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Hard Rock Hell AOR – Thursday 8th March: Hafan y Môr Holiday Park, Pwllheli

johnny main
Words: Johnny Main, Pictures: Carlan Braid
20th March 2018

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The renowned three day music festival that is Hard Rock Hell AOR was celebrating its sixth year, once again at its base outside the Welsh town of Pwllheli, at the Hafan y Môr Holiday Park.

With a range of top acts mixed with up and coming acts split over the three days, the festival always has a "something for everyone" feel about it, and the fact it's sold out once again is testament to not only the bands who were booked but also to the top notch organisation of the event and the excellent on site facilities.

Hafan y Môr has been home to all manner of Hard Rock Hell events since 2011, and has a range of different accommodation options from static caravans, to two and three bedroom apartments, which saves everyone from having to spend the weekend in a tent – a real bonus if the weather is inclement.

On site facilities include two spacious indoor venues housing each of the stages which are surrounded by numerous bars, a restaurant, a couple of small supermarkets, a fish and chip shop, burger joint and even a pizza shop, so nothing is ever too far away and the venue absolutely suits the needs of the HRH audience very well.

With events kicking off, the MetalTalk team converged on the site and having settled down in our accommodation after the seven hour drive (which included getting lost, of course), we stopped off to chat to some of the Hard Rock Hell faithful at the Mash and Barrel ahead of events.

Trying to get a feel for what they were looking forward to, the name that kept popping up time and again was that of Californian rockers NightRanger – but more of them later on.

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After a light refreshment, we headed down to the main stage, the only one that was open on the first day to catch some action and we were just in time to catch the second act of the day, Newman.

The London based melodic rockers have been rocking away since 1998 after they were founded by guitarist Steve Newman. Twenty years and fourteen albums later this band aren't the big arena selling act that they should be and the reason for this mystifies me because man, are this band good or what?

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The band pulled a large and enthusiastic crowd and I was incredibly impressed with what I saw. The highlight was surely 'Stay with Me' from 2010's 'The Art Of Balance' release which was introduced by front man Steve Newman joking "If you don't know the song you will be the end of the chorus".

True to his word the (drunken) HRH faithful sung and sashayed their way through it. For a band I'd not been familiar with before, I was certainly a new fan as the band left the stage at the end of their triumphant set.

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This was my first chance to see Swedish rockers Eclipse and, having heard nothing but good things about them, I was expecting to be entertained, and I was.

Front man Erik Mårtensson is a talented and amiable chap and he steered the good ship Eclipse through their set high energy set. They had the audience in the palm of their hand by 'The Storm', with the audiences fists firmly thrown in the air during the glorious chorus and (unusually), one guy in the VIP area throwing his best Michael Jackson moves before guitarist Magnus Henriksson stepped up with an incredible solo.

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This band can do bombastic and they can also do ballads really well, so this was another tick in the box as far as I was concerned and judging by the audience reaction, I wasn't the only one who enjoyed their set.

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It's been a few years since I last saw ex-Rainbow/Deep Purple man Joe Lynn Turner and the last time I did it was on a tiny stage in Glasgow so it was good to see him draw a large and enthusiastic crowd and have the space afforded to him with the big stage here.

At sixty-six years of age, Joe shows no signs of giving up, and when your voice is still this good then why not just carry on. With no new album to push, this was very much a walk down memory lane for Joe and the audience.

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Aside from trio of solos tracks, 'Dark Days', 'Endlessly' and 'Blood Red Sky' along with a sole track from his time with Yngwie Malmsteen in the late eighties, the set was made up of a host of Rainbow tracks like 'Death Alley Driver','I Surrender' (curiously played second in the set)', 'Jealous Lover' and 'Street of Dreams' (reputedly Ritchie Blackmore's favourite Rainbow song) with 'Long Live Rock and Roll' capping off the evening.

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Sadly there were no tracks from his sole Deep Purple album, 1990's 'Slaves and Masters' but this was a chance for the audience to let loose and party as they sang their hearts out all night long, and proving that that Turner very much still in demand as a live performer and is very much the kid in the spotlight.

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Days Two and Three to follow soon...


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