HRH AOR 2015: Pyscho Kiss, Night By Night & Dare
Taksed with kicking off Hard Rock Hell AOR 2015, Swansea rockers Psycho Kiss, fronted by the leggy Helen Ceri Clarke, they offer more than meets the eye. Initially they appear a typically watered down AOR band, resting on the laurels of their frontwoman. But as their early set progresses, playing to hardly the most awe-inspiring crowd in both size and enthusiasm, they show that they have an impressive amount of talent in their ranks. Guitarist Paul O’Brien lets loose some hot solos, while fastidiously mathematic in their construction; it does help bolster their performance.
Their Mr Big inspired strut gets proceedings moving nicely, even if there were lacklustre moments, the end product needing that little extra oomph.
Night By Night are a hard band to wrap your head around. They pull in a pretty big crowd and they fill the room with energy, holding the audience emphatically. Visually, they come across very boy band. Their singer is a well built with chiselled muscles and a poster boy smile, but he's kind of like Barbie in Ken's body; his high octave, slightly effeminate vocals do not in any way reflect his broad frame. But past that, and past their all-round overly brushed image and you have a band with some decent guitars, phenomenal vocal harmonies and a sound that, for so many here at the AOR stage, harkens back to a time of first girlfriends, of boozy nights out on the town and of, above all else, good times. I’d be lying if I was to say they were this writers usual cup of tea - a bit too Busted for my liking, really - but doubtlessly an entertaining band.
Dare’s headline set is a cause for celebration. Breaking into their third decade as a band, they mark the occasion of topping this year’s bill by rolling the cameras out. It has completely transformed the atmosphere in the room – a camera is positioned behind the sound desk, a camera on a mechanical arm swings over the heads of the front few rows of the audience. But what it does is bring out the best in the crowd who play up to the cameras, screaming louder, singing prouder.
The good time vibes resonate around the place and their set as a whole is one big, hip-shaking frolic. Their keyboard orientated sound – led by the tinkling fingers of ex-Thin Lizzy man Darren Wharton – is, compared to the music blaring out across the rest of the festival site, somewhat watered down. But glance around the room and study the demographic they’re playing to and you’ll realise that AOR’s placement alongside Hammerfest this year is an inspired one. It offers a spoonful of sugar to the more sour and menacing blast of the Hammerfest or doom stage and the predominantly middle age, denim wearing crowd lap it up like a kitten with milk.
It may not be a show to go down in the history books of rock n’ roll’s finest, but for most of those present tonight, good times and better memories were had.
Words: Phil Weller | Photos: Phil Goddard