+ Crystal Ball
A good show with better attendance than I expected. That's the final verdict. E-Klub is a relatively small venue in Budapest and the promotion of the show was rather poor, so I was surprised to see that there were about 600 people gathered to see Dokken playing in Hungary for the first time.
We were a little late, missed the two Hungarian opening acts (who according to those who saw them "sucked big time") and Crystal Ball just started their set when we got in. The venue was about half-filled by that time and the Swiss band put on a great show. Not being familiar with their three albums I was very pleasantly surprised by their melodic hard rock and easy- going, stress-free performance. The band had the stage presence, were moving a lot, played tight, and most of all had the looks. I mean there are way too many shorthaired, slowed-down rock musicians on stage nowadays whose show is boring as hell, Crystal Ball are not one of them. They played a relatively short set, unknown to most of the people in attendance but they kept working very hard to win the audience for them. They talked to them, had fun, made the crowd sing and clap, mentioning the name of the band after almost every song. Very clever, well-prepared, mature way to win new fans and making good use of their opening slot. All in all the show was so good that I looked out for a merchandise stand to buy their albums, much to my unpleasant surprise there wasn't any. I really don't know how two bands can tour Europe without bringing any albums or T-shirts with them. Someone at the tour promoter or at the label must be kicked serious ass!
After a short break 800 pounds took the stage. Okay, I saw a few photos of the new line- up of Dokken recently but Don and especially John Norum looked even more fat live than on photos. They played a well-built, but way too short set opening with "Kiss of Death", including some of their greatest hits like "Into The Fire", "Breaking The Chains", "It's Not Love" (with Don making the audience sing the refrains), "When Heaven Comes Down". Thankfully there were only two songs ("Sunless Days" and "Little Girl") included from their weak new album. Would anyone believe there's a Dokken show without "Unchain The Night"?! Well, there was one… I still have no idea how come!
I was prepared for a slow, laid-back, emotionless Don Dokken but the man on stage was even worse than my expectations. A fat man, trying to save his voice as much as possible, hitting *some* old-timer high notes but mostly just imitating a stage presence, moving maximum one step to the left and one to the right. John Norum was even worse! Okay, I know it's just a paid, fill-in spot for him in Dokken but at least one would expect some emotions on his face when playing, at least one single (!) eye-contact with the crowd. His playing was okay, nothing more. The rhythm section saved the day for Dokken. Mick Brown and Barry Sparks were simply fantastic, as tight as if they had played together for 20 years. They both drew one's glance from the right side of the stage (filled with Don and Norum). Barry's playing and stage moves were at least as spectacular as young Malmsteen throwing himself and his guitar all over the place; and Mick is the Power behind. He is probably the strongest drummer with the heaviest performance I've ever seen, not to mention that he was singing backing vocals on almost all the songs, and he was the one who kept joking from behind his kit trying to lighten up the melancholic atmosphere that lingers around when Don appears.
Thinking a bit more about it: the band lived up to my expectations (that weren't too high after the relatively weak albums of the last some years) Don being as emotionless as expected, Norum being a lot worse, but the rhythm section being much better and an evening of entertainment in themselves. However, if Dokken played in the same venue next week, I wouldn't go but if Crystal Ball played there, I would most definitely be there. And I guess this is very sad for Dokken and more than flattery for the young Swiss guys.
Review by Endre "Bandi" Hübner,