns out the intro of  ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’ a spectacle of majesty is released into the room: at once everyone begins to play the cowbell in mid-air;  at once everyone begins singing;  at once BÖC have everyone in the palm of their hand. Sadly, it’s a little too late to make an overall impact on the set, but it’s the best possible end to the festival, without a doubt [EL].

Taking to the stage 20 minutes late, BÖC take a while to build momentum, with the likes of ‘Burnin’ For You’ and ‘Career Of Evil’ setting the more laidback pace for the first hour or so of their headline set.  The first main stage band to actually enjoy a balanced sound, their lengthy instrumental workouts may sound initially out of place in a festival setting, but they summarize the band’s unorthodox approach:  however, it could also be argued that this over-emphasis on, albeit extremely beautifully played, instrumental passages is somewhat of an out-dated approach.  Saving the best to last, however, ‘Godzilla’ impacts hard with its huge, dark sound, while ‘…Reaper’, as stated, evokes not only the biggest reaction of the night but possibly the entire weekend [MA].

Setlist:  The Red & The Black / Golden Age Of Leather / Burnin’ For You / Career Of Evil / Buck’s Boogie / ME262 / Hot Rails To Hell / Harvest Moon / OD’d On Life Itself / Then Came The Last Days Of May / Godzilla / (Don’t Fear) The Reaper

Review written by Elliot Leaver and Mark Ashby.  Photos by Sean Larkin.

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About Mark Ashby

no longer planetmosh staff
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