What would wake up better than GOTTHARD? Eventhough this Swiss act has been in Sweden Rock before, I'm still not getting tired by them. And just when I've been praising them being an awesome live band, this show wasn't as lively as usual. Sure they were better than many other bands and the amazing duo Steve Lee (vocals) and Leo Leoni (guitar) was once again glowing on stage doing a fiery job, immediately charming everyone around them. The day was turning out to be one of those sweaty ones not many festivals other than Sweden Rock can offer, so maybe that and the morning slot were sort of turn-offs for the band, who weren't in their normal form.
The setlist with small adjustments wasn't an average Gotthard setlist, but even the slightest change reflects into everything. From all the great albums the band has recorded they've never recorded a bad song, but there are some that just aren't as inspiring live as so many others, and this setlist could've rocked more. If your eyes were stuck on Lee and Leoni all the time and this was your first Gotthard experience, this was probably one of the greatest rock shows you've ever witnessed, with Lee swinging his mikestand up to heavens and Leoni posing legs wide open, hanging his guitar in solid position between his legs and then playing it behind his neck. These two are still the stars of Gotthard show. Because bassist Marc Lynn had a motorcycle accident before their their summer shows, the band had to get a replacement for him from Nic Angileri, who gave additional smiles and energy for the show. Another addition was Nicolo Fragile on keyboards.
Gotthard are still one bouncy act, that unsurprisingly grows with success year by year. Even on their lame days they are an incredibly passionate force to their crowd, and again this year I didn't hear any bad comments about the band. On the contrary, even people who normally aren't into this sort of mainstream rock were astonished of what they just saw. Steve Lee and the band ended their 75-minute show with one last song after their return to stage, Lee thinking the crowd still deserved one more song, then giving away the infectiously catchy and sassy "All We Are". With "Lift U Up" before that, the end of the set was like quicksilver, fast, slick and fascinating. Anytime, anywhere, Gotthard!
Setlist: Master Of Illusion, Gone Too Far, Top Of The World, The Call, Hush (Joe South), I Wonder, guitar solo and jamming, Sister Moon, Anytime Anywhere, Let It Be, Mountain Mama, The Oscar Goes To You, Lift U Up, All We Are
As the rest of our crew headed over to see Apocalyptica, I had to see the Irish GLYDER for the first time. I reviewed their promo years ago when they still called themselves H*llyw**d, and was immediately hooked by their Thin Lizzy -sound and style. Singer-bassist Tony Cullen sings with similiar tone to Phil Lynott, his sound has that warm character you just gotta love. Now, many years later I was delighted to find Glyder from the Gibson stage, in a small but cozy tent, a band that has earlier actually warmed up Thin Lizzy itself. I found space from the front row, the crowd was very kind to everyone. As Glyder began, the party started in the tent. People danced and sang together like one family.
Cullen and his bandmates, guitarists Bat Kinane and Pete Fisher and drummer Davy Ryan were an entertaining act. They posses the warmth and laid-back attitude so common to Irish people, and were so active live, that they were quite hard to photograph. It was a lean but firm presentation with amazingly good sounds for the tent. The crowd loved them, and I was amazed by the amount who knew the lyrics and were singing along. Among playing "PUP (Pretty Useless People)", two of the most popular songs were off their "Black Tide Silver Path" -EP, "Stargazer" and "Die Or Dance". Most of the SRF crowd was watching Apocalyptica, and after the fine Glyder set I headed over to see the cellomasters.
APOCALYPTICA is a band that takes their work seriously. Live they are dazzling and their shows sound massive. Rock Stage is a stage, that presents massive productions like these together with Festival Stage. Saturday also included Avantasia here and Lizzy Borden and Ratt, whose shows were more focused on the songs. Apocalyptica instead gave their fans a show they can be proud of. They came off as a very multifaceted, masculine and flashy band, handling the instruments like warriors, spinning the cellos and their lion's manes continuously in the air and posing colourfully. They weren't speachless either, trying their English and Swedish skills to the crowd. The heat was pretty unbearable the whole day. It also affected Apocalyptica, who were sweating hard on stage, the heat was "making my head dizzy", as someone from the band put it.
One of the most intense moments of the show was, when Apocalyptica played one of their Metallica covers, "Nothing Else Matters" in the end of the set. It's rare to witness someone pour their souls into a song like these guys did with the piece. I was only able to watch the song kick off though. Played so serenely, passionately and beautifully, it was a tearjerking moment, reminding me why I haven't gone to any Metallica and Apocalyptica shows for so long. Music and especially certain songs have throughout the history of music been essential for men, taking us back to certain moments in our lives, a place you can escape to, or either return from your own will when needed or by force through media or events like this. A song can reflect to a great memory or a bad one, and Metallica's black album, their most succesful album ever, reflects badly to a time when I lost a dear friend of mine. This was another reminder for me to stay away from Apocalyptica and Metallica shows, even as great as both are.
Apart from the Metallica covers like "Seek And Destroy", "Enter Sandman" and "Creeping Death", Apocalyptica also played "In The Hall Of The Mountain King" by Edvard Grieg and their latest hit "I'm Not Jesus", the whole show without any guest vocalists on stage, the cellos instead replacing some vocal lines. These Finns have grown quite a lot from the early days, they're a great band you should check out when you have a chance.
Another Finnish band, ELÄKELÄISET, was my saving grace from the plaintive offerings of Apocalyptica. A humppa band that has charmed the humour-loving Germans, was now spreading their blissfully wacky jamboree in Sweden. I'm not sure how much the audience really understood from the bands humour sung in Finnish, but the speaks were thrown in multiple languages, Swedish included. The band that calls themselves "pensioners", does covers from various bands, not just from the metal genre. Doing covers from bands such as Children Of Bodom, Nightwish, Iron Maiden, Neil Young, Bad Religion, The Scorpions, Pet Shop Boys and whatnot, the set closing "Hump" might especially ring some bells, makes you wanna...jump?! The whole sharade drops you down laughing, this was just the fix I needed.
With humoristical lyrics it would be good to capture all the lines live, but in a festival you can't hear it all. Instead it was mostly the choruses that made the crowd sing along, and it was no surprise the band lured down all the Finns in the festival. There were people foreign to Finnish language too that were singing along and everyone who understood even a bit was having a time of their lives. And it's not just the lyrical input from the band that is absolutely messed up. You can expect anything to happen on stage. The keyboardist can lean so badly on his instrument, that it makes his playing very hard, then pour beer on himself and some other band member suspecting no evil. The band introduction is as messed up as well. Martti Waris announced "I play bass guitar which I bought from the Lidl-market", a cheap market chain found in most European countries, and their drummer Kristian Voutilainen wanted to come clean saying "jag är än alkoholist", I'm an alcoholic. Everything doesn't always have to be that serious, and I definately want to see this band again that sings "olen humppaava Jeesus". Jesus can also have fun.
One of Sweden Rock's this years legendary bands was BLUE ÖYSTER CULT, who had a bad slot in the burning mid-afternoon sun. This was the best time for its fans though, who love to take their dose of music like siesta, relax with it. I didn't expect anything less than a professional setting, which it was, but at the same time BÖC was a boring act, who didn't perform at all. Younger rock fans were pleased to hear their "(Don't Fear) The Reaper", which has become even more popular after HIM covered it.
Saturday featured yet another Finnish band on the Zeppelin stage, where Eläkeläiset played before them. A legend of their own, one that has tried its wings in USA in late 80's, releasing "Indian Warrior" through Capitol Records in 1989, HAVANA BLACK gained a good fanbase in their glory days, but never made it in the States due to various reasons. Playing groovy southern rock and blues-influenced hard rock, it was great to see Petri Majuri, Crazy Heiskanen, Mikko Kierikki, Hannu Leidèn and Vänni Väänänen back on stage after twenty years, although I was suspicious about Leidèn's voice after recently seing his harsh performance in Finnish TV.
Due to the BÖC show happening meanwhile on Festival stage, Havana Black lost some of the potential crowd, but with the performance we saw, maybe it was good there was such a small crowd. The problem wasn't the band, but just as I had expected, the vocals. Unfortunately Leidèn fought with his vocals, and sang songs like "Lone Wolf" more cautiously than before and below the normal range. The band didn't seem to come to Sweden as winners, moreso you felt sympathy for such legends pulling it off with the shape Leidèn's voice was in, and being way too bland. The band performed really modestly, sort of a remnant of old Finnish mentality. Back in the day, even to this day still, Finns had a social preasure to keep a low profile of themselves. Even if you were a rockstar, it was best to be modest. The Havana Black crowd that mostly enjoyed the show were those, who remembered them twenty years back and had seen them live in their glory days. I was one of them, always loving their warm old spirit, but now they were just a shadow of themselves. I still wish all the best for their career, bands like these are rare diamonds in Finland. Too bad they didn't play their hit "Indian Warrior" though.
Set included: Lone Wolf, Love Is A Lie, Hoo Myself, Oh Well (Fleetwood Mac)
There were so many 80's hardrock bands that Scandinavia missed in their time, and RATT was one of them. Sure they visited at least Finland in the mid-90's, but it wasn't even close to the experience it would've been in their time. Knowing they were playing in Sweden it was still exciting to see how they were today with Stephen Pearcy back in the vocals, who wasn't in the band in their earlier visit. It was a hasty entering on stage from them, and sadly Pearcy wasn't in shape today. Although sort of typical from his voice, he sounded very coarse. But it wasn't just that, the whole performance seemed a bit poor and the chemistries weren't the best today. Hence the Pearcy announcement "who would've thought in twentyfive years we'd still be doing this" sounded ridiculous, did they believe with this act it was gonna last? Well, the set improved closer to the end, and if I had not seen their brilliant performance later in Rocklahoma, I could've sworn they were doomed even before they got into a good start again. Once again this proves you shouldn't judge bands based on one experience, everyone has their bad days.
The band began their set playing five songs in a row off their first EP, which was a special treat. Another album well presented was their "Out Of The Cellar", while a great album such as "Detonator" was only featured with two songs, and they could've played the energetic track "Dance" as well. Ratt also includes bassist Robbie Crane, drummer Bobby Blotzer and guitarists Warren De Martini and John Corabi, who are skilled guitarists. While they posses good looks and skills, it's still Pearcy that brings the final touch to the show and makes the show. It's his presence and character that really makes Ratt. That is what I missed in Finland, and was really disappointed him not being in the band back then. Being an old Ratt fan I would've been even more excited, if the original line-up could've been here with Juan Croucier and Robbin Crosby, who passed away in 2002. I was glad to hear them play "Givin' Yourself Away", which the band said was a first performance ever, but since
the show didn't convince at all, this masterpiece sunk in like any other song in the set. What was surely a fine set of hits, didn't impress everyone this time.
Setlist: Tell The World, Sweet Cheater, U Got It, Walkin' The Dog (Rufus Thomas), You Think You're Tough, The Morning After, Back For More, Wanted Man, I'm Insane, Lack Of Communication, Lay It Down, You're In Love, Slip Of The Lip, Dangerous But Worth The Risk, Nobody Rides For Free (Ratt/Steve Caton), Way Cool Jr., City To City, Lovin' You's A Dirty Job, Body Talk, encore; Givin' Yourself Away, Round And Round
One of the biggest bands in SRF was Canadian TRIUMPH, reuniting after twenty years. They used to be huge in the States and in their homecountry, and have their fans in Europe too, who now saw them for the first time. First time, if you don't count guitarist Rik Emmett's visit in Germany a few years ago, where instead Triumph could've visited, a band I've been listening since the 80's. The area was packed with people as excited as I was, waiting to hear all the classics from them. Sadly the band had settled on a dubious set, that disheartened their fans. The very same set was heard in Rocklahoma later in the summer, and the reception from American fans was similar to Europeans.
The ghostly malevoice in their opening video ensured "this is your night of Triumph", but as it turned out it wasn't, for none of us. All the laserwork and great lights circling around before the band began really whipped up to huge anticipation, but the opening song "When The Lights Go Down" missed its dynamics. With only a handful of hits in the set the crowd was also gobsmacked by the reggae-influenced version of "Never Surrender". If the set had been better, an experimental twist like this would've worked, but as the set grew clearer to the crowd, smiles started changing to disappointments and some decided it was best to leave.
Instead of going with one of their biggest hits "Follow Your Heart", Triumph chose a Joe Walsh cover "Rocky Mountain Way". Like Europeans didn't know how to appreciate good hits or melodies. This change would've appealed more to the American crowd. I wasn't the only one waiting them to cover the "Surveillance" album, this album is a classic loved by many, but no, not a single song off of it. How wrong can you go with a setlist? Even as badly disappointed as so many of us were, you had to give credit to the band for the professional performance, and Emmet's vocals were still in great shape. The line-up in Sweden was drummer Gil Moore, bassist Mike Levine and guitarists Dave Dunlop and Emmett. The band seemed happy as they walked off stage and thanked the crowd, so who knows, we might catch more Triumph in the future. I just wish by then they would remember their younger fans as well.
Setlist: When The Lights Go Down, Lay It On The Line, Allied Forces, Never Surrender, I Live For The Weekend, Blinding Light Show, Rocky Mountain Way (Joe Walsh), Magic Power, Rock And Roll Machine, Fight The Good Fight
If you love good 80's hardrock with catchy melodies, then the next place to be was in Gibson stage at H.E.A.T. show half ten o'clock in the evening. I lost all my buddies again at this point, who rushed to see Avantasia starting in fifteen minutes. I would find them later from there, but this was a show not to be missed either, and there was still time to catch Avantasia afterwards. I decided to squeeze myself in the front for the best experience and H.E.A.T. didn't let us down. They went with full charge, singing beautiful harmonies by singer Kenny Leckremo and the band (Dave Dalone, Eric Rivers, Jona Tee, Jimmy Jay, Crash) and firing away glimpses from the past, all those 80's influences that really get you hooked on this stuff.
Live H.E.A.T are a completely different case than spinning their debut at home. The guys in their age still have the enthusiasm for their work, so they really put a lot of effort into everything. They were like bullets speeding through the air, the rush beat us fast out of our juices, but every second was worth it. It's always amazing to see how a band lives through the songs, and the ballads from the band are quite hard to handle live with such dedication. When in an album they already have the classic ballad features, the warmth, catchiness, melancholy and the heartstriking lyrics one can identify with, live these features build up to huge emotional rides, and ironically there was someone crying during "Cry"!
When you think of how young H.E.A.T. is as a band and as individuals, you'd think there's still rough edges to work on, but what I found was a very tight band that seemed to know exactly what they were doing on stage. Sweden must be proud of them, and the guys should be proud they can already rock so professionally, taking even a small stage like rockstars. This was THE party to be in, I'm completely in love with these guys! We definately felt the heat!
Set included: There For You, Late Night Lady, Straight For Your Heart, Keep On Dreaming, You're Lying, Cry, Feel It Again
I've been waiting for this moment to come, like Gotthard sings in "The Call", one of the awaited moments in this years SRF was AVANTASIA. Who would've thought such a big production would ever happen, but here it was, not the easiest show to materialize with so many musicians involved. Many of my favourite singers were in this line-up; JORN LANDE, BOB CATLEY, KAI HANSEN, TOBIAS SAMMET doing duets with most of his guests, and ANDRE MATOS filling in the duties of Michael Kiske. Backing vocalists were AMANDA SOMERVILLE and CLAUDY YANG with the band; Oliver Hartmann, Michael "Miro" Rodenberg, Felix Boehnke, Robert Hunecke and Sascha Paeth, who in Sammet's words looks like Slash, and thanks to him, made Avantasia happen. "The Scarecrow" -album was well covered in SRF, and includes the musicians mentioned above, along with Eric Singer, Roy Khan, Henjo Richter, Alice Cooper and Rudolf Schenker, who also couldn't make it here.
This was the second show from Avantasia, and what should've offered the crowd a show of a lifetime, didn't go down perfectly. There were unfortunate technical problems, leading to lost vocals very important for a concept like this, and the band seemed out of form at first. Maybe the practice wasn't possible for a rare production like this, which was about to hit three continents and less than twenty shows. And because the Rock stage ground filled with around 30, 000 fans, the visibility to the stage was limited, another factor making it hard to enjoy the show, but I tried to concentrate on what I was hearing when the visibility was gone.
The show began with Sammet rushing on stage like a thunderbolt. He was loudly welcomed, and his performance shined confidence and his typical traits, he was just the Sammet we've become to know. He sang well as usual, doing "Twisted Mind", and next a duet with Lande on "The Scarecrow" and "Another Angel Down". Lande was his normal self, though vocalwise slightly rough and doing an average job. It was Matos that really pulled it off, taking the stage next with "Reach Out For The Light". He's got the greatest voice with a lovable charisma, that radiates warmth all the way to the crowd. After another great singer and an adorable person Catley performed his "The Story Ain't Over", Matos continued with "Shelter From The Rain", and he was the first to suffer from technical problems. When his vocals were heard again, he finished the song with Catley.
"Avantasia", still the best song from Avantasia and on everyone's wishlist, was sung by Sammet himself, this version being just decent and uninspiring compared to the blazing version Edguy has shaped their performance into. Next it was time to raise your hands for a song about penises going to heaven! Here we went again, Sammet ardourly getting to his filthy humour again, and the show turned instantly into a rock carousel, which I had nothing against of. The song was "Serpents In Paradise" and the show took a more powerful turn with Sammet singing with his various styles and just being the power metal singer he is and the easygoing performer.
The dirt-talk didn't end there, no. Sammet introduced us next to a song about blonde girls with giant tits. That was "Promised Land", sung with Lande. As I had only heard the album once before this show, the climaxes were few, but it was very clear this was Sammet's work. Forgetting the problems they encountered it was still great to witness this gigantic rockstar gathering, that had its moments. As the rock legend Alice Cooper couldn't make it to the show, his part was sung by Kai Hansen, who was a majestic sight on stage in his top hat. "The Toy Master" was more of a theatrical performance than anything else, but entertaining and Hansen's vocals were as good as always. "Farewell" was the melancholic piece of a show, that was more based on power hymns and racing rhythms, and Sammet sang it together with Somerville, who's beautiful voice unfortunately faded mostly into the background from the loud band mix. Somerville performed somewhat theatrically, which fit well into th
is rock opera style assembly.
The final touch for the show came from "Sign Of The Cross/The Seven Angels" -medley, which gathered the whole crew together on stage. It was another historical moment, and you didn't know where to look and what to listen. Every singer was running around everywhere on stage and the band was restless and excited too. Putting all their effort into this last bit they sealed the show with a festive impression. After the last bows and a pose against the crowd they left the stage, only to be escorted out with enormous cheers. Avantasia had all the elements for a headliner, this is where Sweden Rock should've ended this year.
Setlist: Twisted Mind, The Scarecrow, Another Angel Down, Prelude, Reach Out For The Light, The Story Ain't Over, Shelter From The Rain, Avantasia, Serpents In Paradise, Promised Land, The Toy Master, Farewell, band introduction, Sign Of The Cross/The Seven Angels (medley)
"Oh my God look what the cat dragged in" was for some an appropriate line to kick off a POISON show, as not all idolize this glam-hardrock band, that took their headliner spot on Festival stage before midnight. I was glad to see them live though, finally! Another band that never set foot in Finland, they're still idolized by those into glam and hardrock. C.C. DeVille, Rikki Rokket, Bret Michaels and Bobby Dall may not be the most compact and talented act in rock business, but they know how to have fun. In their genre this is what matters. As the foursome rushed on stage in the glorious lights and their non-typical glam wear, t-shirts and jeans was the wear tonight, the crowd instantly showed its colours, some left immediately, and those who knew the scheme welcomed the band singing to the lyrics from moment one on, seizing the party vibe.
The set was filled with songs off their first two albums, "Look What The Cat Dragged In" and "Open Up And Say...Ahh!", which was a fine set, but it wouldn't have hurt to have a few more from other albums as well. The start was great though with three party songs, and the band bursted with energy. One of their biggest hits, "I Won't Forget You" was not equal to their album version. This didn't sound like the sweet piece we've grown to love, it was just coldly executed with the whole idea of the song missing. A bad move followed, The Romantics cover "What I Like About You". I don't know any Poison fans who like this song, and most would've preferred to hear something of their own instead. The mood flattened even more, when a guitar solo followed from C.C. DeVille. The crowd shouted his name loudly though, but they could've skipped this part as well, they aren't a guitar band.
"Cry Tough" worked as another party track, and "Something To Believe In" was dedicated to a friend who'd passed away. This ballad brought back some of that missing feel that we were waiting for most of the time. Bret Michaels continued afterwards with his mouth organ, taking us to the groovy "Your Mama Don't Dance", which vitalized the crowd again to groovy dancing. Michaels sang the set through with ease, although maybe a bit too casually, but the main thing was the fun of it. Michaels still looks cute as a puppy, and he's one of those singers with the interactive ability, fans could easily relate to his act. Although Avantasia was a bigger success, Poison's headliner slot might've been due to the screen material blasting out of them, naked women rubbing their tits and whatnot. There was still great effects like lightshow, pyros and loads of confetti showered us finishing the show. "Every Rose Has It's Thorn" was the best moment of the show, and the shows perky start. Poison is a party band that answered well to this need, we had nothin' but a good time.
Setlist: Look What The Cat Dragged In, I Want Action, Ride The Wind, I Won't Forget You, What I Like About You (The Romantics), C.C. DeVille guitar solo, Cry Tough, Something To Believe In, Your Mama Don't Dance, I Need To Know, Rockett drum solo, Unskinny Bop, Every Rose Has It's Thorn, Fallen Angel, Talk Dirty To Me, encore: Nothin' But A Good Time
Sweden Rock history reveals which bands from this years lineup have visited SRF before, here's most of them; Saxon (1997, 2000, 2002, 2005, 2008 ), Blue Öyster Cult (1998, 2008), Dare (1999, 2008), Five Fifteen (2000, 2002, 2008), Primal Fear (2000, 2008), Hensley/Lawton (2001, 2008), Hanoi Rocks (2002, 2008), Whitesnake (2003, 2006, 2008), Judas Priest (2004, 2008), Testament (2004, 2008), Def Leppard (2006, 2008), Gotthard (2006, 2008), The Poodles (2006, 2008), Fastway (2007, 2008), Korpiklaani (2007, 2008), Sabaton (2005, 2008), Mustasch (2001, 2005, 2008). The different band variations have also taken various musicians on their own to SRF before. Tobias Sammet has been in Sweden Rock with Edguy a few times, Mika Järvinen (Five Fifteen) with his Crazy Led, Sebastian Bach on his own and Kai Hansen with Gamma Ray, who was in SRF this year with Stormwarrior. Continuing with the policy of recycling will surely start showing in ticket sales, paying nearly 200 euros from the
same bands seen before seems like madness. But one can't still forget what makes Sweden Rock so special, it's yearly special reunions are an attraction, and I hope Sweden Rock would keep their policy supporting the melodic and more traditional rock scene, we have too many festivals already filled with darker and harder metal.
This year we didn't spend much time backstage, and as soon as Poison finished their set on Saturday, we skipped the backstage fun and drove back to our ranch for a good night sleep. Well, that's what we'd planned, but soon found ourselves ending the evening in our ranch living room sipping the last drinks of the festival. It was a peaceful place, just us keeping company to each other, which made it also a bit scary. Visiting the ranch yard alone in the jet-black night or taking a shower in the second building alone at night set off the imagination. Did I see a zombie crawl there?! Nah, it was probably just a drunk buddy staggering around. If you weren't a nervewreck by now with your imagination, the monster-sized spiders in the showers should've set you shrieking the latest, like in the good old horror flicks. Oh, how I've always loved the countryside and its peace. Believe me, I always have, it's the freaking vivid imagination I can't stand!
Beginning our trip to Sweden with Korpiklaani on the same plane, we travelled back with Havana Black, with not much difference in the prevailing conditions. Some of us Finns were either drunk, still drinking or just tired yet again, and joining our happy choirs this time around was at least Crazy Heiskanen, who's laughter was echoing loudly aboard. If you weren't laughing already, this easily triggered it. What a ride and flight this year was again, it's always fun with Sweden Rock trips.
Inspirational acts of 2008; Airbourne, Tesla, Gotthard, Hanoi Rocks, H.E.A.T., Apocalyptica, Eläkeläiset.