|As it has for thousands of people in this region and all over Finland, Ruisrock has become a summer tradition for me and my better half, our esteemed photographer Mira. Although the line-up of the festival is quite varied (to put it mildly), there's always a few interesting bands to check out. This year the most interesting big names in the line up for us were Ozzy Osbourne and Slash, headliners of Friday and Sunday. Other bands we wanted to check out included Friday's Negative and Billy Talent, Saturday's Michael Monroe and Sunday's Reckless Love, to name a few.
|Being the sporty types we are (or are we?), on friday we first cycled to downtown Turku to pick up our passes, and from there to Ruissalo, a few kilometres away. Tarot were playing their last song as we arrived to the site, greeting us with their brand of Heavy Metal. More metal was in the cards for me, as I chose to photograph Arch Enemy, while Mira headed to the other stage where Negative were starting at the same time.
I've never really listened to ARCH ENEMY, but I knew what to expect - furious metal with an aggressive female vocalist. Not my kind of metal by any means, but I was curious to check them out. And for the three songs I was watching them, they were LOUD, aggressive and metallic to the bone. Angela Gossow has a strong stage presence and you wouldn't really expect her to growl the way she does - nothing girly about her vocals! The rest of the band did their best to keep up with her, and managed quite well. As for the songs, I don't know which ones they played but the second one kicked off with some cool guitarwork and had more melody than the other two I heard. They kinda lost me when the screaming and growling started though... Anyway, since I know that some of our readers are fans, I did my best to capture the vibe to the photos attached.
Having been hit over the head with Arch Enemy's merciless metal, I was ready for something less aggressive. NEGATIVE and their melancholic hard rock was just that. They were well into their fourth song when I arrived to Niittylava, and apparently they had already played at least their first hit "Moment Of Our Love" among the three first tracks. Among the songs I got to hear were "In My Heaven", "My My Hey Hey", "End Of The Line" and the new album's monster ballad "Jealous Sky". Good stuff, but somehow the the athmosphere of the gig seemed a bit flat. Vocalist Jonne Aaron didn't seem to connect with the audience, and the rest of the band were a bit faceless. Maybe the fact that Niittylava is the worst of the three big stages had something to do with it - unless you're in front of the stage, your view is more or less limited.
The next three bands on the agenda were all more or less punk-flavoured. First one of them was RISE AGAINST, another unfamiliar band to me but not to the crowd, since they managed to pull a respectable number of people to watch their attitude-fuelled set. They played with a lot of energy, but their shouty hardcore left me completely cold. Again, here are some photographic moments for your viewing pleasure...
NOFX were something completely different. These Californians were totally laid-back and threw some killer one-liners between the songs. The songs itself were melodic punk rock songs with reggae and ska elements thrown in, and guitarist El Hefe even played some trumpet.
The laid-back, unpretentious nature of the band was showcased by their entrance to the stage - no introtapes or fanfares, the guys just walked to the stage in no hurry as if someone had just waken them up from their daily naps. Once they started playing they bounced all over the stage like duracell bunnies, but in between the songs they returned to their "normal mode", abusing each other verbally and being very entertaining in general. Actually, while their songs weren't too bad, I began to wait for them to end just to see what they'd come up next... "This is easily one of the top ten gigs we've played on this tour!" "Yeah, we've played fourteen so far".
BILLY TALENT from Canada have sold a couple of million albums worldwide, and they've sold a few of those in Finland as well. The rock radio has embraced their single hits, so it's no surpise that they were one of the most popular bands of the festival. Compared to Rise Against who played on the same stage before them, their music was much more apporachable and enjoyable. Vocalist Benjamin Kowalewicz seemed genuinely concerned about the well-being of the crowd and reminded everyone to take care of others, which isn't something you'll hear at every gig. What's more, he talked about ice hockey and congratulated the Finnish team for the bronze medal at Olympics. And didn't forget to mention who won the Gold. Those hockey-crazy canucks.
The BT set was a crowd-pleasing collection of hits and other fan-favourites. Since my knowledge of their material is very limited, I can only confirm that they did play the radio hits "Rusted From The Rain" and "Fallen Leaves", and "Devil On My Shoulder" and "Turn Your Back" From the latest album, if I'm not mistaken. All delivered with the required energy and passion. Not bad at all.
OZZY OSBOURNE's gig was one of the festival's most anticipated ones, with people wondering in what kind of a shape the "Prince Of Darkness" would be. We were looking forward to the gig too, but before the show even started, we were in for a disappointment. Osbourne's organization had decided that only a few of the photographers would be allowed to the photo area, and RockUnited.Com wasn't among the chosen ones. So instead of taking photos for the first three songs, we ran around the area to find a decent place to get at least a few shots, but it was quite impossible. However, afterwards I've heard that the lucky photographers in the "photo pit" got their share of the foam and water that Mr. Osbourne hosed down from the stage. So we got no decent photos, but at least our cameras are still working...
The show started with the take-no-prisoners rampage of "Bark At The Moon" and the new album's first single, "Let Me Hear You Scream". Ozzy seemed to be in an okay condition, singing and moving quite well. The band sounded good, and what I could gather from the big screen, they were quite energetic performers too. Old favourites "Mr. Crowley" and "I Don't Know" got the expected reaction, as did "Suicide Solution" and my personal favourite, "Shot In The Dark". Then Ozzy disappeared from the stage, and let the other members of the band to step into the spotlight. And they did... for the next twenty minutes we were subjected to a guitar solo, a drum solo and instrumental jamming. Great if you like such things, not so great if you don't. I personally don't really understand why an artist with a huge back catalogue of songs would want to waste so much time for solos and jamming, instead of playing three or four additional songs. A ballad like "Mama I'm Coming Home" or "Dreamer" wou
ld have been very well recieved, I'm quite sure. Oh well, maybe Ozzy just needed a breather or oxygen or whatever.
When Ozzy finally returned to the stage, the show continued with a Black Sabbath song "Iron Man", followed by "I Don't Want To Change The World" and "Killer Of Giants", a surprise inclusion from the "Ultimate Sin" album. "Crazy Train" closed the main set, followed by the inevitable encore, "Paranoid".
Our Saturday's Ruisrock excursion was a short one. The one band we really wanted to see was Michael Monroe's new group, but since DON HUONOT played their big comeback gig just before Monroe's slot, we checked out that too. Don Huonot were one of the biggest Finnish bands during the late nineties and early 2000's, and some of their songs are still radio staples. A lot of people gathered to see their return, and the band rewarded them with a good set. Dressed in somewhat peculiar outfits, the band seemed to be in good spirits and took advantage of the big stage. What really impressed me was their singing - everyone in the band sang and their harmonies were something special. No need for backing tapes for them!
The hits "Riidankylväjä" and "Hyvää Yötä Ja Huomenta" literally shook the ground we were standing on, as a lot of people bounced up and down at the same time. It's not an unusual effect at Ruissalo, but every time it feels kinda magical. "I feel the earth move..."
Since the demise of Hanoi Rocks last year, MICHAEL MONROE hasn't wasted any time. He put together a new solo band with some familiar faces, and started touring a few months ago. Thanks to that, the Michael Monroe Band we saw at Ruisrock was a fine-tuned rock'n roll machine, an unstoppable force that will be going places if they can come up with the songs to match their stage presence and energy. The band's setlist at Ruisrock was an interesting look at Monroe's career, with songs from Hanoi Rocks, his solo albums and Demolition 23 with a couple of covers thrown in. They did play a couple of new songs too, but I didn't really get a good grip of them yet.
Unlike so many "backing bands" of well-known vocalists, Monroe's band isn't a group of competent, yet faceless musicians. Guitarists Ginger and Steve Conte are both experienced players and frontmen in their own groups (The Wildhearts and Steve Conte & The Crazy Truth!), while Sami Yaffa is known as the original bassist of Hanoi Rocks and currently in New York Dolls. Drummer Karl Rockfist has played with Danzig and several other bands. One might think that this combination of frontmen and experience could result in egos clashing and not much of a band vibe, but as far as I could tell, there was a BAND on stage, not five inviduals doing their own thing. Of course Monroe was in the limelight, but let's face it, he's one of the great frontmen in rock'n roll. Even though the big "50" is getting closer every day, he still has more energy than half of the other frontmen of the festival put together.
Saturday's headliner was THE SOUNDS, whose inclusion in the line-up was no surprise - they seem to play at Ruisrock every year. This year's performance was probably the pinnacle of their Ruisrock visits, with an extatic, sizeable crowd welcoming them with open arms. I don't know many of their songs, but the people in the frontrow sure did, and sang them along word by word. Their bouncy energy kept the Ruissalo grounds shaking well into the night, and Maja Ivarsson ruled the crowd like a queen... of Sweden?
|Three stages, three bands was the on the agenda for Sunday. RECKLESS LOVE was the first of the three and on the smallest stage of the festival, the Converse stage. It's strangely situated inside the bar area, which means that the underaged ones are stuck behind a chicken wire fence, some thirty-fourty metres from the stage. Too bad for them, especially when many of the acts on the Converse stage were young bands with young fans.
Having seen the band a couple of times on small stages, it was cool to see them on a slightly bigger one. The blazing sunshine was the perfect setting for Reckless Love's goodtime hard rock, which has more in common with L.A.'s beaches and boulevards than the usual elements of Finnish hard rock and metal: melancholia, darkness and anger.
Reckless Love aren't certainly doing anything that hasn't been done before, but their energy and dedication to the vibe of the late eighties hard rock is contagious. Their show is fun to watch and their songs are damn catchy, which to me sounds like a winning concept. Vocalist Olli's voice wasn't in the best shape, but that's understandable, as this was their third gig of the weekend. He more than made up for that with showmanship though, running around like a man possessed, somewhat reminding me of a performer of the previous day...
All the songs of the band's fine debut album were played plus the single B-side "Electric". No covers this time around. The crowd pleasers were naturally the singles, with "Beautiful Bomb" being...ehh... the bomb and "One More Time" being another favourite.
SONATA ARCTICA's recent material hasn't made an impression on me, so I wasn't sure what to expect from their gig. What we got was a decent enough gig with some old songs and some new ones. The band had their fans in the frontrow, armed with their flags and Sonata T-shirts, and they were all into it, but I must admit that the gig had the same effect on me as the band's recent albums - ok, but nothing too memorable.
Compared to Michael Monroe's performance on the very same stage on saturday, Sonata's stage seemed bigger and the band members seemed to be further away from each other. With Monroe, the big stage seemed almost crowded, even though there were just as many men on stage during both performances. Weird.
Sunday's headliner was a true rock legend, a guy who's face has graced many a magazine cover and even the Guitar Hero game packaging - SLASH. While waiting for him and his band to arrive, I noticed some signs of sheer hysteria growing in the audience. A mere wave of his hand from the side of the stage was enough to make the girls go "OHMYGOD it's him IMGONNAFAINT". And sure enough, even I felt a bit weird being there photographing a modern-day rock icon, a guy who definitely oozes "cool". Not that I was in danger of losing my consciousness or anything... it was just a pretty cool experience.
The SLASH set had its' moments, both good and not so good. I'm afraid the not so good moments of the set were the songs from his solo album, which were frankly quite forgettable and dull, apart from the rather good "Starlight". I'm not particulary fond of Velvet Revolver either, and they played a couple of their songs too.
The better aspects of the set were the stunning performances of the vocalist Myles Kennedy and the man himself. Kennedy's vocals were excellent, and he pulled off the Guns'n Roses songs with ease, and dare I say less annoyingly than Axl, who is not one of my favourite vocalists. Slash's guitar playing was cool and never too self-indulgent.
While GNR has never been "The Band" for me, it was obvious that the other songs in the setlist were no match to the likes of "Nightrain", "Sweet Child of Mine", "Paradise City" and "Civil War". They were the songs that most people in the audience were waiting to hear. I did witness the most absurd thing during "Sweet Child" though: a guy near us pulled a laptop from his backpack, and started watching the Soccer World Championship final live from his screen! Soon there were several other people behind his back trying to catch the game, while still trying to watch the band on stage at the same time! Soccer madness, that's something else...
The encores of the show featured a special guest, unsurprisingly it was Michael Monroe, a long time friend of Slash. He sang two songs with the band, "We're All Gonna Die" from Slash's solo album and sung by Iggy Pop on it and the CCR classic "Up Around The Bend", also successfully covered by Hanoi Rocks back in 1984.
2. Mean Bone (Slash's Snakepit)
3. Nightrain (Guns N' Roses)
4. Rocket Queen (Guns N' Roses)
5. Sucker Train Blues (Velvet Revolver)
6. Back From Cali
8. By The Sword
9. Civil War (Guns N' Roses)
10. Sweet Child O' Mine (Guns N' Roses)
11. Rise Today (Alter Bridge)
12. Slither (Velvet Revolver)
13. We're All Gonna Die (with Michael Monroe)
14. Up Around The Bend (CCR, with Michael Monroe)
15. Paradise City (Guns N' Roses)
71000 people attended this 40th anniversary edition of Ruisrock, and they enjoyed the bands, the weather and the athmosphere. As I've said before, Ruisrock isn't just a rock festival, it's a happening that draws a lot of people to Ruissalo no matter who's in the line-up. The "deja vu" feeling I got when reading the line-up was a bit disturbing and I'd say unnecessary, there's no need to have the same bands playing every year or every other year. Having said that, I wouldn't mind seeing Monroe again next year, and Reckless Love on a bigger stage. However, if The Sounds are again at Ruisrock next year, I'll start to suspect that they've signed a 10-year contract or something... after all, this year they're playing at Ankkarock too, which is another festival organized by the same people.
Review by Kimmo Toivonen
Photos by Mira Suutari-Toivonen
Additional photos by Kimmo Toivonen (including the terrible Ozzy shots...)
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