A childhood dream of mine has now (almost) been achieved. Who wouldn't dream about visiting a country that produces tons of film stars, great bands and amazing stories to tell for the foreign medias. My dream of travelling to the States one day only grew stronger while watching USA bringing us the Seattle, Los Angeles etc music scenes and getting photos from my penpals around the States of the weirdest bands on stage and the most popular ones too and reading their stories in the music scene. I almost lost all my hope of reaching this dream during the passing years. This summer turned my world around, US was the vacation spot this year and nothing could ever compete with that. And surely when you travel the globe around you have to see a show too. Rock Never Stops was featured in different cities and we could've witnessed a few shows, but you have to have some time off too...
When we reached the Sound Advice Amphitheatre in South Florida Fairgrounds on a helluva warm and sunny day it seemed like the place was sold out, so many cars were parked in the huge parking areas and on temporary grass areas. People arrived really early to just hang around, see the action and get drunk. This isn't the case in Finland, where people usually arrive just a bit before the main band begins to play or even later. And you don't have any extra entertainment included to the shows, like in Florida. But this was after all a small festival really, so it's a different case from a normal concert. And of course the entertainment was mostly for men who could drool after gorgeous, slim bodies of women on stage in a beauty contest and as extra decoration for a smaller band, fighting over who is the most sexiest one, almost going as far as taking everything off. And a half naked "mermaid" was present too, you had a chance to play the game and drop the woman in the small pool and get her wet. Women in turn were offered a woman comedian who made sovinist jokes about men. And women, sluts and whores. Dammit, why do they always forget women in everything ? The comedian was really depressing so I went to get a drink and got a tasty Jack Daniels with a fruit flavour in it. Nothing I've ever tasted before, but heck, what would I know about strong alcohol anyhows ? They didn't even ask my papers, which they usually do in Finland. So I look that old huh ?
People tend to dress up really well for shows. While we travelled around Florida we noticed Americans really are over-weight and that means many that we saw during the two weeks were over 100 kg (over 200 lbs), which is a lot ! But when you entered the Fairgrounds area, you mostly saw trained or underweight bodies. And women surely used their imagination on clothes, they looked amazing. Finnish women or men don't dress that well which is a shame. I didn't have any fancy stuff with me on the vacation as usual, so I put on jeans and a Stratovarius t-shirt. Of course I wanted to advertise a finnish band to the americans. And it worked, many people stared at the shirt and even pointed at it. Hope they remembered the name still after all the drinks.
But let's get on with the show !
SLAUGHTER was the first band on stage and began playing at seven p.m. Not much was expected from the warm-up bands, since they only have 30 minutes on stage. But nevertheless I was thrilled, Slaughter being one of the eightees bands I was a huge fan of. The band hit the stage with a good drive, Mark Slaughter wearing a cowboy hat and sun glasses like a real rock star. His voice was gone though, but his looks were still the same. Dana Strum was moving a lot and so was Blas Elias, who had gained weight a lot and cut his hair, so it was hard to recognize him. They started with "The Wild Life" which sounded quite brutal when Mark was screaming like he was about to lose his voice for good. But the band was good. The guitarist has changed to Jeff Blando after Slaughter lost Tim Kelly in an accident years ago. The second song was new to me, but probably from their latest album they've been playing in their recent shows. "Burnin' Bridges" and "Spend My Life" followed, Jeff playing his guitar with violin strings here and Mark cooling down his head with a pail of water, it was so hot ! The band kept stretching the song and right after it hit with "Mad About You". While we were feeling a bit bummed of having to watch the bands a bit too far away and me looking like a chinese while trying to see better (stretching my eyelids), we were in for a surprise. Mark stepped down the stage and kept singing "Mad" while walking among the crowd, all the way through to our place ! He stopped right next to our row and sang there for a while, me trying to get a few pics of him while the fans were in awe and wanted to shake hands with him. He could walk in peace and no guards followed him. But the crowd seemed a bit lame anyways. Almost half of the seats were empty and people were outside drinking. I guess they've seen their homeland bands too many times to get excited. Even Slaughter seemed to be a bit lazy at times. After Mark's crusade came a drumsolo, which was pretty boring and then "Mad" continued for a while. All through the evening the sounds were amazingly good and even the slightest things were heard. When Mark took the guitar, played a short solo and kept his long speach "We are defending our country right now...", you could hear it all really clearly. The next song "Fly To The Angels" was dedicated to the american troops in foreign lands and was a beautiful moment. Mark played the guitar there along with Jeff. Some echo bothered the place now and then. Mark changed the guitar and the last song "Up All Night" made the first row fans go wild. People sang along pretty much and even quite well.
KIP WINGER started immediately after Slaughter and performed alone with an acoustic guitar. Eventhough you might think he must've looked pathetic all by himself on stage, the man has guts to perform alone. You gotta admire that. And he had a great set eventhough many fans left their seats after Slaughter. The place was quite empty and the fans that stuck around weren't exactly jumping for joy. Somehow I felt sorry for the guy, he still has a great voice and can play. His old Winger mate Reb Beach (now in Whitesnake) watched the show all the way through from the crowd. And only one fan went over to talk to him ! We couldn't go to that area because of the barriers, but we spotted Reb earlier among some fans in the area which was amazing, because he could walk around in peace. Of course we didn't believe at the time it was him... Kip looked like the guy next door in his jeans, looking a bit grungy, and with his relaxing way to perform, mostly just hanging and swaying around his microphone, though he didn't really move much from there. He began his set with a song off the Winger's "Pull" album, "Who's The One". His 30 minute set included only Winger songs which was fine by me, his solo stuff is a bit lame though relaxing in certain moods. The rest of the songs were "Headed For a Heartbreak", "Blind Revolution Mad", "Miles Away", "Madalaine", "Down Incognito" and the set ended to "Seventeen", where Kip broke one out of his twelve strings from his guitar and swore "she was only sixteen, man" where the crowd cheered. A few times his voice cracked a bit while singing, but all in all his set worked brilliantly, though a real band would've worked even better.
WARRANT was definitely the first band that made some movement in the crowd. Or then it was the booze they all kept drinking lots all through the day. It was 8.15 p.m. when the intro started playing. Then the guys filled the stage with the huge ego of Jani Lane and a great showmanship and blasted us with "Down Boys", this is where the party started ! Between the songs Lane was showing off, cursing and wondering "where's my f*cking beach" since we were in West Palm Beach and no signs of beaches near the concert area. He continued with "I don't care where the f*ck you came from" and went on "I hope at some point of your life you become..." as an intro to "Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich". The band was really energetic, the current line-up along with Lane is Erik TurneróRhythm Guitar, Jerry Dixon-Bass, Billy MorrisóLead Guitar, Kevin Phares-Drums and Shawn Zavodney-Keyboards. You can hardly recognize the old members (especially Jerry and Erik) anymore, since they've also cut their hair like it goes when you get older and gotten a bit bigger, but not too much. Lane smokes his cigarrette, looking cool in his sun glasses and next comes "32 Pennies", an oldie from their first album followed by "The Hole In My Wall". A short break follows, then Lane says "F*cking Spinal Tap" when Dixon's bass isn't working. Another track from "Dog Eat Dog"-album follows, "Bonfire". And then it's the moment many were waiting for, Lane grabs his acoustic guitar and we're all in "Heaven". What a beautiful moment, I never dreamt of hearing this live and I was even a member in their Fan Club 12 years ago...I almost dropped a few tears. A lot of lighters were held in the air. And with ballads they continued, "I Saw Red" made Lane curse on his old girlfriend he said he's still mad at, but still it's a great song. Then followed "So Damn Pretty (Should Be Against The Law)", "Bed Of Roses" and on "Uncle Tom's Cabin" Lane was wondering if he wrote this song when he was still living in Orlando, but he couldn't make up his mind. A guitar solo surprised us with a part from Van Halen's "Eruption" and the solo wasn't too long. Then it was the last song of the show, of course "Cherry Pie" with girls on stage and in between the song the band dropped the chorus of "We Will Rock You" from Queen. definitely a great show and the best one so far this evening.
WHITESNAKE started exactly at 9.36 p.m. with the familiar "Burn" intro. Their set was a bit different to the one in Sweden Rock this year, of course because they only played here one hour and 20 minutes, when Sweden got 25 more minutes and more songs. Songs that were left out from this set that were heard in Sweden were "Walking In The Shadow Of The Blues", "Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City", "Fool For Your Loving" and "Soldier Of Fortune" (Deep Purple-cover). But the crowd got two different songs instead; "The Deeper The Love" and "Judgement Day". The rest of the songs heard at both gigs were "Bad Boys", "Slide It In", "Slow an' Easy", "Love Ain't No Stranger", "Is This Love", "Crying In The Rain", "Give Me All Your Love", "Here I Go Again" and "Still Of The Night". Whitesnake was definitely THE band that everybody was waiting for. There were even lots of Whitesnake programs aired from the radio before the show and when the band hit the stage people rushed to see them and left their drinks behind. Coverdale continued his familiar speaks here about females, romance and sex, now going with lines such as "This must be the breast capital of the world, you lucky bastards", "Are you in the mood for romance" and adds some other humour in there as well with "Before I forget who the f*ck I am, cheers to the evening", "well well well, f*cking well, f*cking good old family we've got here tonight" and when someone from the crowd was showing something to Coverdale that he couldn't make anything out of he goes "Stop giving me that cheap f*cking bladder". The guy seems to curse a lot.
The band was again really good and this time Reb Beach played really well. Some of the background vocals didn't hit the right spot though and again all the guys got their soloparts thrown in and Tommy Aldridge played a part from his solo without the drumsticks. There was a battle of the axes, which didn't work out that well. "Signor Marco Mendoza" (also goes by the name of Rudolf Valentino) was mentioned a lot of times. The guy seems to get a lot of attention from Coverdale and seems to enjoy it a lot too, Mendoza really takes the stage and rubs his bass to his crotch a lot. Watching that for a while starts to get a bit annoying. But Reb and Doug Aldrich got their share of the attention too. Coverdale introduced the guys with "Miami Beach, West Palm Beach, Reb Beach" and "He has abs and he knows how to use them" (for Doug). And you can notice the guys are in great shape.
Timothy Drury (The Eagles, Don Henley, etc) was the only member of the band that wasn't in the spotlight that much, he was hardly even noticed behind his keys in the dark corner on the right. But Beach and Mendoza took care of the action, as they were moving like small animals. Coverdale's vocals weren't exactly great, it seemed like he'd been yelling a bit too much lately and sometimes cracked a bit and didn't hit the right notes all the time. The songs that work best for the european crowd don't have the same effect in the States. The most popular songs of the evening were definitely "The Deeper The Love" and "Here I Go Again". Of course the last song "Still Of The Night" got people dancing too. Since the songs for this evening were a bit different from the gig in Sweden and Coverdale didn't sing that well, I left the show of course with a smile on my face, but thinking Sweden Rocked better.
Warrant and Whitesnake were the best bands of this evening, they've got the action and the charisma and the songs that just kicked ass for most part of the crowd. People were moving a lot and changing seats and just enjoying each others company. Or fighting. There were lots of cops in the area. I've never seen cops at shows really, not in this amount anyways. And even after all that drinking surprisingly the parking areas were empty really fast. This isn't the best place for a band to play when the crowd acts like this and the moving really gets to your nerves if you want to watch the show in peace. American crowd definitely is hard to please. Or maybe it's just Florida.
pictures by Satu Reunanen,