Giants of Rock, Day Two

Back at Butlins with Aaron Keylock, Federal Charm, Hundred Seventy Split, Family and Magnum

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Day Two of Giants Of Rock does a little to address the question of Who Are The Next Giants Of Rock (of, if you will, its Gnats).

Deep into the night, people continued to talk about a particular performance on the event’s Introducing Stage. Aaron Keylock is a 16-year-old, British-based slide guitarist who wowed audiences on Blackberry Smoke’s recent UK tour. His songs use the blues as their foundation, though he’s also about feisty Southern boogie. Is he the finished article? Of course not, that guitar is almost bigger than him and the vocals require a little work, but the building blocks are all present and correct.

Also on the Introducing stage, Stockport quartet Federal Charm play a set of hard-driving, blues-based rock, with great vocals and slabs of ass-shaking groove. Though they’ve been around for a short while, releasing an album and conducting some useful national support tours, including a stint with Ian Hunter & The Rant Band, there’s a lazy tendency to file them under ‘blues’. Their cover of Tom Petty’s I Should’ve Known is especially well chosen, however. Get them out on the road with Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bad Company or even Rival Sons and they’d clean up.

Whilst stage clashes were an annoyance on Day One, Saturday saw the issue spiral out of control. With The Enid as their direct competitors, Hundred Seventy Split, a power-trio featuring the former Ten Years After duo of bassist Leo Lyons and guitarist/singer Joe Gooch, face the ignominy of walking out onto the cavernous Main Stage before around 50 people. They deserve far, far better and luckily the place fills out - a little - for a set of elegantly, often edgy, stripped-down blues-rock.

With an impressive waxed ‘tache, Lyons is pleasingly ambivent to the meagre turnout (“I can see you… haha, I can count you!”) but he keeps the notes pumping while the younger, shaven-headed Gooch peels out an impressive array of extended solos, notably during I’m Gonna Dance On Your Tomb Slab. A smattering of TYA gems such as Love Like A Man, Good Morning Little Schoolgirl and I’m Going Home see them depart to what, amid more benevolent circumstances, might have passed for an ovation.

Despite going up against Focus on the adjacent Reds Stage, the reunited Family draw a large, enthusiastic and respectfully quiet audience. Their appeal does not depend upon mere volume, and with seven instrumental players including two well respected guitarists (Jim Cregan and Geoff Whitehorn) and Polly Palmer on vibraphone, plus saxophone, keyboards and a rhythm section, serving as backing to Roger Chapman, theirs is an elaborate, rich and layered smorgasbord of sound.

Chapman has good reason to be in foul mood; his beloved Leicester City have just lost a crucial relegation battle to Crystal Palace, but as Family’s famously belligerent and cantankerous focal point, such mood swings are all part of the show. Those Larry The Lamb bleats of his have taken on a somewhat raw tone but the fans don’t moan when he croaks, after so many years they’re just thrilled to have the band back onstage again. A final run-in of Burlesque and In My Own Time, followed by encores of My Friend The Sun and Sweet Desiree are little short of mesmerising. “Goodnight, lovely to see you all,” Chappo smiles, before a tantalising au revoir: “Maybe we’ll be back again next year… I don’t fucking know.”

Closing out the Reds Stage, Magnum’s set-list is a little unusual. In a famous Morecambe & Wise sketch that teams the comedy duo with Andre Previn, bespectacled Eric informs the bemused conductor: “I’m playing all the right notes - but not necessarily in the right order”. That’s how tonight feels. Limited to an hour’s playing time they weight the entire first half of the set with material from their most recent albums. Live Till You Die, Blood Red Laughter and Black Skies are worthy compositions, emphatically so, but is there any need to play them all together? It’s only during the latter stages, as they whip out old standards such as How Far Jerusalem, Les Morts Dansant, Vigilante and Kingdom Of Madness, or indeed during and encore of Sacred Hour, that the audience goes completely bonkers. However, running order quibbles aside, Bob Catley’s voice holds out better than usual, and this quintessentially English group send festivalgoers back to their chalets with wide beaming smiles.

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’.