High Voltage Day Two: The Rest Of The Bill Reviewed
Time for everything to reach a suitable crescendo. We review Magnum, Uriah Heep, Argent and Marillion on the Prog stage. Clutch, Opeth and Down on the Metal Hammer stage. And Joe Bonamassa, Down ‘N’ Outz and ELP on the main stage.
Words: Malcolm Dome
For heritage bands, festivals are all about being given the chance to reinforce your appeal to older audiences, and to pick up young fans. How do you that? By playing the classic songs. As almost every band of that ilk over these two days appreciates. And then there’s Magnum.
Quite why this superb British band choose to open their set with three comparatively new songs defies belief. Maybe, they want to prove they’re not a nostalgia act? OK, but do that on your own tour. Not here. The Prog stage is packed, and if the band had delivered the right set, the benefits would have been enormous. Get the old-school Magnum devotees going, and the young ones will pick up on the atmosphere. As it is, Magnum blow it – big time. Introducing some classics later on doesn’t help. The damage has been done.
Out on the Metal Hammer stage, things are so much more positive as Clutch deliver a compulsive psychedelic blues set. This is one of the best bands in the world – and they hold the audience spellbound.
Meantime – it’s a whirl at the moment – Joe Bonamassa proves on the main stage that he’s not just a gifted guitarist, but has the voice and the performance potential to be more than just another fretboard fretter.
But wait, what is this on the Prog stage? Ah, it’s Uriah Heep, playing the whole of their 1972 album Demons And Wizards, and doing it with such panache and style, it’s almost as if it’s only just been written. The introduction of Micky Moody on slide guitar is an inspiration, and the crowd is so vast, it’s overspilling into the Helter Skelter area.
Not to be outdone, Opeth have the crowd backed up on the Metal Hammer stage, as they prove they’re among the prog metal giants. This is a powerful, progressively-inclined set from a band at the top of their game.
But you can’t actually stand still for even a moment, because next on the Prog stage are Argent. The original line-up together for the first time in 37 years. It’s slightly amusing to hear that Rod Argent is just a little louder than everyone else. But the band do bear his name, and while due respect is paid to Russ Ballard, you know Rod is at the epicentre. But the set is spectacular – starting with It’s Only Money Parts I And 2, taking in Hold Your Head Up and God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You… even The Zombies’ She’s Not There and Rainbow’s hit Since You’ve Been Gone, written by Ballard. Watch out for a full tour – it’s worth the effort.
Joe Elliott is leading his troops – well, the Quireboys – through a Down ‘N’ Outz set of Mott The Hoople related covers on the main stage. It’s entertaining, but the real star is a three-year-old girl in the crowd who shows the sort of moves that could make her a star in 15 years. Everyone, it seems, is trying to video and photograph her. It sums up this festival that 40-somethings on stage are playing songs almost older than themselves and getting a three-year-old into the music. Priceless. The generation barrier is hereby abolished. But it’s when Ian Hunter walks on that everything takes off. The man’s a rock star. And the way he leads with an acoustic guitar on Once Bitten, Twice Shy is a lesson.
Headlining the Metal Hammer stage, Down are energetic and dynamic, to the point of being close to stealing the whole festival. It’s just stunning. Almost matched, albeit in a rather more low key fashion, by Marillion on the Prog stage. With Fish oddly watching in the crowd, they are mesmerising by accentuating the music not the personalities.
And so to ELP. The headliners on the main stage. Back together for the first time in nearly a decade-and-a-half. This is the band, more than any other, who made most of the world hate prog – and made all of us who love the music so dedicated to them. Bombastic? Yes. Self-indulgent? Absolutely. Losing the musical plot? Totally. But would we have them any other way? No. Tonight, they show once again why prog is despised by the ignorant majority and loved by the cognoscenti. Whether we seem them again is irrelevant. We’ve got to see them one last time.
For no other reason – and there are plenty of others – High Voltage is a triumph. But you know what? Overall, it’s been the best festival this year, because it was bold and brave enough to bring back ELP, to back prog and to give us a bill that was all killer, no filler. Roll on 2011.