October, Rocktober… it is the month when we travel to Nottingham.

For 7 years now, we’ve flown to England to see some of our all-time favourite bands there. First it was Firefest, then Rockingham. This year’s festival was Rockingham number four.

The venue was Nottingham Trent University’s Students Union Building, the same venue where’s Rockingham has been held the previous two times.

Compared to the previous three Rockinghams, this year’s line-up included more bands that I wasn’t familiar with. Then again, the headliners were all bands who had sold millions of records back in the late eighties/early nineties and scored several hit singles.

On Friday there was a four band line-up. MASON HILL had the honour of opening the festival, and they did it in style. Vocalist Scott Taylor took the stage by himself, and showcased his considerable vocal skills. At first I thought there was a roadie on stage testing the microphone though, as Taylor had chopped off his long hair and didn’t really look like a rock singer. Unlike Samson he hadn’t lost his (vocal) strength but did look a bit out of place among his hairy cohorts.

On a festival with several actual 80ies bands or bands heavily influenced by the era Mason Hill were a bit of an oddity, since at least to my ears their music didn’t have much to do with that particular decade. They sounded more like a cross between the popular 70’ies retro rock style and nineties’ grunge and post-grunge. Led Zeppelin, Rival Sons, Soundgarden, Creed… They were considerably well received anyway and a number of Mason Hill T-shirts were seen throughout the festival. Not my cup of tea but they were good at what they did.


No Regret
Hold On
Wait For You
Now You See Me
Against The Wall
Where I Belong


The first time I heard of MASSIVE was when they were announced to the line-up. I had briefly checked out their album on Spotify before the festival, and knew that they wouldn’t be necessarily something for me. They took the stage by storm though, full of energy and hair everywhere, and then… techical difficulties. A lesser band might have had problems getting their act together after that, but Massive shrugged it off and carried on. Their straightforward accadacca hard rock with a hint of sleaze divided opinions, some were totally into it while others thought they had no business playing at a melodic rock event like this. It was entertaining to watch them bounce all over the stage but I’m afraid their songs didn’t win me over. Well, at least they didn’t play a Led Zeppelin cover. They did play other covers though, including some Deep Purple.

No setlist, sorry!

I was probably one of the first persons in Finland to own a PINK CREAM 69 album, bought the debut on the day of release back in 1989. I played the album to death back then and I still rate it highly. The band that played at Rockingham is a completely different beast though, with only one member of the original line-up, guitarist Alfred Koffler. The band’s website lists another original member Dennis Ward as the band’s bassist, but he was nowhere to be seen.

Back in the day PC69's vocalist was current Helloween singer Andi Deris. He was the main songwriter on the first three albums and a frontman with a distinctive voice. His departure from the band meant major changes and challenges, but the band soldiered on with a new singer, the englishman David Readman. The first couple of albums with Readman saw the band adapting to the sounds of the 90ies, but with "Electrified" (1999) they went back to their melodic hard rock roots and deservedly scored a hit album.

At Rockingham we saw a band led by David Readman, offering us a varied selection of songs. Naturally the played a few songs from their latest opus "Headstrong" but also a lot of Deris-era songs. I'd say that those golden oldies got the biggest reaction out of the crowd, along with the "Electrified" hit "Shame", the song that "took the band to places like Japan and Brazil" as Readman told us.

I enjoyed the Pinkies' gig, but I don't think their setlist was as strong as it could have been. I think this crowd would have lapped up more old stuff, catchy songs like "Take Those Tears" and "Signs Of Danger", and even from the Readman-era some cornerstones such as "The Spirit" and "Wasted Years" were left out. But limited time and a new album to promote, something's gotta give...


We Bow to None
Welcome the Night
Keep Your Eye on the Twisted
Path of Destiny
Talk to the Moon
Lost In Illusions
Man of Sorrow
Walls Come Down
Livin' My Life for You
Do You Like It Like That
Break the Silence

The last time I saw VIXEN was in Finland, 2006. It was a completely different band, with only Jan Kuehnemund (R.I.P.) of the most well-known line-up. Now the Vixen that played Rockingham features all 3 remaining members of the "classic Vixen" and a new guitarist, Britt Lightning. In 2013 they played Firefest as JSRG with Gina Stiles on guitar. For the past few years, they've been able to use the Vixen name, with Jan's blessing.

The Vixen show was very much worthy of the headliner status. The band played all their hits and a couple of surprises, including the excellent "Only A Heartbeat Away" which they have rarely played. If I remember correctly, this was the second time ever. "You Oughta Know By Now" and "Big Brother" from the new live album were also aired, and I especially liked the first one, a catchy hard-edged rocker.

The band paid tribute to Jan with the touching "Love Is A Killer", which was the only ballad of the set. The Jeff Paris-penned classic "Cryin'" started out balladic but exploded into a crowd-pleasing midtempo AOR hit soon enough.

It was good to see vocalist Janet Gardner back on stage, healthy and in great spirit. She had some health issues earlier this year, but now she seems to be fine, singing and performing just as well as before. Bassist Share Ross gave hear a chance to take a break, when she took over the vocals and sang the Ray Charles cover "I Don't Need No Doctor". I can't say it was one of the highlights for me, I would have preferred to hear another Vixen instead.


Rev It Up
How Much Love
Bad Reputation
Only a Heartbeat Away
I Want You to Rock Me
You Oughta Know By Now
I Don't Need No Doctor
Love Is a Killer
Big Brother
Love Made Me
Streets in Paradise
Edge of a Broken Heart


Saturday's opener were another band I wasn't really familiar with, DEPARTED. Now as I've been doing my homework I've learned that their guitarist is Ben Brookland, who used to be in The Treatment.Departed turned out to be my favourite out of the obscure bands, with some fairly strong songs in the Tyketto/Tesla-vein and a good frontman in Mark Pascall. I saw a lot heads nodding in approval, and I believe the band made a lot of new friends at Rockingham. The highlight of their set was "Are You Ready", which sounds like a hit to me. Catchy hook and powerful riffs!


All I Want
Steal Your Crown
Pretty Little Thing
All The Way
Are You Ready
Come On

I was really looking forward to seeing WILDNESS, as their first album has been in power play in my player and it's one of the strongest debuts of the recent years. They came, they saw but they didn't quite conquer the Rockingham audience.

The first disappointing thing I noticed right away was that the band didn't have a keyboard player. I was certain that they'd have one, since their songs rely on keys so much, but they didn't, all keyboards came from a hard drive. I know it's not uncommon to use pre-recorded material these days, but still, it's a bit of a letdown when a major part of a song is piped in.

Vocalist Gabriel Lindmark gave his best shot at entertaining us, but ended up estimating his physical stamina wrong - after a couple of songs he wasn't at his best anymore. Unfortunately, the setlist didn't show any mercy for him, it was mostly uptempo tracks. His uncompromising vocal style would require a well-planned setlist with easier songs between the belters, so that his voice would last throughout the show. Well, in time I hope these things will be sorted out.

The band played well enough, and the songs were great, but somehow the Wildness show wasn't that wild. More experience and gigs and they'll get there.


Turning the Pages
War Inside My Head

BIGFOOT was the last "unknown" band for me, and... I don't know. Again shaggy guys with beards, lots of energy and straightforward rock... a bit like Friday's Massive, only these guys were taller and there were more of 'em. Apparently the band has recently gone through a personnel change and the new singer Sean Seabrook has been in the band for only a few months. He whirled around the stage like a tornado, while the rest of the guys played it cool. Probably a good thing, now there were no casualties. Their songs just didn't do it for me, not that they were bad but the hooks didn't grab me.


Tell Me a Lie
Prisoner of War
Freak Show
Forever Alone
The Fear
Blame it on the Dog

AMMUNITION made a much-requested comeback to the Rockingham stage. They played at the first Rockingham festival in 2015 with a special line-up with stand-in guys on bass and keys, and despite these difficulties they were very popular. Now the band played with its' real current line-up and they were more relaxed. Vocalist Age Sten Nilsen did appear to be a bit peeved about not hearing himself on the monitors, but it got sorted out eventually.

With two albums to choose songs from, Ammunition has put Nilsen's Wig Wam-history behind and played only Ammunition originals. Tracks like "Do You Like It", "Silverback" and "Wild Card" worked well live, but a Wig Wam hit or two wouldn't have hurt at all. Most of the Ammunition material is maybe a bit more straight-forward and less melodic than the WW stuff, and therefore not quite as interesting to me. Judging by the crowd reaction, I was in the minority, a lot of people loved every second of the Ammu-show.

A personal highlight of the set was the closing track "Eye For An Eye", which is my favourite song from the latest album. It was a fairly strange song to close the set, a slow, balladic song and not a "going out with a bang"-type of a thing at all, but I liked it a lot. It's atmospheric and the lyrics are great to this day and age.


Virtual Reality Boy
Tear Your City Down
Do You Like It
Tie Me Down
Road to Babylon
Wild Card
Freedom Finder
Wrecking Crew
Eye for an Eye

With BOULEVARD, I knew what to expect. I've seen them three times before, and it seems like they're getting better each time. The last two BLVD gigs took place in Malmö, where they played an acoustic one and a full-band gig, both of which were great and converted me into a BLVD believer. At Rockingham, they also played an acoustic gig at Friday's afterparty, but we didn't have access to that one. On Saturday they played a fine electric set and had a big surprise reserved for us all.

The band opened with their early hit "Never Give Up" and the latest album's first track "Out Of The Blue", both songs that are not among my Boulevard favourites. I was kind of relieved that they got them out of the way so soon, because the rest of the set was sheer AOR heaven, starting with the classic "Dream On". Other highlights included "Runnin' Low", "Crazy Life" and "I Can't Tell You Why", among others.

The special surprise took place before "Confirmation", when the band invited a gospel choir to the stage. The ten singers of Leeds Pop Up Gospel Choir added their special touch to the song, which already had a bit of a gospel vibe. Very impressive and unique, this was something one won't see too often.


Never Give Up
Out Of The Blue
Dream On
Missing Persons
Runnin' Low
Crazy Life
I Can't Tell You Why
Lead Me On
Life Is A Beautiful Thing
Laugh Or Cry
Talk To Me

TOKYO MOTOR FIST is among the strangest band names I've heard lately, but the gentlemen in the band are far from strangers. There's Ted Poley of Danger Danger on vocals, Trixter and occasional Def Leppard guitarist Steve Brown and the rhythm section of Greg Smith (bass) and Chuck Burgi (drums), who have played together in Rainbow, Red Dawn, Billy Joel's band and on their own in dozens of bands. For you AOR diehards, Chuck Burgi played on one of the all-time classics, Michael Bolton's "Everybody's Crazy".

With only one album under their belt, TMF had to add some extra songs to their set. First five songs were from the TMF album and with them the band brought a fun party vibe to the venue. The remaining set consisted of songs from every band members' "other jobs", with Greg Smith and Steve Brown taking over the microphone for a couple of songs both. Greg Smith did a decent impersonation of Joe Lynn Turner on Rainbow's "Street Of Dreams" and also sang Ted Nugent's "Just What The Doctor Ordered", while Steve Brown sang two Trixter hits, "One In A Million" and "Give It To Me Good". Ted's Danger Danger tunes were "Bang Bang" and "Monkey Business", both big crowd pleasers. Sure, it seemed like TMF became a glorified "cover band" but I didn't mind, at least they had legitimate reasons for playing these songs and their obvious joy of playing together was infectious. A good, fun set!


Fallin' Apart
Done To Me
Put Me To Shame
Street Of Dreams
One In A Million
Monkey Business
Just What The Doctor Ordered
Give It To Me Good
Bang Bang
Pickin' Up The Pieces

There was a long break before headliners NELSON, so we headed to the hotel to get something to eat and give our feet a break. Unfortunately the break wasn't quite as long as the it was supposed to be, and when we approached the venue again, we heard something disturbing - the band playing already! So if you're wondering why we don't have that much Nelson photos, it's because we missed the first couple of songs.

The Nelson brothers played a solid set of hits and rarities, and their harmonies were outstanding. I was really pleased to hear "A Girl Like That" and "Keep One Heart", two songs that have been my favourites for a long time but they were never hits as such. The actual hits "After The Rain", "Only Time Will Tell" and "Love & Affection" were great of course, and the Rockingham crowd did an admirable job singing back-up vocals.

Nelson could have played all original material for a couple of hours easily, but they didn't. Yes, they played a selection of cover songs. Some of their cover songs were interesting, including a Howard Stern song (!) "Silver Nickels and Golden Dimes" and The Outfield's "Your Love", some expected (A tribute to their father Ricky Nelson with "Garden Party") and some not so surprising - yes, the obligatory Zeppelin cover was in their set, sung by guitarist Scott (whose last name I didn't catch). The band's other guitarist JJ Farris sang "Evermore", a song originally written for his and Matthew's band Red37. The Nelsons commented that they tend to "hire overqualified musicians to play their simple pop songs". Trixter/Tokyo Motor Fist guitarist Steve Brown guested on the last two songs, "Your Love" and "You Really Got Me".

All in all, a good set but could've been even better if they had replaced some of the covers with their own songs. I think Nelson fans would have appreciated "Won't Walk Away" or "Invincible" instead of the Zeppelin song...


Hello Hello
I Can Hardly Wait
Silver Nickels and Golden Dimes
More Than Ever
A Girl Like That
Ghost Dance
Only Time Will Tell
Cross My Broken Heart
Keep One Heart
After the Rain
1,000 Wild Horses
You're All I Need Tonight
Garden Party
Whole Lotta Love
(Can't Live Without Your) Love and Affection

Your Love
You Really Got Me

Making their debut appearance in UK were Swedish newcomers CREYE. We saw them in Malmö a few months ago, and even though they had a stand-in vocalist, they were very good. a couple of weeks prior to Rockingham they announced that they'd be playing with a stand-in vocalist again, not to mention a stand-in keyboard player, their producer Erik Wiss. Something strange was going on in the Creye camp...

A respectable number of people had arrived early on Sunday to see these young swedes, and I don't think they were disappointed. Unlike the stand-in guy in Malmö, August Rauer had learned the lyrics by heart and even some guitar parts. He appeared to be a bit nervous but that's understandable, this was only his second gig with the band. I think the whole band was quite nervous, this was their biggest gig so far and a major showcase to the AOR community. But "they came, they saw and they conquered", and played on the best sets of this festival.

The band's album was released a week before Rockingham, so the people hadn't had too much time to digest it yet. The songs that had been released earlier got the best response, people were singing along to "Never Too Late", "Christina" and "Holding On", but it seemed that even the newer album tracks were quite familiar to them. August Rauer sang the songs really well, adding maybe a little bit a of rough edge to them, compared to Robin Jidhed's silky smooth vocals on the album. The backing vocals came mostly from a hard drive, as only guitarist Fredrik Joakimsson seemed to be the only one singing to a microphone. Both Andreas Gullstrand (lead guitar) and Gustaf Örsta (bass) were singing all the choruses too but nowhere near the microphones!

Soon after the festival it was announced that August Rauer and keyboard player Joel Selfors would become official members of the band. Hopefully now the band has a certain peace of mind and stability to continue their quest to bring AOR to the people.


Straight To The Top
Never Too Late
Different State Of Mind
Nothing To Lose
A Better Way
Desperately Lovin'
Holding On

AGE OF REFLECTION continued the Swedish Invasion. Somewhat older and less polished than Creye, Age Of Reflection (AOR for short!) played a decent set of songs from their first album. They experienced some techical problems and their show took its' time to start. When Jonas Nordqvist (guitar) started explaining that "first we're gonna play a short intro and then the next song" or something like that, I thought this would be the most awkward gig ever...but vocalist Lars Nygren took over the MC duties and steered the ship to the right direction. Second guitarist Carl Berglund gets full points for effort too, he was a lively performer.

AOR's style is hard-edged AOR (confused yet?) with a Scandi-touch, so there are big hooks and majestic guitar playing. My favourite songs from the album, "Now And Forever" and "The Mirror Never Lies", were both played so I have no complaints about the song selection. Thumbs up for no covers! A new song "Go" sounded really excellent, if the rest of the new material is of this calibre we can expect a great second album from the band.


A New Dawn
In the Heat of the Night
Now and Forever
Every Time
Blame It on My Heart
The Mirror Never Lies

WHITE WIDDOW had travelled all the way from Australia to Rockingham, and they had a loyal fan base waiting for them. Vocalist Jules Millis has been spotted in the audience quite often at previous festivals, but this was the first time for us to see the band live. Millis was definitely the frontman of the band, to the extent of the show looking like Jules Millis and his backing band. He had put some effort into looking like a rock star, the other guys were plain T-shirt/jeans/caps-type of guys, completely overshadowed by Millis' presence. Musically they were competent and I guess that's what really counts in the end, but still... it was a bit of a one-man show.

With limited time and 5 albums under their belt, the band had attempted to put together a "Best of" setlist. Maybe the songs they played are tried and trusted crowd pleasers, but I think they left off most of their best songs. However, all of their material is pretty strong, so the likes of "Tokyo Rain" and "Second Hand Heart" sounded good too. And for once, I won't criticise the inclusion of a cover song, "Danger Calling" - anyone who plays a song from Icon's "Night Of The Crime" album gets my approval.


Tokyo Rain
Second Hand Heart
Cry Wolf
Living for the Night
Broken Hearts Won't Last Forever
Danger Calling

Robbie La Blanc impressed many with his vocals last year, when he played Rockingham with Blanc Faces. This year he was part of the FIND ME project, masterminded by Swedish producer Daniel Flores. Find Me live band featured also well-known Swedish guitarists Philip Lindstrand and Michael Palace. Jonny Trobro played bass, Rolf Pilotti was the keyboard player and Daniel Flores played drums.

The two FIND ME albums are among my favourite AOR project albums, I think I even gave "Dark Angel", the last one, a full RRRRR rating. So the band had great songs, great players, one of the greatest singers of the genre - what could go wrong? Well, I guess there's plenty of things that could've gone wrong, but I'm glad to say that the gig was a total success. Robbie sang like an angel (a dark one?), the boys played perfectly and the songs worked well live. "No Tears in Paradise", the sample from the upcoming third album sounded excellent and so did Find Me classics such as "Nowhere To Hide", "The Road To Nowhere" and "Where Do I Go".

Find Me played a cover song too, and while I've been nagging about those, I'm not going to say a bad word about their version of Survivor's "Desperate Dreams". It's one of my all time favourite songs and Find Me nailed it. Big time. I had the goosebumps, chills and even a tear might have escaped from the corner of my eye. This was certainly one of the finest moments of the whole festival. Even if all of the other bands would have sucked, those 4 minutes would have made this trip worthwhile. Thank you Find Me!

There's a somewhat lo-fi clip I filmed available, check out RockUnitedPhotos instagram account.


Nowhere to Hide
No Tears in Paradise
Did You Feel Any Love
It's a Little Too Late
Desperate Dreams
Where Do I Go
Dark Angel
The Road to Nowhere

Canadian band GLASS TIGER had played in Europe some 25 years ago, so it was about time they returned to this side of Atlantic. The band's been quite active lately, re-recording some of their hits in a more rootsy style and performing live regular. I thought that their show had potential to be great but there was also the possibility that it could be a disaster, if they were to play their songs as stripped down, folksy renditions only. As soon as the great power chords of "Animal Heart" blasted through the speakers, I knew that they were here to rock, and damn, did they ever!

Vocalist Alan Frew was in great shape after his recent medical troubles, and unlike many singers of his age, he hadn't lost much of his range. He was a funny chap too, some of his song introductions were priceless! The band had also a secret weapon in Carmela Lang, who sang backing vocals and lit up the stage with her smiling personality.

I didn't expect to hear "(Watching) Worlds Crumble", the explosive ballad from "Diamond Sun" but I'm very glad they played it. Somehow the band was able to turn most of their songs into complete sing-along parties, even the balladic ones like "Diamond Sun" or "My Song", which is a talent that not all bands possess. The first album's huge hits "Someday" and "Don't Forget Me" might not be among my favourite GT songs, but damn, did they work live!


Animal Heart
I'm Still Searching
I Will Be There
(Watching) Worlds Crumble
The Rhythm Of Your Love
My Town
My Song
Diamond Sun
Thin Red Line
Don't Forget Me (When I'm Gone)

When PRETTY MAIDS were due on stage, the schedule was a bit messed up. They cut three songs from their set, but despite that there was trouble ahead. More of that later...

The Maids started with three rather heavy songs, and while they were okay, for me the gig really started with "Walk Away", the great melodic song from "Scream". Vocalist Ronnie Atkins looked like he was really stretching himself but strangely enough, his singing sounded quite effortless. I've seen the band a couple of times before and I guess it's just his style to perform and sing. New(ish) keyboard player/guitarist Chris Laney has taken his place in the band, and he has added new energy to the band.

The good old "Rodeo" from "Future World" has been one of my favourites from PM for 30 years, and it was a pleasure to hear it, not to mention the more recent classic "Little Drops of Heaven", which really raised the roof and the Rockingham choir sang beautifully with Ronnie. The frantic "Future World" worked very well too, and I believe "Love Games" would have been the perfect closing track, but we only got to hear half of it before the plug was pulled. Apparently it was Warrant's crew who were responsible for this, as they were in a hurry to set up the stage... headliners or not, that wasn't cool at all.


Mother of All Lies
We Came to Rock
Walk Away
Another Brick in the Wall / I.N.V.U.
Bull's Eye
Little Drops of Heaven
Future World
Love Games (well, half of it.)

The last band of Rockingham 2018 was WARRANT. As you probably know, the band's original singer/songwriter Jani Lane passed away in 2011, but the rest of the guys of their most famous line-up are back together. The band's frontman is Robert Mason, ex-Lynch Mob and Big Cock singer. He's a good singer and put a lot of effort into his performance. His stage acrobatics were quite over-the-top but entertaining.

Warrant played all their biggest hits like "Cherry Pie", "Down Boys", "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and the ballads they're famous for, "I Saw Red", "Heaven", "Blind Faith" and "Sometimes She Cries". Those were enjoyable, but almost half of the set consisted of songs I've always considered as fillers, like "Sure Feels Good To Me" and "So Damn Pretty". The two newer songs "Only Broken Heart" and "Louder Harder Faster" weren't among the weakest ones but I doubt that they'll become Warrant classics either.

I'm not sure if everything's fine in the Warrant camp, since both Jerry Dixon and Erik Turner looked like they were not having the best of time. Could be the jet lag or whatever. Joey Allen was in his own corner, playing a lot of the solos, and drummer Steven Sweet was busy drumming and singing backing vocals, for which he got some respect from Mason.

The now-infamous Mason rant before "Cherry Pie" can be seen at YouTube, in which he called Pretty Maids "cunts" and blamed them for the delays. As professional he was as a singer and a frontman, his rant and continued tirade elsewhere was everything but professional and probably did more harm than good for the band's reputation in Europe.


Sure Feels Good to Me
Down Boys
Big Talk
32 Pennies
I Saw Red
Only Broken Heart
The Hole in My Wall
Sometimes She Cries
So Damn Pretty (Should Be Against the Law)
Machine Gun
Louder Harder Faster
Blind Faith
Uncle Tom's Cabin
Cherry Pie

Once again, this was a fine weekend of great music and great people. There's been a question mark hovering above next year's Rockingham, and I for one truly hope that Rich Cliffe and the team aren't discouraged by this years' problems and find the strength to do this again.

Review by Kimmo Toivonen
Photos by Mira Suutari-Toivonen
(c) 2017 RockUnited.Com
Additional photos and bigger versions of the ones above at RockUnited Facebook