In contrast to the previous morning, the third and final day of Rockingham dawns crisp and bright, as the PM team join several hundred fellow fans in heading for the hallowed confines of Rock City for another eight bands over 11 hours.
The beautiful afternoon outside is complemented by the arrival of Issa . The Norwegian songstress obviously has a fanatical following, especially among the German fan contingent, as they send other people flying in their rush to make it to the best positions at the front of the stage: they, and the rest of us, are soon rewarded, as huge swathes of melody fill the arena and embrace the early comers (who are noticeably smaller in numbers than on each of the previous two days). Issa’s movements are somewhat restricted by the fact that she is obviously quite heavily pregnant, but her voice nevertheless rises like a lark through the darkened room. A late start, however, restricts her set and forces her to drop her usual set closer, and the title track of her current album, ‘Crossfire’.
Setlist: Can’t Stop / New Horizon / Angels Crying / I’m Alive / Only You
Northern Ireland’s No Hot Ashes  are very obviously enjoying their renaissance after a hiatus which had lasted some 25+ years, and the “lads” are here to have fun – which is just what they do. Their brand of melodic rock is firmly rooted in the sensibilities of the late 80s, but possessive of a modern feel, with the songs a series of tight, solid anthems built on huge hooks and even bigger choruses. Highlights include the opening statement of intent ‘I’m Back’ and the deeply personal new single ‘Boulders’, which is a rich and heartfelt tribute to charismatic frontman Eamon Nancarrow’s parents. With a new album in the pipeline for early 2016 (via Frontiers Records, we can reveal), there is plenty of life in these bais yet.
Setlist: I’m Back / Glow / Summer Rain / Boulders / Diane / Little Johnny Redhead
Like Gotthard the previous evening, the amount of T-shirts flying off their merchandise stand was an obvious indication of the anticipation felt for the UK live debut of Scandinavian sleaze supergroup Ammunition . And they don’t disappoint as they bounce straight into the high energy blitzkrieg bop of the appropriate ‘Do You Like It?’ – and, as I said in my review of their debut album, ‘Shanghai-ed’, earlier this year, we fucking LOVE it! Unlike a certain pansy-arsed pop “group” in my home city of Belfast a few days’ earlier, Ammunition prove that the r’n’f’n’r must go on as frontman Åge Sten Nilsen – looking like a cross between Ville Valo and Elvis Presley in his over-sized smock shirt – reveals that bassist Hal Patino had been rushed to hospital earlier in the morning, giving stand in Magnus Henriksson just three hours to learn their 60-minute set: needless to say, he integrates seamlessly alongside Eclipse bandmate Erik Mårtensson. Ammuntion’s set ticks all the old school glam/sleaze rock boxes but, like their predecssors on the stage, they also possess a very modern dynamic which combines their collective experience with a youthful zest for life in the live arena. Set highlights include the fast and furious yet blues-tinged single ‘Tie Me Down’, which showcases the depth and richness of Nilsen’s voice, and the thumping no-nonsense ‘Silverback’.
Setlist: Do You Like It / Shanghai-ed / Gonna Get You Someday / Tie Me Down / Road To Babylon / Take Out The Enemy (Hallelujah) / Will Card / Hit Me With Your Bombs / Silverback / In My Dreams
By complete contrast, Royal Hunt  deliver pomp rock on a grandiose and opulent scale. Obviously riding on a the crest of a wave after the release of their latest, 13th, album, ‘Devil’s Dozen’, the band are tight yet energetic, as they produce huge, mountainous keyboard swells coupled with avalanches of guitar harmonies and tornadoes of melodies. I said it’s grandiose: and, yes it is, but not overly OTT, as the band know when to hold back and let what they leave out have as much impact as what they actually deliver from the stage. I have had the aforementioned album lying gathering dust for a few months now, without having actually getting around to listening to it: following this performance, I might just blow the cobwebs off it and finally give it a listen!
Stan Bush  changes the mood again, bringing his blend of well-crafted vintage AOR, which sounds as fresh today as it did three decades ago. His voice is still rich, and he can hit the high notes a lot more effectively than many of his surviving contemporaries, although he also has the sense to make good use of his bandmates’ vocal harmonies – ‘Heaven’ is a case in point in this regard. Bush also recognizes that this is a festival crowd, and therefore we will want to hear the “hits” – and it’s a path from which he doesn’t stray too far, with ‘Primitive Lover’, ‘Love Don’t Lie’ and, of course, ‘The Touch’ all getting aired: unlike Jim Peterik the previous evening, Bush doesn’t fuck about with his most iconic tune, however, delivering it straight and true and earning him the only encore of the day.
Setlist: The Ultimate / Heaven / Heat Of The Battle / Something To Believe / Primitive Lover / Love Don’t Lie / Hard To Find An Easy Way / I’ll Never Fall / Dream The Dream / Dare / The Touch. Encore: In This Life
On this day of contrasting styles, Robby Valentine (pictured left) and his self-monickered band  are another complete swing, this time in the direction of faux operatics. It’s not surprising that the singer also doubles as the frontman for a Queen tribute act back across the shuck in his native Netherlands, as, stylistically, he does bear an uncanny likeness to Freddy: in fact, so much so, that he would be a much better figurehead for the current incarnation of the band that thon American twat Adam Lambert! Musically, Queen is also a heavy reference point – which he emphasizes still further with a, shall we say, interesting cover of ‘BoRhap’ – as is the Jim Steinman school of songwriting, but it lacks depth and soul and, while entertaining in its own way, and superbly orchestrated, just falls a little flat due to its over-dependence on the frontman’s undoubted charisma.
The penultimate band of the weekend had posed your humble reviewer – and no doubt more than a few others – with something of a conundrum in the weeks leading up to Rockingham: how do you approach a band named after its founding member when said person not involved in this “reunion”? With some trepidation, if truth be told. With Greff Giuffria more interested in furthering his business empire than performing music these days, it is up to the rest of the founding line up – vocalist David Glen Eisley (pictured right), guitarist Craig Goldy and drummer Alan Krigger – to keep the Giuffira  name alive… and, to be honest, it’s something of a curate’s egg of an attempt… Things start well enough, with the classic pomp rock glamour of hit single ‘Do Me Right’; however, problems rear their heads almost immediately, with a technical problem 15 minutes into the set taking out both Eisley and Goldy’s guitars. With “normal” service restored, Goldy then “treats” us to a five –minute guitar solo, before Eisley returns to the stage having shed his metal cowboy look to one more akin to a street bum. Add in a totally needless, and inane, cover of ‘Heard It Through The Grapevine’ and another five-minute solo spot, this time from Krigger, and GG most definitely made the right decision to remain in Las Vegas and not participate in this travesty.
Things don’t get much better with headliners Dokken . Don strolls onto the stage the epitome of coolness itself, but microphone problems right from the very outset seem to give the set the ‘Kiss Of Death. The band try hard, and show plenty of energy, especially guitarist Jon Levin, who is a natural in his role, with his pouting and writhing, while DD’s erstwhile sidekick, Mick Brown is in great form, not only holding down the bottom end with his characteristic solidity and engaging in a nice line in witty banter between songs. But, the problem is Dokken himself. The whole top end of his vocal range is shot – something he himself obviously recognizes as he, quite rightly, makes not attempt to reach any high notes, relying instead on bassist Mark Boals to fill in the cracks in the upper register. The result is that many of the band’s classics stumble and fumble rather than soar and glide: however, the diehard fans – well, the majority of them – lap up every second, singing along and swaying their aging bones in appreciation. While Dokken lambasts the crowd for their (lack of) response – little wonder in the circumstances – the fact that large numbers are heading for the exits earlier speaks just as loudly as the frontman.
Setlist: Kiss Of Death / Into The Fire / Dream Warriors / Breaking The Chains / The Hunter / Alone Again / It’s Not Love / Sunless Days / In My Dreams / Maddest Hatter / Empire / Too High To Fly / Tooth And Nail / When Heaven Comes Down / Paris Is Burning
So, with the first ever Rockingham proving, by and large, a major success, I hope, dear reader, you will indulge your scribe a few final observations.
The event brought together a good spectrum of acts from across the melodic rock genre, with something to cater for most, if not all tastes, among its target demographic, and it was extremely well-organized, especially in terms of the efficiency of the crews working on the stage turnarounds. The security staff were polite and helpful – characteristics which are all too lacking at too many similar events and venues.
However, the incessant and highly unnecessary use of strobes (often at the most inappropriate times, such as during Tom Keifer’s acoustic section on the Friday night) could have been drastically reduced – and the venue is completely lacking in any form of disabled facilities: with restricted mobility due to a medical problem, I myself was barely able to negotiate the steep stairwells at times, and saw several other people struggle as well… I dread to think what access would have been like for anyone in a wheelchair.
Those quibbles aside, as I said, Rockingham was well run and ultimately a weekend filled with great craic with good friends and lots of (largely) great music. I’m sure Team PM won’t be the only ones looking forward to it returning for a second year (unless, of course, the rumours about the return of Firefest prove to have any mileage in them…?).
- Photographs by The Dark Queen
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