One day, one stage, one monster rock show. The strap line for Stonedead 2022 lives up to expectations once more on a perfect day in sunny Newark.
Stonedead Festival, Newark. 27 August 2022.
Words: Liz Medhurst, Paul Monkhouse
Photography: Pete Key
However, the one-day statement is a little tenuous as the arena is open on Friday nights to those camping, and three bands performed – Revival Black, Massive and Black Spiders. That’s not a bad thing at all.
By all accounts, a great time was had by all and a lot of good was done too. Australian band Massive is raising money for Kayla, a four-year-old girl battling stage 4 high-risk Neuroblastoma who needs emergency specialist treatment. For more details, visit https://www.solvingkidscancer.org.uk/appeal/kayla
She and her family were brought on stage, collections were taken, and a decent amount was raised, well into four figures by the end of the night.
These Wicked Rivers
The main event started on Saturday morning at 11.30 with poll winners These Wicked Rivers. The Derby five-piece coloured the stage with a fine decorative selection of hats, hair, boots, mandala shawls and standard lamps and sounded every bit as good as they looked.
With a wonderfully vintage guitar-driven sound, like a blend of Led Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd, you could almost smell bourbon and patchouli oil in the air. New song, Black Gold, showed that the quality of songs remains as high as on their debut album Eden. The band sounded retro and fresh simultaneously. A great start.
There’s a raw, untamed edge to Kickin Valentina that speaks of pure adrenaline, the quintet bringing the dirty glitz and glam that screamed of the hedonistic days of the ’80s when Guns’ n’ Roses and Mötley Crüe were Kings of Sunset Strip.
Kicking off with the apt Sweat, considering the sweltering heat, it was the rough-edged rasp of singer D.K. Revelle and the big riffs of Heber Pampillon that brought a feverish excitement, the propulsive rhythm section of Chris Taylor and Jimmy Berdine hitting the gas.
Whilst the guitarist threw shapes, Revelle was charging around the stage like he was doing a marathon, virtually launching himself into the audience at times. Freakshow is a blast of untamed energy, and The Revenge Of Rock a staccato shotgun to the face, the edge Kickin Valentina have just as suited to festival stages in England as it is to a sweaty night at the Whisky A Go Go.
By the time closing number Get Ready unfurled its huge hooks and sing-a-long chorus, it was clear that here was one band determined to make an impression that would last as long as having their names tattooed into your burning arms.
A thrilling ride that grabbed Stonedead by the scruff of the neck, forced a few beers down its throat and demanded it had a good time. Who needs subtlety when you’ve got something as adrenaline soaked as this.
Tygers Of Pan Tang
For those of us raised on rock, the appearance of Whitley Bay NWOBHM stalwarts Tygers Of Pan Tang was a real treat and an opportunity to pretend to be sixteen again. Robb Weir’s blistering guitar wizardry was sharp, and his interplay with new recruit Francesco Marras particularly pleasing, while vocalist Jack Meille was on point.
A career-spanning set from Fireclown and Suzie Smiled all the way to this year’s A New Heartbeat gave us a huge sound soaked with riffs, anthems and a load of classic boogie. Looking around at the massive smiles in the crowd highlighted that the big cats have not lost any of their capacity to please. A reminder, not that we need one, of how classic Metal lifts the spirits and endures. A triumphant set that was just the ticket.
Black Feather Design
The break between the bands is always a good opportunity to browse around the traders and there’s always a quality selection. There was one stall with a familiar face who we are far more used to seeing on the other side of the arena up on the stage – Oli Brown, formerly of RavenEye, now with Oli Brown and the Dead Collective.
Oli launched the jewellery business Black Feather Design when touring ground to a halt during the pandemic, and seeing these gorgeous unique pieces up close, it’s clear that his craftsmanship shares a lot of qualities with his music – something different, striking and absolutely top end. Check these premium pieces out for your festive present lists. They really are special – where gothic and macabre meets elegance and style. And don’t worry, there’ll be plenty of new music coming too.
Back on the stage, it’s time for The Treatment. For a band that practically lives on the road, delayed shows can be painful. Illustrating this, The Treatment had been waiting a year for this, their appearance at last year’s festival cancelled due to covid, so there was a lot of pent-up energy when they hit the stage.
The Cambridge quintet were determined to make up for lost time, their gang mentality at the fore as they threw themselves into a performance that was full of animal passion and a power that could have lit up any number of towns in the nearby vicinity.
With frontman Tom Rampton rallying the troops, the band made the most of their time on stage, packing in more riffs and flying hair than was thought humanly possible. The twin guitar work of brothers Tagore and Tao Grey was relentless, embracing the spirit of the ’70s and ’80s masters of hard rock, the AC/DC boogie of Let’s Get Dirty injected with Bad Company blues.
With a raft of heavy hitters like The Doctor and Shake the Mountain, this was the perfect hit of old-school adrenaline-soaked goodness that the Stonedead audience lapped up, the whole worth every minute of the wait. Born to tour, The Treatment continue to be the flag bearers for goodtime denim and leather headbanging, and it’s impossible not to get involved.
Next up and keeping the tempo high is Sweden’s H.E.A.T. The lineup are back to their original five-piece now that guitarist Dave Danone and vocalist Kenny Leckremo have returned. Touring in support of new album Force Majeure, the band positively exploded onto the stage with One By One and Rock Your Body, and didn’t let up for a second.
Firmly entrenched in the knowledge that a decent melody, charged anthems and hooks so powerful they floor a bear is what we want, the AOR gods provided sublime entertainment in the afternoon sunshine. Leckremo bounded about the stage reminiscent of a young Bruce Dickinson, Jona Tee’s keyboards provided counterpoint and layers, and the whole thing was a thrilling, polished ride.
It wouldn’t be Stonedead without the legendary Krusher Joule compèring in his matchless style, and he got an extra bit of the spotlight this year. After presenting an award to the family of Jon Hendley, a much loved Stonedead team member who sadly died earlier this year, it was Krusher’s turn to be honoured. Receiving some giant gold horns presented by the gorgeous Fiona Colwell in recognition of his services to rock, he was clearly moved. Well deserved, Krush.
Stone Broken have evolved into a thoroughly modern rock band, their brand of tight arena rock equally at home in a stadium or a club. Opening with the title track from latest album Revelation, the hard-touring over the last few years has made the band sharp and slick, getting them ever closer to adding their name to the A list of the roster of prestigious artists from the Black Country.
With the infectious personality of the quartet, especially vocalist and guitarist Rich Moss, spilling into their performance and charming the crowd, the bold, gritty and textured set cemented their reputation and made them plenty of new friends too.
One of the finest six-stringers on the planet, Adrian Vandenberg is arguably also one of the most underrated. Best known for his time with Whitesnake, the flying Dutchman has been making waves for more than four decades now, the return of his titular band a cause of great joy.
It’s been a while since he’s graced these shores, so the appearance at Stonedead was quite a coup for the organisers, the band itself a tight four-piece. Mixing numbers from his first album through to the most recent, a smattering of past works and a cover, their set focused on the songwriting, not the flash, something that Vandenberg has made his focus throughout.
While he can certainly provide some jaw-dropping fretwork, the set was always about the whole, each band member adding their own distinctive flavour to the whole, bass player Randy van der Elsen and drummer Koen Herfst giving a groove and punch all of their own.
Matched with the vocals of Mats Leven, there’s a hunger here that radiates from the stage with an intensity that is balanced by a real class. The set is heavily tilted towards the latest opus 2020, a driving Shadows Of The Night and the Rainbow-like Ride Like the Wind highlights alongside older numbers like early huge American radio hit Burning Heart.
Throw in a trio of Whitesnake in the form of Judgement Day, Here I Go Again and an acoustic Sailing Ships, topping the whole thing off with a fiery take of Zeppelin’s Rock and Roll and you get a highly entertaining set that shows Vandenberg are well and truly back.
Those Damn Crows
Originally the penultimate slot featured hellraisers The Wildhearts, but with the current incarnation imploding and now on permanent (for now) hiatus, a replacement was needed. Fresh from their triumphant slot at Download, the announcement that Welsh rockers Those Damn Crows were on the bill was met with universal positivity all around, from nods of approval to full-on rapture.
And it turned out to be an inspired choice. There’s a reason the Crows have been picking up plaudits and growing their reputation exponentially as well as picking up a die-hard group of fans, and that’s because they are a stonkingly good live act.
This was a perfectly pitched set, with stompers like Who Did It taking things right down with an emotional piano-led Blink Of An Eye and even a bouncing cover of Video Killed The Radio Star, which surprised a few in the crowd.
Frontman Shane Greenhall was chatty and in great humour but never once slowed the pace down. He’s mobile too, taking a trip out not just to the barrier but all the way through the crowd to the accessibility platform, returning to the main stage draped in a Welsh flag he’d acquired on the journey.
This was a faultless set, and it’s hard to believe that they are only two albums into a career which, on this showing, holds unlimited promise.
And so to tonight’s headliner. After some frankly mercurial years, it’s been one of the greatest pleasures in the rock and Metal world to see Michael Schenker back to the top of his game, his career once again capturing the imagination as his incendiary work with UFO and the Scorpions did.
Throughout the era in the wilderness, the legend continued, but private issues meant that live shows were, at times, something that tarnished, not added to his status as a groundbreaking genius.
Since coming through that, his ventures out with Temple of Rock and the Michael Schenker Festival have reignited the roaring flame, the man himself bringing out some of his best work and looking a lot fitter and happier on tour.
It was this reborn musical messiah that was greeted by roars of approval when he practically bounded onstage to headline Stonedead, launching straight into the irresistible guitar pattern of Into The Arena, singer Ronnie Romero joined in for another early classic in the form of Cry For The Nations.
This was just a warm-up, though, the opening notes of Doctor Doctor causing mass hysteria, a sea of upstretched arms and bouncing bodies writhing in front of the stage, Assault Attack’s Red Sky following.
Eschewing the temptation to make this a crowd-pleasing greatest hits set, a pneumatic Emergency and the soaring Ronnie James Dio tribute The King Has Gone represented the latest album Universal, with Sail the Darkness featured from the previous Immortal release.
Throughout, Schenker seemed relaxed, a man content with the world and sure in his ability, the Flying V in his hands creating gold from its steel wound strings. With a well-drilled band around him, there was space for everyone to shine in their own way, second guitarist and keys player Steve Mann being introduced by his friend and bandmate to take a solo himself.
Old Michael Schenker Group classics like Armed And Ready sounded as fresh and vibrant as they did forty years ago, and, dipping further back, the UFO numbers were given a fresh coat of paint as Romero handled both old and new material with equal aplomb.
Hearing the band tear into Lights Out, Rock Bottom, Shoot Shoot and closer Too Hot To Handle was not just a nostalgic trip into the past but an appreciation of what rock music can achieve, its longevity a testament to a quality that’s built to last.
As the last note rang out and the band left the stage, four thousand happy and sun-drenched rockers left the arena, all seemingly intent on being back at the same place next year.
Quite how Stonedead are going to top this nine-band extravaganza has to be seen, but as a festival made by rock fans for rock fans, it’s hard to beat.
The spirit of Monsters of Rock is alive, well and very loud.