HIGH VOLTAGE FESTIVAL 2011
SUNDAY 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
Michael Schenker in action at Victoria Park, 24th July 2011
Photograph copyright © 2011 Hans Rock
Reviews by Jason Guest; Photography by Hans Rock
SUNDAY REVIEWS ABOVE
Reviews by Jason Guest; Photography by Hans Rock
The sun’s out – the British summer has arrived! – and an army of rock lovers descend upon Victoria Park early – probably due to being chucked out of their hotel at 11am. At 1pm and Planet Rock’s Darren Redick introduces Top Gear’s James May to introduce Love Fungus to the Main Stage (for an upcoming TV show). They formed and split in 1991 and reunited only two days prior to this gig. And it shows. Why they split is more than apparent, they were doing us a favour. Why they reformed is a little less apparent. Maybe May’s attempt to be the Simon Cowell of rock was too enticing to resist? Who knows? Or cares, for that matter? Their songs are nothing special, their stage presence less so. And the singer’s cap makes him look like someone from the ‘Make a Wish’ foundation. Right, beer tent, here we come…
SUNDAY 24th JULY
If Love Fungus need any help (which they clearly do), Heaven’s Basement are the band to watch. They’ve got the rock poses down pat, they’ve rock riffs by the bucket-load, and they know how to get a soon-to-be-sweaty-and-sun-kissed-to-the-point-of-delirium crowd moving on a hungover Sunday afternoon. Why these guys have been “the next big thing” for so long is puzzling, given the dynamism in the songs and in their high-energy performance. With an album apparently in the works, Heaven’s Basement may just cross the line.
Over on the Prog Stage is The Enid who, criminally, have only thirty minutes to lavish us with their incomparably idiosyncratic stylings. There is nothing that isn’t extravagant, elaborate, grandiloquent, or humorous about Mr Godfrey’s ensemble and their music. Utterly moving from start to finish, The Enid transcend the prog label– and any other, for that matter – delivering a beautiful set of just four songs: ‘Childe Roland To The Dark Tower Came’, ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’, ‘Shiva’, and their “hit”, ‘Dambusters March / Land of Hope and Glory’, during which a myriad of Union Jack flags appear to wave their patriotic pleasure. Mischievous and majestic, The Enid are a truly spectacular entity.
MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP
Hopping back to the Main Stage for the Michael Schenker Group, the legendary plank-spanker is on form. Many a tale has been told about Schenker’s ups and downs in terms of his playing, but today the Teutonic fret-melter plays some of the tastiest licks this weekend witnesses. With a set-list of UFO classics, Scorpions standards, MSG tunes, and a few tracks from his upcoming album, Schenker never missed a note as he and his band treated the crowd to songs such as ‘Into The Arena’, ‘Armed and Ready’, ‘Another Piece of Meat’, and, surprisingly, ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’ featuring Rudolf Schenker, for which the crowd went nuts. Absolutely fucking nuts! And closing with ‘Doctor Doctor’ brings many a surprised “Fucking hell!” from the mouths of those around me.
On the Metal Hammer stage is Graveyard, a band with a name that is very misleading. Those expecting something dark and sinister are disappointingly/pleasantly (delete as appropriate) surprised as four long-haired gents adorned in ‘70s-styled shirts and flares appear on stage and play some of the most convincingly authentic blues rock since Led Zep met Black Sabbath for a booze-fuelled chat about the good times, the bad times, and the evil game-playing women they’ve loved and lost. These guys would’ve comfortably sat amongst those on the Main Stage, their performance being a highlight of the weekend as their set list drew largely – and wisely – from their ‘Hisingen Blues’ album, an album that’s gonna feature on a lot of ‘Best of 2011’ lists. Cool blues under a hot blue sky? Oh yes.
Back on the Main Stage, Thunder, like Thin Lizzy, have sing-along songs aplenty and so are the perfect band for a festival such as this and Danny Bowes leads the crowd, each one of them clapping, jumping, and screaming at his behest. For the crowd, the only downside to this performance is that this is a one-off. And with that in mind, every moment is fully savoured by everyone in attendance. It’s difficult to see which is more impressive, the band’s performance, or the crowd’s.
It’s Prog Stage time again for Spock’s Beard and a dose of their self-indulgent musical meanderings who, though they do a fine job, provide a sufficient but not quite brilliant distraction whilst sat under a tree giving my feet a well-deserved respite, ale in hand, awaiting the legends that are Jethro Tull. Given the lacklustre performances on this stage today – bar The Enid of course – Jethro Tull had little to live up to, but they played far and above the level set across all three of High Voltage’s stages on both days. From openers ‘Living in the Past’ and ‘Thick as a Brick’, Ian Anderson and his band of merry gentlemen lead us through, effectively, a greatest hits of sorts, taking in mostly songs from Aqualung – ‘Mother Goose’, ‘Hymn 43’, ‘My God’, and, of course, the title track. And with Joe Bonamassa joining them for the encore of ‘Locomotive Breath’, a sunny Sunday afternoon in the park with a few ales and a top notch musical performance from prog-rock legends can get little better.
And so, with feet bawling louder than Lemmy’s bass rig, it’s over to the Main Stage for Dream Theater who’ve pulled out all the stops for their light show, putting many, bar Judas Priest, to shame. A two-hour prog-metal spectacle of unparalleled musical prowess would appeal to most, but it doesn’t strike me as the ideal way to spend the sunset hours. I’m clearly in a minority when I say I find DT’s songs to be more technical than musical and, after sticking around to hear the mightily impressive new guy Mike Mangini strut his stuff on a drum kit the size of Godzilla’s nut sack, it’s off into the night I disappear, train ticket in hand, a smile from ear to ringing ear, and feet that are screaming bloody murder…
The verdict? The second High Voltage Festival was a roaring success. With some strong performances from a line-up that though not the best, featured stellar musicians as keen to have as much of a good time as the crowd, all that can be said is Roll On 2012!
Lowlights: Missing Arthur Brown’s unannounced gig on the Prog Stage; the Hobgoblin guy running out of the dark stuff every time I approached him; crossover times of bands meaning missing songs; the pop music blasting out of the giant Ferris wheel in front of the mainstage (I mean, really. Come on!); and the low volume on the Main Stage.
Highlights: Having a clear view of the stage no matter where from (the blessings of a well-groomed and flat park); Raven’s Creed’s disclaimer; the crowd singing ‘Breaking the Law’ for Judas Priest; The Enid – just for being The Enid; Graveyard’s flares – surely the widest on this or any other planet; the discovery of the volume knob for the Main Stage –Hooray!