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Y&T, Krokus and Queensryche at Hard Rock Hell

The three big hitters from the first night of Hard Rock Hell

With no less than 40 years of flying the flag for rock around the world under their belts and with some twelve studio albums in the can, classic rock stalwarts Y&T [8] certainly have no shortage of either experience or material to draw on tonight as the Californians hit the main stage at this year's Hard Rock Hell festival as part of their current tour celebrating four decades as a band. And with only an hour set to remind the packed-out crowd just what a fantastic, and often underrated band they are. Drawing on both experience and catalogue as they do away with any onstage bells and whistles to instead put on a fun, no-nonsense calling card display of their greatest tracks.

Opening up by smashing out a metal infused, pedal-to-the-metal double whammy of Hurricane and Black Tiger certainly gets the party started in fine style and frontman Dave Meniketti and co. all look to be having just as much fun as everyone else in the room as the hair-metal strut of L.A. Rocks brings a touch of 80’s Sunset Strip to North Wales. Meniketti just seems to get better with age, his powerful voice sounding massive through a huge performance of Mean Streak that gets heads banging, horns held high and fists pumping all over, while the steamy groove of Dirty Girl slows the tempo and raises the temperature in the room and the promise of the odd deeper cut getting included in the set on this tour is met as Cold Day In Hell gets an airing.

It’s really quite impressive just how incredibly tight and assured Y&T are and, in a way that only great musicians can, there is something almost effortless about the way that they have gone about their business tonight, so it’s a bit of a shame that an issue with overrunning stage times means that events are cut a little short, but an eight plus minute rendition of I Believe In You including some superb fret-work from Meniketti, is no bad way to close proceedings on what has been a master class display of classic rock.

With a whole slew of riffs that could easily have come from the fretboard of Angus Young and with the addition of a frontman in the shape of Marc Storace who sounds like Bon Scott has returned from the grave to walk back on stage, Swiss veteran classic rockers Krokus [7], that have the recently reformed classic line-up of Storace, Fernando Von Arb and Chris Von Rohr in their ranks, are not exactly what you could call the most original sounding of bands most of the time. Still, often sounding uncannily like old school AC/DC when you do it so well is no bad thing at the end of the day. Indeed, at around nine at night on a Friday in front of a room full of beery rock fans, you could argue that it’s an absolute plus.

Kicking off this rare UK live appearance with long time opener Long Stick Goes Boom and following it up with their rocked-up cover of American Woman, it’s obvious that the band are here to have fun and to get a party going – and that they do. You just can’t help but find yourself boogeying about as the title track to the 2006 album Hellraiser grooves along, while Bedside Radio struts its stuff and both Heatstrokes and Easy Rocker (including a snippet cover of Seven Nation Army as an outro of all things) only add to the fun of it all.

As things are rounded off in fine style with an arm waving rendition of Live For The Action and a cover of Dylan’s The Mighty Quinn that has everyone chanting along, you can’t help but feel good as Storace and co. leave the stage and everyone heads out from the room with a smile on their face. Job well and truly done.

A somewhat later than scheduled start means that the atmosphere amongst those gathered at the main stage is a little lacking by the time the intro music fades and progressive rockers Queensrÿche [6] hit the stage and launch into Nightrider to kick off their headline set. A quiet and somewhat muddy mix doesn’t do much to help to ignite proceedings either, but things do get somewhat better, and by the time En Force and Warning have both had an airing the crowd seem to have perked up somewhat and the vibe in the room is much improved.

Things look to get better still as frontman Todd La Torre gets to flex his very impressive vocals talents as he soars through a striking rendition of Where Dreams Go To Die from the bands self-titled album of last year, original members Michael Wilton, Eddie Jackson and Scott Rockenfield also setting about reminding everyone what impressive, if somewhat un-engaging, musicians they are. It is a shame then that it is followed up with a totally unneeded guitar solo that threatens to kill any of the momentum that has been gained. Why a guitar solo would still be part of a set from any band these days is a real mystery – still, The Needle Lies goes some way to getting things going again and as a standout performance of Eyes Of A Stranger is smashed out it sees the first really a big response of the set from the crowd, fists and horns held aloft back to front. “Thanks for showing us support… the one, the only Queensrÿche,” exclaims La Torre in what is perhaps a sly stab at Geoff Tate as the closing moments Take Hold Of The Flame brings a three track encore and tonight’s set to a close.

Whichever side of the fence you stand on with the arguments between Queensrÿche and Tate, there is no denying that this iteration are as slick as hell and as tight as a gnat’s tight bits tonight. That said, it all comes off as a little too sterile and by-the-numbers at times and in the end it’s just hard to get that excited by what should have been a standout headline set.