Last year, Gotthard were touring in Germany with Europe. We had the flights and hotels booked to see them in Cologne, but fate got in the way and our daughter got ill. The travel plans were put on hold, and we stayed at home to take care of her. We were determined to see the band though, and soon booked a trip to Stockholm, where the band were playing on their Scandinavian tour in February 2010.
We had arranged an interview with the band before the gig, but apparently the had been a "communication breakdown" somewhere along the line. The guy who was supposed to be their tour manager answered my phonecall from home, stating that he wasn't on the tour with the band at all. Okay... for the next two hours we tried to find a way to contact someone in the band's organization, but with no luck. I started to feel quite nervous about the situation, afraid that we wouldn't have our names on the guest list either.
There were dozens of people waiting to get in when we returned to the venue. The doors opened, and once we got in, our bad luck vanished. We were on the list, and Mira got her photo pass without any hassle. Oddly enough, the whole crowd had to wait around in the foyer for quite a while, before the doors to the actual live room and bar opened.
Fatal Smile were the support act, which isn't surprising since they seem to be supporting every hard rock act in Sweden. During the last two years they've supported WASP, Doro, Lordi, Dio and Queensryche, just to name a few... Even I've seen them before, a few years ago in Helsinki... yep, as a support act to Winger. Can't blame them for not trying!
The band we saw supporting Winger wasn't the band we saw in Stockholm. The mysteriously named founding member, guitarist Y has since then replaced the other members in the band, and Fatal Smile 2010 looks and sounds more glamourous and hard rocking than the old band. Especially vocalist Blade is a charismatic performer with a strong voice, making it his mission to win over the crowd. Who knows, he might have succeeded in it, hadn't the band's set been cut short.
The band came on stage with all guns blazing, opening with "Neo Natural Freaks" and "Out Of My Head", if I'm not mistaken. I very well could be, as the band's material isn't too familiar to me. Anyway, they put on a high-energy rock show, with wild-eyed Blade encouraging everyone to clap their hands or at least raise them. Despite his efforts, the first two or three songs didn't leave a lasting impression, and it wasn't until the band played their early hit "Hip M.F." that they started to get a bigger reaction. Just like the Finns back in 2006, the Swedes enjoy to shout out "Motherfucker"... It was followed by the excellent new single "Run For Your Life", which seemed to go down quite well too. Unfortunately during the song Blade's microphone died a sudden death, and all efforts to revitalize it appeared futile. The vocalist stormed off stage, Y and bassist Alx followed, with only drummer Zteff waving the crowd goodbye. And that was it. A pity, since people were warming up...
By the time the headliners GOTTHARD were about to start, the club seemed to have filled up quite nicely. "There was excitement in the air" might sound like a cliche, but it also summarizes the vibe just before the first notes... and those notes started the song "Unspoken Words" from the new album. It's not one of my favourites but the band really made it come alive, and it worked really well. The uptempo "Gone Too Far" was equally impressive, and "Top Of The World" didn't disappoint either - a great song on CD and a great song live.
"Need To Believe", the title song of the band's latest album was the first balladic track. While the first three numbers were great, "Need..." made me realize that I'm witnessing something more than just a regular gig. I'm talking about cold chills down my spine... Steve Lee's acrobatics during the crowd-pleaser "Hush" were hilarious, and the song was a nice easy-going break between two more "serious" tracks, of which "I Know You Know" was the second one. The hard-rockin'"Make My Day" and "Right From Wrong" was up next, followed by some guitar soloing by Freddy Scherer.
When Leo Leoni came back to the stage armed with an acoustic guitar, we know that something slightly more mellow would follow. "Unconditional Faith", the recent "video song" was played next. It was probably the one song in the setlist I could've done without, but it sounded nice enough. The next ten minutes made me forget all about it though, as it was time for the Leoni and Lee acoustic jam. Again those damn chills went down my spine, when the dynamic duo played and sang the ballads "One Life, One Soul", "Let It Be" and "Heaven". From where I was standing, it looked like they had the whole crowd mesmerized... the guys seem to have great chemistry between them, and the great vibe on stage really reflects on the audience. I wouldn't have minded if they had played more as a duo.
From the intimate acoustic jam the band moved into the big sounding "Shangri La", the Zeppelinesque opening track of "Need To Believe". Once the band started rockin', the kept it up all the way to the end of the set, with straight-forward tracks "All We Are" and "I Don't Mind" leading into one of my favourite tracks, "The Oscar Goes To You". The sing-along hit "Lift U Up" ended the set on a high note. The standard waiting game started, and not so surprisingly the band came back after a few minutes. An early number "Sister Moon" got a good reception, but it was "Anytime Anywhere" that most of us were waiting for, and needless to say we were rewarded. Yep, cold chills, goosebumps and whatever...
I believe everyone would've gone home very happy if the gig would've ended with "Anytime Anywhere", but the band thought otherwise and returned to give us "one more for the road". Didn't hear any complaints (as if that would've been likely...), when the band kicked off the Led Zeppelin classic "Rock And Roll". A truly cool, quite unexpected move.
Gotthard's gig in Stockholm was most probably one of the three best gigs I've ever seen. It's a pity that we haven't had a chance to see this superb live band in our home country yet, but here's hoping that one day it'll happen.
Rock And Roll
Steve Lee - vocals
Nicolo Fragile - keyboards
Review by Kimmo Toivonen