High Voltage: The Rest Of Day One Reviewed
OK, time for the second part of the first day of High Voltage. Time to find out about Bigelf, Zappa Plays Zappa, Cathedral, Saxon, Foreigner, Heaven & Hell, Black Label Society, Asia, Transatlantic and ZZ Top.
Words: Malcolm Dome
As the sun rises ever higher in the sky, and glasses of water (ahem!) get ever emptier, it’s time to catch a glimpse of Bigelf on the Prog stage, a band with a growing profile. Guess what? They live up to that reputation. Led by the enigmatic, yet charismatic Damon Fix, these fellas deliver a set that brings to mind Atomic Rooster – only with a little more humour. Definitely a band who win over a lot more fans.
Now, it’s time to do the 360 degree head turn, in the time honoured Exorcist style, because there are great bands everywhere you turn. On the Metal Hammer stage, Cathedral are giants as they slam their way through a performance that might owe something to doom and stoner rock, but is actually now a lot closer to early 70s heavy rock. They are a band who just get better and better.
At the same time (phew!), on the Prog stage Dweezil Zappa leads Zappa Plays Zappa through a set that reimagines (ah, that phrase) the catalogue of his father, Frank. Now, you could call this a tribute set, or even a cash in, but Dweezil is such a talented musician – and his band are so inventive – that it ends up being the right sort of celebration. Because the songs are turned inside out and completely retold. Frank himself might smile at the irony of the iconoclastic way his son has approached this heritage.
Foreigner have the ability to be one of the bands of the day, if they stick to a classic set. And that’s what they do. Opening with Double Vision, the band don’t lose sight of the fact that the festival audience wanna dance. So, apart from the title track of new album, Can’t Slow Down, it’s hit after hit after hit. Even those born long after these were recorded are getting into the groove. And when they climax with I Wanna Know What Love Is, with a massive backing choir, we get perhaps the greatest moment in UK festival history. Because while this is being performed on the main stage, the impressive Saxon are leaning into 747 (Strangers In The Night) on the Metal Hammer stage, and Asia are starting their rather excellent mix of new and traditional songs on the Prog stage with Only Time Will Tell. Come on, has ever been a moment in the lengthy narrative of British outdoor shows when three such great songs were being performed at the same time? Remarkable. Only to bettered by…
A week ago, Geezer Butler told Classic Rock that he was dreading playing the Ronnie James Dio tribute set with Heaven & Hell. One can understand why. But chocking back the emotions, Butler, together with Tony Iommi and Vinny Appice, send shivers down the spine as they deliver the ultimate tribute to the man who’s not there. It has to be said that singers Jorn Lande and Glenn Hughes do a stunning job, not only reminding us all of the tragic loss – and there are some truly lum in the throat moments – but also underlining the way Dio’s legacy has united us all. And when Wendy Dio comes on to read out a message for the cancer charity Stand Up And Shout, there are tears in almost every eye,. Mind you, Heaven & Hell also offer the day’s most surreal moment, when Phil Anselmo dashes on during the encore of Neon Knights and snatches the microphone from an aghast Hughes. Hat stand time.
Meanwhile on the Metal Hammer stage, Black Label Society are in hell-raising form, as Zakk Wylde proves his worth as singer and guitarist. While supergroup Transatlantic are inevitably impressive finishing off the day in style on the Prog stage, being joined by Steve Hackett for a landmark cover of the Genesis masterstroke The Return Of The Giant Hogweed.
Finally, as dusk takes orders from the bar, ZZ Top come on the main stage, reminding us once again that they are a titanic mix of great songs, brilliant musicianship and a cunning sense of humour. Is there any better way to end the first day of this tremendous festival? Oh yes… the promise of a second one to come! See ya down the front for that. Roll on the morrow.
Tags: Asia, Atomic Rooster, bigelf, Black label Society, Cathedral, Damon Fox, Dweezil Zappa, Foreigner, Frank Zappa, Geezer Butler, Genesis, Glenn Hughes, Heaven & Hell, Jorn Lande, Phil Anselmo, Ronnie James Dio, Saxon, Steve Hackett, Tony Iommi, Transatlantic, Vinny Appice, Wendy Dio, Zakk Wylde, Zappa Plays Zappa, ZZ Top