Z Rock 2006 Part II
September 24th 2006
Photos Sara Jones & Steve Cummings
Furyon - Review Steve Cummings
After all of the kerfuffle and debate centered around the withdrawal of FireHouse from the line up of Z Rock Part II what the festival needed was a thunderous opening set to get the crowd on side. Unfortunately what was delivered was much more of a whimper than a bang...
Furyon, in their previous incarnation as Pride were rather good and welcome additions to any festival bill you care to mention. Now given the fact that one of the reasons Pride disbanded was the lack of interest in the melodic rock scene and a desire to play a heavier style of music the choice, for one of Furyon's first big gigs, to play what was ostensibly a melodic rock festival seemed strange and, to be honest, the band didn't seem at all comfortable in this setting. Their demeanor certainly wasn't helped either by the fact that their bass rig gave up the ghost two songs in forcing the band to leave stage for a good ten minutes whilst the problems were sorted out.
Song wise as of yet Furyon don't have the tunes that made Pride so memorable. To be heavier simply for the sake of being heavier isn't enough, you still need the songs and, despite the d-tuned guitar riffs, thunderous drums and driving bass, what seemed to be missing was the hooks and melodies that Pride incorporated into their songs. Perhaps this will come with time and we'll give Furyon the benefit of the doubt for now but on this showing definitely not the way to start off the day...
Eden - Review Nic Dawson
The second band of the day, Eden, were probably in a no win situation. With the venue still half empty and following Furyon's difficult first set the band were probably on a hiding to nothing.
Formed by Kick vocalist Nick Workman and former Pulse guitarist Vince O'Regan, Eden had least injected some energy into proceedings and as a result managed to elicit something of a positive response from those inside JB's. Now I like the recently released Eden debut album and, in Workman, they have, arguably, one of the most distinctive vocalists around the British melodic rock scene in recent years. Starting off with 'Heads Up', the sound was still rather muddled with the vocals cutting through the mix and leaving O'Regan's guitar sounding a little muddy and lost but, despite this, Eden soldiered on. With a set list built around the debut album highlights included 'Fools Parade', 'Close Your Eyes' which showcased Workman's vocals perfectly and Love/Hate which showed a darker side to the band. Eden, rather bravely perhaps, even attempted an audience call and response segment - "you guys in the front, you guys in the back" etc.
Rounding out the short set was 'Neon Lights', an extra track on the Japanese issue of the CD, and one that certainly should be made more readily available. A good way to end their section of Z Rock.
Dante Fox - Review Sara Jones
Having appeared at Z Rock Part I earlier in the year Dante Fox returned unveiling a revamped line up and songs from their yet to be released third album 'Under The Seven Skies'. In his review of the earlier show Dougie had commented that the lack of keyboards "the old material just doesn't sound right". The addition of Roman Wieckowski has, to a large extent, alleviated this problem and provided a fuller, more rounded sound for vocalist Sue Willets to work with.
Of the ten songs served up by Dante Fox fully half were culled from the new album and, whilst still rooted firmly in 80's power rock territory proved catchy enough to please. Willets has, at least on this evidence, slightly tamed her vocal approach not stretching quite as much for the higher ranges and to be honest is all the better for it. At the lower and mid parts of the register her vocals proved warmer than perhaps I remembered from previous outings and it was only when the higher notes were required that she appeared to struggle slightly.
Of the new songs 'Firing My Guns' and 'Lucky Ones' were definitely the pick of the bunch whilst older numbers 'Under The City Lights' and set closer 'Remember' garnered the most audience appreciation. This incarnation of Dante Fox is certainly better than the band that performed at Z Rock Part I but, despite her vocal prowess, Willets abilities as a frontwoman are still open to question. At times she appears shy and nervous about being on stage with only real animation emanating from guitarist Tim Manford and new bassist Mike Dagnall. All in all though a step in the right direction...
Lost Weekend - Review Nic Dawson
Z Rock Part II was not, by any means, the first time this reviewers path had crossed that of Lost Weekend. However it was the first time that I'd seen the band without a keyboard player but with the addition of a second guitarist instead. This change is a very positive one for Lost Weekend and gave their older material a newer feel, moving away from the more traditional, very melodic sound for which they're known. The new sound, and the new material aired here, is far rawer than previously and certainly good to hear. it must be said though that for all the benefits new boy Paul Surrall brings musically judging by this performance he doesn't look entirely comfortable as yet in the live environment. His playing seemed fine but didn't look as though he was enjoying the experience at all, unlike his guitar partner Dave Thompson who was all smiles, all night....
As with Dante Fox, Lost Weekend have a new album to promote, namely 'Forever Moving On', and of course this led to a large portion of the set being taken up with new material that was perhaps unfamiliar to those in attendance. Never a good move for a festival type show to my mind. This was only highlighted by the band choosing to open and close the set with new songs, 'Higher Life' and 'Message From Your Heart' respectively. Whilst these may be good songs, opener Higher Life' especially seemed a good set opener, their unfamiliarity tends to dampen any atmosphere and it was the older material such as 'Dead In The Water, Slipping Through My Hands and most especially 'Don't Go' that was far more appealing in this type of setting. The last named being the highlight of set with it's sing-a-long ability and feet tapping appeal... Of the remainder of set 'Seize The Day', another new song, seemed good on first listen as did the aforementioned 'Message From Your Heart' whereas 'Forever Moving On' and 'Time To Leave' perhaps needed a little bit of extra something to spice them up.
Was I the only one though to feel the set wasn't finished without 'Is it Love'? Or indeed anything from their debut CD. It was that self titled album that got me into Lost Weekend in the first place and to entirely neglect such material, well it felt like something was missing.
Snakeryder - Review Deano
This was to be the debt UK appearance for Snakeryder, led by larger than life frontman AJ Fedz. If you have read Steve’s review of their self-titled debut album then you will know this is a band that display a strong 80’s Hard Rock influence, (notably American bands such as Cinderella and Y& T) and this is much in evidence this evening.
Kicking off with ‘Shake For A Shake’ it’s a bit of a nervy beginning, not helped by a less than perfect sound that keeps the vocals way too low in the mix. After the second number, ‘Hard Life’, AJ attempts to engage the crowd in some banter with stories about his flight to the UK which unfortunately falls a little flat. Undaunted, Snakeryder push ahead with ‘There’s A Price You Have To Pay’ and with the sound starting to improve the band, and AJ in particular, visibly grow in confidence. The AC/DC riffing of ‘Danger Zone’ is well received and, gradually, Snakeryder begin to win the crowd over and AJ again pauses for some banter, this time about his journey to the hotel. Second time around his storytelling is better received and the band closes a short but enjoyable set with ‘Love It Bites’, ‘Got No Time’ and a rousing ‘Wake Up The Nation’.
In spite of a shaky start this turned into a successful set and hopefully AJ can come back to the UK soon for a batch of dates. He can certainly take away plenty of confidence from this show and clearly Snakeryder are a band that will improve as they gain more live experience.
Bob Catley - Review Paul WIlliams
And so to Bob Catley. Well what can you say about “Uncle Bob” that hasn’t been said already a thousand times before ? There’s something comforting about seeing Bob on stage…it’s a guarantee of quality and an assurance that as many people in the audience will be down the front, as opposed to at the bar, which had been the case up until now.
For tonight’s performance Bob chose to play an acoustic set, joined by long-time collaborator Vince O’Regan and Gary Cooper. The ten-song setlist covered material old and new, including 4 tracks from his latest album, Spirit Of Man.
Two of those new songs kicked us off, “Moment Of Truth” and “Blinded By A Lie” which got the crowd involved, even if many didn’t seem to know this newer stuff as well as some of the older material, naturally.
Up next was “Scream”, from Bob’s first solo album, “The Tower” and it remains one of the best songs he has done in his solo outings for me. After the title track of the new album, we headed off to Middle Earth for the pairing of “Return Of The Mountain King” and “Stormcrow & Pilgrim (Gandalf’s Song)”, both performed excellently, as always and you can see that the latter is clearly one of Bob’s favourites to sing live.
After another newie (“The Fire Within Me”), the crowd get their only chance of an old-fashioned, rousing Magnum singalong with fan favourite “Days Of No Trust”, which is still a great song that hasn’t diminished one iota over time. “My America” from When Empires Burn closes out the regular set before “The Pain” from Legends acts as the perfect encore.
Whilst it seemed fairly obvious that Bob had enjoyed a little of the ZRock “hospitality”, this never detracted from the fact that the guy still has a great voice and the crowd have a very special place for him in their hearts. Cheers Bob !!!
Toby Jepson - Review Deano
The last time I saw Toby Jepson on a stage in Dudley was the back end of the 80’s when Little Angels were creating a buzz with their debut album and JB’s itself was half a mile across town. Then, he looked like a fresh faced teenager whereas now…he looks like a fresh faced late twenty-something; which I guess goes to demonstrate that the intervening years have been a lot kinder to one of us. I spoke with someone just before the start who told me whilst he had enjoyed what had gone before he was really only here to see Toby and confidently predicted he would “have the audience eating out of the palm of his hands”. And, give him his due, he was 100% correct as, backed by a dynamic band, Toby Jepson almost blew the roof off the venue.
Right from the opening ‘Happy Ever After’ this was a classy and energetic set that blended some of Little Angels finest moments with highlights of Toby’s somewhat stop-start solo career that seems to be threatening to take off again. Much like myself, you may remember Little Angels as being lightweight at times but this bands interpretations of the likes of ‘Kickin’ Up Dust’, ‘Radical Your Lover’ and ‘Young Gods’ are powerfully delivered and have a hard edge to them that was missing from the original versions. The solo songs are similarly hard-hitting, notably ‘Some People’, ‘Unwind’ and new song ‘Lucky’, and the only time to pause for breath is when Toby brings out the acoustic guitar for a wonderful version of ‘Don’t Prey For Me’, the hit single that should have been but didn’t quite make it.
They encore with a rousing ‘Too Much Too Young’, at which point Toby hauls a member of the audience out of the crowd to help him with the chorus (it turned out to be the same bloke I had spoken to before the set) and after a stunning 80-odd minutes the band exit to much applause and appreciation. To sum up, this was a blistering performance from band at the top of their game led by a charismatic frontman who knows how to send an audience home more than satisfied. Why he is not headlining arenas across Europe is a mystery.
TNT - Review Paul Williams
s I am sure everyone in the rock world knew only too well, TNT had been elevated to headliners for the day due to the fiasco surrounding Firehouse’s non-appearance. I have to say that I was somewhat disappointed by the day overall and by TNT in particular. I personally do not believe that TNT have enough “headliner” type songs to be placed atop a bill at an occasion such as this and when a few of the “classics” they do have are then omitted, then they are on a bit of a hiding to nothing.
Of course one of the genuine points of interest about the day would be the performance of Tony Mills in his first outing on UK soil since replacing Tony Harnell on vocals. After his superb performance with Shy at Firefest and some positive reviews coming out of their festival appearances in Norway, I was expecting great things but their show never quite lived up to the billing.
I had read how Mills wanted to sing the songs his own way, which I thought was a wise move and I was therefore surprised to hear an almost note-for-note “impression” of Harnell on opener “Invisible Noise”. Things had started pretty well, but lost momentum with a decidedly average version of “As Far As The Eye Can See” to follow. “Downhill Racer” was up next which I simply don’t rate as a song anyway and “She Needs Me”, whilst an OK track, is not the sort of major ass-kicking, fist pumping song the crowd needs to inject some enthusiasm. At this point I was hoping “Listen To Your Heart” would turn things around but that, along with “Give Me A Sign”, again failed to ignite more than a pretty polite, somewhat muted response.
Ronni Le Tekro then showed why he really is one of the foremost guitarists of his generation with an amazing solo. You can genuinely appreciate you are in the presence of greatness when this guy plays and the speed with which his fingers move is just jaw-dropping to behold. After “Caught Between The Tigers” (another really average track in my book), we had possibly one of the worst renditions of “10,000 Lovers (In One)" that I’ve heard outside my own shower. This is a genuine rock anthem and all-time crowd favourite and it was simply butchered.
After a brief interlude, the band returned with an encore of “Seven Seas”, “My Religion” and “Intuition” which again failed to raise the set to the level I would expect from a headlining act. It’s no fault of the band’s that they found themselves in that position, but the day lacked a genuine headline quality act, which of course they would have had in Firehouse, compounding the frustration and annoyance felt by many in attendance (and plenty more who weren’t).
I think the jury is still out on Mills as a replacement for Harnell. The omission of four genuine TNT classics, 'Everyone’s A Star' (surely one of their greatest songs?), 'Tonight I’m Falling', 'Tell No Tales' and 'Desperate Night' lead me to draw the conclusion that the upper reaches of Harnell’s vocal range are just a tad too far for Mills and, good singer though he is, if they are going to have to leave songs out on this basis, then should they still be calling themselves TNT any more? For me, this was a disappointing end to what had been a largely disappointing day.
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