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ConcertsHard Rock Hell X @ Pwllheli, Wales 10, 11, 12 November 2016

Posted on Monday, November 28 2016 @ 03:56:31 CST by Dean Pedley
Heavy Metal For the past decade Hard Rock Hell has built a stellar reputation of being the very finest indoor festival in Europe. Top quality organisation, a superb atmosphere and a cross –genre mix of bands old and new ensures the metal hordes are prepared to make the pilgrimage to a North Wales holiday camp year after year. For the tenth anniversary there was the usual mix of returning favourites, veterans and up and coming newcomers with Bernie Marsden, Living Colour, SOiL, Graham Bonnet, Last In Line and Molly Hatchet just a handful of the artists on the bill.

Kicking off the tenth anniversary of Hard Rock Hell fell to the capable and talented The Texas Flood from South Wales. Having forged themselves a steady following over the past few years it was great to see this three piece soaking up the atmosphere from the Main Stage crowd. Plain & simple rock done with flair and you can't ask much more than that. With the all-male three piece completing their set it was now the turn of the females with The Amorettes taking to the stage. Having seen these feisty Scottish rockers numerous times, I've been impressed with their steady climb up the ladder. Tonight however sees a couple of technical issues and Gill seemingly struggling with hitting some of her guitar parts early on. There is no doubt these ladies know how to rock and soon warm up as the set continues, standout track 'Let The Neighbours Call the Cops' is certainly anthemic, a few more like that and the girls will have the world at their feet.

A lot has been said about Last In Line in the press recently with Vivian Campbell stating they are a no mere tribute act. Even with their debut album Heavy Crown forging its own legacy it's the legacy of Dio that is celebrated here. Without doubt Andrew Freeman has the pipes to serve justice to the songs sung by Ronnie, when you combine that with the guitar solo's played by the man who recorded the originals you have goosebumps in places you never knew existed. With the crowd singing as loud as the band 'Holy Diver', 'Last In Line' and 'We Rock' were the perfect tribute to the two fallen members Ronnie & Jimmy, a class act. So how do you recover from that classic rock assault on the senses? Well, you hire Hayseed Dixie to close the first evening with their acoustic Hillbilly mashup of AC/DC covers and everything in-between. We got some Journey, Queen, Survivor, Motorhead and they couldn't leave without playing those good old Southern rock Gods Lynyrd Skynryd. It has been many years since I witnessed these boys and they certainly never fail to bring a smile to my face and a glint to my pint pot.

Do you like Clutch? Do you like Clutch with a bit more weight behind it? If your answer is yes to both these questions then you should check out Welcome Back Delta. With a groove heavier than an Elephant on steroids these boys take the second stage by storm, at HRH there's always that one band you discover, tonight it's these guys, thoroughly impressed. First act to catch on Friday are the ever entertaining Chase The Ace, these guys have the energy in spades and the big stage is certainly a place they seem to be at home. Airing a couple of new tracks including 'Run For Your Life' the boys no nonsense brand of Guns 'N Roses meets Michael Monroe is a sure fire crowd pleaser. Having not seen these guys since 2010 in ironically Las Vegas, it's good to see that The Last Vegas are still here rocking their goddamn asses off. These guys should have been huge but today their performance truly showcases what the guys have achieved so far and proves there's a lot more left in the tank. Great set from a great band, let's hope it's not too long until they reach these shores again.

Graham Bonnet has been criticised for some patchy live shows over the past few years but thankfully this was one of his better days. The set started well with 'Eyes of the World' as dramatic as ever then 'All Night Long' kicked in and the crowd could even forgive the dodgy backing vocals. Bonnet dug deep into his past with Alcatrazz and MSG songs also featured along with his big solo hit 'Night Games' and a couple of new tunes from new album The Book. He can't hit the high notes but there is nothing wrong with that at his age and his on stage demeanour was positive which made for an enjoyable set. Joined by his former partner in crime Neil Murray on the bass, Bernie Marsden delivered a masterclass for any budding guitarists in the crowd. Little anecdotes regarding Peter Green, Joe Bonamassa and David Coverdale evidenced Bernie to be an amusing raconteur and 'Fool For Your Loving', 'Here I Go Again' and a raucous 'Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City' gave the Hard Rock Hell choir the opportunity to prove its worth. Bernie's autobiography is due early in 2017 and promises to be an entertaining read; without a doubt this was one of the highlights of the weekend. Forceful young trio SKAM have more than 450 shows behind them in just five years and their revved up rockers and well-honed stagecraft hits the spot.

Long-time absentees from UK shores, HRH was a one-stop trip for Living Colour as they tour mainland Europe with Alter Bridge. A tight, sixty minute set saw Corey Glover in amazing voice and Vernon Reid offering up some jaw-dropping funked up riffs. Throw Doug Wimbush jazzy bass and Will Calhoun's thumping drums into the mix and they could do no wrong. Unsurprisingly leading the crowd in plenty of "Fuck Trump" call and refrains they raised the roof with 'Cult of Personality' before closing with 'Should I Stay or Should I Go' and the promise to be return for a full tour in the near future. In football terms Korey Clarke and Warrior Soul left absolutely nothing on the pitch. Playing to a packed out main stage the space age playboys hit the ground running with 'Shock Um Down' and served up an hour of their curveball punk metal hybrid, bowing out with a blistering 'Fuck The Pigs' that seemed to drain every last drop of energy from both singer and band.

New singer, new energy and plenty of new songs sees The Treatment rip apart the Main Stage to a huge crowd. Whilst new singer Mitch Emms doesn't have the same rasp previous singer Matt Jones had, he certainly has the pipes to hold a note. Making tracks like 'The Doctor' his own it's a seamless transition from old to new. Often berated for their image, my answer is simple, you see a band who look and take on different personalities on stage as to their ordinary lives. This game is all about image and if you can back that up with a performance to match then you've achieved your goal, The Treatment certainly do that tonight. With fast tempo songs that are heavy on energetic riffs they were always guaranteed to blow away any hangovers. Last minute additions to the bill SOiL were essentially headliners appearing in the early afternoon slot. Ryan McCombs seemed surprised to see so many people had got out of bed so early and the crowd were rewarded with a pulsating hour or so that saw the band tackle deep cuts such as 'Amalgamation'. McCombs ventured into the crowd for a rowdy run through signature song 'Halo' and a cover of 'Black Betty' ended another remarkable performance on the main stage.

Neville McDonald has had a varied career and here he continues that with Hand Of Dimes. Still possessing that awesome voice that gave him so much success in Skin, it's great to hear Nev belting out the laid back blues rock that sees Welsh flags and a plethora of Skin t-shirts in the crowd. It's rock, its blues and so damn soulful, the perfect afternoon treat. Red Spektor are causing quite a buzz lately, this three piece certainly have the chops and groove of a band who deserve to be huge. Their short but sweet set was a thick wall of guitar, well suited to the numerous hangovers walking around the venue. The Aussie invasion continued with Cherry Grind's 70's influenced riff fest over on the main stage. These young guys have a sound far more mature for their years and it's great to find a band from Australia who don't sound like AC/DC!

Tequila Mockingbyrd have been hammering the tarmac around the UK for a few months now, like Motorhead with boobs these feisty Aussie three piece are certainly gathering momentum. A no nonsense all out Rock 'N Roll assault ensures the people who came to check them out certainly left knowing who they are. Now based here in the UK they have a lot of gigs ahead of them and the hard miles they are putting in now will surely be rewarded in time.

Former Heavens Basement frontman Aaron Buchanan was debuting his new outfit The Cult Classics to the Hard Rock Hell audience who repaid his enthusiasm in spades. Mixing the set with some of his former bands tracks and new songs from his soon to be released debut album, Aaron gave it his all. This was a performance where the band poured everything into it and you could tell, Aaron's heart was well and truly on that stage, a frontman who's energy and ability makes him one of the best in the UK today. Dorje just simply blew me away! A dash of tech metal blended with huge anthems, not what I was expecting but man, these guys were so tight, great set.

Ricky Warwick & The Fighting Hearts finds the Black Star Riders / Thin Lizzy / Almighty frontman taking time away from the day job to put together this hard-edged new band. Steamrollering their way through a high octane set Warwick has gone back to his roots for 'The Road to Damascus Street' and 'The Arms of Belfast Town' and they delighted the crowd by concluding with a smouldering 'Jailbreak'. Kicking off with a couple of barn burners in 'Whiskey Man' and 'Bounty Hunter' Molly Hatchet immediately hit the spot, Phil McCormack's whiskey soaked growl and larger than life stage presence dovetailing with the sizzling guitar of Bobby Ingram which continued with a fiery rendition of 'Gator Country'. Still proudly waving the flag for kick-ass Southern Rock after going on four decades they closed out the weekend with 'Flirtin' with Disaster'.

Hard Rock Hell X delivered yet another top drawer festival experience and the brand continues to grow with various spin offs already scheduled for the first few months of 2017. Don't be surprised to see HRH celebrate another milestone a decade from now.

Words – Dean Pedley & Mark Davies
Images – Mark Davies
Thanks as always to Claire Lloyd.

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