October, Rocktober… it is the month when we travel to Nottingham.
For 7 years now, we’ve flown to England to see some of our all-time favourite bands there. First it was Firefest, then Rockingham. This year’s festival was Rockingham number four.
The venue was Nottingham Trent University’s Students Union Building, the same venue where’s Rockingham has been held the previous two times.
Compared to the previous three Rockinghams, this year’s line-up included more bands that I wasn’t familiar with. Then again, the headliners were all bands who had sold millions of records back in the late eighties/early nineties and scored several hit singles.
On Friday there was a four band line-up. MASON HILL had the honour of opening the festival, and they did it in style. Vocalist Scott Taylor took the stage by himself, and showcased his considerable vocal skills. At first I thought there was a roadie on stage testing the microphone though, as Taylor had chopped off his long hair and didn’t really look like a rock singer. Unlike Samson he hadn’t lost his (vocal) strength but did look a bit out of place among his hairy cohorts.
On a festival with several actual 80ies bands or bands heavily influenced by the era Mason Hill were a bit of an oddity, since at least to my ears their music didn’t have much to do with that particular decade. They sounded more like a cross between the popular 70’ies retro rock style and nineties’ grunge and post-grunge. Led Zeppelin, Rival Sons, Soundgarden, Creed… They were considerably well received anyway and a number of Mason Hill T-shirts were seen throughout the festival. Not my cup of tea but they were good at what they did.
The first time I heard of MASSIVE was when they were announced to the line-up. I had briefly checked out their album on Spotify before the festival, and knew that they wouldn’t be necessarily something for me. They took the stage by storm though, full of energy and hair everywhere, and then… techical difficulties. A lesser band might have had problems getting their act together after that, but Massive shrugged it off and carried on. Their straightforward accadacca hard rock with a hint of sleaze divided opinions, some were totally into it while others thought they had no business playing at a melodic rock event like this. It was entertaining to watch them bounce all over the stage but I’m afraid their songs didn’t win me over. Well, at least they didn’t play a Led Zeppelin cover. They did play other covers though, including some Deep Purple.
No setlist, sorry!
I was probably one of the first persons in Finland to own a PINK CREAM 69 album, bought the debut on the day of release back in 1989. I played the album to death back then and I still rate it highly. The band that played at Rockingham is a completely different beast though, with only one member of the original line-up, guitarist Alfred Koffler. The band’s website lists another original member Dennis Ward as the band’s bassist, but he was nowhere to be seen.
Back in the day PC69's vocalist was current Helloween singer Andi Deris. He was the main songwriter on the first three albums and a frontman with a distinctive voice. His departure from the band meant major changes and challenges, but the band soldiered on with a new singer, the englishman David Readman. The first couple of albums with Readman saw the band adapting to the sounds of the 90ies, but with "Electrified" (1999) they went back to their melodic hard rock roots and deservedly scored a hit album.
At Rockingham we saw a band led by David Readman, offering us a varied selection of songs. Naturally the played a few songs from their latest opus "Headstrong" but also a lot of Deris-era songs. I'd say that those golden oldies got the biggest reaction out of the crowd, along with the "Electrified" hit "Shame", the song that "took the band to places like Japan and Brazil" as Readman told us.
I enjoyed the Pinkies' gig, but I don't think their setlist was as strong as it could have been. I think this crowd would have lapped up more old stuff, catchy songs like "Take Those Tears" and "Signs Of Danger", and even from the Readman-era some cornerstones such as "The Spirit" and "Wasted Years" were left out. But limited time and a new album to promote, something's gotta give...
We Bow to None
The last time I saw VIXEN was in Finland, 2006. It was a completely different band, with only Jan Kuehnemund (R.I.P.) of the most well-known line-up. Now the Vixen that played Rockingham features all 3 remaining members of the "classic Vixen" and a new guitarist, Britt Lightning. In 2013 they played Firefest as JSRG with Gina Stiles on guitar. For the past few years, they've been able to use the Vixen name, with Jan's blessing.
The Vixen show was very much worthy of the headliner status. The band played all their hits and a couple of surprises, including the excellent "Only A Heartbeat Away" which they have rarely played. If I remember correctly, this was the second time ever. "You Oughta Know By Now" and "Big Brother" from the new live album were also aired, and I especially liked the first one, a catchy hard-edged rocker.
The band paid tribute to Jan with the touching "Love Is A Killer", which was the only ballad of the set. The Jeff Paris-penned classic "Cryin'" started out balladic but exploded into a crowd-pleasing midtempo AOR hit soon enough.
It was good to see vocalist Janet Gardner back on stage, healthy and in great spirit. She had some health issues earlier this year, but now she seems to be fine, singing and performing just as well as before. Bassist Share Ross gave hear a chance to take a break, when she took over the vocals and sang the Ray Charles cover "I Don't Need No Doctor". I can't say it was one of the highlights for me, I would have preferred to hear another Vixen instead.
Rev It Up