After the demise of Firefest, there was a frightening empty space in my calendar. For the last three years we had made the pilgrimage to Nottingham in October to see many of our favourite bands and meet with friends from several countries. "What will we do this year?" Was the burning question... Well, the answer came in the form of the Rockingham announcement sometime last winter. Yeah, it wouldn't be the same as Firefest and some people saw it as a cash- in kind of a thing, even saying they would refuse to come no matter who'd be playing. I thought that was fairly extreme. if someone was willing to put their money on the line and provide us a chance to see 20 great bands in a great location, They'd surely get my approval. I didn't feel like I was betraying anyone. Festivals like these are keeping the scene alive, and i have a lot of respect for anyone fighting for this good cause.

Our journey to Nottingham began in the middle of the wednesday night. After two taxis,a busride, two flights and two trains we finally arrived at our hotel, the recently refurbished Welbeck hotel, now called Roomzzz. The journey took its' toll on us, not only were we really tired but we also lost a bag. The airline did find it and brought it to us a couple of days later, but not having it did mess up our schedule for thursday. There was a "Rockingjam" warm-up gig on thursday with The Treatment headlining, but we skipped it and had a good night's sleep instead. 

Rockingham time! The line at the door wasn't as long as we've gotten used to, but it moved slowly enough. As we had to stand in line to get our passes, we missed a couple of Santa Cruz songs. Sure, we could have been at the venue earlier, but the was room for improvement when it came to the door arrangements. The next two days worked out smoother.

It was a bit of a proud moment for us Finns to see SANTA CRUZ on the legendary Rock City stage. Unfortunately it felt like they had a completely wrong slot in the line up, opening the festival early in the afternoon. The band's high energy hard rock would have worked much better a bit later, although you can hardly blame them for not giving it 100%. By the end of the set they had won over a lot of people but then again, some were turned off by the insane volume and the band's tendency to f**king use the f**k-word every f**king chance they got,  F**k yeah.


I have seen the band a few times before and especially the last time at South Park they really killed it, but this time they struggled a bit. The unbearable volume didn't do them any good and I felt like they chose some rather average songs to the first part of their set. Things got better though, and the few last songs of the set were "all killer, no filler", including the hits "We Are The First To Fall", "Wasted And Wounded" and "Aiming High". All in all i thought they were surprisingly low in the line-up, considering their rather high profile, and I'm sure they would have been more suited to a later slot. 

Bonafide Heroes
Velvet Rope
My Remedy
Nothing Compares to You
6 (66) Feet Under
Let Them Burn
We Are the Ones to Fall
Wasted & Wounded
Aiming High

UK melodic rockers SERPENTINE were up next. I wasn't too familiar with their material, I only had their two first albums of which I liked the first one and thought the second was a bit "meh". Now the band had a new singer and a recent, Gary Hughes-produced album under their belt. 

Compared to the Guns 'n Row influenced sleazy super-loud hard rock of the openers, Serpentine's smooth, keyboard-driven Rock was like silk to my battered ears. New vocalist Andy Payne made it immediately clear that he was the right man for the job by bursting out a perfect high note scream. He continued to impress throughout the band's set, even effortlessy nailing the songs previously sung by Tony Mills. That's not something every singer can do...

Most of the Serpentine's set was from the new album, and damn, those songs sounded good, "Season Of The Witch" and "La Tragedienne" being two highlights. First thing I did after the gig was purchasing the new album from the merch desk.

Payne and guitarist Chris Gould were the most active ones on stage, while stand-in bass player Alex Markham threw in his best John F. Kennedy-impressions and "tormented artist"-faces. The band had announced on their Facebook page that former vocalist Tony Mills would show up for a song, but he was nowhere to be seen.

If there's one thing that Serpentine is missing, it's the stronger presence of backing vocals. Keyboard player Gareth David Noon did have a microphone but I didn't notice him singing that often. If they used some pre-recorded ones, they were very low in the mix. 

Deep Down (There's A Price For Love)
Season Of The Witch
Lonely Nights
La Tragedienne
Where Does Your Heart Beat Now?
The Hardest Fall
Whatever Heartache

ROMEO'S DAUGHTER then... they made a triumphant return at Firefest a few years ago, which revitalized their career. Now they've released two new albums since then and are a rather active band these days.  

The band played a set that was pretty much a 50/50 split between the early material and songs from the post-reunion albums. They started with the new stuff, except for the bouncy "Attracted To The Animal" which was played as the second track. I must admit that although the band performed professionally and the lovely Leigh Matty sang like an AOR queen, the newer material was only mildly entertaining. Tracks like "Radio" and "Already Gone" are good, but they kind of sound like they're missing the actual choruses. 

With the new songs out of the way, the last four songs were from the first, self-titled RD album. The catchy pop rockers "Velvet Tongue" and "Inside Out" lead us to the power ballad "I Cry Myself to Sleep at Night" and finally to the rousing closing track "Wild Child". That particular track was the first goosebumps moment of the festival for me.

I was surprised that the band didn't play "Heaven In The Backseat" and "Don't Break My Heart" from the first album, and I was a bit disappointed that there was only one songs from "Delectable", which is in my books at least as good an album as the debut. I do understand that they want to play the new material too.

Trippin' Out
Attracted to the Animal
Already Gone
Velvet Tongue
Inside Out
I Cry Myself to Sleep at Night
Wild Child

As far as I'm concerned, the winner of Friday was ROBERT TEPPER. I wasn't sure what to expect. I had no idea whether he'd be on stage with an acoustic guitar only, or with a full band. Thankfully he had a band, I believe a Spanish one, and two backing singers. The man himself was in great shape both vocally and physically. Kicking off with one of my favourite tracks of his, "Another Place, Another Time", I was pretty much in AOR heaven right away, and those damn goosebumps appeared again. "Soul Survivor" didn't help at all, another personal favourite.

The female backing vocalist whose name escaped me got her chance to shine in "Fighting For You", originally a duet with Carroll Sue Hill. The ballad "If That's What You Call Lovin'" really showcased Tepper's voice and soulfulness, and a surprise addition to the setlist was "Le Bel Age", a Tepper-penned song recorded by Pat Benatar. But then it was time for a minor disaster - the keyboards broke down. After an unsuccessful attempt to fix them, the band had to skip a song and play Tepper's biggest hit without keys. Although the synths are a major part of the song's arrangement, the raw version worked well enough and Rock City was singing along happily. Keys or no keys, the bigger cause of disappointment were the wasted minutes - we could have heard "Don't Walk Away", "Angel Of The City" or Tepper's version of the Benny Mardones hit "Into The Night" instead!

Another Place, Another Time
Soul Survivor
Which Way Are We Running
Fighting For You
Sing for Me
If That's What You Call Lovin'
The Unforgiven
No Rest for the Wounded Heart
Le Bel Age
No Easy Way Out


Before you ask, if I said that Tepper was the winner, it doesn't mean that ECLIPSE (or any of the other bands) were losers. ECLIPSE put on a hell of a show once again, but that's what I was expecting. After witnessing their killer performance at South Park in June, I knew that they'd have no trouble to turn Rock City into one big hard rockin' party. 

The Eclipse could be divided into three "acts": the first, frantic opening act, the somewhat more peaceful second act and then the hard-hitting finale.

The video songs "I Don't Wanna Say I'm Sorry", "Stand On Your Feet" and "Wake Me Up" hardly gave the audience any time to catch their breath. With "The Storm" the band slowed it down a notch, but once the chorus hit again, most of the fans couldn't help but shout along. 

The second act consisted of the "B-songs": "Battlegrounds", "Breakdown" and "Blood Enemies" could be described as "moody" tracks. Each one of them does have a big chorus hook and the sing-alongs are inevitable. 

With the W.E.T. cover "One Love" Mårtensson & co sent their best wishes to Jeff Scott Soto, who was celebrating his fiftieth birthday at home. It's one of the modern-day AOR classics and would be a tough one to follow for many bands, but Eclipse had more tricks up their sleeve, namely the "hits" of their previous album: "Bleed & Scream" and "Ain't Dead Yet". And to close their set, the band played "Breaking My Heart Again" from their breakthrough album "Are You Ready To Rock". 

The band used their 60 minutes well, didn't mess around with long solos or other nonsense. Erik Mårtensson has turned into one of the top frontmen in this genre, and Magnus Henriksson into a true guitar hero. Robban Bäck played his drums with flair and finesse, and drummer-turned-into-bassist Magnus Ulfstedt added the low-end sounds and background vocals. 

I Don't Wanna Say I'm Sorry
Stand On Your Feet
Wake Me Up
The Storm
Blood Enemies
One Love
Ain't Dead Yet
Bleed & Scream
Breaking My Heart Again



TOM KEIFER, the vocalist best known from Cinderella was Friday's headliner. This time he was playing a solo artist with his own band, even though most of the set was Cinderella songs. Understandable, as he only has one solo album under his belt and the Cinderella songs are what most people want to hear anyway.

Compared to the Cinderella gig we saw a few years ago in Helsinki, Keifer was much more energetic and seemed generally happier this time. His voice took a while to warm up and it didn't sound that good during the first few songs, but towards the end we got to hear some fine singing from Tom. Especially the encore "With A Little Help From My Friends" sounded fantastic, as did most of the ballads. The rockers... certain high notes sounded painful. I did enjoy the songs which he didn't have to shierk all the way through.

Mrs Keifer, Savannah, is a member of the group but she wasn't with the band in Nottingham. There was another female singer who added her feminine touch to some of the songs, and at some point she seemed to be totally under the spell of music, almost like in a trance...

Three songs from Keifer's solo album were played. I hadn't heard the album, so I didn't know them beforehand. While I didn't mind them at all, I can't say they left a lasting impression or made me want to rush out and buy the CD. 


Bad Seamstress Blues
It's Not Enough
A Different Light
Somebody Save Me
Shake Me
Heartbreak Station
Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)
Nobody's Fool
Solid Ground
Night Songs
Coming Home
Shelter Me

It’s Only Rock’n Roll (But I Like It)
With A Little Help From My Friends

Gypsy Road



The openers of the Day Two were Swedish newcomers CARE OF NIGHT. A lot of previous day's attendees were probably taking care of their hangovers, as Rock City was far from crowded. Those who had dragged themselves to the venue got a smooth, keyboard-heavy awakening. 

The CON sound was remarkably Swedish, as they sounded like a mix of Work Of Art, early H.E.A.T. and Bad Habit, pure ear-candy for fans of the Scandi-AOR scene. Their set was polished and highly professional and I liked their songs, but the band didn't have much of a stage presence. It was now a case of "Let The Music Do The Talking"... as most of the band were bald and with a bit facial hair, they looked more like certain RockUnited.Com staff members than Rock Stars!

The band's most popular songs seemed to be the last two ones, "Contact" and "Cassandra". They are both very catchy indeed, and with them the band made sure that their set was ended on a positive note. 


Give Me Strength
Heart Belongs
Please Remember
Those Words


VEGA then... they had charisma and "star quality", especially vocalist Nick Workman had plenty of it. Next to him was guitarist Marcus Thruston who somehow reminded me of Neal Schon in appearance. On the other side were bassist Tom Martin and additional guitarist Michael Kew. James Martin was behind a stack of keys and a laptop and Dan Chantrey provided the beat. Most of the guys sang backing vocals, and they did sound pretty good. 

The band has a lot of good songs to choose from. I have my favourites on each of their three albums and many of them were played, including their already classic first single "Kiss Of Life", "White Knuckle Ride" and "Stereo Messiah". Then again, many favourites of mine, probably yours and the band's too, had to be left out as the time was very limited. There were no ballads, the boys raced through their set in an uptempo style. Maybe one of their moody, balladic tracks would have added a bit variety to the setlist. Still, I have nothing to complain about, thank you very much.

What the Hell
The Wild, the Weird, the Wonderful
White Knuckle Ride
Stereo Messiah
Kiss of Life
Gonna Need Some Love Tonight
All or Nothing
Hands in the Air



LAST AUTUMN'S DREAM were a bit of a mystery. The band hasn't played live that often, but have churned out albums at frightening pace over the last 10 years or so. I haven't been following them very intensively, I have about half of their albums and quite like them. 

The line-up of LAD at Rockingham was a Swedish rock supergroup: Michael Erlandsson on vocals, Jamie Borger of Treat on drums, Nalle Påhlsson (ex-Treat, Vindictiv, Therion, Royal Mess) on bass and Peter Söderström (Ignition) on guitars. I didn't catch the name of the keyboard player but there was one on stage too.  

It must have been hard to decide which songs to play with such a large back catalogue to choose from. We had a chat with Erlandsson after the gig, and he said that it wasn't easy, and that some songs were "picked out of a hat" so to speak. The band's latest album "Level Eleven" was released earlier this year, and naturally a selection of songs from it were performed. They were ok, but my favourites were older songs "Again And Again", "After Tomorrow's Gone" and "Another Night", which I hadn't heard before. The "old time rock'n roll style" cover of "See My Baby Jive" was a song that Erlandsson himself was quite happy about but frankly I could've done without it - especially as many great LAD songs could've been played instead.

Kiss Me
Follow Your Heart
Go Go Go - Get Ready for the Show
Another Night
After Tomorrow's Gone
I Don't Want to Hurt You
See My Baby Jive
Again and Again
Rock 'n' Roll Is Saving My Soul

ELECTRIC BOYS brought a bit of a psychedelic, 60'ies styled vibe to the festival. Kicking off with my favourite song of theirs, "Psychedelic Eyes", they proved that they've got star quality and charisma. Vocalist/guitarist Conny Bloom is an enigmatic character, as is his long-time musical partner, bassist Andy Christell.

I've never been much of a fan of the band, and we had already calculated that our dinner break would be during their set. We stuck around and listened to a few songs, but none of them couldn't match the energy of the opening track. So, even though we knew we'd miss their biggest hit "All Hips And Lips", we headed to a nearby pub for burgers and beer.

Psychedelic Eyes
Into The Ditch
The Change
Freaky Funksters
Mary In The Mystery World
Knee Deep In You
Rags To Riches
Captain Of My Soul
All Lips N' Hips 

I wasn't sure what to expect from JIM PETERIK. Would it be acoustic or duo-type doodling or a full band show? His solo material or Survivor classics? Well, it was very much an electric rock show with classics from Survivor and many other bands, all written by Mr. Peterik.

The band was "Rockin' Into the Night" as we found our way back, and Jim Peterik was the shining star. Literally, as he had a mirror-covered guitar, shiny pvc-trousers and a pvc-vest and gloriously pink shirt. Not to mention the purple hairdo. Glam-tastic! The other guys on stage kind of looked like shrinking violets. Well, Ides Of March bassist Bob Bergland did have a very loud shirt...

For melodic rock fans, Survivor is the band mostly associated with Peterik, and the next few songs were Survivor hits. Jimi Jamison (R.I.P) was remembered with "The Search Is Over". Peterik told a story how Jamison impressed the band by singing the song while auditioning, a song he had never heard before and nailing it... the rest is AOR history. And "I Can't Hold Back" - yeah, those goosebumps...

Peterik's first big hit, The Ides Of March song "Vehicle" was introduced with a humorous story about the origins of the song. I won't repeat it here in case someone reading this is going to a Peterik gig anytime soon, he'll probably tell it again... Keyboard player Alessandro Del Vecchio helped out on "Sound Of Home", the Pride of Lions song, singing Toby Hitchcock's high parts, and he even got to sing the ballad "Man Against the World" all by himself, with Peterik playing the piano.

The obvious showstopper and last song of the set was "Eye Of The Tiger". It's probably one of the most well known songs of all time and the Rock City crowd went suitably crazy. Peterik played an extended guitar solo, which included playing the guitar behind his head and a walk in the photo pit and the barrier. The people in the front rows appreciated the gesture, and as far as I know, none of them were blinded by all that shine from Peterik's guitar and clothes...

Rockin' Into the Night (38 Special)
Burning Heart (Survivor)
The Search Is Over (Survivor)
I Can't Hold Back (Survivor)
Vehicle (The Ides of March)
Sound of Home (Pride of Lions)
High On You (Survivor)
Man Against the World (Survivor)
Heavy Metal (Sammy Hagar)
Is This Love? (Survivor)
Caught Up In You/Hold On Loosely (38 Special)

Eye of the Tiger (Survivor)

Hailed once as the "next big thing" etc, DAN REED NETWORK's mix of rock, pop, funk and metal is still something special. Maybe back in the day it was too special, the record labels didn't know what to do with it... interestingly enough, their music sounds still fresh and contemporary, unlike most of the albums of late eighties.  

Some weeks before Rockingham, Dan Reed played an acoustic gig in my hometown to a couple of dozen people. He made a big impression on me, not caring about the fact that only a handful of people were there and played with soul and passion. Now he had his Network with him, hundreds of people in the audience... I had a feeling that Dan Reed Network would put on a good show, but I was wrong. "Good" would be an understatement, the band was absolutely phenomenal! 

The band opened with "Resurrect", not a song that I particulary like but somehow it didn't really matter. The energy that was released from the stage was overwhelming and I couldn't help but sing along and smile! Dan Reed was all over the stage, looking like he was in his element, and the rest of the guys were very lively too. Even though the band is "Dan Reed Network", it's not Dan Reed and his sidemen, both guitarist Brion James and bassist Melvin Brannon II are true stars as well. Drummer Dan Pred and new keyboard player Rob Daiker added their considerable talents to the musical side of things, but obviously they couldn't bounce around the stage! 

"Under My Skin", "Forgot To Make Her Mine", "Make It Easy", "Baby Now I" and the beautiful "Rainbow Child" all played in a row were almost too much to handle, all great songs and performed with passion and style. I don't know how Dan Reed does it, he manages to come across as a humble, regular guy yet he's still oozes charisma and star quality! 

The second half of the set included both big favourites of mine, but also songs that wouldn't make it to a my "Best Of DRN" playlist. Still, I don't think there was a second during this gig that I didn't enjoy. The finale was grand indeed, with video hit "Tiger In A Dress" from "Slam" and the first song I ever heard from the band, "Get To You". And then it was over... way too soon. 

Under My Skin
Forgot To Make Her Mine
Make It Easy
Baby Now I
Rainbow Child
Come Back Baby
Cruise Together
Baby Don't Fade
Tiger In A Dress
Get To You


Saturday's headliners, The Swiss rockers GOTTHARD have a reputation of being a good live band and they didn't disappoint. The tragic death of vocalist Steve Lee won't be forgotten but it's no longer casting a dark shadow over the band. Nic Maeder has been in the band for  4 years now, and they have released two rather successful albums with him, so the fans have accepted him and everything seems to be fine in the Gotthard camp. To be honest, the Maeder-sung two albums aren't among my favourite Gotthard albums and I was hoping for more older material, but it's always fun to watch Gotthard. Not only does the audience have fun, it's obvious that the band has good chemistry and fun on stage as well. 

The band started with the title track of their latest album "Bang!", a simple hard rocker in AccaDacca vein. A couple of other new songs followed with "Sister Moon", an older song somewhere between. Not exactly the start I was hoping for, but decent enough. For me, the show really started with "Master Of Illusion", which was given a rather heavy treatment. The the band switched on the melodic side of theirs, playing the new album's highlight "Feel What I Feel", a special version of "The Call" and piano/vocal version of the classic ballad "One Life, One Soul". 

After a few slightly lesser tracks, Two Gotthard-classics from the album I'd call their finest hour ,"Lip Service" brought the show to an explosive end. I'm talking about the sing-along stomper "Lift U Up" and possibly my favourite Gotthard song of them all, "Anytime, Anywhere". There were bursts of smoke and confetti cannons... great visual elements and I bet the cleaning crew just loved all the thousands pieces of paper!

Get Up 'n' Move On
Sister Moon
Right On
Master of Illusion
Feel What I Feel
The Call
One Life, One Soul
I Won't Look Down
Mountain Mama
Remember It's Me
What You Get
Lift U Up

Anytime Anywhere



"If I Could Turn Back Time"...well, we indeed could as it was time to welcome the "Winter Time" in the UK. One extra hour of sleep certainly didn't hurt. So, we were fresh and relaxed, ready for the last day of Rockingham 2015. The line-up looked interesting, some new names, some old favourites and some question marks.

ISSA was a bit of everything: a favourite as I have liked all of her albums, a new name as this would be the first time I've seen her live singing her own material, and a question mark because I didn't know who'd be in her band.

Issa's band turned out to be a real "supergroup". Not many singers can say that they've got three lead vocalists backing them up, but Issa had just that. Pete Newdeck (Tainted Nation) on drums, Pete Godfrey (In Faith, Blood Red Saints) on bass and Rob Wylde (Teenage Casket Company, Tigertailz) on guitars... Needless to say that backing vocals were pretty good! James Martin of Vega played keys and ex-Vega guitarist whose name I didn't catch rounded up the line-up.

Issa had a very limited time but she used it well, choosing good songs from all of her albums. A couple of songs from the setlist were dropped off unfortunately, including the duet "Raintown" and "Crossfire". "Raintown" is sung with Steve Overland on the album, but Nigel Bailey has sung it live with Issa at least once. Although Bailey was in town, I guess he was busy preparing for his set with Stan Bush. Anyway, we did get to hear six good songs, "Black Clouds", "Angels Crying" and "I'm Alive" being my favourites among them. Good one, and congratulations to Mrs. and Mr. Martin - there's a baby on the way we heard.

Black Clouds
Can't Stop
New Horizon
Angels Crying
Only You
I'm Alive

NO HOT ASHES were a totally unknown act for me, and to most of the others as well I believe. The floor was rather sparsely filled by people, but it did  fill up as the set went on.

Somewhat similary to last year's opening act Angels Or Kings, No Hot Ashes are an old band who have recently reformed and giving this rock'n roll thing another go. These Irish rockers played no-frills melodic rock, very much in the British vein. Think FM, Airrace, Heartland etc. I was particulary impressed by the band's vocal delivery. Apparently they've been signed by Frontiers and their long-overdue debut album is on the way.

On stage, the band was one of those that "let the music do the talking". They were regular looking older gentlemen playing for the love of music, which is fair enough. Not particulary exciting but as long as the music's good, it's ok.  The most impressive songs were the few first ones, as far as I remember. I'll have to check out the album when it's released.

I'm Back
Summer Rain
Little Johnny Redhead

If No Hot Ashes were a little lacking when it came to showmanship, AMMUNITION had the Mr. Show AGE STEN NILSEN taking care of that. The band had encountered some unexpected problems before the show, and had to call in extra help to fill in for the injured bassist Hal Patino and keyboard player Lasse Finbråthen. Eclipse's axeman Magnus Henriksson took on the bass duties and learned the set in a few hours. Lasse's absence was due to conflicting schedules, and in a strange twist of fate his replacement was a former Circus Maximus keyboard player Espen Storø... the same guy he replaced in Circus Maximus!

Ammunition played a solid set of energetic, fun rock'n roll. Compared to his Wig Wam character "Glam" Age Sten Nilsen is just as lively a performer, but not dressed as outrageously. His vocals are superb, and he has gathered a rather fine band for himself in the Eclipse duo of Erik Mårtensson (guitar) and Robban Back (drums)  and guitarist Jon Pettersen.

I quite liked the Ammunition album and the tracks sounded good live.  Still, highlights of the set for me were the two Wig Wam songs ("Gonna Get You Someday" and "In My Dreams"), with the Ammunition's own "Wild Card" close behind. I have a feeling that the band could very well come up with a killer second album, now that they've gotten a few live dates under their belt and heard the feedback from the fans.

Do You Like It
Gonna Get You Someday
Tie Me Down
Road to Babylon
Take Out the Enemy (Hallelujah)
Wild Card
Hit Me With Your Bombs
In My Dreams

ROYAL HUNT is one of my favourite bands and I was happy to see them added to the Rockingham line-up. They might be a bit more metallic, symphonic and progressive than the other bands in the line-up, but they do have enough melodies and hooks to make them appealing to AOR fans too.

Royal Hunt might be Andre Andersen's band when it comes to music, but when they're on stage all eyes are on vocalist DC Cooper. Not only is he an amazing singer, but he's also a very theatrical and expressive performer. He is a photographer's dream,  he's always making grand gestures and delivering each line he sings with passion. There's a fine line - if he wasn't so believable in everything he does he might look corny and phony, but I believed every word he sang.

This time the band was playing without their choir girls, but they were there in spirit... and in sound, I suspect. Some of the songs were given a little bit of extra boost from a laptop. I was surprised that Andersen didn't play the piano intro to "Message To God" live... not that it made much of an difference.

The Mission
Half Past Loneliness
Tearing Down the World
River of Pain
Message to God
May You Never (Walk Alone)
A Life to Die For


One of the artists I was most looking forward to seeing was STAN BUSH. He's been releasing quality AOR since the early eighties, and unlike many other artists of his age, his recent albums are as good as the material from the "golden era". Prior to this gig I attempted to make a "Best Of Stan Bush" compilation CD, but it proved to be a mission impossible... I had to make two, and still several great songs were left off. I can only imagine how hard it was to put together a 60-minute setlist!

Stan Bush was backed by the band BAILEY, who looked quite happy playing these AOR classics. Stan himself impressed with his great voice. The lines on his face reveal that he's no youngster anymore, but you couldn't tell that by listening - he pretty much sounds like he did 30 years ago.

Stan's latest album  "The Ultimate" and his classic '87 release "Stan Bush & Barrage" took a lion's share of the setlist, but I don't think anyone was complaining. The new one is a solid piece of work and the songs from it were good, and "SB&B" could have been played in its' entirety as far as I'm concerned. It's one of the finest albums of all time.  "Primitive Lover" was killer, "Love Don't Lie" truly beautiful and "The Touch" blew the roof off of Rock City. Other highlights were the magnificent "I'll Never Fall", the Brett Walker-tribute "Hard To Find An Easy Way" and a fine version of "Dream The Dream". A pretty flawless set of melodic rock I'd say... well, maybe the mellow "In This Life" sounded a bit underwhelming after "The Touch", something hard-hitting like "Thunder In Your Heart" or "Take It Like A Man" would have worked better.

The Ultimate
Heat of the Battle
Something to Believe
Primitive Lover
Love Don't Lie
Hard to Find an Easy Way
I'll Never Fall
Dream the Dream
The Touch

In This Life

VALENTINE or Robby Valentine got a curiously high slot in the line-up, considering that he's a bit of a cult artist and not known by that many people. The fact that he goes by his last name is slightly confusing, and I guess there were people who thought that it would be the US band Valentine performing... they were in for a shock, as this Valentine was something quite different.

The Valentine band had paid attention to their appearance: they were all dressed in similar shirts, which kind of reminded me of Star Trek uniforms. Mr. Valentine himself had heavy eye make-up and somewhat androgynous presence, and somehow I got the feeling that he was a bit nervous and not completely comfortable. The constant "role-changing" from keyboard player/ singer to guitarist/singer and back again didn't exactly make things easier for him.

My knowledge of Valentine's music is slightly limited, I think I have heard about half of his discography. His latest album "Bizarro World" I haven't heard at all. The first two albums are my favourites, but we didn't get to hear too many songs from them. On his latter works he has moved away from the very melodic style of the first albums, and I didn't particulary enjoy the likes of "Rockstar" or "4th Rate Razorback".  "No Turning Back" was awesome though, as were "I Believe In Music" and "Over And Over Again". Out of the newer tracks, "Black Rain" was probably my favourite. As for "Deadbeat Boy", I have no idea what the hell it was - like something from the 40'ies!? 

Maria Catharina took prominent role on stage every now and then, and with her vocals some of the songs sounded a bit Evanescence-like. She was a striking figure in his spandex-jumpsuit and red hair.

Valentine has long history of performing Queen material, and he included the evergreen "Bohemian Rhapsody" in the set. A good move as everyone knows that song, but also a brave move because... everyone knows that song! He didn't slaughter the song, so it was a risk worth taking. It was a bit funny that Valentine sang the multi-part harmonies with himself though... three Robbies from a tape, one live. 

A strange, but quite entertaining set. I think he could have chosen some of his more AOR-type of songs for this crowd, like "Love Is Alive" or "Broken Dreams" instead of some of the more left-field choices.

No Turning Back
I Believe in Music
Deadbeat Boy
4th Rate Razorback
Save Myself
Black Rain
Bohemian Rhapsody
Over and Over Again

GIUFFRIA, Giuffria, Giuffria... where do I begin? Let's start with the good things: the band wasn't bad. The original band members played well and David Glenn Eisley hadn't lost his voice during the years. New bass player Dario Saixas was awesome, possibly the most energetic bassist I've ever seen. Keyboard player Adam Emmons played a surprisingly small part in the overall sound, considering the band was one of the most keyboard-heavy bands back in the day. Maybe the shoes of Gregg Giuffria were a bit too big to step into, and the band didn't want him to try that.

Then the not so good things...This version of Giuffria must have studied the book of "How To Make A Mess Of Your Comeback". It all started well with "Do Me Right", one of the highlights of the first album. It didn't matter that Eisley looked like Neil Young, he sang well. Then slowly things started to go wrong. Instead of playing material from the two Giuffria albums we all expected, the band chose to dig in deeper and play songs from David Glenn Eisley's solo album and classic rock covers. It was like throwing fuel to the fire - the band was already called a cover band by some since Gregg Giuffria wasn't involved, and now they turned into one... 

There were glimpses of hope, when the band played some songs from the debut, but I can not understand why they had to turn their biggest hit "Call to the Heart" into something almost unrecognizable?  Even more criminal was that they didn't play ANY songs from their second album "Silk And Steel". I know that Goldy wasn't on the album but that album is cherished by the AOR fans and they were playing to an AOR-loving crowd... sheer insanity. This could have been a great hour of good songs, now it was something else. We left as the band played the third cover "All Along The Watchtower"... 

Do Me Right
Can't Call It Love
Don't Tear Me Down
Trouble Again
For What It's Worth
Run, Run, Run
Call to the Heart
Line of Fire
Gimme Shelter
All Along the Watchtower
Shot Down In Love
Turn Me On

Even though I had read the reviews and seen some youtube clips, I was still somehow excited about seeing DOKKEN live for the first time. "Under Lock And Key" was one of the first hard rock albums I fell in love with, and it and "Back For The Attack" were two milestones of the eighties for me. With that kind of a back catalogue, the band can't fail? 

The first surprise of the set was that Chris McCarvill of House Of Lords and Maxx Exxplosion was on bass. Apparently Mark Boals and Dokken had parted ways or something. The rest of the band was the same as it has been for quite a few years now, original members Wild Mick Brown (drums) and Don Dokken with Jon Levin on guitar.

The set kicked off with "Kiss Of Death", Levin furiously playing the opening riff. All good, so far... then Mr. Dokken entered the stage and started singing. He didn't sound too bad, although he was taking major liberties with the vocal melodies. "Into The Fire" was okay too, but with "Dream Warriors" the "new" melodies were a bit too much. 

The show went on, and despite Don's performance and cranky attitude, I enjoyed the classics like "The Hunter" and "Alone Again". A few more recent songs were in the setlist too, and they were okay if a bit forgettable. Don played guitar on "Breaking The Chains" and "It's Not Love", even though Mick Brown jokingly told him to put it down and stick to singing... to which he replied that he "wrote all the hits on guitar"... 

During the show Don had some trouble with his ear monitors, apparently he couldn't hear McCarvill's vocals and because of that, he went all Donald Trump on the monitor mixer - "You're Fired"! Drama Warriors... 

The band could have ended the set with "In My Dreams" and "Tooth And Nail", but we did get three encores. The classic Dokken-soundlike "This Fire" was pretty good, but I've always thought that "When Heaven Comes Down" is one of the band's dullest songs. "Paris Is Burning" featured the confetti cannons again, but somehow the climax had been reached before. 

All in all, since my expections weren't at all time high with Dokken, their show wasn't a big disappointment. I knew that Dokken 2015 is a completely different animal to Dokken 1987. I was quite happy to hear some of the songs with which I have lived more than half of my life. I was more disappointed with Don's attitude towards the audience than his singing. Later that evening we met him briefly at the hotel and while he took some time to pose for photos and write autographs, he came across as a bit of a... "Rock Star". I'll leave it at that.

Kiss of Death
Into the Fire
Dream Warriors
Sunless Days
Breaking the Chains
The Hunter
Alone Again
Too High to Fly
Maddest Hatter
It's Not Love
In My Dreams
Tooth and Nail

This Fire
When Heaven Comes Down
Paris Is Burning


Rockingham 2015 was a great experience and I hope it won't be the last one. No, it wasn't Firefest, there was a certain "family spririt" that was missing but I think that takes a little time to grow. There were no major problems with the schedule and our press passes etc were taken care of, as promised, so I have no complaints. There's always room for improvement but the basics were in order. If there's Rockingham 2016, we'll be there for sure!

Review by Kimmo Toivonen
Photos by Mira Suutari-Toivonen
(c) 2015 RockUnited.Com