Giants of Rock, Day One

To Butlins, with The Quireboys, The Yardbirds and Black Star Riders

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The luggage of the arrivals reveals a variety of inflatables - chickens, sheep and human females. There are people of many different shapes and sizes and nationalities. Mostly, though not exclusively, they are male. Hair colouring, where applicable, is grey.

But the attendees of the second annual Giants Of Rock Festival have two things in common.

Firstly, they - and I mean we - are incredibly old.

And secondly, they are away from the kids (or grandkids) and the humdrum of everyday life. The vibe is almost tangible: Butlins in Minehead is Partytown.

Today, Friday, is for the early birds - those able to leave work early, and with around 30 bands set to perform over three days, to quote Alice Cooper, school is well and truly out.

To set things off we have five bands, though due to stage clashes (cue: greeted teeth, yes it happens here too), it’s possible to watch just three in their entirety. For the record, we must miss Colosseum and the Amorettes.

If you are going to call your festival Giants Of Rock, then why not begin with a group that can lay legitimate claim to being progenitors of the movement? The Yardbirds are the band that gave us Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. Fifty years on, and with just two original members - drummer Jim McCarty and guitarist Anthony ‘Top’ Topham - they deliver exactly what’s expected of them. The hits. Heart Full Of Soul, Train Kept A-Rollin’, Shapes Of Things, Over Under Sideways Down, Still I’m Sad, For Your Love and, to close, I’m Confused, their prequel to Zep’s Dazed And Confused.

McCarty has conjured up a winning mix of youthful enthusiasm and mature journeyman nous, with a singer, lead guitarist and bassist that won’t yet have started worrying about pension plans. An encore of I’m A Man is deserved. It’s a shame that this would appear to be a last lap on the circuit of rock ’n’ roll that they helped to invent.

Black Star Riders arrive in Minehead with a dilemma. Their second album, The Killer Instinct, is still three weeks away from release, so the radical set-list overhaul they’ve spoken of for a co-headline tour with Europe must wait. The Killer Instinct offers just the right amount of artistic progression but this evening they are limited to unveiling just its title track. It’s familiar sounding and hummable and the place goes wild. If this fact leaves BSR frustrated then they don’t show it. For a festival crowd they increase the amount of tracks dating back to their roots; tonight’s repertoire pools ten Thin Lizzy songs and eight originals. Former Lizzy icon Scott Gorham has forged an impressive guitar alliance with Damon Johnson and they play together with such harmonious power it’s almost possible to imagine steam emanating from the valves inside their amplifiers.

Of the Lizzy fare Bad Reputation, Jailbreak and Dancing In The Moonlight (It’s Caught Me In Its Spotlight) all sound superb, and dedicating the latter to Gary Moore who passed exactly four years ago is a classy touch. Ricky Warwick is a warm and liable frontman, though he slips up by engaging the growing number of red Welsh ruby shirts who’ve begun to arrive following a crunch clash with England. “Did you win? No? I’m Irish, I’m saying out of this!”

Casualties abound by the time the Quireboys arrive at around 1am. They’ve played this hour-long set so many times they could probably phone it in, but Spike is vibed and enthusiastic. “I’m going to be here for the whole weekend, drinking myself into a stupor” the frontman announces. The job is already underway, of that there is no doubt.

Nobody plays this kind of Faces-inspired rock ’n’ roll so well, and with the passing of Ian McLagan the real thing is now sadly off the menu. There’s also sophistication in the form of Whipping Boy and I Don’t Love You Anymore, but the beating heart of the band lies in Seven O’Clock, Hey You, Misled and There She Goes Again. Indeed, only the QBs could make a song as rank as Sex Party sound so great.

A wonderful first day.

Dave Ling

Dave Ling was a co-founder of Classic Rock magazine. His words have appeared in a variety of music publications, including RAW, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Prog, Rock Candy, Fireworks and Sounds. Dave’s life was shaped in 1974 through the purchase of a copy of Sweet’s album ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’, along with early gig experiences from Status Quo, Rush, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Yes and Queen. As a lifelong season ticket holder of Crystal Palace FC, he is completely incapable of uttering the word ‘Br***ton’.