Tag Archives: Giants of Rock

Live Review – Giants of Rock, Minehead 26-29 January 2018

Extracts from this review were also published on Get Ready To Rock here

Another weekend, another Butlins music festival. Giants of Rock at Minehead has become an absolute must in my musical calendar each January now. With three stages, forty-three bands and many, many clashes it’s obvious you can’t see everything – and I don’t even try. Inevitably, I missed some great performances but my general approach at weekends like this is as follows:

– I do like to watch act in full and properly appreciate their performance, from the minute they walk on stage to their final encore, rather than flitting about catching half an hour here and half an hour there.

– I also do like to eat, chill, socialise (and sleep) so I inevitably miss a good few bands – but the ones I do see generally get my full attention.

With those caveats here then are my highlights (and a couple of lowlights) from Giants of Rock 2018:

Friday

Taking a chance on Curved Air I thought they might be an Atomic Rooster-like surprise for me whom I enjoyed at Butlins Skegness so much the previous week. Unfortunately, it was not to be. It took me less than five minutes to realise that Curved Air were really, really not my cup of tea at all. That opened the way, however, for moving on to the Introducing Stage just as all-female foursome JoanovArc were about to start…

Dubbed the ‘new queens of rock’ JoanovArc immediately impressed with an energetic and high-quality performance. Big drums, powerful bass, nice heavy guitar and great vocals, their songs stand up nicely alongside the likes of female hard-rock trailblazers Girlschool, Rock Goddess and Joan Jett. These new queens of rock are definitely worth watching out for.

http://joanovarc.co.uk/

Then it was a return to one of the two main stages to watch former Wishbone Ash man, Martin Turner and his band wow the crowd with their performance of the classic 1972 album, Argus. I’d really enjoyed Andy Powell’s continuing ‘official’ version of Wishbone Ash at Giants of Rock two years ago. But Turner’s interpretation of this early material is just perfection. ‘Time Was’, ‘Blowin’ Free’, ‘The King Will Come’… No-one will ever do these songs better.

https://www.martinturnermusic.com/

Saturday

I was greatly entertained by ex-Argent guitarist John Verity at Giants of Rock two years ago and he was back once more with a lunchtime slot delivering a mix of rock classics, blues standards and material from his recent solo albums as well as, of course, a version of Argent’s irresistible classic ‘Hold Your Head Up’. A great way to start the day’s music.

http://www.johnverity.com/

Stage presence, charisma, good songs, great riffs, quality musicianship. Many upcoming young bands have some of these elements. Few have them all. But Hell’s Gazelles had absolutely everything – in spades. A young four-piece from Oxford, vocalist Cole Bryant has an immense vocal range and proved himself an incredible front-man. Similarly, the young Nath Digman is a great lead guitarist. Amongst very stiff competition Hell’s Gazelles were definitely the stand-out new act of the weekend for me. It’s hard to predict what the music industry or the rock scene is going to be like in twenty year’s time but if Hell’s Gazelles are not up there alongside whatever 2040’s equivalent of Iron Maiden or Judas Priest is by then there’s no justice in the world.

20180127_183213

http://www.hellsgazelles.com/

After bumping into Uriah Heep in the chippy and having a lovely chat with a very affable Mick Box and co, it was soon time to see them up on stage. Playing mainly Byron-era classics: ‘Gypsy’ followed by ‘Look At Yourself’ followed by ‘Sunrise’ followed by ‘Stealin’, they threw in one song from the last studio album (the excellent ‘One Minute’ from 2014’s The Outsider) before going on to 1998’s ‘Between Two Worlds’ then incredible versions of ‘July Morning’ ‘Lady in Black’ and ‘Easy Livin’. Pounding hammond, stunning vocals and Mick Box on guitar having the time of his life, not only did it rank of one of my favourite Giants of Rock performances ever, it’s now up there as one of my favourite performances by anyone, anywhere ever.

20180127_175631

Things were slightly different next door on the other main stage with rumblings from audience members that Hawkwind only got to play for an hour and didn’t have time for any well-known crowd pleasers like ‘Silver Machine’ at the end. But all bands get an hour – to use exactly as they see fit. While Uriah Heep used their allotted hour with devastating efficiency to give us an out-of-this-world-performance of some of their greatest songs ever, Hawkwind chose a different approach. But at the end of the day you only get an hour. It’s Butlins not Stonehenge…

http://www.uriah-heep.com/newa/index.php

From probably the best Giants of Rock performance ever to possibly the worst…

After Uriah Heep I wandered over to the other main stage to watch a bit of ex-Toto singer, Bobby Kimball. Never really a fan of that very polished, very commercial, very shiny American AOR anyway, this was more out of morbid curiosity than anything else. In the week’s building up to his appearance numerous videos circulated on social media showing some shockingly out-of-tune vocals as Kimball murdered numerous Toto hits like ‘Africa’. If Kimball would be able to turn things around and put in a half-decent performance at Butlins it would be one of the big surprises of the festival. If he wasn’t it was going to be one horrific car-crash. Unfortunately, it was the latter. I lasted three songs – just long enough to see him murder ‘Africa’ again, before joining the mass of exodus next door to catch Stray. At least Del Bromham and his band were guaranteed a large crowd. The place was absolutely rammed and Stray put in a blistering set. The second-time I’d seen them in a week, it was a great way to end the second day.

http://www.stray-the-band.co.uk/

Sunday

Killit, who were one of the Introducing Stage winners last year, were on one of the main stages this year starting the day with a lunchtime set. One of the most impressive bands I’ve come across in recent years, they have a knack of coming up with instantly catchy, instantly memorable songs and demonstrate the centrality of great song-writing to truly great classic rock. They are awesome performers, too, with vocalist Gaz Twist a talented front-man with a great voice. I so want this band to do well.

http://www.killitband.com/

My visit to the Introducing Stage on the Sunday was to catch Black Whiskey, who would go on to be that day’s winners and thus will be appearing on the main stage next year. Citing influences like Zeppelin, Free, Purple and UFO, Black Whiskey very much opt for a classic rock sound. Bluesy guitar, soulful vocals and solid rhythm. It’s a timeless, infectious mix and I am definitely happy to see more of them in future.

https://www.facebook.com/BlackWhiskeyUK/

My absolute must-see band for the Sunday night was Slade. It would be the twenty-fifth time I had seen this band since I first saw the original line-up send the crowd at Donington Monsters of Rock absolutely crazy as a 15-year old teenager back in 1981. Noddy Holder and Jim Lea have long gone, of course, but Dave Hill and Don Powell are still flying the flag with a stable line-up of vocalist/guitarist Mal McNulty and vocalist/bass-player John Berry. Anyone expecting a note-for-note musically and vocally perfect copy of the original Slade you’re going to be disappointed. But if you want a crazy, fun-packed, non-stop celebration of some of the greatest songs ever – clapping your hands, stamping your feet, getting your boots off, singing along at the top of your voice, and generally waving your arms about – you’re in for a treat. A brilliantly fun twenty-fifth Slade gig for me – I can’t wait for my twenty-sixth…

20180128_210629

https://www.facebook.com/OfficialSladeBand/

After Slade finished I opted not to stick around for Nazareth having already enjoyed them at Skegness the weekend before. (Read my review here to find out what I thought of Nazareth). Instead, I headed over to the other main stage to watch the AC/DC tribute, Bon, who were performing the Powerage album in full. I’ve nothing against tributes and have enjoyed quite a few of them at my local rock pub back home but generally it’s not what I travel hundreds of miles to Minehead for. However, a great bunch of musicians performing a classic album in full followed by a run-through of all the iconic title tracks from every Bon Scott-era AC/DC album seemed like a great party band and a great way to finish the weekend on a high – and it was.

Hard rock, prog rock, glam rock, space rock, blues rock, contemporary heavy metal… One of the great things about Giants of Rock is that if you are a classic rock fan there really is something for everyone. Another great thing is the strong sense of community amongst those coming together at Minehead to celebrate their shared love of rock. A vibrant and active presence on social media via the Giants of Rock Facebook group (set up by fans for fans completely independently of Butlins) has meant that many close bonds have been made over the four years since the the festival started. It makes for one of the friendliest weekends of this type you can possibly imagine. Roll on Giants of Rock 2019!

You can join the Giants of Rock Minehead Facebook discussion group here 

Related reviews:
Skegness Rock and Blues 2018
Minehead Giants of Rock 2017
Slade at Giants of Rock 2015

Advertisements

Ian Hunter at Giants of Rock, Minehead 31/1/16

Over the course of the Giants of Rock weekend there appears to be an informal game of one-upmanship playing out between the various artists as they recount to the audience the first time they appeared on a Butlins stage: 1976, 1962 and so on…

But no-one beats Ian Hunter’s 1956. At a time when so many of his rock contemporaries are sadly passing away in their late sixties and early seventies, it’s incredible to think that, at 76, not only is Hunter still going strong, still singing and still performing but that he is still a major creative force, writing songs and making albums as consistently original and wonderfully compelling as the ones he made over four decades ago.

I’ve described elsewhere my almost lifelong love affair with the music of Ian Hunter and Mott The Hoople. And while the long-defunct (and somewhat forgotten at the time) Mott The Hoople were not the obvious choice for teenage boys to hit upon as one of their favourite bands in the early 1980s, I was privileged, during the course of the weekend, to bump into a fellow Hunter fan of a similar age with an almost identical story as my own. I felt doubly privileged when he turned up with a couple of spare backstage passes for my friend and I a few hours before the gig, allowing me to meet one of my topmost musical heroes after the show.

And what a show it was. Hunter is not usually one for a lot of on-stage banter. But his ability to connect with an audience through the quality of his song-writing and through the power and resonance of his performances is second to none. The sheer range of emotions that one can experience during the course of a single show is incredible: from the exhilarating, joyful irreverence of All The Way From Memphis to the heartfelt, introspection of Boy to the sardonic political commentary of When I’m President. All, of course, delivered with Hunter’s unique vocal style, accompanied by the superbly accomplished musicians in the Rant band.

In what was undoubtedly the number one highlight of a weekend of many highlights, we get a set that any Ian Hunter fan would be delighted to hear: from songs of the Mott The Hoople years like Honaloochie Boogie, to early solo material like Once Bitten Twice Shy to more recent material like Black Tears from his last studio album. Soon the set is drawing to a close but the band return for an encore of Rest In Peace (particularly moving following the death of Mott drummer Dale Griffin), Roll Away The Stone, Life (the brilliant new Hunter anthem from his most recent album) and, of course, All The Young Dudes. What better way to pay tribute to its writer, David Bowie (whose kindness and support came in the form of gifting the song to Mott The Hoople at a make or break stage in their career) than to bellow along to this at the top of our voices.

Then it’s all over. But, of course, it’s not quite all over as we head backstage to meet Mr Hunter and the rest of the Rant Band. A wonderful, moving moment in my life but all the more memorable for coming at the end of such a wonderful, moving performance. Thank you Ian Hunter for continuing to make such amazing music.

http://ianhunter.com/main/

2016-01-31 21.35.03

2016-01-31 23.33.41

Previous review: Ian Hunter at Shepherd’s Bush Empire

Procol Harum at Giants of Rock, Minehead 30/1/16

At any music festival with multiple stages, as a punter you’re bound to be faced with the odd dilemma about which act to choose when two you really like are on at the same time. But the only clash I really dithered over at Giants of Rock 2016 was between Steve Harley and Procol Harum. In the end we plumped for Procol. I’d seen (and massively enjoyed) Harley at Reading Festival thirty-odd years ago, my two companions had seen neither but in the end we all agreed on Procol Harum. A choice none of us regretted. They were top class.

All the trademark features you would expect from Procol are present: the double keyboards with the delicious interplay between hammond organ and piano, the steady authoritative bass lines, the majestic tunes and, of course, Gary Brooker’s commanding vocals. If some rock vocalists make life hard for themselves by adopting a vocal delivery in their early 20s that gets more and more difficult to pull off as they hit their 70s, then Gary Brooker chose wisely. Brooker’s cool and melancholic vocals are as strong tonight as they were in 1967, when the band first hit the charts with A Whiter Shade of Pale.

While I love the unique sound of Procol Harum I must confess to only ever having owned two albums of theirs: a best-of compilation bringing together many of their late 60s and early 70s classics and the band’s most recent album – 2003’s The Well’s On Fire, which I picked up for the princely sum of £1 at Skegness Butlins two years ago. But I’m pleased to say there’s many songs I recognise tonight from the former, and at least one from the latter.

So after taking us on a stunning journey through the likes of Shine on Brightly, Cerdes (Outside The Gates Of), A Salty Dog and Homburg there was just one song left. They leave the stage. They come back on to thunderous applause. But, oh dear, Brooker can’t remember how it goes! They tease the audience with a snatch of When A Man Loves A Woman and then with a surprisingly brilliant rendition of Bob Marley’s No Woman, No Cry, before finally the band hit on the familiar chords of A Whiter Shade of Pale, one of the most recognisable, most majestic and surely one of the most beautiful songs of the late 60s. A powerful end to a magnificent performance.

Setlist:
Bringing Home the Bacon
Homburg
An Old English Dream
Dead Man’s Dream
Kaleidoscope
Whaling Stories
Pandora’s Box
Nothing But the Truth
All This and More (which wasn’t played: The VIP Room instead)
Cerdes (Outside the Gates of)
A Salty Dog
Conquistador
A Whiter Shade of Pale

http://www.procolharum.co.uk/

2016-01-30 22.07.15.jpg

Graham Bonnet Band at Giants of Rock, Minehead 29/1/16

There is enthusiastic and generous applause for former Rainbow frontman, Graham Bonnet, as he takes the stage for the first night of the Butlins Giants of Rock weekend in Minehead this year. Looking as cool as ever (eschewing, as always, the 70s/80s heavy rock get-up in favour of the 60s spiv look) he launches straight into songs from the classic Down To Earth album he did with Rainbow: Eyes of the World and the unforgettable All Night Long. Later on we get to hear Lost in Hollywood and the inevitable Since You’ve Been Gone, as well as his 80s solo single Night Games. It is an absolute sheer joy to be singing along to those songs with a crowd of equally enthusiastic punters.

Some rock vocalists unwittingly, but nevertheless helpfully, make life easier for themselves by adopting a vocal delivery and a choice of songs they’ll forever be associated with that they can still pull off with ease several decades later. Mr Bonnet has perhaps not made life as easy as possible for himself in this regard. What I did begin to notice, however, was that his voice was much more at ease with the Rainbow material than with the harder-edged and more high-octane Michael Schenker Group and Alcatraz material from slightly later in his career. Those latter songs did appear to be placing more of a strain on his vocal chords.

There’s been mixed reactions to Bonnet’s live performances in recent years. I enjoyed the Butlins show and loved singing along with the crowd. However, if I were advising Graham Bonnet I would probably be urging him to centre his live performances mainly around the polished, commercial rock of Down To Earth (and perhaps his subsequent solo album Line-Up which is very much in a similar vein) rather than trying to represent all stages of his career. Indeed, the previous time I saw Bonnet back in 2014 this is exactly what he did.

Look, Graham, you made one of the most iconic and memorable rock albums of the late 70s. You still deliver those songs well and people definitely want to hear them. Plus you’ve got some great musicians. Let your live shows be a celebration of the wonderful songs on Down To Earth rather than unnecessarily straining your voice on material that it is less equipped to deal with these days.

Still a great night though – I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!

http://www.grahambonnetband.com/

2016-01-29 22.28.00

Previous review: Graham Bonnet at The Garage, Islington

 

Bernie Marsden at Giants of Rock, Minehead 8/2/15

Bernie Marsden and band begin their Sunday night stint at Butlins with a rendition of Jack Bruce’s Sitting On Top of the World, in tribute to the recently departed musician. With some fine guitar work we also get to hear an excellent version of Peter Green’s Oh Well as well as a small taste of music from Marsden’s latest solo album, Shine.

However, this being Giants of Rock it’s fair to say that what pretty much everyone in the audience wants to hear is some classic late 70s/early 80s-era Whitesnake songs from Marsden’s time with the band.  He doesn’t disappoint. Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City, Walking in the Shadow of the Blues,  Fool for Your Loving, Ready and Willing and Here I Go Again are all superbly delivered,  with each becoming a mass sing-along. The sheer pleasure Marsden gains from performing is clear throughout. Abandoning the mic for several of the choruses he appears genuinely moved at the sight of hundreds and hundreds of people enthusiastically singing the words to these songs back at him.

Musically proficient, nostalgic, participatory and, above all, joyful this was a fine choice for the final night of Giants of Rock 2014.

http://www.berniemarsden.co.uk/

10959634_10153102775461449_7159245290857260628_n

Previous review: Bernie Marsden at Jazz Cafe

Slade at Giants of Rock, Minehead 8/2/15

August 22nd 1981. Donington Monsters of Rock festival. My first ever live gig, first ever festival and still (by a mile) my favourite, mainly because of the unbelievable impact that Slade had on the 65,000 strong crowd.

Thirty-odd years and many Slade concerts later I’m in front of the stage at Minehead Butlins to witness yet another Slade performance. As the writers of Merry Xmas Everybody and a slew of other number 1 hits, Noddy Holder and Jim Lea are long gone; enjoying what must be a very comfortable retirement from the music scene. Guitarist, Dave Hill, and drummer, Don Powell, remain though, still belting out the songs their erstwhile band members wrote. These days they are joined by Mal McNulty and John Berry who replace Nod and Jim respectively.

Slade fans are divided about this modern-day version of Slade. While some see it as a welcome venture to keep the songs and music alive, others see it as an undignified travesty which has done nothing but sully the name of a once-great band.

If truth be told the band were starting to get a bit frayed around the edges in recent years. Of the 2012 and 2013 joint Slade/Sweet tours many commented that the former were considerably outshone by the musicianship and professionalism of the latter. However, tonight’s Slade performance is tight, together and fizzing with energy. You can never beat the original Slade and the Holder-Hill-Lea-Powell Slade will always be irreplaceable. Nevertheless, the band before us are on form and whether it’s died-in-the-wool Slade supporters or more generic rock fans there is certainly an enthusiastic audience for this version of Slade tonight.

Opening with a rocking version of Gudbuy T’ Jane the crowd are singing along and buzzing. They’ve freshened up their setlist a bit, too, giving some of the 80s hits a rest and bringing in lesser known 1977 cover My Baby Left Me to the set. Take Me Bak ‘Ome, Coz I Luv You, Far Far Away and Mama Weer All Crazee Now are all there, though, as are Dave Hill’s colourful over-the-top stage antics throughout. He preens, he goofs around, he milks the crowd’s appreciation. But he doesn’t let it detract from giving faithful renditions of the guitar solos familiar to anyone who has the original recordings. Powell’s drumming is as powerful as ever and an intrinsic part of the Slade sound. Vocal duties these days are split between McNulty and Berry, who now takes on lead vocals on some of the slower numbers. McNulty’s range is never going to match Holder’s and there was talk of him vacating the vocalist slot altogether. This new job-share arrangement seems to work, however. One area where no member of the new Slade is ever going to live up to the original, though, is when it comes to the electric violin solo on Coz I Luv You. Berry’s tuneless scratching is something quite different indeed from what we used to hear from the classically-trained Lea, but you have to hand it to him for at least being game enough to try.

It was all over far too soon, sadly, and before we knew it they were brought back for a riotous encore of Cum On Feel The Noize. No Merry Xmas this time of the year, though. (You’ll have to wait til around October before they start playing that again…)

Is Slade still Slade without Noddy? Should Dave and Don still be going out under that name? For me the answer is simple. I carry on going to Slade concerts to experience those great songs in a live setting, to have an evening that is never less than huge fun and, importantly, to show my support to two men who have now worked together for over fifty years. Whether you appreciate what Hill and Powell are doing these days or not, Slade is something they’ve given their lives too.  That’s got to be worth celebrating.

Setlist:

1. Gudbuy T’ Jane
2. Take Me Bak ‘Ome
3. Lock Up Your Daughters
4. Look Wot You Dun
5. Everyday
6. Coz I Luv You
7. Run Runaway
8. Far Far Away
9. My Baby Left Me
10. Mama Weer All Crazee Now
11. Get Down and Get With It/Tutti Fruitti
12. Cum On Feel The Noize

http://www.slade.uk.com/

10806260_10153096844461449_36421252484434414_n

Mick Ralphs Blues Band at Giants Of Rock, Minehead 7/2/15

While I’ve seen veteran Bad Company/Mott the Hoople guitarist Mick Ralphs on stage several times including both Mott reunions as well as guest encores with both Ian Hunter and Paul Rodgers, tonight is the first time I’ve witnessed a full set of the type of music Ralphs is most renowned for.

Ralphs’ physical presence on stage is unassuming and he’s the antithesis of the flash guitar hero but his seemingly effortless guitar playing is pure musical perfection. He’s supported by a strong bunch of seasoned musicians, Jim Maving on second guitar, Dickey Baldwin on bass and Adam Perry, drums.

Adam Barron, who only joined the band in Autumn 2014 takes lead vocals. The youthful Barron, a 2013 contestant on TV series The Voice, looks like he’s stepped straight out of 1975 and his soulful bluesy vocals couldn’t be more suited to Ralphs’ material. It was a real joy to hear the band perform classics like Can’t Get Enough and Feel Like Makin’ Love. But newer material like Should Know Better shows that Ralphs has not lost the knack for writing timeless blues rock classics.

While the big set-piece Bad Company and Mott the Hoople reunions have been eagerly welcomed by fans of both bands it’s nice, too, that Ralphs has also continued to do his own thing.  He does it so well. And with a band who clearly get a kick out of working with him.

http://www.mickralphsbluesband.co.uk/

10947209_10153098670766449_6530016315362816803_n