Monday, June 17, 2024

Hard Rock Hell AOR 2017 Highlights: Saturday

Well, it feels like we’ve barely started, but we’re on the dawn of the final day of this year’s Hard Rock Hell AOR. The whole event has been excellent so far, and the organisers have certainly saved the best til last. Let’s dive right in.


Power is the optimal word for Häxan. There are few things more impressive than a cohesive three-piece, and the Welsh-born trio are possibly the loudest act of this weekend.

Charlotte Bolderson attacks her drum kit like she’s breaking up concrete with sledgehammers, and it’s aggravating how effortless she makes her stunning performance look. The liberal use of heavy, technically proficient tom-drum fills make her percussive capabilities more than enough to fill Arena 2 alone.

During the title track of their first EP, Lady Luck, the ladies’ powerhouse vocals have everyone taken aback: To have three singers of such impressive talent in one band is just unfair. Everyone else might as well go home.

Bassist, Harriet Wadeson, is not content to play plodding, one-note rhythms, and sprinkles their 35-minute set with impressive flourishes, none of which detract from serving their songs. This is most evident in the highlight track of their set, with just 4 strings, Wadeson really does ‘Bring the Thunder’.

We have to save the best until last of course, simply due to the clichés of dramatic pacing: Sam Bolderson. Pulling a double shift on lead vocals and lead guitar, she introduces their penultimate song – a cover of Led Zeppelin’s Rock and Roll – and proceeds to outplay Jimmy Page AND out-sing Robert Plant in his prime. Bloody hell. This band cannot be messed with. If they are not back next year, and *way* higher up the bill, it is a real crime. Oh, and every compliment that can be attributed to them can be happily doubled, as they play their set again in place of Madame Guillotine, and are just as crushingly heavy then.

Saints of Sin
Saints of Sin

Genuinely awe-inspiring dual solos and fills. Two of the best guitarists in their genre. Saints of Sin nearly steal the entire weekend. The twin lead guitar section has almost as much presence as every single front person this weekend, and give lead singer, Rui Brito a run for his money as most lively musician on stage.

The band fill the entire stage and move with fantastic synchronicity, though it at no point feels choreographed. The band are so clearly in love with their art, that their spontaneity just happens to coincide.

They will be releasing a new album in the summer of this year, and the first tasters prove very exciting, especially since drummer, Josh Rose, employs the rare good use of cowbell.

It’s utterly manic in Arena 1 as the fervent mood increases exponentially. The crowd are ravenous, and why wouldn’t they be? We’re about to watch Michael Monroe.

The audience is treated to a seamless mix of new and old material – no songs stand out as weak points, and no one enjoys any one song more than another. Classics from his tenure in Demolition 23 such as ‘You Crucified Me’, and the always welcome ‘Malibu Beach Nightmare’ from the Hanoi Rocks days, leave barely a vocal-chord unstrained. There are dangerously levels of adoration for Monroe in this room.

The inevitable saxophone solos are, of course, fantastic, and further solidify why you can’t picture the man himself without his trusty brass counterpart. The only real points of criticism are that the rest of the band lack quite as much energy, and if anything, the set is a little too short to feel totally satisfying, but what we were given was certainly a spectacle.

And with that, we bid farewell to Hard Rock Hell AOR for another year. The final highlight – and this desperately needs saying – is just how amazing the on-site staff have been. Whether they were behind the bar, battering monstrous pieces of cod, or working the sound and lights for the venues, every single one of them has been beyond amazing. The general mood of every denim and leather clad attendee is that next year will be just as jubilant, and you will see absolutely every single one of them again.

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