It’s not an enviable task having to open up a festival, but Tequila Mockingbyrd makes it look effortless. The Melbourne-born trio recently relocated to the UK and are on the cusp of releasing their debut in Europe – their Australian fanbase has already been treated to it – and they are out to prove a point, and make sure that every single Hard Rock Hell-goer will be salivating over their copies when the fateful day arrives.
Their punk-tinged rock and roll is more than enough to kick start the festivities, and Estelle Artois is a powerhouse vocalist, as well as one hell of a lead guitarist. ‘I Smell Rock and Roll’, gets the whole room screaming along with joy, and everyone is clearly in love with the thunderous bass player, Jess Reilly. Know that is how you play a 4-string.
Last Great Dreamers‘ pop-punk-tinged classic rock kicks off with ‘Oblivion Kids’ from their latest album, Transmission from Oblivion, and it has all the joviality and the four chords you would expect. They clearly love what they do for a living, and why wouldn’t you?
The rhythm section has lots of energy, but the same can’t be said for lead singer, Marc Valentine. Seeming somewhat disconnected initially, and with little crowd interaction for the first four or so songs, the eventual attempt at a call and response in ‘White Light, Black Heart’, falls somewhat flat, as do their reliance on simplistic rhyming couplets reminiscent of football chants: ‘Far away from home/ you’ll never be alone’.
They certainly get some sincere love from the crowd, but for the most part they do seem a bit disinterested and as if they are going through the motions. There are a couple of off-key harmonies that draw a sharp inhalation of breath from the arena’s attendees, but overall the main vocal melodies are tight enough that this can easily be overlooked.
Despite their flaws, they definitely get the crowd moving, and their upbeat spirit that comes packaged with their genre is impossible to deny. Their eponymous track showcases drummer Denley Slade’s skill and does inspire the rapturous applause it deserves – definitely the set’s highlight. By the end of the night, they’ve given us some good old fashioned sing-a-longs, and there are more than a few pints raised in the air.
Bonafide deserve plaudits, not only for their lead singer’s ability, but the harmonies their bass player’s vocals achieve.
Musically, they’re straight out of the AC/DC school of rock, and passed with flying colours, while Pontus Snibb belts out the lyrics with his admiration for Paul Stanley clearly on his sleeve. Or throat. Whatever, he clearly loves Kiss.
Halfway through their set, the crowd are already saying out of the palm of Bonafide’s hand. Freddie Mercury call and response between songs and generally witty banter with the crowd makes for a metric shed-load of fun. Without a doubt, the highlight of the day.
“We’re The Quireboys, and this is Rock ‘n’ Roll”. This declaration has the crowd eating directly out of The Quireboys’ hands, and the down and dirty, sleazy fun can commence.
The lead singer, Spike, is the quintessential 80s frontman; he’s got the look of a very well glammed-up Steve the Pirate from Dodgeball, and sounds like Axl Rose in his prime, though with a slightly narrower vocal range.
‘Tramps and Thieves’ from the bands sophomore effort, ‘Bitter Sweet and Twisted’ is the absolute highlight of their set, and everyone from the barrier to the bar is howling with joy and sinking another pint of whatever poison takes their fancy.
Sadly, the ever dreaded introduction to a song does rear its ugly head; ‘Here’s one off our new album’. These few words kill half of the crowd’s mood, and the band are beginning to lose their lustre. Luckily their charisma and musical proficiency are of such quality that by the end of the track, the whole arena is back on board. Phew! Then it’s back to the classics to see us through to the end of the night.
Plenty of drinks, chips and mystery meats, Hard Rock Hell AOR has had a triumphant first day. And with that, everyone makes a beeline to the bar.