HIGH VOLTAGE FESTIVAL 2011
SATURDAY REVIEWS BELOW
Saturday 23rd July - Sunday 24th July 2011
Victoria Park in London, UK
DREAM THEATER; JETHRO TULL; THUNDER; GRAVEYARD; MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP; THE ENID; HEAVEN'S BASEMENT; LOVE FUNGUS
JUDAS PRIEST; GRAND MAGUS; SLASH; SYLOSIS; THIN LIZZY; ANATHEMA; RAVENS CREED; SKIN; MICHAEL MONROE
Slash in action at Victoria Park, 23rd July 2011
Photograph copyright © 2011 Hans Rock
Reviews by Jason Guest; Photography by Hans Rock
SATURDAY REVIEWS ABOVE
Reviews by Jason Guest; Photography by Hans Rock
Michael Monroe’s thirty minutes of glam-tinged rock on the Main Stage starts the festival party early at 1.30pm. Mixing Hanoi Rocks’ classics ‘Motorvatin’ and ‘Back to Mystery City’ with Demolition 23 songs ‘Hammersmith Palais’ and ‘Nothin’s Alright’ with songs from his solo works, the crowd get exactly what they need to get their rock juices flowing. Despite looking like a crumbling Goldie Hawn, Michael Monroe is in fine form and is the embodiment of rock ‘n roll energy. His heart and soul poured into every word, ‘Dead, Jail or Rock ‘n Roll’ closes the set and opens the weekend up for a party.
SATURDAY 23rd JULY
Though there’s nothing particularly original about Skin, their six song set is about as hard rock as you can get, with hands-in-the-air clap-alongs, sing-along catchy choruses, and enough hair to make a wig for a bald behemoth. Their up-tempo, good-time tunes are energy-fuelled and the atmosphere that Monroe left behind is lifted higher, particularly when ‘Look But Don’t Touch’ and closer ‘Shine Your Light’ are aired.
Meanwhile on the Metal Hammer Stage, Ravens Creed dutifully inform the crowd that, “If you have a floppy fringe and read Kerrang! Magazine, you might wanna fuck off now and get a burger because you won’t like this,” and then just as dutifully tear a hole in the line-up of the whole weekend. As the riffs get heavier and dirtier, the crowd gets bigger and more heads start banging. Brutal stuff, Ravens Creed lay the stage to waste and deliver a set that, given my penchant for many things extreme, is already down for one of the best this weekend. After a killer show, however, comes the disappointing announcement that Electric Wizard won’t be playing as, due to the events in Norway, they are unable to get a flight. S’pose having to suffer Judas Priest will have to do…
Seeing as Queensryche has produced nothing worth listening to in a long time, a diversion to the Prog Stage for Anathema is in order. Their seven-song set list features five from their latest album, ‘We’re Here Because We’re Here’, the band springing into life with ‘Thin Air’. Choosing – sadly though understandably, given the HV audience – to eschew their early doom material, their set is warmly received, the audience at times are rapt and Anathema does an admirable job of delivering their melodic and atmospheric tunes. Nothing outstanding but pleasing nonetheless.
But 20 minutes of self-indulgent, mid-paced twaddle is more than enough when the Main Stage boasts the presence of Thin Lizzy, albeit a sort of ‘official’ tribute act. There are those that may think that without Phil Lynott, this isn’t the real Thin Lizzy, but no matter which side of the argument you fall upon, it is an undeniably extraordinary homage that is being played out on stage. With ‘Jailbreak’, ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’, ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’ featuring Goldie Hawn, sorry, I mean Michael Monroe on saxophone, and ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ amongst others in the set list, the mood can only be celebratory and even though the volume could do with being cranked, it’s the perfect start to a Saturday night.
Perambulating back to the Metal Hammer stage for Sylosis provides many a distraction in the way of a beer tent with many an ale that must be, ahem, ‘assessed’, if only to give my howling hoofs a respite from all this stage hopping. It’s purely medicinal, you understand. But ale must give way to the music, and so with a couple of beers in hand, the twenty minutes of Sylosis’ set that I witness is a mighty beast and Josh is evidently improving as a frontman, interacting more comfortably with the crowd.
The opening notes of Guns ‘n Roses ‘Nighttrain’ beckon and the hoofs are called upon to transport me once again back to the Main Stage – sadly giving the beer tent a miss – for Slash. As with Thin Lizzy, the disappointingly low volume means I’ve missed opening track ‘Been There Lately’. No great loss as Slash is in full flow and his guitar playing is stellar. The Guns n’ Roses tunes go down a storm and get the biggest cheers of the set, particularly ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ and closer ‘Paradise City’. Not a bad way to spend your birthday huh, Slash? And Myles Kennedy, in singing songs performed by no less than four different vocalists, is a singer so versatile that he continues to mark himself out as an exceptional frontman. But with the wind taking the sound with it, the full force of the set remains – like the Sermon on the Mount scene in ‘Life of Brian’ – the joy of those strategically positioned in front of the speakers. Turn it up!
Despite their objection, my screaming plates of meat somehow move me back the Metal Hammer stage for Swedish true metallers Grand Magus. Ten minutes before they are to play and the crowd looks a little thin on the ground, but that soon changes; a minute or two before the first note is hit, a mass of metalheads swarm from behind the beer tent. Even a few floppy-fringed Kerrang-fans seem to have emerged from their weepy hollow. A mix of groove, stoner and traditional heavy metal, for a trio, their sound is huge. JB’s vocals – punctuated by many a raised metal fist – are strong, his rhythm guitar riffs tight, and his solos are somehow classy. I know, it’s not a word usually associated with heavy metal but what he plays is perfect for each of the songs and have a groove and feel about them that both captures and sets them apart from the usual shred-and-burn approach the genre is infamous for. And Fox and Seb, on bass and drums respectively, are a mammoth rhythm section that lay a colossal foundation. Like a bulldozer in a scrapyard, they kick up a helluva metal racket and the by-now large crowd love it.
For those in attendance, Grand Magus has been an incredible support act to the masters of metal soon to be occupying the Main Stage: Judas Priest. And so, the throbbing inflammations at the end of my legs drag me once again through the park to witness Rob and his many Technicolor dream coats lead the leather-clad merry men through a set of heavy metal classics with an impressive light show and more pyro than a Chinese firework exhibition with a sale on. The band is on fine form. New guitarist Richie Faulkner holds his own with a very impressive solo. He looks the part too, in fact he looks strikingly similar to the man he replaced. Curious. Halford may not be able to hit the high notes as he once might but he’s still the consummate showman with a huge stage presence and the ability to command the crowd like no other. For ‘Breaking The Law’, Halford had the audience sing the whole song, appeared astride his Harley for ‘Hell Bent For Leather’, and in a sparkling cowl(!) for ‘Nostradamus’. And ‘Livin’ After Midnight’ brings the evening to a rousing close. Astounding. And, blessed be, somebody figured out how to turn the volume up! And with that, the High Voltage crowd, the sound of rock and metal ringing in their ears, trickled out of Victoria Park and disappeared into the streets of London – probably to the nearest pub as it’s not quite chucking out time yet – to reflect on a great day, speculate on what Sunday will bring, and whether today’s performances will be topped.