Locals Orange Goblin (pictured right) were up next, playing on the very vivid and bright Metal Hammer sponsored stage. I think the last time I saw them was at Brownie's in NY, so it was great to see them again after so many years. The guitarist was wearing a Witchfinder General shirt and Ben, their monster of a singer has cut his hair since the last time I saw them --yeah it might be old news, but it's stoner metal news, which sometimes travels slow...! Swedish power metallers Hammerfall were next on the same stage, with their anthems and playing songs off of their many releases. Next up was Cathedral (photo at left), who's been churning out incredible music for the past 20 years or so. Although it was still broad daylight and weird to see them in literally the blazing sun (I am quite sure vocalist Lee Dorrian got sunburned!) they were dead on blasting through their set with old faves like Hopkins (Witchfinder General) in addition to tracks off their latest release: The Guessing Game such as Funeral of Dreams. Generously excessive is what I'd call the show they gave London that afternoon. Thank you Cathedral brethren! I quickly sprinted over to the Main Stage to catch some of Gary Moore's performance. I love his guitar sound, and his playing style, and you can hear his influence all over the place in music now. He played a couple of songs from the 80's, I believe the oldest was Out In The Fields, and a few songs with a celtic rock flavor that I didn't know, but I enjoyed standing enveloped in a crowd of like minded rock fans taking in the show; it was like floating in a pool - safe and comfortable, but maybe just not as quiet. Hoping for a Thin Lizzy track, I was disappointed, and although his time with them was in small slivers in his far reaching career, I could hear bits and pieces of Black Rose throughout his set. Hoofing it back rather quickly to the metal stage, I caught Saxon in mid-song. These guys just pummel the life out of the crowd and never look back. I don't know how many times I've seen them live, but believe me, they are not a band to be missed! With a set consisting partly of Princess of the Night, Motorcycle Man, Wheels of Steel, Denim and Leather (good lord, what a great crowd singalong!), and 20,000 Feet, we all hoped it would never end. They're playing on a heavy metal cruise that's going from Miami to Cozumel in January, along with 20+ other bands, and that's the next time they'll be "in" the US. That's the next time I'll see 'em, and what the hell, Miami in January's gotta be warmer than New York! After Saxon's conquest of the audience, was the tribute to Ronnie James Dio on the Main Stage. This event was announced after Dio's death in May and High Voltage was fully planned out, and I am glad to have been able to attend, but this performance drove the point home. Wendy Dio spoke to the fans, Jorn Lande (of Masterplan) and Glenn Hughes split vocal duties for a well thought out set of the best of Dio's work with Sabbath and the more recent Heaven and Hell, and even Phil Anselmo (Down, Pantera) joined the band with the already mentioned duo of vocalists for the finale of Neon Knights. And it took 3 extremely competent vocalists to really punctuate how amazing Dio's voice always was. No one had his range, and it showed. These singers are all great in their own right, but what I heard was not holding a candle to RJD, and no one could, that's all. It was emotional and there was huge singalong activity, sprinklings of impromptu speeches, and I suppose it was a celebration, but for me it was kind of an overall bummer. Also, guitarist Tony Iommi had his Red Custom SG Guitar stolen after the show; ouch! For a blast of lots of the real thing, check out the Dio tribute program from July of this year. Finally there was time for a food break, and then right afterwards the main stage closed out with ZZ Top. For a band that has been together for 41 years, I wouldn't say their performance was dull. Even though guitarist Billy Gibbons proclaimed "same 3 guys, same 3 chords", they mixed the set up with old and newer material that didn't seem repetitive in the least. Frank Beard's drumkit looked like a piece of playground equipment, and Dusty Hill and Billy had some coordinated dance moves that I would have to describe as: cute. Yes, cute! Shoot me, whatever; they were a lot of fun, and a great closer for the evening, mixing up their blues back catalog with favorites from Eliminator and the like. By leaving probably 2 songs before the trio finished, I got ahead of this crowd and made it back to where I was staying before the subways stopped running.
Day Two: Sunday started off a little slower for me; missed the Quireboys, which I really wanted to see, but it was not to be. UFO started off the day with guitarist Vinnie Moore experiencing technical problems
throughout the set, but a strong showing from both the crowd and band patched things up and pulled it all together for them, so the day begins (set list right)! Almost immediately after UFO, High on Fire was playing across the park at the Metal Stage (imagine that); they had played Montreal the night before, so they most likely had no concept of time- which might be a great way to go into playing a brutal set as the trio are used to churning out. Four of their 8 song set was from their latest release: Snakes For the Divine; all in attendance were pleased! My guess is they took a nap somewhere right away.... I got a chance for a bit of a break and to hang out with friends, when lo and behold a very familiar face (attached to an entire human body) strolled by very casual and suaveike. It was none other than Jimmy Page! Here's a photo of him with Kirk and Pepper from Down, whose performance I'll get to in just a moment! Opeth was the next band on the Metal Hammer stage, vocalist Mikael Akerfeldt introduced himself as Bret Michaels and then kicked the band into high gear. More lyrically and technically intense than most, the time seemed really short. Opeth only disappoints in that they play too short. They performed one song from each release since Blackwater Park, I believe, and may have started a little off their mark, which would explain why it seemed ridiculously short. I caught one song by Argent, but wouldn't you know, it was God Gave Rock and Roll To You, which was actually the song I wanted to hear; let's hear it for serendipity! These guys are a band I never thought I would ever see, so one song is for sure, better than none! Back at the Metal Hammer stage for New Orleans' Down. The quintet exploded onto the stage (that's a photo of drummer Jimmy Bower), and played as night fell; with each moment they got heavier and sludgier, and the fans got louder and crazier. Insane frontman Phil Anselmo dedicated the song Lifer to Ronnie James Dio and to Dimebag Darrell, who he had been in Pantera with. The band roared and switched gears like a demo derby car - the winner of the demolition, that is. Matt Pike from High on Fire and TM Kate also joined the New Orleans boys for their final barrage. The sky was dark when they were done, the crowd was depleted, and I would have been satisfied to finish off my weekend there, but there was still one more act left to see: Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Carl Palmer was doing double duty that weekend, as Asia played on Saturday, so I knew he would be in great shape. Their music is just too complex to fudge, so I expected a pretty decent show. What the fans at High Voltage got was a brilliant performance, most likely never to be duplicated. They played all of side one of Tarkus, and also Bitches Crystal (side 2- yes I am a fan), the sort of expected Take a Pebble and Lucky Man, and then blew into a large chunk of music from Pictures At An Exhibition. The big screen on either side of the stage was the handiest thing by far for this show, as it was packed further back than any other time during the weekend, and looking at Keith Emerson's gear with a closeup lens was especially a treat. Greg Lake's (at right) voice was spectacular, and aside from just the sheer individual brilliance of the players, it didn't hurt the performance that Keith Emerson went to the side stage during Carl's drum solo, grabbed two butcher knives and then proceeded to destroy and chop up his keyboards. Can you say a-stounding?? I was. They were. And that's how it went down. I'll include a bunch of pictures below, and be sure to listen to my program this Tuesday, as I'll be doing a rundown and including most of the bands mentioned here. I should also point out the bands I did not see (either by choice or schedule- you can make that up in your minds)...Foreigner, The Answer, The Union, Black Label Society, Clutch, Black Spiders, New Device, Transatlantic, Asia, Bigelf,, Pendragon, Touchstone, The Reasoning, Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash, Magnum, Steve Hackett, Uriah Heep, Marillion, Audrey Horne, Lethargy, Bachman & Turner, Joe Elliott, Ian Hunter and the Down N Outz and Joe Bonamassa...
Gary Moore: Argent