Ramblin’ Man Fair 2019 went out with a bang. Here’s the Rushonrock take on a firecracker of a final day.

Living Legends

It was a set of two halves. But what a second half. With a back catalogue bursting at the seams with crossover classics, who knows why Living Colour kicked off their initially stilted main stage stint with a cover of Robert Johnson’s Preachin’ Blues. It was hardly festival friendly. Corey Glover looked as disinterested as the crowd until he suddenly sparked into life prior to the band’s inspired Elvis Is Dead/Ain’t Nothing But A Hound Dog mash-up. Quote of the day surely came from Living Colour’s droll frontman as he glanced towards the hordes of blokes dressed in American civil war garb and said: “I’ve got a message for all the re-enactors – Elvis is dead!”. Fortunately Vernon Reid is alive and well and one of the most instinctive axemen on the planet pulled off a blinder on the brilliant Cult Of Personality. 

Let’s Hear It For The Girls

At first glance this year’s Ramblin’ Man Fair appeared a little male heavy but female singer songwriters dominated early doors on Sunday. The enchanting Rews acoustic set played out in front of a handful of in-the-know VIPs proved to be the perfect post-hangover pick-me-up with Shauna Tohil’s charming Ulster lilt an instant hit. Running Against A Wall is in the running for track of the weekend. Over on the blues stage Elles Bailey looked right at home in front of a huge crowd – once she managed to get a troublesome mic lead under control there was no stopping the Nashville-bound star. An affecting version of Levon Helm’s When I Go Away and the call-to-arms passion underpinning Women Like Me punctuated a powerful set. Back in the VIP tent and a rare appearance from US country/rock singer Jaime Kyle threw up a series of unexpected treats. Battling to be heard above the first shots of Sunday’s civil war re-enactment (see Corey Glover’s quote above), a stunning version of the Heart co-write Stranded oozed AOR goodness.

The First Kotz Is The Deepest

Richie Kotzen wrapped up his European tour – the singer songwriter has been on the road since the middle of June – in fine style with a groove-laden blues set that was about as far removed from his Poison/Mr Big heyday as possible. But this was no place for 90s hair metal and the opening salvo of Riot and Bad Situation were rich in gritty blues and bone shaking authenticity. Kotzen, of course, has nothing to prove following a stellar career brought bang up to date by his key contribution to The Winery Dogs. And yet it was clear that the musician boasting co-writes on Poison’s underrated – and blues-tinged – top 20 hits Stand and Until You Suffer Some (Fire And Ice) was keen to show Ramblin Man Fair his full range of fret melting talents. Rushonrock’s first taste of solo Kotzen will live long in the memory.

Bourne Again?

Not really. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it and Sunday night special guests Airbourne have long since found the winning formula with their balls-to-the-wall, AC/DC-inspired merriment and mayhem. Likening his band’s music to a JD and Coke – ‘not very original but it hits the spot’ – self-deprecating frontman Joel O’Keeffe is under no illusion that Melbourne’s finest are in no way, shape or form reinventing the rock and roll wheel. What they are doing is entertaining the f**k out of wild crowds worldwide with a verse-chorus-verse blueprint backed by a battering ram of Marshall amps and adolescent antics straight from the Angus Young school of tomfoolery. For as long as O’Keeffe continues to connect with his crowd (catch the clip on the Rushonrock Facebook page of Airbourne’s main man being carried aloft through the heaving masses) and maintains an ear for a festival anthem then these party-starters are here to stay. 

Keeping Up With The Jones

Following an Urgent reappraisal of their frankly ludicrous photo release form (the assembled toggies had initially been asked to sign away the rights to their work in return for shooting Sunday night’s headliners), Foreigner delivered what can only be described as the ultimate melodic rock showcase. As 74-year-old founder Mick Jones continues to ease himself towards retirement – yet again he only emerged midway through a stellar set – it’s clear that there’s plenty of life left yet in the AOR giants. All the hits (and Foreigner have a few) compensated for the overlong keyboard and drum solos on a night when radio friendly classics were warmly-received and expertly delivered. Frontman Kelly Hansen has breathed new life into these classic rock treasures and his 14 year tenure flanking Jones has flown by. It’s unlikely the latter will be on stage for the next 14 years but don’t bet against Hansen taking Foreigner the distance.

Images By Adam Kennedy