The Classic Rock community got the opportunity to pay their last respects to the late Ronnie James Dio at the inaugural High Voltage Festival with Glenn Hughes and Jorn Lande joining the remaining members of Heaven and Hell for a one-time performance.
Across a seventy minute set the pair traded vocal duties with Lande first on stage for "The Mob Rules" and "I" before Hughes took over for "Country Girl" and the poignant "Children of the Sea". With his tribute album to RJD fresh on the shelves it was Lande who sounded the closest to Dio but it was Hughes more flamboyant style and delivery which took the performance to another level. Emotions were for the most part kept in check with Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Vinnie Appice keeping a mask of concentration but even the normally stoic Butler was seen to be moved when Wendy Dio took the stage to huge applause and addressed the crowd for a brief couple of minutes. The set spanned Dio's Sabbath career taking in "Bible Black" from the excellent The Devil You Know and going right back to "Die Young" and the closing "Heaven and Hell" where both singers traded lines. The encore provided a bizarre moment as Phil Anselmo stormed the stage to bellow out a few lines of "Neon Knights" and from the reactions of those around him this was clearly an unplanned appearance. All too soon it was over and we were left with images of Ronnie on the side-stage video screens. SoT observed a couple of Hughes post-show media interviews and those of you across the Atlantic, and particularly in LA, should keep your schedule clear for March 2011 as something is evidently in the planning stages.
Whilst Heaven and Hell provided the star draw the whole weekend was a feast of Rock, Prog and Metal with three specialist stages that provided something for everyone. This audience demographic is largely ignored by other UK outdoor festivals and early indications suggest High Voltage will become an annual event and begin to build its own legacy that can rival some of the alternatives. Stars of the Prog stage on Day One were undoubtedly SoT favourites BigElf who have been warmly welcomed in the UK since first coming over here to promote Cheat the Gallows. Damon Fox held centre stage and led the band through "The Evils of Rock n Roll", "Blackball" and "Money, It's Pure Evil" aswell as going deeper into the back catalogue for the pulsating "Hydra". Back on the Main Stage Gary Moore had promised a Hard Rocking set that turned out to be a limp run through of the likes of "Out In The Fields" and "Walking By Myself" delivered without any spark or passion....and to think SoT chose to skip Dweezil Zappa to watch this travesty.
Fortunately Foreigner pushed the Main Stage into overdrive with sixty minutes of their Greatest Hits from "Head Games" and "Double Vision" to "Cold As Ice" and "I Want To Know What Love Is" (complete with children's choir). Jeff Pilson gave a commanding display and Mick Jones sported the widest grin of the weekend – rightly so as their set was a triumph. With Transatlantic clashing with the not to be missed Heaven and Hell, SoT can only report that they wheeled out Steve Hackett for "Return of the Giant Hogweed" but stage clashes are a feature of festivals the world over and with the depth of the bill here such occurrences were inevitable.
ZZ Top closed the Main Stage with, in the words of Billy Gibbons, "the same three guys...the same three chords" and you can't say much more than that. The mid set tribute to Hendrix which saw them trawl through "Hey Joe" seemed somewhat out of place after the H&H set and it wasn't until the Eliminator trio of "Gimme All Your Lovin", "Sharp Dressed Man" and "Legs" that the crowd really came to life.
Day Two was kicked off on the Prog Stage by The Reasoning whose followers headed down the front and unleashed Pumpkin balloons into the crowd. This is a band who are really starting to build some momentum and Rachel Cohen (despite the Lily Allen shorts) was in fine form telling everyone several times that "We're not Clutch!" in a reference to an apparent misprint in the Official Programme. The Quireboys opened the Main Stage and their good time, Faces-inspired party rock was just what SoT was in need of to get the day moving and they soon got the crowd on side as Spike led them through "Hey You", "7 o Clock" and (dedicated to Alex "Hurricane" Higgins) "I Don't Love You Anymore".
UFO had to follow them and it almost fell apart after the opening "Savin' Me" when Vinnie Moore's guitar gave up for at least five minutes. Mogg told a few jokes and shrugged off the delay as they gave a stunning sixty minutes that included perennial favourites "Only You Can Rock Me", "Lights Out" and "Doctor Doctor".
Back on the Prog stage Magnum proved they are not resting on their laurels by including five numbers from their last three studio albums including "Brand New Morning" and "The Moonking". But with Rodney Matthews watching on in the crowd they couldn't ignore On A Storyteller's Night and an exquisite "Les Morts Dansent" and punchy "All England's Eyes" went down a storm before the rousing "Kingdom of Madness" rounded off another quality display from Messrs Clarkin, Catley, Stanway, Barrow and James.
But for Uriah Heep High Voltage was all about nostalgia as they kicked off with "The Wizard" and went on to play all of 1972's Demons and Wizards album in its entirety, former Whitesnake man Micky Moody making a cameo appearance with his slide guitar on three numbers. After Joe Elliot's side project Down N Outz had plundered the Mott The Hoople back catalogue (and persuaded Ian Hunter to join in) it was left to Emerson, Lake and Palmer to close the Festival, and with SoT unable to witness their display first hand you will need to look elsewhere although it's fair to say reports so far have been mixed.
Overall High Voltage provided some entertaining sets and a great mix of bands and artists combined with first class organisation and facilities. Speculation has already begun about next year's headliners and this is an event that seems destined to be around for a good few years.
Thanks to Ian Harvey for providing some excellent photos – check out http://www.rocktasticpix.com/