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Z ROCK 2006
JB's Dudley, West Midlands 24 September 2006
The second Z rock festival of the year was overshadowed by the late withdrawal of headliners Firehouse.
Only an estimated 300 people were present at Dudley's JB's and the atmosphere was flat for most of the day with a crowd down the front only for the last two acts.
Nevertheless £30 for eight acts including some with real pedigree still represented value for money in my book.
Hampered by sound problems, Furyon opened the day: it was hard to believe that this was essentially Pride under a different name as the doom-laden and hook-free musical style was far removed from their old band, owing more to Metallica and Black Label Society and to be frank more suited to a festival such as Bloodstock.
Eden, featuring Kick singer Nick Workman and Bob Catley guitarist Vince O'Regan - with what seemed like a two foot difference in height!- were a curates egg: going for a more adventurous sound, the quality of songs was mixed but the likes of Close Your Eyes and ballad How Far You Are showed potential and the band were impressive.
Dante Foxx were one of the bands of the day with singer Sue Willetts more self-assured than previously and guitarist Tim Manford giving his all despite the paucity of punters at that stage. Their set evenly balanced old material including their trademark cover of Remember with several new songs and the likes of Walking the Line and Firing Guns were nothing less than superb, blending their trademark choruses with a sharper guitar edge which I hope isn't lost on album.
Lost Weekend, heavily showcasing their new album, were as usual workmanlike but uninspired while Snakeryder, with the one remaining visitor from America backed by Yorkshire band Crimes of Passion, peddled a dull brand of metal that would have been dated even in the 1980's.
Bob Catley therefore faced the difficult task of rousing the crowd with an acoustic set, but Magnum's troubadour managed it with his trademark hand waving gestures and reassuringly familiar voice. Backed by Vince O'Regan and Gavin Cooper on acoustic guitars, he ran through songs from each of his five solo albums, plus Days of No Trust, and I was struck how strong the quartet of songs from his latest CD Spirit of Man sounded, stripped of the album's disappointing production.
Toby Jepson got the crowd going more than anyone and he and a hungry band played with great energy. After far too long in the wilderness, he seems to have come to terms with his Little Angels past, with even his trademark curls restored. The set included a number of the Angels songs (Forbidden Fruit, All Roads Lead to You) that slipped under the radar during their dying days, plus some more recent material (including a new song Lucky) that were more in a Cheap Trick/Wildhearts power pop style.
However in a 75 minute set it was the Little Angels hits that most people wanted to hear and he obliged with Kickin up Dust, Don't prey for me, a storming Young Gods and Radical Your lover, before encoring with Too much too young and bringing a crazed dancer from the crowd onstage.
TNT came on far too late for a Sunday night and many people had left, but I noticed a healthy number of diehards still at the front. Since their last trip to the UK, the loss of singer Tony Harnell created a massive void, but Tony Mills did himself credit, looking far more comfortable on stage than when I had seen him with Shy and his soaring voice generally well suited to the material.
The opening few numbers drew heavily on the fine My Religion album, with long-time fans also delighted by As far as the eye can see and Listen to your heart, but after a long solo slot from Ronni Le Tekro (whose very technical guitar style is not to my personal taste) the set seemed to lose momentum badly, before picking up with their best-known song 10,000 Lovers in One, Tony perhaps struggling to match his namesake for once, and Harley Davidson.
First encore Seven Seas (described as a Norwegian folk song) brought back memories of first hearing it nearly 20 years ago, before My Religion and a gloriously melodic Intuition ended a slightly short set.
An announcement was made during the afternoon that House of Lords, Stage Dolls and Kingdom Come were lined up for Z Rock 2007.
Although this was an enjoyable day for those who were there, I think a reality check will be in order when Z count the takings.
Review by Andy Nathan