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Live Review: Giants Of Rock

Live Review

Venue: Butlins, Minehead

Tripping the light fandango with the dad’s army of Britrock.

Menacing rain clouds converge on west Somerset as the third annual Giants Of Rock festival begins. This late-January gathering falls at the end of a terrible month in which we lost Lemmy, David Bowie, Dale Griffin, Glenn Frey, Signe Anderson and Paul Kantner in quick succession. Most bands on the bill belong to that same generation. Some even counted Bowie, Griffin and Lemmy as friends and collaborators. Mortality hangs heavy in the air.

Hunter also keeps his stage comments dry and minimal, aside from reminding us that he launched his career at a Butlin’s talent contest in 1956. Among the obligatory Mott tracks are rollicking, piano-pounding takes on All The Way From Memphis and Roll Away The Stone, which confirm the theory that these proto-glam hooligans left a big impression on Bruce Springsteen. Only the encore version of _All The Young Dudes _disappoints, strangely sluggish and subdued when it should have blown the roof off. Hunter also makes no mention of Bowie or Griffin, an oddly ungracious omission given recent events. But he still radiates the easy magnetism of somebody who has spent more than half a century in the rock’n’roll spotlight.

Giants Of Rock is a warm-hearted celebration of vintage talent, but not without its flaws. The clashing schedule of big-name acts playing against each other on different stages feels clumsy and unneccesary, when there is clear potential for the kind of staggered timetable seen at other similar festivals. The tiny number of female and non-Caucasian performers on the bill is also striking, even by the heavily white, male norms of classic rock. More diversity and new talent could easily fill the long gaps in the daily timetable, sowing the seeds for the rock giants of tomorrow.

It is past midnight on Sunday when Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock finally arrive to close the festival, 40 minutes behind schedule. “Good evening. Or should I say good morning?” beams Dougie White, a leather-clad hairball of pure energy just an inch away from one of Jack Black’s larger-than-life comic creations. From_ Doctor Doctor and _Lights Out to new single Vigilante Man, Schenker and his crew are reliably loud, preposterous and Flying V-tastic. Raising a middle finger to the Grim Reaper for another year, the third annual Giants Of Rock starts like a wake, but finishes like a party. 

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