Pick Your Rock and Metal

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

LIVE REVIEW: Ramblin' Man Fair - a feast of Rock on Day One

THERE’S something about a damn good rock festival; when the sun is shining, the beer is flowing, the bands are smoking and the crowd has melded itself in that bounteous zone between relaxed, drunk and ready to rock.

No Hot Ashes say
hello to Kent
And then the stars align and something magical happens. And, thus, Maidstone in Kent hosted a special event that encapsulated the totality of the atmosphere that makes rock music special.

Kicking off Ramblin’ Man Fair Northern Ireland’s No Hot Ashes delivered something of a blast from the past - but they could be forgiven for that as the band only recently reformed after almost a three decade hiatus.

A smile to open the day
With material from their early days still sounding fresh songs like ‘Diane’ and ‘Summer Rain’ had a crowd unfamiliar with the band nodding their heads.

Singer Eamonn Nancarrrow was as engaging as always, but as he related the story of his family’s struggle with his mother’s stroke as the introduction to new release ‘Boulders’ the crowd warmed to not just the emotional tale, but the passion with which the band delivered.

In contrast Toseland took three songs before the band had the crowd slightly

Eye candy for ladies
and a singer too...
 warmed up. For a band with such a pedigree, and such a reach amidst the audience they were flat – not in musical terms – but in terms of how they were received. Billed as a renaissance of classic rock amid commentators the main man has assembled a crowd of musos who can deliver his vision of hard rock.

Unfortunately for him and his band that vision too often either fell flat or didn’t engaged with the variety of stage acts and the usual festival attraction distractions.

It took until the last two songs before the biker got the crowd going, with several dozen ladies registering their delight at his looks as well as his singing.

FM - all smiles
When it comes to timing FM managed to peak when the surge of 80s rock had faded, not that this ever stopped them. Energetic from the off they played with a clear sense of pleasure.

True, many in the audience harkened for the earlier hits but the material from 'Heroes and Villains' was received well by the burgeoning crowd streaming through the gates at Mote Park. And, most important for those stage front the band were clearly enjoying their slot in the summer sun/

Eric  - BOC - 'Nuff said!
That Blue Oyster Cult were once regarded as dangerous by mainstream America seems remarkable against today’s backdrop of black metal et al but when Eric Bloom and his accomplices took to the stage it was the moment that Ramblin’ Man Fair went from being a good festival to a great festival.

Hits be damned, this was a free flowing expression of hard rock. Sure they played ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’ and ‘Burnin’ For You’ to keep those who are not complete BOC aficionados happy, but on the rest of the set they playfully gave songs the breath and space to ’Cities on Flame’ with extended solo and guitar trade-offs, and, of course the delightfully playful introduction to ‘Godzilla’.
Guitar attack BOC style

Ramblin’ Man kicked into high gear with Blue Oyster Cult, and the levels of adulation were set to rise yet further on the Classic Rock Stage…  

British to the core Saxon play what is dismissed by the ignorant as classic metal, when Saxon are a metal band that do what they do damn well.

Road Warrior
From the moment ‘Motorcycle Man’ revved like the sound of full bore bike exhausts Biff held the crowd in his hands and they roared into his willing grip.

Sure there is never going to be too many surprises with Saxon, but then again that’s not what the faithful want. Newer songs take time to bed in, and the road warriors know how to work a festival crowd.

My Name is Biff.
And I rock
‘Wheels of Steel’, ‘Sacrifice’, ‘Denim and Leather’ were all sang with gusto by the packed rows at the front as a grinning Byford revelled in the adulation yet still remained suitably humble.

Perhaps the recent health problems suffered by Nigel has kept the band even more grounded, and all welcomed his return behind the kit; and as the set ended all the other band members turned and bowed to him…a welcome touch as British metal handed over to American Prog Metal. 

Pensive Petrucci
The masters of musical dexterity, Dream Theatre, took to the stage to give a master class set. Petrucci’s precision playing had guitarists reaching for their tab books.

The likes of ‘Panic Attack’, ‘As I Am, and an outstanding rendition of ‘Behind The Veil’ had fans roaring in ecstatic praise, bordering on worship.

Happy Pereucci
But, it has to be said that Dream Theatre don’t play short, snappy songs. Their intricate arrangements, time changes and lengthy segments of sophisticated song writing may have been greeted with adulation by the faithful but it was noticeable that dozens drifted off from the main stage in search of beer, food and the tunes on the Prog and Outlaw Country Stages.

For those that remained Dream Theatre delivered a set of almost impeccable standards.

Some might take the Scorpions as a bit of cheesy act – but that is too ignore a pedigree that spans several decades, has adopted with changing rock trends, and most of all still seem to be enjoying themselves in union with the crowd.


 Klaus Meine is as engaging as ever,  but the man with the biggest smile was Rudi Schencker as the band tore through a set that ranged back to the epic days of ‘Tokyo Tapes’ days to relatively new material.

For the dedicated ‘Speedy’s Coming’ and ‘Steam Rock Fever’ were rolled out as old standards; for those just here for that song everyone whistled to ‘Winds of Change’; and, for those who (vaguely) remember the ‘80s it was a storming rendition of ‘Rock You Like a Hurricane’ that brought day one of Ramblin’ Man Fair to a close.

Brothers in rock
Sunshine had baked the field on Day One, and as weary, bleary festival goers joined the many queues to find their way back to accommodation few realised what Day Two had in store, but for now they were more than content.

Review by Jonny
Main pictures by Darren McVeigh - MetalplanetBelfast

Photographs below from Darren McVeigh and Sion Roe - all copyright is reserved. Please contact the photographer for details; and the site author for any use of the text above. 
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fantastic review!! Detailed and engaging. Photos are amazing..so clear and sharp. Almost makes me feel like I was there!