The punters poured into Mote Park yesterday, 28 July, for day one of Ramblin’ Man Festival, and the event’s first ever “Friday At The Fair”. Though the day offered a reduced line-up compared to the weekend ahead, there was plenty to take in.
Opening the main stage was Graham Bonnet Band, who, despite the torrential downpours, managed to gather a large and energetic audience. Dressed in an impressive pink jacket, the former Rainbow frontman lit up the stage with a great performance. In a set list heavily leaning on Rainbow material, ‘Since You Been Gone’ provided an early highlight to Ramblin’ Man’s opening day.
Later on, the skies cleared for the ever impressive Last In Line. Formed by former members of the legendary Dio, they mixed a set of newer material with classic Dio songs for a crowd-pleasing afternoon slot. With Y&T guitarist Dave Menitekki watching from the side of the stage, Last In Line frontman Andrew Freeman breathed new life into his former band’s classics, including a massive festival sing-along to the great ‘Holy Diver’. In a more touching moment, ‘Starmaker’ was dedicated to the late Jimmy Bain, the Dio/Rainbow bassist who passed away last year.
The highlight of the day, however, was Y&T. The Oakland, California, rockers looked to be in some trouble earlier in the week, after it was announced, on Thursday, that guitarist John Nymann had fallen ill and would miss the gig, leaving the group to power through with a man down. The band have over 35 years’ worth of UK shows behind them, yet their audience remained as dedicated as ever in face of a tricky set. Overcoming the odds, Y&T unleashed a powerful performance with crowd and band coming together to create the highlight of the day. Nymann’s absence meant a slightly altered set, yet there were enough classics to keep the adoring crowd happy. ‘Mean Streak’ offered an early singalong, while ‘Rescue Me’ was a powerful closer.
And so it was down to the headliners to complete Ramblin’ Man’s opening salvo. Saxon took to the stage with an air of great confidence – and how couldn’t they? On home turf, the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal stalwarts commanded the stage, watched by adoring fans. In a set filled with classics, the Yorkshire outfit proved why they were worthy of a headline slot.
One of the great things about Ramblin’ Man Fair is seeing families enjoying a good old-fashioned rock show together, with kids on top of parents’ shoulders, sharing in the joy of watching their dads’ heroes; fans young and old held up the sign of the horns in appreciation of Bill Byford, still the ever-impressive Saxon frontman.
As day one of Ramblin’ Man Festival came to an end the crowd were suitably warmed up for an action-packed weekend. Roll on day two…
Check back over the next few days for more exclusive reviews and interviews with the bands at this year’s Ramblin’ Man.