Tag Archives: Praying Mantis

Live review: Giants of Rock, Minehead 24-27 January 2020

Now into its seventh year the Giants of Rock weekend at Butlins’ Minehead resort has attracted a little bit of scepticism among regulars over the last year or two – namely how many of the acts appearing on the bill these days can really be considered genuine, bona fide rock giants. There’s some truth in this. Contrasting this year’s line-up with that of the first such weekend in 2014 there’s probably far fewer acts that your average not-completely-obsessed ordinary-joe rock fan would be able to instantly recognise by name. However, Butlins in January has become something of a diary fixture in recent years, there were certainly a number of bands that I was still keen to see, the camaraderie among Giants Of Rock regulars (from unofficial bingo to group photos to late night chalet parties) is second to none and my long-time Butlins’ chalet buddy was definitely up for going again.

And so, I found myself on my way to Minehead once again for another year.

My personal highlights of the weekend I can pretty much neatly divide into three main categories:

  • the classic era of classic rock – The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Hawkwind et al
  • the New Wave of British Heavy Metal – Rock Goddess, Praying Mantis et al
  • and the New Wave of Classic Rock – Scarlet Rebels, Hollowstar et al

On the Friday night I finally got to see Arthur Brown perform ‘Fire’ in all its loopily eccentric over-the-top glory – even if Butlins’ health and safety requirements meant we got a sparkly glittery head-dress rather than actual flames. And on the Saturday night we got a magnificent mix of soulful blues and early Whitesnake classics from Bernie Marsden and a rumbling, rhythmic and suitably spaced-out set from Hawkwind. All three bona fide 100% rock giants in my book – no question.

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Something that’s been a bit of a feature of Giants of Rock over the years has been getting a former drummer along from a big-name band performing some form of tribute to his old band. Last year was the turn of Brian Downey (Thin Lizzy) and Chris Slade (AC/DC, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band and pretty much everyone else). Much as I love these guys these tribute-act-with-added-special-ingredient are perhaps stretching the concept of ‘giants’ a tad. This year was the turn of former Judas Priest drummer Les Binks. Unlike Downey’s tenure in Lizzy, Binks was only in the band for a couple of years 1977-79 and only played on two studio albums and the Unleashed In The East celebrated live album. And, quite properly, he doesn’t play any material the band released after he left – which cuts out a fair few Priest classics and many of my own particular favourites (like everything on British Steel, for example). But, boy, do this band know how to make the most of the hand they’ve been given. In Matt Young, Binks has found a front-man with an absolutely awesome voice who does the early Priest legacy proud. Les Binks’ Priesthood massively exceeded my expectations and were a real highlight. Giants? – well maybe not but certainly very fucking good.

On the NWOBHM front, Rock Goddess on the Saturday and Praying Mantis on the Sunday both delivered superb sets. Once again, Butlins’ ever-reliable last minute stand-ins Oliver/Dawson Saxon got a call at the eleventh hour. Given I wanted to enjoy the whole of Arthur Brown’s set it meant I only got to see the last half from Messrs Oliver and Dawson but they are always brilliantly entertaining and I was there for the irrepressible Brian Shaugnessy leading the crowd sing-along to ‘Wheels of Steel’ which is always one of the highlights of any weekend where they play. Unfortunately, I missed Diamond Head this time but given I’d seen them just a few weeks ago supporting Uriah Heep I plumped for Hawkwind on the other stage. Sadly, ex-Mamas Boys’ boy, Pat McManus, was another one I missed but by all accounts his late-night slot was one of the high-points of the weekend.

OD Saxon 2020

Even if the number of actual rock giants have been less conspicuous on the bill in recent years, one of the things that Butlins has achieved is giving a real boost to newer bands and the nascent ‘New Wave Of Classic Rock’ movement. Not only by giving slots for several bands each day on the Introducing Stage but by allowing punters to select three of them to come back on perform on the main stage the subsequent year. Sons of Liberty, and their eccentrically grizzled but thoroughly entertaining take on southern rock, were able to bag a main stage slot on the Friday night whereas the other two winners Hollowstar and Scarlet Rebels (formerly Void) had to content themselves with the 12-1pm ‘hangover slot’ on the Saturday and Sunday respectively. Both of them more pulled than it off as main stage acts, immediately generating rapport with the crowds, a suitably electric atmosphere and equally electrifying performances.

So, the giants quota may have gone down a bit – but in what was my sixth year here I was still seeing classic acts for the very first time, enjoying some familiar old favourites once again not to mention discovering some exciting new bands. Moreover, splitting the bill 50/50 with my chalet buddy, Elise, I ended up paying out what amounted to £44 per day all-in for my accommodation, meals and entertainment. As my late father used to say (a long-time devotee of their Rock & Blues weekends in Skegness) – it’s cheaper being at Butlins than staying at home…

Related reviews:

Giants of Rock 2019

Giants of Rock 2018

Giants of Rock 2017

Rock & Blues weekend, Skegness 2018

Live review: Four Sticks Classic Rock Weekender at the New Cross Inn, London 5-7 October 2018

This review was also published by Get Ready To Rock here

Following a successful all-dayer at the same venue back in March the Four Sticks classic rock event was back for a full weekend this time. With twenty-six bands over three days it showcased the breadth of talent on the NWOCR (New Wave Of Classic Rock) scene as well as featuring a couple of veteran stalwarts from the original New Wave Of British Heavy Metal scene as headliners, Diamond Head and Praying Mantis.

There were just too many quality bands to give a detailed run-down of each one but it’s worth noting that the overall quality was exceptionally high as was the range of styles and influences on display falling under the NWOCR banner.

On the Friday evening power trio Alteration got things off to a fine start and Neuronspolier combined charisma, good songs and great riffs to deliver an entertaining set. If many of the bands flying under the NWOCR look to the NWOBHM scene of the late 70s/early 80s for inspiration Saints Of Sin appear to have stepped straight out of the LA metal scene circa 1987. Big hooks, catchy choruses and bags of attitude they were one of Friday’s highlights for me. The band’s excellent album ‘Welcome To The Circus’ is well worth getting hold of. Reliable as ever and somehow bottling up that spirit of early AC/DC to unleash some raunchy good time rock ‘n’ roll Burnt Out Wreck, who headlined last time, got the crowd brilliantly warmed-up for the main headliners, even finishing with a cover of DC’s Highway To Hell. Diamond Head largely passed me by back in the day but their influence on heavy metal has been phenomenal, inspiring the likes of Metallica and the thrash scene. Finally, I get to see what all the fuss is about as Brian Tatler and co. deliver an awesome set with the crowd going to crazy to classics like ‘Shoot Out The Lights’ and ‘Am I Evil?’

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Saturday delivered lots of new faces on stage for me. Tomorrow Is Lost, a young band from Newcastle formed last year and fronted by female singer, Cass King, were one of the highlights. Great vocals and a real sense of showmanship I snapped up their two recent EPs after their set and they are now a definite addition to my ‘ones to watch’ list. Black Whiskey, another band who were on the bill last time – and the only band of the day who I had encountered several times before, also delivered an impressive set. With a new album due to be officially launched imminently it was good to see them expanding their repertoire with some great new tunes. Belfast’s Baleful Creed, with their brand of hard and heavy blues rock, were another of my favourites from Saturday. All chunky riffs and soulful vocals they instantly transported us away from a packed boozer in south London back to a time and a place where stadium giants ruled the rock world. Big Foot’s melodic-sounding metal then got us all nicely in the mood for Saturday’s headliners, Praying Mantis. With a slew of renowned rock vocalists passing through the band over the years, lead singer John Cuijpers has been gigging with the Troy brothers for several years now and the band has undergone a real creative renaissance with two quality albums picking up excellent reviews. Mantis deliver a supremely polished performance and some great songs, new and old. You just can’t quite believe the strength of the line-up of bands that the promoter has managed to pull together for Four Sticks this weekend.

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Sunday was a packed day with eleven bands appearing. I didn’t get to see them all but, as with Saturday, although there were some unfamiliar faces taking the stage there were also some old friends, too. Hammerjack and New Device, who were both on the bill back in March, returned to deliver impressive sets once again. The absolute stand-out act though, who I will never tire of enthusing about, were the Oxford-based Hell’s Gazelles. As one of the bands on the Introducing Stage at Minehead’s Giants Of Rock weekend in January I’d seen them set the crowd alight, tear the place apart and deliver an absolutely stunning set of hard rocking heavy metal. And the band did exactly the same here. They instantly lifted the atmosphere in the place ten-fold with their on-stage energy. With an incredible vocal range the band’s hyperactive front-man, Cole Bryant, exudes star quality from every pore. And his band-mates, Nath Digman (guitar), Rik Ridemark (bass) and Luke Evans (drums) deliver a phenomenal wall of noise behind him. There really is something very special about this band and with a new EP out ‘Take Your Medicine’ it’s heartening to see the band picking up great reviews and recognition in the likes of Kerrang. This band deserve to be huge!

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I didn’t get to see everything but overall the weekend was a brilliant showcase for some newly emerging rock bands as well as a great chance to see some well-respected veterans of the scene – all for £40 for a weekend ticket. Superb!

Related reviews:

Four Stick Classic Rock All Day March 2018
A renaissance in classic heavy metal: six bands to watch out for