May 1, 2010
So things don't always turn out the way they were planned... Stockholm Rock Out was planned to be a two-day festival with a lot of international acts, but then the damn vulcano erupted in Iceland. The organizers were forced to postponed the two-day festival, because there were no guarantees that the U.S. acts would be able to fly over to Sweden. As a consolation of sorts, a one day gig with mostly Swedish acts was arranged for the first day of May. As headliners, two foreign acts did find their way to Stockholm, namely XYZ from the States and Welsh glamsters Tigertailz. Them and the Swedish acts were interesting enough for us to stick to the original plan, and we took a long weekend break in Stockholm. Instead of rockin', Friday was spent shoppin', but at least we got a full day of music on Saturday.
Two bands had already performed their sets when we arrived to the venue. We missed the Psychosomatic Cowboys and Bohemian Lifestyle, so no comments or photos about them, I'm afraid. There were maybe a few dozen, possibly a hundred people inside, which made the place look quite empty, but thankfully the crowd grew much bigger as the day went on.
The first act highlighted in the line-up as "one to see" was new group called SILVERSPOON. Their material on MySpace had sounded pretty good, kind of a mixture of sleaze rock/glam and powerpop, so I was ready to be blown away... That didn't happen, as the Silverspoon set left me a bit indifferent. Sure, they are a decent band and some of their material is very good ("Aiming Higher" sounds like a hit to me), but... I don't know. Vocalist/guitarist Gustaf Ehleskog has a good voice and the kind of looks that might make him a teen idol someday, but he's not a star yet. Maybe they are "night people", and to play at two in the afternoon just doesn't bring out the best of them.
I had no expectations about DUST, the next band to play. Their one song on MySpace had left no impression whatsover, other than that they were kinda traditional hard rock. In a way, the band proved to be a positive surprise. Their vocalist Roger Solander commanded the stage like a pro, and his vocals were really strong and powerful. The other band members were no slouches either, with Johan Niskanen displaying some serious skills on guitar and the rhythm section of Andy Loos (ex-Glory & Lion's Share) and the Santa Claus-lookalike Dr. Rock keeping it steady and stomping.
Dust's classic hard rock sound reminded me strongly of early Whitesnake and Gotthard. They were an energetic band on stage, and it's such a shame that their songwriting isn't on the same level as their other skills. Their songs are okay, but when the competition is tough, "okay" just doesn't cut it. With a bunch of more memorable tracks this band would be going places quite a bit faster, winning over fans of the aforementioned two bands at an alarming rate.
The band's set kicked off quite nicely with a few uptempo tracks, including the MySpace-song "Stranger", but towards the end they slowed down the tempo. The last two songs almost merged into each other, both being midtempo tracks, and to be honest, they seemed to last forever. It wouldn't have been a bad idea to close the set with an uptempo cover track, something familiar that would've left a good aftertaste. The set being built as it was, my initial enthusiasm slightly waned away. Still, a band to look out for, and hopefully the next time I come across them they've got a couple of killer tracks under their belt!
FATAL SMILE are a hard-gigging band who should be familiar to most Swedish hard rockers, as there doesn't seem to be a hard rock concert line-up without them in it. Indeed, there were a lot more people to see them than the previous bands. Even our off-duty RockUnited colleagues Satu, Kari and Janne found their way to the venue at that time.
My previous encounter with Fatal Smile was also in Stockholm, where they supported Gotthard a few months ago. That gig didn't end well thanks to some serious microphone/whatever issues. This time there were no technical problems, and the band played their 30-minute set uninterrupted. They are a solid live band with a great stage presence and a world-class frontman in Blade, who is the kind of guy who'll make you feel guilty if you don't raise that fist and yell!
The six songs on the band's set showcased what the band are all about - powerful hard rock with simple, chant-along choruses. The highlight of the set for me was once again "Run For Your Life", which has a bit more melody than their other songs. I wasn't alone digging the song, as it seemed to go down pretty well. The older fan favourites "Learn Love Hate" and "Hip MF" got the fists punching the air too.
BABYLON BOMBS were the first one of the two bands introducing a new singer to the Swedish audience. Unlike the other band Vains Of Jenna, they had kept his name a secret until now. The band played just two songs since the line-up change took place merely weeks ago.
The new singer goes by the name of Wick. He's a young guy with a lot of energy and a good voice. Maybe the excitement got the best of him because I wasn't totally convinced about his antics on stage, and he did look a bit "babyfaced" next to his new bandmates. The silly hat he was wearing prompted a friend of mine to name him Vaahteramäen Eemeli ("Emil i Lönneberga" in Swedish), a character most Swedes and Finns are familiar with...
Next up were NASTY IDOLS, Swedish sleaze merchants who started in the late eighties and got their break with their second album "Cruel Intention" in 1991. They had a small hit with the ballad "Get Ya' Off My Mind" and its' video was shown in MTV. The band broke up during the mid-nineties, but regrouped a few years ago, and last year they released their comeback album "Boys Town".
"Cruel Intention" and "Boys Town" are the only albums of theirs I am familiar with, and apart from one song their whole set consisted of material from those two discs. They started their set with the "theme song" of the festival, "Rock Out", and the crowd seemed to love them from the start. The band looked kinda weird, with bassist Dick Qwarfort and vocalist Andy Pierce dressed in full sleaze rock regalia, while the guitarist Peter Espinoza and drummer Rikki Dahl looked more like "average Joes" in simple t-shirts, as if they were from a different band. It was Qwarfort and Pierce who provided the showmanship, and Qwarfort gets the prize of having the biggest hairdo of the evening.
The Nasties' set was OK, kinda what I expected it to be. I've never been a huge fan, but fair enough, I believe all of my favourites of theirs were in the set.
The Way Ya Walk
Alive 'n' Kickin'
Method To My Madness
Get Ya' Off My Mind
Heads Down (Tinseltown)
House Of Rock'n Roll
Cool Way Of Living
CHRIS LANEY's name is in the credits of most Swedish hard rock releases of today, so it was only fitting that he was a part of SRO's line-up too. His second solo album was launched at the pre-show a couple of days earlier, and at the festival people were ably to buy it before the official release date.
Laney's first album "Pure" had some excellent songs, and I was quite happy that he played "Last Man Standing", one of my favourite songs of 2009. There were a few songs off the new album in the setlist, at least the title track "Only Come Out At Night" and "Rock Star" were played. Apart from "Last Man", other "Pure" tracks included "Situation", "I Dunno" and "Pride B 4 The Fall". Laney's band included a couple of members of Dynazty and two other guys, but I have to admit that I didn't catch their names. Competent musicians all the same.
The level of excitement raised, when Laney announced that he had invited a couple of friends to join him on stage. That announcement meant a "half-reunion" of Shotgun Messiah, with drummer Stixx and vocalist Zinny Zan joining Laney & co to belt out three Shotgun Messiah songs. It seems that the band still has a strong cult following, as those three songs seemed to get the best response of the day so far.
Zinny Zan has put on a few pounds since the glory days of Shotgun Messiah, and today he reminds me of a glam rock version of Udo Dirkschneider (Accept, U.D.O.). That's not that bad a thing, since both gentlemen have a strong stage presence and more charisma than some of the young upstarts.
The Shotgun Messiah songs performed: Squeezin' Teasin', I'm Your Love, I Don't Care 'Bout Nothin'.
VAINS OF JENNA were the second band to introduce a new singer. Their previous vocalist Lizzy DeVine left the band in March, but the band found a replacement quite soon, this time choosing an American vocalist by the name of Jesse Forte.
My knowledge of VOJ songs was limited to the few tracks I found on MySpace and YouTube, so I didn't even try to write down a setlist. They started with the song that had introduced Forte to the fans via MySpace, "Everybody Loves You When You're Dead", played my favourite song of theirs ("Enemy In Me") and a well-recieved Jimi Hendrix cover. The other songs I really didn't know.
For some reason, the vocals were quite low in the mix. Not the best scenario to introduce a new singer... anyway, from what I could hear, Jesse Forte sounded like a very capable singer, and he appeared to be charismatic frontman. Compared to the other frontmen of the evening, his very "american" way of communicating with the crowd didn't feel as genuine, but I guess that's just a cultural thing. Everything's "awesome" and "beautiful" in America...
Some crazy guy from the audience jumped to the stage to sing with the band, and most of us, including the security, probably thought it was planned. Once the bouncers realized it wasn't, the enthusiastic guy was escorted away. Forte quipped that he "used to do that sometimes, but he was always thrown off the stage, like real fast".
CRASHDÏET were one of the biggest attractions of this mini-Rock Out for me, and they didn't disappoint. They played a storming set and the new singer Simon Cruz proved to be a worthy successor to Dave Lepard (RIP) and Olliver Twisted (now back in Reckless Love). He wasn't content on just singing, but played rhythm guitar and harmonica as well. What's more, he had the second biggest hair of the day.
The set kicked off with their breakthrough hit "Riot In Everyone", which is a high-energy number and great set opener. The new song "So Alive" was the next highlight for me, instantly placing the new album to the shopping list. The debut album's hits "Breaking The Chainz" and "It's A Miracle" sounded great, as did the new album's first single "Generation Wild". Never mind that Martin Sweet's riffs were borrowed from Ratt's "Round And Round" and the chorus owes a lot to "Thrills In The Night" by Kiss.
If my memory serves me right, the band's second album "The Unattractive Revolution" was completely ignored. "Falling Rain" and "Overnight" would've been great to hear, but I guess they wanted to showcase the new album instead. They did also give the fans what they wanted with their most well-known songs from the first album.
At one point, Simon Cruz disappeared from the stage, and apparently he rode a motorcycle to the photopit. We completely missed out this event because we were standing a bit further away from the frontrow. Oh well, a photo opportunity missed!
Crashdïet were probably the most popular band of the event. Quite a few people must've left the venue after their performance, since there seemed to be a lot smaller crowd there when XYZ took the stage. To the crowd's credit, they were very much into it and knew all the songs by heart. For me, the XYZ show was another highlight, with the band impressing me with their energy, skills and songs. Vocalist Terry Ilous has a great set of pipes, guitarist Tony Marcus is highly talented and another original member, bass player Pat Fontaine was a bit of a "clown of the band" pulling funny faces. His transformation has been quite radical, from that fluff-haired blond rock star-type of a dude to his current mini-mohawk look... and somehow he reminds me of Bulldog from the TV show "Frasier"!? Behind the drum kit there was the powerhouse drummer Joey Shapiro, a talented skin-basher.
As the band had promised, they delivered a set of nothing but "golden oldies" from the first two XYZ albums. The three video tracks / singles were naturally played, of which "What Keeps Me Lovin' You" and "Face Down In The Gutter" rocked the house and were personal favourites of mine, along with the first album's powerful opener "Maggy". The third video track "Inside Out" was saved as the last song of the main set, and it rocked the house too.
"C'mon And Love Me", "Follow The Night" and the encore "Nice Day To Die" were also played from the debut. Due to the limited playing time (45 minutes), only two songs from the band's second album "Hungry" were played, namely the aforementioned "Face..." and "Off To The Sun". As good as the set was, several of my favourite XYZ tunes were not played. None of the band's terrific ballads were played, and it especially pissed me off that they didn't have the time for "When I Find Love", which is in my books their greatest moment. They probably played it acoustically in the pre-show, but that's no consolation. Still, a very good performance from a band I'd like to see again with a longer set.
C'mon And Love Me
Off To The Sun
What Keeps Me Lovin' You
Follow The Night
Face Down In The Gutter
Nice Day To Die
The festival's headliner (or at least the last act to perform) were the veteran glamsters TIGERTAILZ from Wales. They were celebrating the 20ieth anniversary of their biggest album "Bezerk" by playing it track by track, in original order. Unfortunately they had the worst sound of the evening, which didn't make their show too entertaining. It could also be that my ears were starting to take a toll after hours and hours of Rocking Out...
The band's two original members Kim Hooker (vocals, guitar) and Jay Pepper (guitar) had the same big hairdos as they did back in the late eighties, but the years had left their marks on their faces. Pepper had grown himself a beard that made him look like glammed-up biker, while Hooker looked pretty much like I remembered him from the videos and photos, only older and dressed more casually. Newer members of the band are drummer Matt Blakout and bassist Sarah Firebrand.
"Bezerk" is a good album with some very catchy tracks, especially the lead single "Love Bomb Baby" is a superb glam anthem, and a highlight of the band's set at Rock Out too. Hooker's vocal style is in league of its' own, and he probably doesn't get that much praise for being a great vocalist. However, his performance on the ballad "Heaven" was very impressive, proving that there IS light and shade in his vocals, it's not all highpitched and screamy.
Confession time: as the clock was approaching 2 in the morning, we didn't stick around for the last two songs of "Bezerk" and whatever encores the band played. 10 hours of rock music had been enough, and we had a very early wake-up call to look forward to, as there was a boat we had to catch back to Finland. With the sounds of the 'tailz in the background, we said farewell to our friends and the Gamla Tryckeriet. Even though this wasn't the Rock Out that was originally planned, it did end up being a cool day of hard rock music.
Review (and a few of the photos) by Kimmo Toivonen
Photos by Mira Suutari-Toivonen
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