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Victoria Park, London July 24-25 2010
Photo Gallery (July 25) by Lee
Day 1 Photo Gallery/Review
this year's much-awaited events and billed as "custom built by rock
fans, for rock fans"
it for GRTR!?
reviewers Jim Rowland and Andy Nathan give their definitive
verdict on Day 2...
first day of the inaugural High Voltage festival having received a
universal thumbs up from the punters, thanks to the glorious sunshine
and fantastic music on offer, would Sunday match up and send us all home
satisfied? With the sun turning up for a second day, things were looking
never count myself a progger, and yet most of my preferred action on the
Sunday was at the undersized prog stage, beginning with MARTIN
TURNER'S WISHBONE ASH
battles over whether he or Andy Powell are the real keepers of the
Wishbone light were laid to one side as MTWA played the whole of the
all-time classic 'Argus', a concept in danger of over use but the
perfect choice for a festival rather than a gig for diehards like me.
His band did
full justice to the classics from 'Time Was' through to 'Throw Down the
Sword' - indeed Ray Hatfield won a huge round of applause after his
immaculate closing solo to 'Sometime World', and Danny Willson's wah wah
infused solo to 'The King Will Come' was equally impressive (as a
‘comedian' I was less impressed with him though).
which Martin has ensured his outfit do not take things too seriously,
quipping that 'Leaf and Stream' was this time accompanied by a thrash
metal backing as the sound wafted over from the next stage, and slipping
a touch of Monty Python's Lumberjack song into 'The Warrior'.
The big draw
for me was the promise of original Wishbone member Ted Turner and I was
a bit disappointed he arrived relatively late, to add his trademark lap
steel to a slightly chaotic but well-received 'Blowin Free'.
looking younger than when he recorded it over 20 years ago, he sang 'Why
Don't We' and produced a marvellously fluid extended solo to remind us
Wishbone-ites what we have missed before leading a singalong during
'Jailbait' to end a well received set.
One of the
major successes of the inaugural High Voltage Festival this year was the
Prog Stage. Apart from being the best looking stage, it played host to
many performances that audience members cited as amongst their
favourites of the whole weekend.
The names of
Focus, Argent, Asia and Transatlantic cropped up time and time again as
people feverishly swapped battle stories of the weekend.
One of my
personal favourite performances of the weekend was Steve Hackett's
all too brief 40 minute set in the blazing sun on Sunday afternoon. With
a stage dedicated to Progressive Rock at a major festival, and with ELP
reforming at the end of the day, it was appropriate to have one of the
godfathers of Progressive Rock perform, and here he was.
With a repertoire as large as Steve Hackett now has, it must have been
very difficult to narrow that down to a 40 minute set, but the band
whittled it down to just five songs that fitted the occasion perfectly.
a song familiar to most from the 'Spectral Mornings' album, kicks the
set off in fine style. The sound is crisp and loud, and the band in
great form. Next up is 'Fire On The Moon', the outstanding track from
the latest album 'Out Of The Tunnel's Mouth', a powerful light and shade
track every bit as good as anything from the Hackett's back catalogue.
another classic with 'Ace Of Wands' from the first solo album, an
instrumental featuring some fantastic bass work from Nick Beggs.
gives the audience another taste of the 'Tunnel's Mouth' album, and
those less familiar with the recent stuff were not disappointed.
explosive and quite brilliant version of the Genesis classic 'Los Endos'
brings the set to a close to an extremely warm reception from the crowd.
Forty minutes well spent, and a major contribution to the success of the
Prog Stage at the festival over the entire weekend.
in conversation with a friend, that despite seeing them every tour this
was the first time I'd seen MAGNUM at a festival since 1987!
on their recent albums, with a trio from latest offering 'Valley of the
Moon King' - and while undoubtedly proud of them, it was a brave, even
foolhardy, move to buck festival convention and not focus on their best
Dansants' had Bob Catley conducting his trademark hand waving, while
'All England's Eyes' with its pomptastic keyboards, and the marvellously
olde-worlde 'Kingdom of Madness' were an all too short finale.
HEEP gave their fans something different from the norm with a
rendition of their classic Demons and Wizards album - also from 1972 -
was that classic rock's creative peak?
several changes with 'The Wizard', with Mick Box strumming his acoustic,
opening the set, and usual set closer 'Easy Livin' placed third, in
between 'Traveller in Time' and 'Poets Justice', with the trademark Heep
heavy Hammond organ sound.
Demon' was a delight to hear, but unexpectedly stepping off the sub's
bench to win my man of the match was Micky Moody whose trademark slide
guitar added a totally new dimension to 'Circle of Hands', 'All My Life'
and the multi-faceted epic 'Paradise/The Spell'.
into my gigging career, there aren't many bands I've yet to see (yes,
fellow GRTR! scribe Mr Taylor, I know Led Zeppelin are one!), but you
would need to be from a previous generation to have seen ARGENT
before, as the festival persuaded them to play their first gig together
in 37 years.
opening with a sprawling 'Its Only Money', 'Keep on Rollin' was a
showcase both for Rod Argent to sing and tinkle the ivories (from a huge
bank of keyboards and towering over the rest of the band), and 'Liar'
demonstrated Russ Ballard's songwriting abilities, but in both cases
just as impressive was the interplay between the whole band and their
subtle, sometimes almost jazzy, ensemble playing.
The set also
dipped into the members' back catalogues with Rod singing the Zombies No
1 'She's Not There', and Russ delivering a refreshingly rocky version of
'Since You Been Gone', which has made him a cool fortune over the years.
they finished with 'Hold Your Head Up', with those great vocal harmonies
and Rod's trademark Hammond, and for the second time in two months I was
part of a crowd swaying along to 'God Gave Rock n Roll to You', only
this time - as Rod was quick to point out - to a song that Argent
I could not help but admire the way Argent and Ballard, just like the
bouffantly coiffed Turners from Wishbone, still have such luxuriant
heads of hair well into their sixties! Leaving that aside, they were a
delight to watch and I hope this means a further tour.
Drewe Shimon reports
onstage late due to technical difficulties, some of which continued into
the performance, might have inspired an insipid performance in some
bands, but not in Marillion. The tension only served - from the
opening thuds and rattles of 15-minute opener 'The Invisible Man'
- to highlight the dormant aggression implicit in their otherwise
reflective, ambient alt-prog, particularly in bassist Pete Trewavas who
thrashed at his instrument like a schoolmaster punishing an errant
Hogarth looked the most cheerful of the troupe, unable to contain his
penchant for leaping, flailing and fluttering every time the tempo
switched into first gear, as on their most blatantly commercial offering
'Cover My Eyes' and, bloody hell, 'Slainte Mtath' (the first Fish-era
cut I've seen them perform live since about 1997) but even he seemed
like a man with a point to prove.
surprising really, when you consider that this was the band's first
high-profile appearance at a British festival since headlining Cumbria
Rocks 1991, and they'd be damned if they were going to let anyone - or
anything - take it from them.
Strange Engine' and 'Afraid Of Sunlight' all rumbled and rippled like
slow, angry oceans, not so much rock behemoths but statements of intent
from wise old professors whose proclamations fell for aeons on deaf ears
until belated acknowledgement proved them right.
- probably their defining late-career moment - united the audience,
comprised of young converts from heavier tastes as well as the usual
Marilliheads who were there to see them and only them, under Hackney
Wick's fading twilight embers, and provided a perfect swansong to the
prog stage's many highlights, its echoes lingering as many of us
(unfortunately) were forced to turn our backs and head to the main arena
for ELP, only to find they were on about 20 minutes late and we probably
could have stayed after all. Bugger.
Quireboys are the kind of band you would want to kick start a party,
and this they did. It's only lunchtime, but Spike sounds like he's had a
few too many already.
time rock'n'roll goes down well with the early risers and the first few
beers of the day seem to be going down a treat.
dedicates a song to Alex Hurricane Higgins, who passed away the previous
day, and rockers such as 'Tramps And Thieves' and 'Hey You' get the
crowd raising a toast. Even original guitarist Guy Bailey joins in the
party for the final fling of '7 O'clock'. A good start to the main stage
Meanwhile on the Metal Hammer stage, young Powerage signings Lethargy
and Norway's Audrey Horne are finding things a bit tougher going
as they toil away to a pretty sparse crowd, which appeared to be a bit
of a problem for this stage during the first half of both days.
taking nothing away from the bands themselves though. Lethargy's 70's
flavoured stoner sound goes down well with those in attendance. They are
tight, together, have some good songs and are laying down some solid
foundations for better things to come.
Considering Audrey Horne have close connections with more aggressive
bands such as Enslaved, their post-grunge sound is surprisingly melodic
yet still packs a punch, as tracks like 'Down Like Suicide' and 'Blaze
Of Ashes' reveal.
A quick rush
to the main stage ensued for one of my other all-time favourites, UFO,
but disaster struck when after 'Savin Me', Vinny Moore's guitar packed
given that his drunken patter usually annoys me at UFO gigs, Phil Mogg
saved the day with his laconic but cutting ad libs for a good five
minutes before power was restored with a trio of classics in 'Only You
Can Rock Me', 'Lights Out' and 'Love to Love'.
reasonably enjoyable newie in 'Hell Driver', Phil wryly said he had
ignored festival etiquette and should play the ‘hits' so the epic 'Rock
Bottom' and 'Doctor Doctor', with pockets of air guitar-ing breaking
out, ended a frustratingly short set.
He was on
decent vocal form and Vinny Moore is a technically skilled, if at times
soulless, guitarist, but while some bands improve with age, I'm afraid
for me UFO are stuck in a bit of a rut despite a back catalogue to rank
with any band all weekend.
On the main
stage, Bachman Turner prove to be one of the surprise hits of the
day, keeping the party going from where The Quireboys and UFO kicked
tracks like 'Takin Care Of Business' mix seamlessly with new
barnstormers like Rollin Along, from the forthcoming new album, and go
down a storm with youngsters and oldies alike.
simple, well crafted good rocking music, perfect for an event like this.
Apparently, this was the first time Randy Bachman and Fred Turner have
appeared in this country together since 1976, and although they're no
spring chickens they still know how win a crowd over.
inevitably finishes with their most famous track, a storming 'You Aint
Seen Nothin' Yet', giving everyone a chance to dig out their best Smashy
and Nicey impressions - Let's Rock! They certainly did.
Over on the Metal Hammer stage, the appearance of Clutch finally
pulls a decent sized crowd together. Clutch are an extremely highly
respected and talented band who's reputation has been enhanced by their
last two albums, particularly 2007's 'From Beale Street To Oblivion'.
infectious, funky grooves , and classy rock riffs bring this stage to
life. Neil Fallon is a great frontman, combining a great voice with an
attitude to match, and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster gives any drummer here
this weekend a run for their money, Carl Palmer included.
Player', 'Mice & Gods' and 'Profits Of Doom' get the place rocking
before Opeth's keyboard wizard Per Wiberg joins the band on stage for
the last three tracks, the highlight of which is the classic twisted
blues rocker, 'Electric Worry', fast becoming the band's anthem.
Just as some
of the older bands on the main stage are picking up new younger
admirers, this is a band that appeals to a younger audience that could
just have picked up a few new older admirers today.
Joe Bonamassa, on the main stage, doesn't mess about as he kicks
straight into one of his strongest songs, 'The Ballad Of John Henry'.
His classy blues goes down a treat with the crowd, and there is no
doubting the quality of his performance. A great guitar player, this
man is a blues hero for a new generation. Finishing with a corking
run though Zep's 'Dazed and Confused', he can only have enhanced his
growing reputation today.
As the sun gives up for the day, the skies darken appropriately for the
appearance of Stockholm's death metal proggers Opeth, themselves
a band with a fearsome reputation.
technical hitches delay the start of the set, reducing their set time to
just under the hour allocated. Time for five songs then - yes their
songs are quite lengthy.
features one track from each of the last five albums, kicking off in
gentle style with the quite beautiful and very prog-flavoured
'Windowpane' from the 'Damnation' album. 'Ghost Reveries' epic 'Grand
Conjuration' and 'Blackwater Park''s 'The Drapery Falls' twist and turn
between lightness and darkness.
the latest album, and in my opinion quite possibly the best so far, is
represented by 'The Lotus Eater', and the band finish on a high with
serious and dark nature of the music, frontman Michael Akerfeldt still
finds time for a few jokes to lighten the mood between songs,
introducing the band as ‘We are Poison from Los Angeles, and here's one
from our album Look What the Cat Dragged In!'
is quite unique, and it is fair to call them a progressive rock band
in a new era. Frontman Michael Akerfeldt's vocals, alternating from
a quite beautiful clean style to the death metal ‘cookie monster' growl
add to this uniqueness, but can split opinion and confuse the
like this was a good chance for the older, more traditional prog fans to
take a look at what the fuss is about with this band, and I think
opinions were still split after the event, but there is no doubting the
quality of Opeth.
Back on the main stage, and its time for probably the most controversial
moment of the entire weekend.
Elliot's Down 'n' Outz surprisingly open up with an epic Elton John
tune, 'Love Lies Bleedin', before working their way through a set of
songs from the archives of Ian Hunter, Mott The Hoople and the
post-Hunter Mott incarnation, which the majority of the crowd are not so
good songs and Elliot is passionate about introducing them to a wider
audience, and good luck to him.
'Shouting And Pointing', 'England Rocks', 'By Tonight' and 'Rock 'n'
Roll Queen' are all well received, but something doesn't seem quite
right. Firstly, Joe's voice is not quite up to par and it cracks on a
Ian Hunter is billed as a special guest, and time is ticking away, with
no sign of the man. The crowd is starting to get a bit restless, and
people are calling for Hunter to appear.
allocated time for this set is 1 hour 20minutes, and with just ten
minutes to go Hunter finally does appear for 'Once Bitten Twice Shy' and
'Who do You Love'.
voice bellows out from the PA, ‘a big hand for the Down'n'Outz' and the
plug has been pulled. Time has run out and ELP waits for no man.
look stunned, and so do the audience as they've only had 2 songs from
Hunter. I know for a fact that 'All The Way From Memphis', 'Roll Away
The Stone', and 'All The Young Dudes' were to be included in the set,
but the fact remains that the band were out of time.
was due to Hunter arriving late or the band misjudging the amount of
time they had remains a mystery at this stage, but I'm sorry to say it
all ended in a bit of a shambles. Hunter threw his guitar at someone,
and Elliot was allegedly restrained off stage after throwing a few
punches. Not a highlight of the weekend.
about half of the Down and Outz set, the tribute to lesser known Ian
Hunter and Mott songs put together by Def Leppard's Joe Elliott and
sundry Quireboys, including guitarist Paul Guerin whose Thin Lizzy-esque
tones suited the music perfectly.
already seen their warm up at the Borderline earlier in the week and
definitely got the better of the deal. Unfortunately, Joe Elliott's
voice was audibly getting croakier, and promised special guest Ian
Hunter took an eternity to arrive.
septuagenarian joined them for lively renditions of Once Bitten Twice
Shy (as my GRTR colleague Jim Rowland said, ironic as the Quireboys have
made a living off variants of that song) and Who Do You Love. But the
plug was unceremoniously pulled on the band due to time restraints
before they could get to any of the Mott the Hoople hits. (Andy
A quick dash back to the Metal Hammer stage sees Down delivering
some seriously heavy psychedelic stoner riffs, and as ever, Phil Anselmo
bellowing about the delights of marijuana, and how he was impressed with
the quality of stash he scored in the UK this time.
You have to
hand it to Anselmo, he certainly knows how to work a crowd, whipping
them up into a frenzy for 'New Orleans is a Dying Whore'. Down seemed
like they gave a performance worthy of the final slot on the Metal
Hammer stage of the weekend.
It was a
brave move of the High Voltage organisers to put ELP back on the
stage after all these years, as a headline act for their first festival.
Chronically out of vogue for many years, perhaps this was just the right
time and occasion for them to return. This was the band that a lot of
people had travelled from overseas to see.
It takes ELP the first few songs to get fully into their stride tonight,
but seeing as this is their first show together in 12 years, that's not
opener 'Karn Evil 9' kicks off proceedings, leading into 'The
Barbarian', going all the way back to the first album. The set relies
heavily on the earlier classic material with no less than four tracks
featuring from that first album during the course of the evening.
barring two tracks - 'Touch and Go' from the Cozy Powell era and
'Farewell To Arms' from 92's 'Black Moon' - all the material played
tonight comes from ELP's 70's heyday.
As the set
progresses and night time falls, this concert gets better and better.
'Bitches Crystal', 'Knife Edge' and 'Take a Pebble' - all very early
gems - go down well, but it's when the band launch into the lengthy
epics that they really excel.
chunk of 71's classic 'Tarkus' delivers the goods as the band head
towards the grand finale. And quite a finale it was. 'Lucky Man a song
that most of the crowd are familiar with leads into the big epic of the
night, a sizable medley of material from the 'Pictures At An Exhibition'
album, clocking in at an impressive 15 minutes!
One track to go and ELP save the best to last. 'Fanfare For The Common
Man' is a tune that everybody is familiar with, and this rendition was
quite literally explosive.
We get a
masterclass in drum soloing from Carl Palmer before Keith Emerson
finally gives the crowd his trademark keyboard abuse routine. The
Hammond organ is kicked and thrown around the stage before the knives
come out for the dagger attack. Fireworks and explosions go off all
around and the band finally leave the stage triumphantly.
ELP's indulgent, grandiose act won't appeal to everyone at this
festival, and its fair to say that some audience members were left a bit
bewildered by their set.
didn't appeal to those that had attended for the likes of Foreigner, ZZ
Top and Bachman Turner's good time rock'n'roll, but the Prog Stage
hardcores would certainly have filled their boots.
voice is not quite as strong as it used to be, but both Keith Emerson
and Carl Palmer certainly proved they still have the chops. Although
this was advertised as a one-off 40th anniversary celebration, I suspect
ELP have regained a taste for it, and this isn't the last we've seen of
So there you have it, the very first High Voltage Festival draws to a
close. In my book, it can only be described as a resounding success.
sunshine undoubtedly contributed to the feel good factor, but it was an
extremely well organised festival, packed full of great music from start
The site was
a real treat, full of things to keep the discerning rock fan occupied.
Steve Hackett described it as a big Rock theme park, and I would have to
agree with that.
stage was a big hit throughout the weekend, and the main stage arena was
very well put together. The calibre of bands on the main stage was
highly impressive and the sound quality on all stages was excellent,
although none of us would have grumbled if they had turned up the volume
a little bit. It could be argued that the Metal Hammer stage was the
weakest link, but it still very much had it's moments.
As for the common grumbles, the ticket price was a bit on the high side
for a non-camping festival, and £4 for a can of Tuborg? Come on!
The Prog and
Metal Hammer stages were a bit too close to each other, so there was a
bit of overspill with the sound there. I never thought I'd be in a
situation where Opeth, in a mellower moment, were actually getting
drowned out by Argent!
The atmosphere and friendliness of all those in attendance was
noticeable and it felt like a gathering of the rock tribes.
It was great
to see a lot of older rock fans there who may not these days be bothered
with the likes of Download or Sonisphere, and it was also great to see
plenty of younger faces there, lapping up a bit of rock history.
some of the older generation discovered some new acts to check out, and
some of the younger generation discover some older bands they can go
away and explore.
It was a great chance for everyone to check out some bands that they may
never have seen before, and found a few surprises along the way.
Saturday, my other half dragged me away, kicking and screaming, from
Zappa Plays Zappa to go and watch Foreigner of all bands! And you know
what? I thought they were excellent. But that's what this festival was
all about. See you next year.
final thoughts from Andy Nathan...
there were a lot of gripes about ticket prices, and poor ticket sales
and choice of bands, so I fully expected the festival to be full of
grumpy people - especially as most of us are men of a certain age, set
in our ways and into our music, be it metal, AOR or prog, that is either
ridiculed or ignored by the mainstream in the UK.
However in my view the festival was decently organised and on a spacious
site, and with food above normal festival quality.
were excellent - often the most unexpected stealing the day (Foreigner
for many, Argent for me) - and I and many others had the chance to
mingle with current friends, old fans we hadn't seen in a while and like
minded fans generally.
Gripes: a few of course. £5 for a lanyard that had misleading stage
times. Failing to keep the sound separate from the prog and metal
stages. Beer running out. The intrusive official camera crews at the
front. Cutting bands off unceremoniously when their time was up.
That said it was a thoroughly enjoyable, even memorable festival. I have
had to travel to the USA for ten years to witness festivals that major
on classic rock, so it is high time that the UK had an equivalent and
this was a good start.
The Photographer's View...
Musically excellent apart from Joe Elliot's lacklustre bunch ...
during their set the crowd was as flat as a week old pint of
The Prog stage was worth the price of the ticket alone... ELP,
while not on top form were great and I'm glad to say I saw them
at what may be their final performance...
One of the few big events I've been to where security used a lot
of common sense.
For example, on the main stage, photographers were meant to
enter and exit stage left - which was quite a walk -however
security on stage right let me and a couple of others nip in
Surprise of the weekend ... Dweezil Zappa, best band ...
Foreigner ... biggest disappointment ... ZZ Top.
intrepid Joe Geesin...
Disappointment of the two main stage's main acts aside, the festival was
largely well organised and most of the bands performing well.
be the usual complaints of band overlaps, but with 3 stages that is
unavoidable. The sound was largely excellent if, as Biff pointed out, a
funfair got in the way, and while the Prog and Metal Hammer stages may
have been a little close, the Main stage was too far away.
In the main I was pleased and impressed, although talking to other fans
there seems to be a common view that Foreigner and Saxon would have made
better headliners on the Saturday.
Photo Gallery (July 25) by Lee
All images ©
Lee Millward/GRTR!. All rights reserved.
Day 1 Photo Gallery/Review
Darius Drewe Shimon