High Voltage: Day One
A few changes to the lay-out this year, the most obvious one being a greater distance between the grand-looking, wizard’s hat-shaped Prog Stage and that of Metal Hammer’s somewhat reduced construction.
On the Prog Stage, determined to be first to kick off High Voltage 2 on Saturday (July 23), rising Finnish stars – in this country at least – Von Hertzen Brothers take the plunge and go on a few minutes early. And we’re off! A heavier prospect live, glossing the sound with slick manoeuvres and three-part harmonies, the day begins in fine style.
Kicking off the party at the other end of the arena, Michael Monroe thinks nothing of climbing the Main Stage rig during a chaotic and lively Nothing’s Alright, before swinging from it halfway up. What’s concerning to some is not his safety but the sound issues which unfortunately dog the Main Stage throughout the day until headliners Judas Priest rev up the amps.
Over at the Metal Hammer stage, the first horns raised in appreciation are for Scottish quartet Attica Rage and everyone is up’n’running.
Later, Monroe is back on the Main Stage playing saxophone on Dancing In The Moonlight as guest to Thin Lizzy. Whatever you think of the current Lizzy line-up, frontman Ricky Warwick continues to win over the doubters, playing out the fontman role with empathy, and this current version of the band seems to have plenty of mileage to offer once again.
As Sylosis pick up some of the Lizzy crowd over at the Metal Hammer stage, fully paid-up God Squad member Neal Morse back over on the Prog Stage has put together a fine young backing band, and they go through an excellent set; one of the many highlights in this part of the arena. Anathema also continue to evolve and challenge their musical boundaries, as do Amplifier.
The Prog Stage is a major success again this year. Flying the flag for the ‘old guard’, both Caravan (complete with ’spoons solo’ during Golf Girl!) and the John Lees-led Barclay James Harvest deliver remarkable sets.
Brit rockers Skin: they re-form, they split up, re-form… and, er, split up after High Voltage? Oh. Maybe they should come and say ‘hello’ every summer as they’d be a great addition to any festival. Songs like the swaggering House Of Love and the balladry of Tower Of Strength are born for the summer season; it’d be rude if they didn’t.
So too are hard-working Californians Rival Sons who bring a whiff of 70s nostalgia, groove and blues to the table with a retro look and feel. Brilliantly done.
Not quite so, are Queensrÿche. And it isn’t their fault, the continuing sound problems leave what should have been an epic set flat and disappointing, not even the likes of Jet Set Woman and Eyes Of A Stranger can save the day, with singer Geoff Tate straining to be heard. Shame.
Yours truly doesn’t get the kerfuffle associated with Alter Bridge, never mind how their lead singer Myles Kennedy fronts Slash’s band for that matter. A mix of solo and Guns N’ Roses numbers, the latter’s rendition of Night Train is rather horrible. And although Rocket Queen fares better, it’s Ghost off the guitarist’s latest album that’s the best on show today. Slash is what you expect Slash to be.
Snappily-dressed in blazers and suits, Antwerp trio Triggerfinger show that humour isn’t lost on the Metal Hammer stage when they ask the crowd if they’d like to wiggle during the fiery, booty-shaking All This Dancin’ Around. Definitely the coolest Belgians in the village!
With Electric Wizard caught up in the travel chaos caused by the tragic events in Norway, it’s down to the plodding power chords of Swedes Grand Magus and a second set of the day from Rival Sons as they step in at the last minute to complete the Metal Hammer stage.
Headliners Judas Priest were always going to ‘steel’ the day as they head to the capital as part of their ‘final’ world tour – and are exceptional even by their standards. Continuing to ramp up the classic rock songs we’ve heard today, the crowd volume maximises during Breaking The Law. Leather, fire, lasers, lights, not to mention the iconic riding-of-hog on stage during Hell Bent For Leather, this is truly British heavy metal at its best. Storming through a fantastic set with all the classics as you’d expect brings the day to a close on a high.