Now held at a place called
Penningtons in Bradford, the venue is more commonly used as a nightclub. It has a big stage,
good sound and lights, a big standing area but with plenty of bars and sitting
areas to mingle. There's also a bean bag area to slouch in when it all gets too
much (and the toilets even have a pond with goldfish and a fountain!)
Initially, a strictly AOR/Hard Rock
event, the past few years have seen a few heavier acts added to the bill. Jorn
Lande (ARK/Millennium/Masterplan) blew the roof off two years ago.
This year's line-up featured 16 bands
from seven different countries. The Saturday was a slightly more laidback
affair, featuring Ex-Thin Lizzy Darren Wharton's band Dare, the
AOR of Raine, Urban Tale and Lost Weekend and
rockers Pride. American
rock legend Stan Bush however was far and away the pick of the bunch.
Worthy of a mention too were Swedish
progressive AOR rockers Grand Illusion who reminded me in many places of
Yes and Styx . I grabbed a copy of their current album View From The Top
which has so far proved to be a good choice.
However, it was the Sunday that had a
far heavier appeal and in particular, the long-awaited debut
performance by Royal
Hunt. Why it has taken ten years for one of the world's top ProgMetallers
to get to the birthplace of metal is beyond me.
Before them the picks of the day were
who in a short 40-minute set of Dokken/Y&T type tunes probably did
enough to justify the Surprise of the Weekend Award.
Evidence Onefrom Germany
, was only ever meant to
be a studio band but such has been the interest in their debut album that they
have decided to go for the Full Monty. They look a bit like Pantera but
play melodic heavy metal with a few trash and progressive leanings and would be
worth a further look.
Other highlights were the
ever-underrated Danny Vaughn (ex-Tyketto) who did a superb acoustic set but then was
joined by a full band for full-on versions of the classic Tyketto tunes Forever
Young and Strength in Numbers. The place was smokin .
Even better were the headliners Talisman
who played pretty much a Best of.. set with a few numbers off their new Cats
and Dogs album. Vocalist Jeff Scot Soto is an amazing live
performer, easily winning Frontman of the Festival Award for the second year
However it was Royal Hunt that
was the main attraction for me and as their set approached it was obvious from
the sudden increase in Stratovarius, Angra and Vanden Plas
t-shirts, that a lot of other people had come mainly for their show.
I had to travel to Paris to see them last year,
although the main attraction was that they were due to be supporting
VandenPlas. However the Germans had to pull out at the last minute following
the death of Andy Kuntz's father and Royal Hunt ended up headlining. It may
have been the disappointment and sadness of missing the headliners but although
enjoyable, Andersen and co were a bit hit and miss then.
Tonight - it may have been that I was
well up for a bit of quality metal - but it was almost like a different band.
Clocking in at just 75 minutes – it was a pretty intensive session. However the
11 tracks offered were a fair attempt at putting together a best of..
collection for a virgin audience. There was a track from each of the first
three albums, two each from Fear and Paradox and five from their
last album released in 2001.
Opening up with The Mission
was a smart move. With its strong melodic hook it's a song often stated by fans
as an all-time favourite. From the same album we had Surrender and Clean
Sweep which kept up the momentum beautifully, before the band took us right
back to the beginning with Wasted Time from Land of Broken Hearts
Since the departure of DC Cooper four years ago,
the line-up of vocalist John West and keyboard supremo Andre Andersen, plus
guitar wizard Jacob Kjaer and Steen Mogensen on bass and has been solid.
Tonight there was a welcome return by Alan Sorenson behind the drum kit –
although it remains unclear as to whether it is a permanent return.
The one thing that really stood out
for me this time was how good a singer West really is. No high-pitched wailer
(although he can certainly hit the notes when he wants to!) his voiced has
developed with a heavy dose of soul and R'n'B. It brings a soft edge to his
voice that is even more noticeable in a live setting and with Andersen s
distinctive keys, it gives the band a very distinctive sound.
Another thing is that on stage Royal
Hunt look good. Everyone has plenty of movement, shape shifting and interaction
with the crowd – using the stage to the full. A good band to watch.
There's plenty of top notch
progressive twists and turns but it never dominates the songs or becomes
overtly self-indulgent. There was a brief solo spot from Kjaer, reminding me
again what an often over-looked guitarist he is. I was standing at the front
but on the side of the stage for part of show. At one point he strode out and
ran though a blistering solo – his fingers speeding up and down the fretboard
literally inches from my face. Worth the admission price alone!
The set also included one track from
the forthcoming Eyewitness opus. Now, normally when a band plays a track
that no-one has ever heard before, the levels of crowd movement and noise dip
noticeably – a good time to get a drink or go to the toilet. Not tonight. Edge
of the World is one of at least four tracks on the new album that rate as
some of the best songs the band has ever written. Played live, it was even
heavier, more intense and sublimely melodic than on the album. If anything, it
got one of the biggest cheers of the set.
The set closed with Cold City
Nights - a song that nicely summed up the band's performance. Full of
movement onstage, some blistering power and technical musicianship but all very
accessible thanks to the fact that all their songs are based around the melody.
I m coming to the conclusion that it
may have taken a couple of albums and tours for the current line-up to really
click together. But on the evidence of this performance and also the new album
(reviewed elsewhere) I think Royal Hunt may be about to achieve its crowning
glory. There will be a full European tour in the Autumn – if you get the chance
– go see them. Let's just hope we don't have to wait another decade for them to
play again in the UK.
May 25th 2003
The Gods Festival, Penningtons, Bradford, UK
If you ve never come across it
before, The Gods is probably Europe's leading Melodic Hard Rock/AOR Festival. Organised by the
British-based Now and Then label, it is now in its tenth year, having
previously played host to the likes of Harem Scarem, Honeymoon Suite,
Hardline, Two Fires, Ted Poley, Kip Winger, Ten and Tyketto.
River of Pain
Days of No Trust
Message to God Flight
Cold City Nights
All photos by Andy Read for DPRP © 2003.