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ConcertsHRH AOR 3 @ Pwllheli, North Wales 03/13 & 03/14 2015

Posted on Sunday, March 29 2015 @ 06:54:51 CDT by Dean Pedley
Heavy Metal Hard Rock Hell, the leading indoor festival operation across Europe, returned to the North Welsh coastal destination of Pwllheli for the annual celebration of all things melodic with AOR 3. For 2015 the organisers had left no stone unturned to secure a headline appearance from Night Ranger, a band who had never previously ventured north of London over the course of their thirty-five year career. Also appearing over the weekend were up and coming names such as Night By Night alongside veterans FM and Starz.

There's no denying Hardcore Superstar's popularity over on these shores and the packed out room is testament to that. With their bounding energy and sheer stage presents you cannot be captivated by them, a great high octane set.Bands travelled far and wide to make the journey to North Wales but none could compare with the distance covered by Australia's White Widdow. New album Crossfire has received plenty of plaudits and they delight the crowd with their keyboard driven hard rock that certainly packs a punch. A strong and consistent vocal performance ensured their melodies rang out loud and clear and although they missed the chance to wind up the crowd about England's dismal performance in the cricket World Cup this was a winning display from start to finish.

A young band that has created a stir in melodic rock circles over the past couple of years are Night By Night and their set was eagerly anticipated to say the least. Last minute line-up shuffles are never the ideal preparation but deputising vocalist Daniel Leigh did a more than credible job and this was a seamless performance of their good-natured blend of classic and contemporary rock that climaxed with a stirring cover of 'Love in an Elevator'. Hopefully things can settle down for NxN and they can go on to realise their undoubted potential. Vega raise the temperature and very nearly the roof with their set - the five-piece have lots of admirers in the crowd and they were one of the stand-out highlights of the festival. Nick Workman led the band through soaring anthems including 'All or Nothing' and 'White Knuckle Ride'.

Houston are one of a number of Swedish bands on the bill and their bright and breezy 80's inspired pop rockers go over well during their late afternoon slot when sadly the crowd has thinned out noticeably. There are no such problems for their fellow countrymen Eclipse who pack out the arena and give a performance that confirms their standing as one of the hottest bands around. Very much at the heavier end of the spectrum this is a set that oozes confidence and class and in guiding light Erik Mårtensson they have a stellar frontman. If they had been around in the 80's then Eclipse would surely have been enjoying platinum level success.

Over on the HRH Sleaze Stage Falling Red are delivering the goods to an appreciative crowd, their harder edged sound is going down well. The Wild Lies are simply fantastic! With hooks & melodies aplenty the guys get the balance between the Hard & the Rock perfectly certainly ones to watch. Sahg over on the Stoner Stage are mighty impressive. Even more so when I'm informed none of their instruments arrived in the country so they rely on the charity of the other bands on the bill. A truly spellbinding set they, finish off with a Thin Lizzy cover which gets the nod of approval from the attentive crowd.

Dani Filth is never far from controversy and while his other project Devilment are ripping up the Hammerfest stage you cannot help but think he should just let the music do the talking. His onstage banter and 'witty' comments sometimes provoke you to dislike the band but put that aside Devilment play a solid eight song set.Newly reunited Raging Speedhorn thunder onto the stage and just destroy all in its path. New track 'Halfway To Hell' is simply stunning, with the power and force of a full on sludge metal attack it's great to see 'The Horn' back doing what they do best!

Late 80's rockers Romeo's Daughter reformed in 2009 after a lengthy hiatus and have been welcomed back with open arms. One of the few female performers of the event vocalist Leigh Matty is in fine voice and with a new album – Spin - due for imminent release they are in good shape. A decade on since they formed, Sweden's The Poodles are up to the task of keeping heads nodding and fists pumping for an hour or so with their glam-tinged rock and roll. Playing their set with an infectious cheery disposition ensures they have no problems in winning over the crowd and every great festival needs a band like The Poodles who simply get everyone smiling.

Starz seemed somewhat out of place after the magnificent set by The Poodles it was always going to be a hard act to follow. Raising their handkerchief sized backdrop it all just came over slightly Spinal Tap. There is a generally under-cooked feel to their set which in turn is rewarded with an indifferent response. A lot of attendees had been looking forward to catching the New Jersey veterans but this wasn't their day. FM on the other hand are a well-oiled melodic rock machine that knows exactly what is required to delight a festival crowd. Second time around they seem to be having more fun than ever and sing-a-long rockers 'Tough it Out', 'That Girl' and 'Bad Luck' are welcomed like long lost friends. There was a lot of love in the room for FM and it was easy to see why.

And so to Night Ranger, a band who have rarely graced these shores with their presence over the past thirty odd years. Jack Blades spoke of a five year plan to get them over here more often and hopefully he will take inspiration from the sheer adulation that their near two-hour set received. Kicking off with the hard hitting 'Touch of Madness' guitarists Brad Gillis and Keri Kelli were immediately trading licks and Blades commanded the centre stage. When Kelly Keagy left his drum stool we knew it would be for something special and as Eric Levy duly played the intro to 'Sentimental Street' it provided the hairs on the back of neck moment of the weekend. With a tip of the hat to Damn Yankees ('Coming of Age' and 'High Enough') many in the crowd were hearing these songs live for the very first time and the crowd reaction got louder and stronger as the show went on. A couple of covers by way of 'Crazy Train' and 'School's Out' recognised Gillis and Kelli's tenures with Ozzy and Alice Cooper respectively before it was Keagy's turn at the mic again with the poignant 'Goodbye'. It was not quite all about nostalgia as the title track from 2014's High Road is another classic NR track from a rock solid album. A scorching 'Don't Tell Me You Love Me' with duelling guitars closed the main set which left them with two classics still to play. Power ballad 'Sister Christian' has outlasted the passing of time and the anthem for all ages was played and sung to perfection and pretty much brought the house down. 'You Can Still Rock In America' closed the show and as Night Ranger will have witnessed they still rock pretty hard in Wales – this was a triumphant set from the headliners that provided dozens of 40-something rockers with a bucket list moment.

HRH AOR 3 had a little bit for every fan of the genre with a good mix of old and new and enough variety in the line-up to ensure it never felt predictable. With the likes of Vega and Eclipse it is great to see the scene thriving and in good health in 2015 and old hands FM and Night Ranger get better with age. AOR 4 has already been confirmed for March 2016 with tickets and other information to be found over at https://www.hrhaor.com/

Words by Dean Pedley and Mark Davies.
Images by Mark Davies.
Thanks as always to Claire and all of the HRH team.



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