The heat is on...  

Sauna Open Air, 10.- 12. June 2010, Tampere, Finland

School's Out for Summer, and Sauna's on... that's the way it goes in Tampere, where the Sauna Open Air kicks off the rock'n roll summer. We've attended the festival for a few years now, and this year's headliner was probably the biggest so far - the legendary KISS. A couple of years ago the band played two concerts in Helsinki, both of which were sold out in minutes. That in mind, the Sauna organizers probably thought that Kiss were a safe bet, although it must've cost a lot to book them. Sure enough, Thursday, the day one of the festival was the most attended one, with Kiss drawing around 12.000 people to Eteläpuisto (That's "South Park" in english, by the way!?). The other two days were less popular, 6.000 people on Friday and 5.000 on Saturday. There were no real mainstream headliners for the two last days, and the late cancellation of Ratt didn't help.


Thursday's show was well on its' way when we arrived to the site. Thanks to the work obligations and the distance from Raisio to Turku, we had to miss The 69 Eyes, who were the first band of the festival. We caught a minute or so of Insomnium's set while passing the second stage, and that was just about as much we needed. Nope, Death Metal isn't my cup of tea, and their growling and howling sounded even more absurd in the blazing sunlight.



STEEL PANTHER's set was something that I was expecting to be a whole lot of fun, and they delivered just that. Horribly juvenile lyrics, a whole lot of posing and hilarious banter might have annoyed the serious "true metal fans", but most of the crowd lapped up their hair metal parody. And let's face it, the lyrics aside, most of Steel Panther's material is top notch hard rock with killer hooks. Of course they shamelessly rip off the "originals", but so do most current bands of the genre, and they do it sometimes more blatantly.

Once player Lexxi Foxxx's hairdo had been adjusted to look just right, the Panthers kicked off their set with "The Eyes Of A Panther". The band were using the stage to strut their stuff, sometimes in sync with each other, sometimes not, but always making sure that they had the "look" on their faces. You know, that "80'ies video rock star look". Foxxx (triple-x, of course!) even had a mirror and a can of hairspray on top of his amplifier just in case "the look" would have to be adjusted. Vocalist Michael Starr and guitarist Satchel took care of the song introductions and addressing the crowd, with Foxxx sharing some weight-loss tips ("I wanna thank the guy who invented cocaine! It keeps me thin!"). Anyway, back to the songs... "The Shocker" was next, followed by the sensitive Bon Joviesque hit single in the making, "Party All Day". The "Runaway"-intro, the "Whoa Whoa Hey Hey"-chorus and the solo lifted from "Livin' On A Prayer" lead directly to the New Jersey shores, but Jon Bon Jovi never sang about balls swelling up and itching crotches or fucking all day. Not in those exact words anyway.

"Turn Out The Lights" showcased a slighty meaner sounding side of the panther, it being a hardrockin', yet highly emotional and sensitive song about relationships... Satchel's solo spot that followed was just as pointless as most guitar solos are, but more entertaining because his antics were more hilarious than your average shredder's. "Asian Hooker" brought in some oriental flavour to the set (sushi?), while "Community Property" was the only ballad in the set. "How many of you have girlfriends?", Satchel asked. "First mistake!" was his reply to those who raised their hand. And no, "Community Property" isn't going to become a wedding favourite.

Panther's first single "Death To All But Metal" ended the set, and it seemed to be one of the most well-known songs of theirs. Suitable for a metal festival, and indeed it got them fists punchin' the air. Panthermania was spreading... and we've got an encore, a rousing cover of Guns'n Roses' "Paradise City". A good way to end the show, with a familiar song that everyone know. Not to mention that the band's version of it wasn't too shabby at all.

I know that some people find Steel Panther's humour questionable or downright insulting, but I can't help it, I thought their show was excellent. You've got to take it as it is, a parody of the 80'ies metal scene but obviously done with a true appreciation of the music of the era. The members of the band are actually good musicians, and with a toned down lyrical content they might actually cross over big time. Who knows, their cover of Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way" might become a surprise summer hit.


Eyes Of A Panther
The Shocker
Party All Day
Turn Out The Lights
Asian Hooker
Community Property
Eatin' Ain't Cheatin'
Death To All But Metal
Paradise City



AUDREY HORNE played on the second stage next, and we briefly checked out them. Their nu-metallic sound mixed with some Faith No More-influences didn't appeal to us, so we bailed out after a few songs. There wasn't a whole lot of people watching their set, but they did win over a few new fans apparently, if the discussion on the message boards is anything to go by. Vocalist Toschie worked hard on stage and sang well, but I couldn't get rid of my first impression of "a tattooed boy band singer gone crazy".



With KISS, something out of the ordinary happened - they started a few minutes early! It's quite common that the bigger stars might take their time show up, but Kiss actually did the opposite. There were some problems with the curtain, so it might be that they thought they could just as well start, because the stage set had to be revealed prematurely anyway. Eric Singer was the first man on stage, while the rest of the band made a more dramatic entrance with an elevated stage, hovering behind Singer's kit. As one would expect, there was a lot of pyrotechics fired and big video screens on stage - we're talking about KISS here, they just don't play gigs, their shows are Events!

My first Kiss gig took place as recently as in 2008, when the band were on their "Alive 35"-tour. While it was ok, I was a bit disappointed that most of the songs were their 70'ie material, and it didn't help that we only managed to get tickets to rather poor seats. Now everything was different - we were only a few metres away from the frontline and what's more, the band's set was more balanced between the old, the new and the ones in between. Much has been said about Paul Stanley's voice being shot, but to my eyes it sounded better than two years ago. Of course the time has taken its' toll on his voice, and without the back-up vocals from Eric, Tommy and Gene some of the songs would have sounded pretty rough.

The set included as many as three songs from the band's latest album "Sonic Boom", namely the first single "Modern Day Delilah" which was the set opener, the singalong anthem "Say Yeah" and "I'm An Animal". I could've done without the latter, which is a typical second-rate track sung by Gene, but the other two, especially "Say Yeah", worked well.

The seventies stuff still dominated the set although not quite as strongly as on the previous tour. We got "Gold Gin", Firehouse", "Shock Me" sung by Tommy and the inevitable "Detroit Rock City" and "Rock And Roll All Nite" among others. The first encore was a rather surprising old song, the ballad "Beth". The original catman Peter Criss used to sing it back in the day, but as Erick Singer has taken over his role as the drummer, he also showcased his vocal skills on it. I think he did a decent job on it. Funny to notice how this song is passed on from drummer to drummer - Eric Carr used to sing it too.

If this set would've been tailored towards the Finnish audience, it would've included more 80'ies tracks. Kiss had their biggest success over here during that decade, with "Lick It Up", "Animalize" and "Asylum" all spending more than twenty weeks in the album charts, and "Crazy Nights" doing the same for respectable 14 weeks. "Asylum" actually topped the Finnish charts for three weeks in 1985. Considering those figures, one would've expected to hear more than two songs ("Crazy Crazy Nights" and "Lick It Up") from those 4 albums, but two is better than none I guess. Still, "Heaven's On Fire", "Tears Are Falling" and "Reason To Live" would've been great to hear. Well, instead we got "I Love It Loud", "I Was Made For Lovin' You", "Love Gun" and "Shout It Out Loud", so there's really not that much to complain about!

The show elements are a big part of any KISS show, and there were plenty of those at Sauna. Gene Simmons did his signature tricks, breathing fire and spitting blood, and the hydraulic risers were in heavy use. Tommy Thayer had inherited the guitar that shoots out roman candles from Space Ace Frehley's bag of tricks, and Eric Singer drew out even bigger guns, firing a bazooka towards the lightning rig. Once the Demon (that's Gene Simmons for the uninitiated) had done his bloody stunt, he was wired up and raised to the top of the stage from where he sang the stomping anthem "I Love It Loud". The Starchild (Paul, right?) did a bit of flying too, moving from the main stage to a small platform on top of the mixing desk in the middle of the field. Flying above the heads of the audience. The show ended in a huge rain of paper snow that lasted for minutes. And fireworks. Boom.

The Kiss photos were all taken from the audience, since the band only gave photo passes to a limited number of photographers, and even those who got the passes had to sign somewhat questionable agreements.


Modern Day Delilah
Gold Gin
Let Me Go, Rock 'N' Roll
Say Yeah
Crazy Crazy Nights
Calling Dr. Love
Shock Me
I'm An Animal
100,000 Years
I Love It Loud
Love Gun
Black Diamond (With a bit of "Whole Lotta Love" by Led Zeppelin)
Detroit Rock City

Lick It Up (with a bit of "Won't Get Fooled Again" by The Who)
I Was Made For Lovin' You
God Gave Rock 'n' Roll to You II
Rock And Roll All Nite

The night didn't end there, as we headed out to the official afterparty at Jack The Rooster with Reckless Love, but that's another story.


Friday was supposed to be the RATT day, but unfortunately they cancelled due to Stephen Pearcy's hernia operation. The organizers didn't get a replacement, which was another disappoinment. They did add local sleaze rockers Parasite City to the line-up after all, but while I wouldn't have minded seeing them, they played so early that we skipped them. There were actually two bands I was remotedly interested in seeing on Friday, Finnish metal veterans Tarot and those crazy Canadians Anvil, who got a big boost to their career from the movie "The Story Of Anvil".



August Burns Red were screaming their heads off on the second stage when we arrived to the site. The weather was more suitable to their aggressive and dark music than the previous day's sunshine, it was cold and rainy and the most popular outfit seemed to be a plastic raincoat. TAROT were the first of the two groups we were there to see, and they started right after the last screamcore or whatever -core notes had died. And... they didn't warm me up at all. They've got a top-class vocalist in Marco Hietala and the rest of the band are very good at what they do, but somehow their songs don't really have those hooks or melodies that would linger in your head after you've heard them. Sure, I wasn't familiar with most of the songs in the setlist and they didn't play any of those old Tarot hits I would have known. But still, I was hoping that the songs they would've left an impression of some kind, but they didn't. In a nutshell - a highly competent band that played a set that probably made a lot of diehard fans happy, but looking around, apart from the first few rounds, they didn't get that much of a response from the crowd. Maybe the rain and the raincoats made the athmosphere a bit dull.



I'd be lying if I said that I really care for ANVIL's music, but I can't deny that they are an entertaining live act. They've been around for 30 years, releasing albums with little success, yet they've stuck to their guns and finally in 2008 they got their "Big Break". Sacha Gervasi, an old roadie of theirs and a successful filmmaker decided to shoot a documentary of the band, which became a surprise hit and an award-winning film. The band's profile got a significant boost, and since then they've played several big festivals, toured with the likes of AC/DC and rightfully regained their status as a legendary metal band.

One thing that shines through from the band is the fact that they clearly love what they do, especially guitarist/vocalist Lipps. He seemed sincerely happy about being at Sauna Open Air and about the warm reception they've got. With a manic smile on his face, he paced around the stage and churned out his riffs with passion, while bass player Glenn 5 pounded his bass with similar conviction. The band's co-founder Robb Reiner on drums didn't have any mercy for his drums either, and he got the big cheers he deserved when introduced.

Lipps made few comments about the film ("I've paid my sister back!") and showed appreciation towards older fans who had showed up ("I see a lot of shiny heads here!"). He also did his signature solo with the vibrator, never losing that big grin on his face. The set featured mostly songs from their early landmark albums "Metal On Metal" and "Forged In Fire", with a couple of newer tracks from "This Is Thirteen" thrown in. The highlight of the set was naturally the band's anthem "Metal On Metal".

The headliner of Friday was Danzig, but since I've never been into them, we called it a day and headed home. We would have checked out at least few songs of theirs and taken some photos, but Danzig didn't allow any photos to be taken, so there was no need to stick around for that.

The Sauna was heated on Saturday too, but we chose to pass that. The line-up would've featured mostly Finnish bands with Sonata Arctica headlining and international guests Grave Digger and HAIL, the cover band featuring Ripper Owens and other name players. Nothing essential for us.

We'll see who will heat up next year's SAUNA. I just hope that there are enough cool bands to finally make us stay for the whole three days. And let's hope for a great weather. Rain, wind and Sauna just don't mix.

Review by Kimmo Toivonen
Photos by Mira Suutari-Toivonen
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