The second day at the HRH AOR and Prog event started early as I was interviewing Arthur Brown two hours before the first band started. Sadly that meant two hours less sleep than I’d have liked, but the early start was well worth it to chat to such an amazing performer who has toured supporting Jimi Hendrix and many other big names, and counts Prog legend Carl Palmer (Emerson Lake & Palmer) as one of his former band members).
After a brief stop at the Prog stage to catch a few minutes of Bad for Lazarus, it was off to the AOR stage. to catch the first band on the AOR stage – Barbe-Q-Barbies, an all-female band from Finland. They certainly got things off to a great start, even though they’re used to playing much later in the day/night at festivals and had started the day off with beer for breakfast. I’d seen them before supporting Jettblack and thoroughly enjoyed them, so had been looking forward to todays set. These ladies know how to rock and put in a high energy performance with plenty of Ramones style attitude to wake the already large crowd up. I hope they don’t leave it too long before they come back to the UK for more dates.
After another quick trip to the Prog stage to see Haken, it was Buffalo Summer next up on the main AOR stage. Looking and sounding quite like The Answer, this Welsh band were definitely impressive.
Next up was Nubian Rose, who’s singer, Sofia Lilja Åkerlund was eye-catching in a Union Jack catsuit. Her vocals were extremely good, but at times seemed a bit high pitched for some people in the audience and as a result they didn’t seem to go down quite as well as the previous band – like anything, vocals are a matter of taste. Personally I enjoyed their set and I’ve been listening to their album (Mountain) while editing the photos and have to say it sounds excellent.
Next up was Uli Jon Roth on the Prog stage – the first of two performances for him today, and as expected he put in an impressive set with some stunning guitar work.
Back on the AOR stage, H.E.A.T put in one of the most impressive performances of the weekend – absolutely superb stuff, and definitely a real highlight of the day.
The rest of the day passed in a bit of a blur really as I dashed between stages, but Uli Jon Roth’s second set is definitely worth mentioning. For this performance he was on the AOR main stage and performed a set made up of Scorpions songs which definitely went down well with the crowd. Ten, Moritz and Kip Winger all put in good sets on the AOR main stage, while Magenta, The Enid, Caravan and Curved Air were all great on the Prog stage.
US rockers Skid Row put on a great show, and demonstrated that they certainly don’t need Sebastian Bach in the band to sound great (frankly they sounded a damn sight better than Seb did on his last UK shows).
The highlight on the Prog stage for me though was Von Hertzen Brothers who put in a superb performance with a set that included three songs from their latest album (Nine lives), a King Crimson cover (21st Century Schizoid man) and six songs from their earlier albums.
I would have liked to see Jeff Scott Soto, but with a 1am start time then decided that sleep was more important.
Looking back at the festival there were some issues with the venue, but the organisers have already announced that next years event will be held in Pwllheli at the same location as Hammerfest and Hard Rock Hell, so the superior facilities (more bars, good food etc) there will make it a much better weekend, although the location isnt as convenient for many people as Rotherham in terms of transport.
The lineup was extremely good – before the weekend I knew some of the bands, but hadn’t listened to many, yet I don’t think there was a single band on the bill that I’d describe as poor or even average – they all ranged from very good to amazing.
Having both Prog and AOR festivals running together was a great success judging by the number of people I saw watching bands on both the Prog and AOR stages.
A great weekend – roll on next years event.