from opener Michael Monroe to headliners Judas Priest - High Voltage is a Saturday to remember

High Voltage 2011 review

published: Tue 2nd Aug 2011

Judas Priest

Saturday 23rd to Sunday 24th July 2011
Victoria Park, London, E9 7BT, England MAP
£99 for weekend tickets
last updated: Tue 19th Jul 2011

Michael Monroe
Michael Monroe opens the second edition of High Voltage on the Classic Rock Stage. The super skinny blond explodes on stage clutching a saxophone, opening with new number 'Trick of the Wrist' from the 'Sensory Overdrive' release. Defying his grand age, Monroe never stands stationary and elicits a strong response climbing and hanging off the rigging to the side of the stage. More 'Sensory Overdrive' material is chased up with a couple of Hanoi Rocks and Demolition 23. covers before closer 'Dead, Jail or Rock 'n' Roll' cements Monroe as one of the strongest acts of the festival and it's only just begun.

Going for a more laid-back stage presence are the UK's own Amplifier on the Prog Rock Stage. Despite their lack of lively mannerisms, their music certainly makes up for it, a noisy yet mature fusion between alternative rock and modern progressive rock. Opening with 'Interglacial Spell' from their latest album 'The Octopus', Amplifier successfully attain the interest of the audience with heavy hooks, thoughtful compositions and typically lengthy numbers. The setlist deals exclusively with prime cuts from 'The Octopus', including 'Interstellar' and 'The Emperor', and closes seemingly too soon with 'The Wave'.

Seattle prog-metal pioneers Queensryche commence their set with the new, opinion-dividing 'Get Started'. Frontman Geoff Tate displays a theatrical variety of confidence as he journeys through the band's set. 'I Don't Believe in Love' and 'Jet City Women' encourage audience sing-alongs, while 'NM 156' and 'Screaming in Digital' are gifts for die-hard fans. The usually muscled 'Empire' feels less strong, due to the poor sound the Classic Rock Stage is subjected to.

Tate's microphone occasionally cuts out and the mixing is unsatisfactory. Nonetheless, it is hard not to smile at the 'Operation: Mindcrime' one-two closing punches of the emotive 'Eyes of a Stranger' and the austere instrumental 'Anarchy-X'. A good effort marred by poor sound.

Thin Lizzy
Thin Lizzy's fate is similar. Opening with 'Are You Ready?', the volume is too quiet and the distinct dual guitar harmonies signature to these Irish hard rockers are somewhat tainted. Many fans argue there is no Thin Lizzy without former vocalist Phil Lynott but current vocalist and guitarist Ricky Warwick does a laudable job. The setlist is studded with all the Lizzy classics, including 'Jailbreak', 'Emerald', 'Whiskey in the Jar' and 'The Boys Are Back in Town' with plenty of fans crooning along word perfect. Michael Monroe appears on stage gripping his saxophone for 'Dancing in the Moonlight (It's Caught Me in the Spotlight)' to a litany of applause. Closer 'Black Rose' is a great solution to end the set.

Over on the Prog Rock Stage, church is in session as U.S. prog maestro Neal Morse delivers an abbreviated performance of his latest full-length 'Testimony 2', beginning with 'Mercy Street'. Morse comes across as the most emotive of stage performers throughout the festival, almost preaching his vocals and occasionally bouncing up and down in a motivating fashion, like an infant. The music is uplifting prog rock and the backing band is a quickly assembled team but execute the music perfectly with an abundance of enthusiasm. Morse illustrated his multi-instrumental talents, singing and alternating between the guitar and keyboard. Returning full-circle to 'Mercy Street Reprise', the set ends and the audience feel somewhat... cleansed.

Grand Magus
Sweden's Grand Magus on the Metal Hammer Stage are enthusiastic to play London again. Opening with 'Kingslayer', the trio's relentless doom metal hammers down on the audience. Chunky traditional riffs provide a perfect soundtrack to headbang to. Fans call out the names to the songs before they are performed and the atmosphere is one of friendly camaraderie. With enough space to play just five songs, Grand Magus serve up two tracks from last year's 'Hammer of the North' alongside staples 'Iron Will' and 'The Shadow Knows'. The audience eagerly lap up all the doom metallers have to offer and in closing with the new 'Ravens Guide Our Way', it is clear the band have no disappointed as the crowd reward the band with a well-earned ovation.

Finally, the curtain raises on the Classic Rock Stage to reveal Judas Priest. This is part of the heavy metal icons' final worldwide tour and the band are on explosive full form. The set ignites with the opener on the classic 'British Steel' record – 'Rapid Fire' and proceeds to include at least one anthem from every album that beloved vocalist Rob Halford appeared on. Halford leaps into his role with full force. He pushes his vocals to their absolute limit and, although not completely unscathed by the passage of time, his voice is in fantastic shape. New guitarist Richie Faulkner replaces KK Downing sublimely and is at ease in this pressuring role. 'Metal Gods', 'Heading Out to the Highway', 'Victim of Changes', 'The Sentinel', 'Turbo Lover' and 'Breaking the Law' all receive particularly rapturous applause, particularly the latter track where Halford decides to let the audience sing it instead. A drum solo by Scott Travis signals the rest of the Priest classics to follow: 'Painkiller', 'Electric Eye', 'Hell Bent for Leather', 'You've Got Another Thing Comin'' and final closer 'Living After Midnight'. This is a praiseworthy exist for the Priest if this is indeed their last ever tour. Accompanied by pyro, lasers and Halford's usual encore entrance on a Harley Davidson bike and Judas Priest have undoubtedly marked this a night to remember.

Judas Priest
review by: Elena Francis

photos by: Elena Francis

Saturday 23rd to Sunday 24th July 2011
Victoria Park, London, E9 7BT, England MAP
£99 for weekend tickets
last updated: Tue 19th Jul 2011

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