High Voltage Festival 2011 Saturday Review

Wow, could it really be a whole year since the last High Voltage festival ? Where did that 12 months go ??

Anyway, July 2011 saw team CB reassembling in the leafy surroundings of London’s Victoria Park for the second installment of one of our favourite festivals. Last year was just brilliant with a chilled out atmosphere and a laid back crowd enjoying some incredible performances.

After walking for what seemed like forever to collect our tickets our first port of call was the Prog stage for the Von Hertzen Brothers (well, first port of call after the bar) who had gathered a decent sized crowd of early arrivals. Although not that familiar with these Finnish prog siblings they put on a great show with an audience reaction which belied their early stage time.

The next port of call was the much-downsized Metal Hammer stage. This may have been lacking some of the big name attractions of last year (such as Opeth and BLS) but openers Attica Rage got things there off to a good start with their uncomplicated, straight up biker metal.

Only thing was, was it just us or did everything seem a little bit, well, quiet ??

A detour via the Prog stage to catch a bit of Amplifier (not that impressed) led us towards our first appointment of the day on the main stage. Now we’ve been fans of Rival Sons since hearing their debut EP and after missing their performance at Sonisphere we weren’t about to make the same mistake twice. Expected good things, got good things and our faith was rewarded with a masterclass in 70s inspired rock. The band are presently touring with Judas Priest and judging by the Classic Rock award nominations they are receiving there is a real swelling of interest in their music. Rival Sons may be from LA, but they are defined by a time, rather than a place. If you’re into Zep inspired rock then you need this band in your life.

We then headed, not without a degree of trepidation, back to the main stage for Queensryche. Now the last time we saw them at Hard Rock Hell  some of us only lasted about three songs. Nice to see they are consistent as that was all any of Team CB lasted this time. They may be legends and Operation : Mindcrime may be an absolute classic but neither of those excuse the fact that today Queensryche just aren’t very good. Pity.

We left the main stage briefly to catch a little of the prog “middle class dinner party music” of Anathema before heading back to the Main Stage for something much, much better.

Thin Lizzy are a band transformed. After far too long as effectively their own tribute act the addition of former Almighty frontman Ricky Warwick has completely turned round the Irish legend’s fortunes.

Setlist wise you got exactly what you would expect, Waiting For An Alibi, Jailbreak, Rosalie all present and correct. The massive audience participation in memory of Phil Lynott and Gary Moore was one of those classic hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck festival moments that you just know are going to stay with you for a long time.

Right, now for a bit of a whine. OK, I understand that this is an urban environment and there is a need for a noise limit but this was just waaaay too quiet. It’s supposed to be a rock festival, but when you can hear people behind you chatting over the volume of the band then there’s something not right. I mean the sound wasn’t brilliant at the best of times, especially when Lizzy brought on Mike Monroe to add a bit of Sax to Dancing In The Moonlight and you couldn’t hear him AT ALL…

Anyway…

Having claimed a decent spot not too far from the stage we stayed where we were for one of the most talked about additions to this year’s bill, the one and only Slash featuring the popular-with-the-ladies Myles Kennedy.

Slash didn’t keep us waiting long for what everyone was wanting, with his ‘original’ band featuring strongly in the setlist. They opened with a spot of Snakepit in Been There Lately before Nighttrain and Rocket Queen well and truly delivered the goods. For all the split opinion over his more recent output few would argue that these were stone cold classics and they gave proceedings an incredible lift.

Myles was delivering vocally too, does he have the best voice in Rock ?? Must be close. He did step aside while bassist Todd Kerns handled Lemmy’s duties on Dr. Alibi before reclaiming the mic for more G’n’R and Snakepit tunes.

I’d NEVER have predicted that Slash would deliver one of the sets of the weekend, but this was going to take some beating….

Right now a mad dash back to the Metal Hammer stage next for Grand Magus.

We arrived just in time to for Silver Into Steel which saw frontman JB on top form as the band took advantage of much improved, although still awfully quiet, sound. GM are one of those bands who just seem to work so well live, constantly engaging with the audience and making sure everyone got involved.

News of the awful events in Norway had been filtering through all weekend and some of the bands had mentioned it, but for me the first time it really hit home was when JB dedicated Iron Will to “Our sister country Norway”.

The debate we had been having about seeing Judas Priest or Electric Wizard was solved for us with the tragic events in Norway meaning that Electric Wizard couldn’t get out the country. Their headline slot was filled by Rival Sons, so we headed back to the main stage for what may be our last chance to see the Metal Gods themselves.

The Epitaph outing has seen Judas Priest tour extensively, and reviews have been mixed. Would it still be Priest, could new boy Richie Faulkner really fill in for the recently left K.K. Downing ??

We were about to find out….

 

Well, first off let me say that Richie Faulkner is an absolutely incredible guitarist with a stage presence to die for. While the rest of the band mostly stayed back, he spent most of the set perched precariously on the edge of the stage, leaning out, bridging the gap between the band and the audience.

Priest played the greatest hits set that you could pretty much have predicted but it just seemed that there was something missing. Maybe it was the unnaturally low volume or maybe it was the new boy making the oldies look bad, whatever it was this was a good set that never quite made it into great, other than in flashes. Oddest moment was the massive sing along where the band played Breaking The Law leaving the vocal duties entirely to the audience….

And so day 1 drew to a close with the last notes of Living After Midnight fading off into the darkness. Once again High Voltage had provided a top day’s entertainment which (with the exception of the volume issues) was impossible to fault. Our band of the day, well after much discussion we decided it was definitely Slash. And Thin Lizzy…

Bring on Day 2…..