From Jake E. Lee, to Winger, to The Graveltones and finally Buckcherry, our Sunday first course encompasses the good, the not-so-good and the fantastic of guitar-fuelled rock.
Search for Red Dragon Cartel on Classic Rock, and the results tell their own tale: “Red Dragon Cartel in battle with agent”. “Red Dragon Cartel call off shows”. “Red Dragon Cartel explain ‘Spinal Tap’ moment”. “Red Dragon Cartel could sue over tour feud”. This doesn’t sound like the happiest of families, and the tour’s will-they-won’t-they saga gives this morning’s show an air of unpredictability it might not otherwise process.
“Jake E Lee is back!” shrieks singer Darren James Smith, and yes, indeed he is. He’s paler and grizzlier than the young buck who backed Ozzy so effortlessly, but here it’s more of a struggle. The band sound under-rehearsed, and the sound is awful: Jake still looks fleet-of-finger, but it’s difficult to tell when so much of what he’s playing is inaudible. It’s only on Shout It Out that a song strong enough to get heads nodding pokes its head through the murk, and a perfunctory sprint through Bark At The Moon lifts spirits at the close. (5) (FL)
If RDC sound like they’ve only just met, Winger sound like they’ve been playing together for about 27 years, which, of course, they have. Suddenly the guitars ring loud and clear and and true, and Stone Cold Killer sounds like the day’s first big moment. Headed For A Heartbreak feels even bigger: lighters would almost certainly be held aloft during the spiralling solo were it not noon and tipping down with rain.
Kip Winger looks a little concerned by this unpredictable mix of water and electricity, but the show goes on. Rat Race, from the band’s new Better Days Comin’ pumps merrily along with some Lizzy-style twin guitar soloing, but the best is held for last, as Dillinger Escape Plan’s bass player Liam Wilson (a huge fan as a teenager - he reviewed the new album for The Talkhouse) joins the band onstage for the final song, a delighted, thrilled-to-be-here grin on his face. (7) (FL)
Diving across to the Pepsi Max stage we find Aussie blues rock duo The Graveltones tearing up the place with Bang Bang. Forget giving the blues a kick up the arse, these guys are here to haul out its vital organs, wire them up to something very powerful and electrify them from this world into the next. All the while capturing the rootsy, stripped-back core of Robert Johnson and co - in vital, fresh-faced but gritty fashion.
Audience chit-chat is minimal as guitarist/vocalist Jimmy O busies himself with playing his instrument as violently as possible, short of actually breaking the damn thing. Drummer Mikey’s raised drumkit platform visibly shakes with the might of his whirlwinding stick-bearing arms. You’d have been forgiven for thinking that a bluesy twosome such as them would struggle in a cavernous tent like this, but they fill the space with ease - Jimmy’s banshee cries resonating through the ceiling, right up to closer Lightning Bolt. (8) (PG)
High spirits instilled, we hop through the rain back to the main stage in time to find Buckcherry getting stuck into Lit Up. “Fuck the system!!” vocalist/lithe handsome devil Josh Todd declares, swishing around the stage, all louche punk-infused elegance and hard rock fight. A robust “whothafahhk’s goin’ all night long?!” leads us smoothly into (can you guess??) All Night Long, and the band continue to deliver a tight, blistering show of hard, biting rock.
In an era of more modestly spoken, self-effacing musos, sometimes it’s good to have a frontman who’s unafraid of being a bit posey. Recite the “I will walk through the valley of the shadow of death” psalm, even, like a heavily inked punk poet Jesus, as Todd does today. And you have to admire a man with the balls to stand before thousands, topless, singing “I’ve got big balls!” at the top of his lungs, before slickly showcasing a taste of latest album Confessions.
Everyone has a thoroughly good time, and as closer Crazy Bitch bursts out into the crowd, the same couple who waltzed sweetly to the tender heartache of Sorry start grinding as if social embarrassment has yet to become a ‘thing’.
High octane classic swagger, with a giant blow torch. Sweet. (8) (PG)