Four Wheel Drive at Hard Rock Hell III – Prestatyn North Wales-
I worry about Danny (the singer from Tribal Law) all night. I worry about 4WD missing their chance for glory. First thing in the morning I go down to see the Hard Rock Hell management. They say they have been inundated with fans coming up asking about Four Wheel Drive. They confirm to me that 4WD will go on. The band will play at the end of the ‘day’ on the Old Skool NWOBHM Stage – They will have a slot right at the end of the afternoon on this (smaller) stage set in the Queen Victoria pub (within the camp.) They will go on after the likes of Dumpys Rust Nuts and Hammerhead etc. It is not a grand stage. It is not even a great setting. But it’s gonna be just right …. just right because those other old skool bands will warm up the crowd in all the right places. And what about Danny from Tribal Law? “No news” says the man …. “But I hear he is OK”.
So we wait till the end of the ‘day’ for Four Wheel Drive. We pass the time with the bands like Kingston’s Pig Iron (amazing Southern style raw metal) and Girlschool, Glitterati and Tigertailz. Then we move into the Queen Vic ‘pub’ which is heaving with hot sweaty rock luvvas grinding to the sounds of Hammerhead. For a few anxious moments it looks like Hammerhead don’t wanna relinquish the stage to the ‘new’ boys – Four Wheel Drive. Paddy and Ben are standing at the back of the stage with sullen expressions upon their faces – well it is understandable, this is their second day without booze ! God love ‘em. But, anyway, the stage manager (a rather short man wearing a cap that is too large for him and comedy eye-wear) finally tells old-timers Hammerhead to ‘F** Off’ and ushers on our hard working rock heroes…
The hairy festival poet introduces our boys and makes reference to their latest album. He gives ‘em a good, solid warm up and even goes some way to explaining why their gig had been postponed from the previous night.
For a few moments I thought that the crowd of NWOBHM die-hard fans would wander off from the area, but 4WD caught ‘em with an amazingly electrifying opening that cleared the way for a stupendous set. Hooray! Four Wheel Drive had finally made it. They had got to the zone before the zone had got to them…
The band’s balls-out Rock N’ Roll ‘attitude’ has accelerated considerably since the last times I caught ‘em live. They are now less Southern Rockin in sound and stature and instead play a harder variety of rock / heavy metal. Yes, the Southern blues influences are still there but now the sound is brasher, bolder, more self-assured. Their’s is now mainstream variety rock, fit to fill stadiums – think the Australian rockers Airbourne to get an idea.
Paddy and Ben, stripped to the waist, played intertwining guitar solo arrangements and brazenly brash chords with flare and finesse and the excitement was truly raw and unpretentious. Will played Herculean drums with pride and pomposity, beating out the rhythm until the fragile walls of the pub began to tremble in sympathy. The crowd roared with delight as the band ladled out the hits like ‘White Lines’ and ‘High Roller’.
The spectacle and the sheer brute force of this band were more than the ears (or eyes) could behold. Yet the Hard Rock Hell punters were screaming for more. As I looked around the venue I realised that scores more rockers were filing into the venue from next door (Stage 2) – which I assume was hosting Witchfynde.
The best man of the day, however, was – for me – the 4WD front man and bassist Jamie. He stands out like a tall icon of common sense and propriety in between the berserk frizzy mopped guitar twins. He holds his guitar high and shakes his black locks. His voice is so large it should come with its own planning application stapled to the front of the speaker boxes. His voice adds another huge layer to the crisp sounds and textures going on in a flurry of activity around him. This band is so great and the sounds are so enriching, that you want to jump, jive and jig for joy.
In the latter stages of the incredible set, as Jamie introduced the band to the rapturous crowd and thanked Total Rock Radio and Hard Rock Hell for the opportunity to play the festival he also took out time to mention Tribal Law. A shriek and claps rose up from the crowd. Everyone looked around to see where the gleeful noise was coming from. “He is here …. He is here” a female voice squeals out. Standing at the back of the crowd, hidden by a glass panel, was none other than Danny the lead singer from Tribal Law. He had made ‘a full recovery’ and was watching Four Wheel Drive play their show.
After all that we had been through – that was truly the final blessing!
The news item about the collapse of Tribal Law lead singer Danny Adams: