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Snakecharmer / Hell To Pay / Three Lions http://www.rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/db/28/0f/Snakecharmer-2013-Rocktopia-concert-review-Thumb-20-1389642336.jpg Hot

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Snakecharmer / Hell To Pay / Three Lions - O2 Academy 3, Manchester (UK) - 21st June 2013

Variety is the spice of life, or so they say, and that's exactly what we got here. Three bands playing different styles - although all have melody by the ton - and at different stages of their musical lives, ranging from a few years in the business to quite a few decades. First up were newcomers Three Lions, a recent Frontiers signing who feature guitarist Vinny Burns (Dare, Ten, Asia) and drummer Greg Morgan (Dare, Ten, Vaughn), and are fronted by singer/bassist Nigel Bailey. Augmented by a second guitarist/keyboardist for their live shows, Three Lions wasted no time showing what they're all about, dishing out concise melodic rockers with skill and energy. Bailey has a great voice and fits in well with the bigger names, and if the majestic 'Kathmandu' and infectious 'Trouble In A Red Dress' are anything to go by, then their upcoming debut album will certainly be one to watch out for. It was especially gratifying to see Burns playing some genuinely fiery lead guitar again, and on a Flying V too!

Relatively new Manchester band Hell To Pay are a slightly different proposition. Whilst they undoubtedly have classic rock influences, their material covers all bases from melodic hard rock right up to modern metal. They have two exceptional guitarists in Dan Martin and Dario Nikzad and a punchy rhythm section (drummer Tom Henstock and bassist Stu Robertson), along with a collection of fine tunes that give free reign to Martin's powerful voice and some dazzling twin guitar work. The likes of 'Prisoners Of War' and 'Pain In The Future' have instant hooks and great playing, whilst the closing 'Judgement Day' is possibly the best of the lot, as well as the heaviest. With a new album out soon you can bet you're going to hear a lot more from them.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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The talent in Snakecharmer is quite mind-boggling, the guitar prowess of Micky Moody and Laurie Wisefield, the brilliantly assured bass of the legendary Neil Murray, the keyboard skills of Adam Wakeman, and the thundering drums of the omnipresent Harry James (surely he's been cloned?), are surely meant for bigger stages than this one. In fact, Virginia Wolf/Heartland singer Chris Ousey complained early on that his outside toilet was bigger, but that small whinge aside the band played as though they were at the M.E.N. Arena. With a set taken mostly from their excellent debut album, (with a few from Murray and Moody's Whitesnake days thrown in), the chemistry in this line-up is apparent, particularly in the guitar interplay and Wakeman's mastery of the Jon Lord Hammond sound, and whilst yours truly was more interested in hearing originals like 'Guilty As Charged', 'Accident Prone' and 'Fallen Leaves', it was understandably 'Ready And Willing', 'Walking In The Shadow Of The Blues' and 'Slide It In' that got the loudest cheers. The set took a bit of a dip during Moody's overlong slide solo, and at times it came across as a series of well-rehearsed songs rather than a smoothly flowing show, but Ousey is a considerable talent who comes to life when belting out 'Here I Go Again', 'Fool For Your Loving,' or the surprising, but most welcome, 'Take Me With You'. At the moment they need to play more shows until it all comes together as a complete package, but even so, seeing musicians like this up close and personal is an absolute privilege. Other three band bills have had more attention of late, but this show beat them hands down.

Phil Ashcroft

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