Review: Steelhouse Festival – Saturday

The Bad Flowers, and they seem to take it as a personal mission to take people’s minds off the weather. Tom Leighton on guitars and vocals looks every inch the part, his shirt alone providing sunshine, the three-piece giving us a set of classic bluesy rock. The band find time to introduce a new song, “Can’t Find A Soul”. Leighton is like a kid with a new toy as he brings out his new flying V for “Thunderchild” Next up were one of the bands I had been looking forward to; Aaron Buchanan and the Cult Classics. I have seen them play a good number of times now, but I have never seen them take to the stage with such energy and determination. They are a visual treat, each member of the band snappily dressed and active (Laurie Buchanan, who I have previously found almost shy under her hat, a real revelation as she made use of the large stage) and musically, I love their sound. Aaron oozes star quality. His voice is emotive and powerful with great range, and on stage, there are reflections of Freddie Mercury’s stagecraft. We get a great mix of new material, and old Heaven’s Basement songs, but as the set progresses, the weather hits with a vengeance. Getting a complete soaking, Buchanan continues to use the walkway, eventually discarding his shirt, revealing a rather unique T shirt tan as my partner called it. Unfortunately, he has to announce that the set has been cut short due to the weather. Just as we feel that is a bit premature as it couldn’t get much wetter, there is a massive crack of thunder. In hindsight, it was the right decision and showed the festival to be taking safety decisions when appropriate. As quickly as the storms blow in, they blow out, meaning that a set can start and end in relative dry, but in between, the crowd get drenched. It calms a little for Myke Gray. Opening with some intricate guitar work, the ex-Skin guitar hero and his band played a set of guitar focussed rock that the crowd loved. Last year it was Steelhouse favourite Nev that bought “House Of Love” to the stage. It took balls to give it another outing through the vocals of Phil Conalane, but the crowd showed it a lot of appreciation. His set flew by, and I often found myself slack-jawed in admiration at his fret skills. Last year, a gap due to Alan Nimmo’s illness led to “Berniefest”. Now fit and well, the bluesman took the stage to big applause. You know what you are going to get with King King; basically a masterclass in great guitar work alongside raw vocals, swirling Hammond and tight rhythm. They give the Steelhouse crowd a true lesson. Taking photographs in the pit, there were times when I found myself forgetting to press the shutter and just watching as Nimmo wrung emotive note after emotive note out of his guitar. When looking at the bill, I will be honest and say that Dan Reed Network passed me by. I stood in the pit, the band took the stage, and my music world was revolutionised. What a set! Dan himself, dancing, prancing, posing, leaping, Brion James with a mass of dreadlocks flying as he ripped out some of the funkiest lead guitar ever seen at Steelhouse, Melvin Brannon Junior matching James’ funk with rhythm and a backing of keys from Rob Daiker and drums from Dan Pred, they were an absolute revelation. The third song of the set was an absolute blinder with an extended jam featuring funk, soul, and disco classics that I could have listened to forever. “Rainbow Child” gets an airing (Dan’s humour at spotting a teddy in the crowd apparent as he renamed the song on the fly) and when it was announced that they were touring, I went online there and then and bought tickets. Later, I met Dan in the crowd, shook him by the hand, incoherently telling him how much we loved his set. From someone I have never really encountered to a musical hero. When Steelhouse announced Myles Kennedy as co-headliner, the astonishment on the forums was palpable. This was the booking that really put Steelhouse on the map. Playing in a three piece band and looking very laid back in beanie and plaid shirt, he opened with tracks off “Year Of The Tiger”, with “The Great Beyond” particularly powerful and atmospheric. It is an interesting set. Kennedy is able to draw from a huge back catalogue, but also throws in Iron Maiden’s ”The Trooper” to keep the crowd going. As the set goes on, I found myself closing my eyes and letting the music wash over me. That voice! His range is sensational, and the dynamics from a whisper to a scream, effortless. It’s not a high energy set by any means. It is like watching a craftsman create. He doesn’t need flourishes and embellishments. He just uses that voice and a gentle smile between songs to hold your attention in the palm of his hand as he moves between Country, Rock, Acoustic, and Blues. Finally, on to the co-headliner, Glenn Hughes. Playing a set of Deep Purple songs for the first time in a VERY long time, he stood, bass ready, big smile and then unleashed that voice. How he has that range and power after so long is miraculous. It just goes on and on. We get “Mistreated”, “Smoke”, “Burn”, and in a seminal moment, we also get Myles Kennedy joining Hughes for a version of “Highway Star” that will possibly never be beaten for sheer vocal class. Unfortunately, we also get a series of extended solos from the rest of his band. They are all superb musicians, and technically the solos are probably spot on (as well as being in context for a “Purple” show) but they aren’t Blackmore, Paice and Lord, and they break up the set and lose energy. As the last notes are blown away on the once more stiffening breeze (okay, gale) we head away from the arena, in some cases to find that where a tent once was there is now just a space. Tent pegs are hammered further in, guy ropes are tightened and car keys left handy in case of emergency evacuation from a waterlogged tent. Photos: Rob Wilkins Review: Rob and Danielle Wilkins Day one review here. Day Three here. [gallery type='flickr' user_id='132278830@N06' view='photosets' photoset_id='72157671902701558' media='photos' columns='3' tag_mode='any' sort='date-posted-desc' per_page='99' layout='square' caption='title' thumb_size='s' main_size='z' ]]]>

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