Steelhouse Festival 2019

Over 7000 rock music fans climbed the mountain to Hafod-Y-Dafal Farm near Ebbw Vale to reach the United Kingdom’s highest rock festival, Steelhouse. The mountain path was decorated with road signs featuring lyrics from rock songs such as AC/DC’s «It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)». Those who made the journey were rewarded with a weekend of classic and contemporary rock and beautiful views of Wales. This year, Thin Lizzy played their classic album «Black Rose» in its entirety, which was the first and only time they will do this anywhere in the world. It was worth climbing a mountain for.

Tekst & foto: Anne-Marie Forker

Lørdag

American rockers Crobot showed that rock is still alive and well and not all about bands who started their careers in the 1970s and 1980s. They formed in 2011 and there are elements of Black Sabbath, Soundgarden, Frank Zappa, Led Zeppelin and Wolfmother in their music. They have some interesting song names, opening with the epic debut album title track «Legend of the Spaceborne Killer», which the crowd immediately loved. Several new tracks from their fourth album “Motherbrain” (to be released on 23 August 2019 through Mascot Records) «Burn», «Alpha Dawg» and «Keep Me Down» were played with passion. Frontman Brandon Yeagley wore a sparkling blue metallic waistcoat and covered every inch of the stage with an explosive performance. He is a brilliant rock frontman who engaged the audience constantly. Guitarist Chris Bishop’s sonic interludes included power chords, rip-roaring riffs and psychedelic effects. Groove-ridden rock not to be missed. 5/6

Scottish rock band Gun drew a large crowd when they took to the stage and launched into the fast paced «She Knows», followed by fan favourite «Don’t Say It’s Over» (which sounds a lot like Billy Idol’s «White Wedding»!). Their biggest hit «Word Up» was surprisingly played early in the set. One of the highlights was «Favourite Pleasures», the title track from their latest album, which showcased Giuliano ‘Jools’ Gizzi’s guitar skills. His brother Dante, the frontman, was a little reserved at first but quickly warmed up and gave a strong vocal performance and it wasn’t long before he was jumping around. The crowd partied and fist-pumped the air as the band ended their set with a cover of The Beastie Boy’s «(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)». 4/6

The Temperance Movement began their set with the high energy «Caught In The Middle» as frontman Phil Campbell bounced around with his limbs flying in all directions. He has a gravel-laden voice full of power and charisma that could rival Bon Scott. Speaking of rivals, their music is similar to that of Rival Sons and features plenty of blues rock riffs. There is real depth to their material, especially the mellow acoustic number «A Deeper Cut» from their latest album of the same name (also check out Campbell’s 1997 solo album «Fresh New Life» for more mellow beauty). This subdued the excited crowd before the encore «Built-In Forgetter», also from their latest release. It was impossible for the crowd to stay still and they jumped around, rather like Campbell himself. 4.5/6

English hard rock band Thunder returned to headline Saturday night at Steelhouse three years after their last appearance at the festival and the crowd were eager to welcome them, cheering loudly as soon as they set foot on the stage. Frontman Danny Bowes joked: «Very few places we come to have this kind of atmosphere, very few. We could play any shit songs!» They played a range of tracks from their vast back catalogue. The set included songs from eight albums, including the opener «Loser» from their 2003 album «Shooting at the Sun». Two songs were played for the encore. First, a cover of The Spencer Davis Group’s «Gimme Some Lovin» and then «Dirty Love» from their debut 1989 album «Back Street Symphony». Thunder closed Saturday night in style. 4/6

Søndag

Canadian band Danko Jones kicked off their punk edged rock ‘n’ roll set with «I Gotta Rock» from their 2017 album «Wild Cat». The band consists of Danko Jones on vocals/guitar, John Calabrese on bass and Rich Knox on drums. They delivered an energetic performance with plenty of attitude from Danko between songs, which sometimes distracted from the music. The setlist was varied and featured tracks from early and late in their career, from six different albums. Danko mentioned what an honour it was to be playing on the same day as Living Colour, Uriah Heep and Thin Lizzy. Another track from «Wild Cat» ended the set, «My Little RnR». 3/6

Uriah Heep formed 50 years ago in 1969 and have 25 studio albums. They opened their set with the track “Grazed by Heaven” from their latest album “Living The Dream”. The band consists of original band member Mick Box on guitar, Bernie Shaw on vocals, Dave Rimmer on bass, Phil Lanzon on keyboard and Russell Gilbrook on drums. They played old and new songs. With such a huge catalogue it must be difficult to narrow down but the fans seemed delighted with the chosen songs. Lanzon’s Hammond organ during «Too Scared to Run» was impressive. Bernie Shaw was one of the most energetic frontmen of the whole festival, strutting up and down the catwalk, lifting his mic stand and engaging with the crowd. The band ended their set with fan favourite «Easy Livin» which the crowd jumped up and down to. Uriah Heep showed absolutely no signs of stopping anytime soon. 5/6

New York band Living Colour visited Steelhouse on their UK tour celebrating 30 years of their debut album «Vivid». Known for breaking boundaries, their music is a fusion of many different types of music: rock, soul, funk, jazz, blues, hip hop, reggae and even elements of classical music. Such a cocktail could only be a success if the musicians were all on top of their game, and they certainly were. The audience were given a generous dose of imaginative, blistering solos from Vernon Reid, dynamic drumming from Will Calhoun, flamboyant, funky bass from Doug Wimbish and powerful vocals from Corey Glover. They kicked off the set with the intense track «Time’s Up» from their second album of the same name, then dived straight into «Ignorance is Bliss» from «Vivid». «Middle Man» was also played, which is based on a suicide note Glover wrote as a teenager. There was plenty of humour from the band too, which the crowd enjoyed. Wimbish said «This is our last show on the tour, we gotta go back to land of Donald Trump». The audience shouted «Boo!» He grinned mischievously and asked «Let’s hear that one more time!» The crowd yelled an extended «BOOOOOOOO»! Wimbish replied «We don’t like him either, we want to stay here with y’all in Wales». Listening to their lyrics, it is evident that their music is still relevant today. During a particularly poignant performance of «Type» Glover sang: «This is the place where the truth is concealed, This is the time when the lie is revealed, Everything is possible, but nothing is real.» A highlight of the set (and the festival) was an appearance by guitarist Bernie Marsden (Whitesnake) as a special guest, to perform Cream’s «Sunshine Of Your Love» as the sun set over the Welsh mountains. A highlight was of course their biggest hit «Cult of Personality». Again, still relevant today and still sounded fresh. During the encore, Glover jumped into the crowd and ran around taking selfies with people, as the band jammed on stage. Glover amusingly asked «Whose idea was it that we go on AFTER Uriah Heep?!» With respect to Heep, the organisers got this right, Living Colour were phenomenal. 6/6

Thin Lizzy performed a world exclusive 40th anniversary set of the «Black Rose» album in its entirety, along with some other classics. The band consisted of Scott Travis of Judas Priest on drums, keyboardist Darren Wharton, Ricky Warwick on vocals, Damon Johnson on guitar, Troy Sanders from Mastodon (who joined the line up on bass this year) and the lynchpin Scott Gorham, also on guitar. Ricky Warwick introduced the classic album saying «I was 12 years old, growing up in Belfast. This album changed my life forever and I’m privileged to get a chance to play this for you amazing people tonight.»  Yes, Warwick isn’t Lynott. He has Lynott’s mother’s support to bring the music to a new generation of fans and he fronted the band with both power and humility. One of the highlights was the distinctive twin guitar harmony between Gorham and Johnson during «Waiting For An Alibi». There were some sound issues during the set, with unwanted disturbance in the electric signal. Warwick handled this well: «It’s only noise! It’s rock n roll!» Emotions ran high as the band delivered a beautiful performance of «Róisín Dubh (Black Rose): A Rock Legend» and a touching pictorial montage was displayed in tribute to Phil Lynott during «Rosalie». After a rousing version of «The Boys Are Back in Town» there could only be one encore, and the crowd erupted as «Whiskey in The Jar» was played and fireworks ended the festival with a bang. 5.5/6

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