SWEDEN ROCK 2009 - Rain, rain, and more rain, but we still rocked!
Summer of 2009 was the biggest in Sweden Rock history. With 35 200 rock fans it was a very massive event, and the number is presumably growing again for 2010. For rock fans it means both good and bad. It will be harder to see bands, get fast service and go to places, but it also gives a chance to see bigger bands. Personally I prefer smaller festivals, and Sweden Rock has been a good festival so far. This summer and the four days didn't go all too well though. The normal SRF weather was far away from being sunny, it was raining every day and occasionally it poured down like hell. It is always good to check the weather forecasts before leaving to a festival, and so we were prepared with rubber boots and raincoats and didn't let the rain spoil it too much for us.
As usual, the festival had a band for every need. This summer was as colourful as ever with ZZ TOP, JOURNEY, FOREIGNER, SABATON, OVER THE RAINBOW, TWISTED SISTER and PAIN being few of the crowdmagnets. SRF was once again sold out. The masses weren't pleased about the rain pouring down most of the time, but it is rare here and some weren't bothered about it at all. Wednesday was a day for relaxing, the only bands we checked out were URIAH HEEP and BLAZE BAYLEY, and neither convinced this time around.
Thursday was the day for PAIN. This industrial metal band has been very succesful for quite a while now, and it showed in Sweden. They were the first band to set foot on Sweden Stage on Thursday at 12 am, and the area was packed already. The raving fans were taking it all in with a passion, moshing and dancing as hard as one could to the killer beat, which was twisting your insides as it travelled through the crowd. Daytime and the festival scene isn't the best place for a band that sends out a party message, and I've seen how they've crazed up a whole club, but this was a good show and the whole band was very convincing, with Peter Tägtgren's shrieking, although his vocals suffered towards the end. Otherwise Pain is quite expressionless, they tend to stick to their spots and just do their thing there, but their vigorous music and massive vocal harmonies do the trick.
The Swedish speaches, huge smoke clouds and fast flashing white lights were some of the elements in the show that ended in Tägtgren getting caked for belated birthday celebration. After shaking the cake off his hair the band bowed to the crowd dressed in black, who must've been sweating hard. "Runttaa ja niskajumppaa" would be a great slogan for Pain shows, I can't find the words in english to describe that right now, but it's all about the harsh neck and body move! It was a hot morning, nothing one was expecting after the cold night. This seemed promising for the rest of the day.
Set included: Dancing With The Dead, On And On, Just Hate Me, It's Only Them, Bitch, Same Old Song, Follow Me, Shut Your Mouth.
The Sweden Rock -beginners might find the musical diversity of the festival interesting, or perhaps irritating, but most of the festival crowd enjoys all what's on offer, even out of curiousity. The former GEORGIA SATELLITES -man DAN BAIRD was a curiousity for sure, at least for younger crowd, although it's a surprise if you've never heard the Satellites hit "Keep Your Hands To Yourself". This set was obviously for the more dedicated one though, the area was only half packed. Meanwhile the metal crowd was hissing their tongues somewhere in the shadows. Baird was such a mellow performer, he accompanied his countryrock with slide guitar. His band Homemade Sin had good time on stage and also celebrated a birthday like Pain before them.
More towards the same mellow style was THE OUTLAWS, continuing the legacy of Hughie Thomasson (Lynyrd Skynyrd), Billy Jones and Frank O'Keefe, and were a bit more interesting than the band before them. Their southern rock, introduced by singer guitarist Henry Paul, guitarist Billy Crain and drummer Monte Yoho, was performed with more perfection and with great musicianship. Unfortunately the festival crowd seems to grow younger each year, and there's just not enough crowd for these bands anymore.
Zeppelin Stage four in the afternoon and the H.E.A.T. is on! The track "The Heat Is On" by Glenn Frey was the intro to the Swedish melodic hardrock group, and what an energy flow there was on stage again, it was very welcome to the lazy afternoon. H.E.A.T. was as energetic as usual, and kicked off their show with "Fill Your Head With Rock". The eightees is here again, and we're gonna party! Our gang got into the most idiotic stunts seen during the show, and we managed to gather our own crowd who also caught the party fever. So we were rocking to the 80's clichés, the beautiful melodies and the vocals of Kenny Leckremo, who's voice didn't carry through the show, but what the heck, this was all about good time, so do another swing move! The boys of H.E.A.T. really lift up the spirits, and their ballads are real tearjerkers. The guys give 100 percent for the show and the hit after hit set couldn't have been better.
Set included: Fill Your Head With Rock, You're Lying, Bring The Stars, Straight For Your Heart, 1000 Miles, Cry, Follow Me, Late Night Lady, There For You, Keep On Dreaming.
Soon after H.E.A.T. finished, TYKETTO took over the same stage continuing the hardrock spirit. Tyketto is a rare sight in Scandinavia, but the UK rock fans know how hard this band rocks live. I've witnessed singer Danny Vaughn now a few times live, and he's always a real energy bomb on stage, and also a happy chap blessed with great vocal chords. He was the only original Tyketto member alongside drummer Michael Clayton performing though, but all eyes were on the fit and vivacious Vaughn anyway. The set was a dream for fans, who've been listening to the band from the 80's, and the sounds on this stage have been improving since last years. The only low point of this show must've been the political war ramble from Vaughn, we've all heard this speach a bit too many times in the last few years from different bands. "Hate the war, but don't hate the warriors" was Vaughn's introduction to "Sail Away", the mellow and melodic song with a flowing chorus. There were many highlights in their show, but the biggest was the set closer, their biggest hit "Forever Young", which crazed up the crowd. Another winning set from the band you really need to see live.
Set included: Lay Your Body Down, Rescue Me, Burning Down Inside, Seasons, Strength In Numbers, Standing Alone, Sail Away, Nothin' But Love, Forever Young.
ZZ TOP were on the main stage at eight o'clock, but I didn't have much time to watch them. Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill together with their band sounded pretty much the same to my ear than in the early 90's when I saw them in Finland. With the full sound treating the fans ears, the band was like a big steady truck rollin' on the highway. They played their hits and songs from the "Eliminator" -album, but also bored the crowd with some blues stuff and a Hendrix-cover. To our amazement both the bearded leaders walked the festival area freely before the show.
As I got into the Gibson tent at 8.30 pm, it was surprisingly packed with people. You couldn't have expected such a rush here, as the next band didn't play the easiest and most accessible music. Even the band was amazed by such mass of people. SEVENTH WONDER is a melodic progmetal band and a very complex and skilled one at it. The musicians are virtuosos, and their latest album "Mercy Falls" knocks anyone's socks off who's into this genre. Sadly the band had trouble finding a balance between instruments at first, the guitars were too low and the bass was too high, but bit by bit they reached the preferable sound. These progsters like to perform in white shirts, which is rare for a metal band, but the angelic image goes well hand in hand with a band that is quite the perfectionists live. Singer Tommy Karevik is amazing live and the rest of the group too (guitarist Johan Liefvendahl, keyboardist Andreas Söderin, bassist Andreas Blomqvist, drummer Johnny Sandin). You could've thought they were doing playback, that's how perfect they sounded. Blomqvist is somewhat a fans favourite in the band, he's an energetic performer, fiery player and also a friendly guy, who speaks Finnish too. Sandin easily drops jaws too. The crowd surprised the band by singing along to all the songs devotedly from beginning to end. "Welcome To Mercy Falls" and "Not An Angel" were couple of songs heard. I wonder where their hour slipped though, this was a true musical hypnosis and I wanted more!
Sweden Stage presented OVER THE RAINBOW before ten o'clock, with a ninety minute set. In that time you can do quite a few classics, and the set was just that. The band with old Rainbow members also has Ritchie Blackmore's son Jürgen Blackmore on guitar. He might look a lot like his father and carry some similarities stylewise, but he can't beat his ol' dad in the axe. Jürgen plays with Jackson-guitar, so the Rainbow enthusiasts were of course rather annoyed of a sound that didn't belong in this group. I could let it slide, since the band had a good thing going live, and Joe Lynn Turner still sings nearly as good as before. Bobby Rondinelli on drums, Greg Smith on bass and Paul Morris replacing Tony Carey on keys was the rest of the group, playing songs through their catalogue, which have also featured singers Ronnie James Dio, Doogie White and Graham Bonnet. A descent show if nothing else, the classics and their performers are always welcome anywhere.
Setlist: Tarot Woman, Kill The King, Street Of Dreams, Man On The Silver Mountain, Death Alley Driver, Eyes Of The World, Ariel, Wolf To The Moon, I Surrender, Can't Happen Here, Jealous Lover, drum solo, Stargazer, Long Live Rock'n'Roll, encore: Since You've Been Gone, All Night Long
For TWISTED SISTER it wasn't the first time on Festival stage, and this year they celebrated their 25th anniversary for their masterpiece "Stay Hungry". The album was heard in whole, and the show was as spectacular as seen before here with all the foolish costumes and make-up, pyros and the huge and colourful lightshow. Dee Snider's vocals weren't in the best shape though, and suffered from minor mixing problems at first. The man is very fit, and showed good example on youngsters how you can still rock at such age, if you take good care of yourself. A good set from the band as far as we saw it, and hearing the ballad "The Price" live was great as well.
Set included: Stay Hungry, We're Not Gonna Take It, Burn In Hell, Captain Howdy/Street Justice, I Wanna Rock, The Price, Don't Let Me Down
Friday began with THOR and NEIL MORSE, but sadly we couldn't make it there in time. Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater and a few Marillion guys were visitors on the Morse-set, and both shows were said to be very entertaining. JON OLIVA'S PAIN played in the pouring rain, which made their set even more dramatic from what it already is with their theatrical pompous songs. Jon himself walked on stage leaning to his walking stick, and performed half of most songs sitting down behind his keys. He's not been in the greatest fit in years anymore, but has a personality that really captures his crowd, and that's what matters. Matt LaPorte, Tom McDyne and Kevin Rothney joined him for the show featuring songs from both Savatage and Jon Oliva's Pain. Even if Jon's vocals can't hit the highest notes well anymore, for his fans seing him live is always like a family reunion, his music takes his fans somewhere to another level, a level that touches the body and spirit. Criss Oliva, Jon's admire d guitarist brother now gone for nearly seventeen years, was another person to raise such divine feelings, and Jon always dedicates "Hounds" for him live. "He's watching over us right now" Jon says, and the nostalgic feeling raises goosebumps. Both men are legends of metal, and the set heard here was near perfection.
Set included: Sirens, Through The Eyes Of The King, Of Rage And War, Chance, Maniacal Renderings, Tonight He Grins Again, Gutter Ballet, Hounds, Believe, Jesus Saves, Hall Of The Mountain King, When The Crowds Are Gone
The British MARILLION was great to see in Sweden Rock. Rock Stage only gave them an hour and fifteen minutes though, but the band managed to play a descent set in that time. If you're not a fan of the Steve Hogart era, this wasn't your place to be. I like both him and Fish as Marillion singers, so I was pleased to hear whatever they decided to play. Hogart doesn't have the charisma Fish did, but he is a great singer, and if the set seemed somewhat somnolent, his humour freshened it up a bit. So far the band had been blessed with a bit of sunlight, but as the rain started pouring again, Hogart introduced the next song, "Afraid Of Sunlight". Who knows, maybe the song was intended on this spot or maybe the guys improvised, but the timing was great. A set that might've seemed boring for some was soundwise balanced and thus earcandy in the land of festival noises.
Set included: Hooks In You, Afraid Of Sunlight, Cover My Eyes (Pain & Heaven), Happiness Is The Road
It's been long since hardrock Queen LITA FORD played live the last time. Her sons can be thanked for the comeback that took place in Rocklahoma, USA in 2008, where she received a great welcome, but as there, the show in Sweden Rock didn't live up to the huge expectations. Having a lot of setbacks in both shows, her timing was one that was very much off the course and she even missed some vocal parts. Many disappointed fans were speculating if she had skipped her homework for the shows. The show itself was pleasing though, Lita was performing to the crowd like in the 80's doing her sexy poses, playing with many guitars (one of them the two neck B.C. Rich and the lookalike of a Stolisnaya-bottle), throwing a sweaty towel into the crowd that she'd just wiped between her legs, singing in the catwalk and posing with that police cap on her head for "Can't Catch Me", shouting "you're all under arrest!" before kicking off the fast paced rocker.
The former W.A.S.P. drummer Stet Howland also gave a flashy show in his drumsolo. In one fast swig he nailed a beer bottle down his throat and threw some beer on the drumheads for a wet drumsolo, ending it banging with a few beerbottles. The missing rhythm guitar resulted into a bland sound, as Lita concentrated mostly on singing. Especially "Blueberry" suffered from the lack of instruments. The setlist covered a good selection of songs, one of them being the duet with Ozzy Osbourne, "Close My Eyes Forever", without Ozzy though, but the crowd joined in for the chorus. Lita herself introduced the band, besides Lita and Howland the band was Michael T. Ross (keys, ex-Hardline) and Jimmy Carter (bass). "You guys knew we ain't going anywhere" Lita shouted, as they returned for the encore, only to surprisingly do a Sammy Hagar -cover "There's Only One Way To Rock". The cover didn't go down well at all, instead it was a disappointing closer for a set that could've ended with at l east "Playin' With Fire" or a new song off her last album "Wicked Wonderland".
Setlist: Larger Than Life, Black Widow, Can't Catch Me, Blueberry, Gotta Let Go, Back To The Cave, Hungry, Falling In And Out Of Love, Hellbound Train, The Ripper, Close My Eyes Forever, Kiss Me Deadly, encore; There's Only One Way To Rock (Sammy Hagar)
The next move was to KAMELOT, who weren't playing in SRF for the first time. One of their earlier shows here was in Festival Stage, where Lita just finished off. Now they were on the opposite side in Rock Stage, where they had once again brought their powerful show with pyros and great lights. The sun hadn't yet gone down, so the lights were quite useless, but everyone even further away from the stage could feel the blazing heat from the pyros. This Florida-based powermetal group always has a great show to offer. Once again their show was massive in all aspects and the crowd was very much into them, although it was raining now and then again. The band filmed some material from stage, and jammed a little between the bass and the drum solo. Towards the end singer Roy Khan had some difficulties with his vocals, but he only had to deal with two songs anymore. The show finished to a huge mass of water flushing down from the stage roof, nearly drowning Khan under it and giving t he show the dramatic ending only Kamelot can have.
Setlist: Rule The World, When The Lights Are Down, Soul Society, Descent Of The Archangel, Center Of The Universe, Pendulous Fall, Love You To Death, Moonlight, bass-and drum solo, The Human Stain, EdenEcho, The Haunting (Somewhere In Time), Forever, March Of Mephisto
Returning back to Festival Stage at eight in the evening, the next band was going to be a very special one for the fans of classic and melodic rock. FOREIGNER are legends, who've released albums since the 70's, their latest being "Can't Slow Down". The group is Kelly Hansen (vocals), Mick Jones (guitar, keys, vocals), Thom Gimbel (guitar, saxophone, flute), Jeff Pilson (bass), Michael Bluestein (keys) and Brian Tichy (drums). Their set in Sweden was very similar to their past gigs, even down to the speaches of Hansen, but those who saw them the first time here got worth their money. The 90-minute set included a great selection of songs from their catalogue, and it was pleasing to see they decided to go for their greatest hit "I Want To Know What Love Is" in a rock festival. They don't always play the song live, and when they hit it off before the set closer "Hot Blooded", the crowd was melting to its melodies and sweet lyrics. Even a rock festival can have its soft spots! Like seen on their earlier shows, the crowd in Sweden also danced to this song cheek to cheek. What a romantic setting!
The band sounded brilliant and as big as such legends should, and performed with a passion that never seems to run out of them. Their drummer Tichy (ex-Pride & Glory) played a very tight drum solo, some with bare hands and not forgetting to go for a bit of "Whole Lotta Love" by Led Zeppelin in between. This is a remnant from the times with Jason Bonham still in the band, the son of John Bonham. Hansen (ex-Hurricane) is a great vocalist and a performer with a great grip on his crowd. It was mostly him and the bands only original member Mick Jones, who were on the spotlight the most, but also Gimbel put together a great show with his sax solo and Pilson (ex-Dokken) is always as energetic. Jones also took the spotlight with "Starrider", singing the old classic like he'd just recorded it. The guys were in great shape and it's rare to see a show with all the elements of entertainment in one perfect package.
Setlist: Double Vision, Head Games, Cold As Ice, Blue Morning Blue Day, Dirty White Boy, Starrider, Feels Like The First Time, Urgent, keyboard/drum solo, Jukebox Hero-Whole Lotta Love, Long Long Way From Home, I Want To Know What Love Is, Hot Blooded
The night still had MOTÖRHEAD, IN FLAMES, JOHNNY WINTER and ABRAMIS BRAMA ahead, but we were way too tired to stay in the rain any longer, having a few glimpses of Motörhead on our way out. The band was as fit as before and their lightshow as great as always, and Lemmy Kilmister kills on stage. They're another regular visitor in SRF, who easily pack the area they're playing at.
TIM "RIPPER" OWENS, the former singer of Judas Priest and Iced Earth, held one of the morning slots, but having the band he had here and being one of the best metal singers around, his early schedule didn't take much away from him. The metal fans were pleased to see him and his famous band members John Comprix (Beyond Fear), Chris Caffery (Savatage), Simon Wright (AC/DC, Dio) and Dave Ellefson (Megadeth). The line-up was a tight one, and guitar solos stealed the show, but since Ripper's solodebut "Play My Game" doesn't bring nothing new to the metal game, the show was merely a reminder of how basic metal should be done. The sounds were massive and the playing was right on the money with great vocals from Ripper, and as the band covered also Judas Priest a bit, it was a good and powerful start for the day.
Set included: The World Is Blind, Play My Game, It Is Me
It was the Swedish National Day today, and the biggest gathering seen on Saturday was in SABATON, although they were only playing the national anthem and an own song. This band is very popular in Sweden and other countries as well, and no wonder, these guys are into what they do and it shows, and their music is very powerdriven. "Du Gamla Du Fria" aired on Zeppelin-stage loudly with the huge crowd singing along and waiving Swedish flags, and why not other flags as well. The front of the stage was hot and furious, as if an even bigger band was playing. I had a hard time taking a few pictures, although the crowd tried to be as polite as possible in the massive bodyflow, giving a bit of space for photos.
As STORMZONE, the hardrock group from Belfast formed in 2004, hit the same stage next, the area was fast deserted. This group isn't yet too well-known, and because of the same schedule with the legendary Impellitteri, the crowd loss was probably just that. Seing them in Firefest in 2007 I had high hopes of this show, they were very good in UK. They didn't let down this time either, although this band seems to be more of a club band, rather than playing daytime in a festival. A few new songs were played, "Secret Gateway" at least, among with tracks from "Caught In The Act" -debut. The vocals of John "Harv" Harbinson were shining again, and his performance was very intimate, posing for fans and lifting their spirits into rock mood. This band has great classic rock elements with beautiful melodies and the guitar work is also very firm. Too bad not so many people were around to witness this great musicianship.
My impression on IMPELLITTERI was shortlived, as I only managed to see the end of their show. A band that I used to listen to in the eighties and early 90's, it was sad not seing the whole show, but the short impression was they could've been much better. Chris Impellitteri, the band leader and guitar greatness, seemed to be lost on stage, and vocalist Rob Rock didn't manage to gather the scattered performance together either. You might know this band from the song "Stand In Line", performed by Graham Bonnet on an album by the same title.
RIOT was a band many were looking forward to seing to. Formed in the seventies, they've gained a name among metal fans into hardrock, speed and heavy metal. Their sort of metal works for various music fans and in Sweden they gained a large audience. "Thundersteel" has been a favourite album for many Riot fans, and the line-up seen in Sweden was the same that played on it (Tony Moore, vocals, Mark Reale, guitars, Don Van Stavern, bass and Bobby Jarzombek, drums). One of the reasons this gig was praised to heavens must've been that Riot pampered its fans by filling their set with a lot of "Thundersteel" material. But their success wasn't just that, the band showed no lack of enthusiasm and were in great shape musically. A tight group with a lot of miles behind them, they know the tricks how to work a metal crowd.
There's not much to be said about another seventies band BLACKFOOT this time around. Their southern rock seemed strangely boring today. It must've been their setlist this time, because on their last visit to Sweden Rock in 2005 they played a good, relaxing and warm set, not the best set they could play, but it was better than this time around. I took a break and waited for yet another seventies band Journey to hit the main stage.
Long before half five o'clock the Festival Stage started getting full. The American rockers JOURNEY were very popular on their last visit here in 2006, playing later in the evening then to a full crowd with Steve Augeri on vocals. Due to vocal problems Augeri was replaced by Jeff Scott Soto for a while, but the Philippine singer Arnel Pineda, the golden throat from YouTube, came to rescue after him. Journey has been blessed with great singers, and all of them have had their own charisma. Pineda, although in his mid-age, seems very young at heart, being a very lively and smily performer. He used all the space available on stage together with guitarist Neal Schon, and they even had a catwalk to get closer to the crowd. Pineda seemed very excited in Sweden, and amidst of his runs and twists a bump into Schon on the catwalk wasn't avoided. The guys smiled on that, luckily not crashing down. It seemed there was more energy in the band than on their previous visit.
The Journey live experience touches even those not too dedicated or close to this sort of classic rock and aor. They have a stadium sound with a huge collection of radio hits to choose from, and the live collaboration is seamless. They're perfectionists live, with many great vocalists in the band working strongly together, also switching singers once in a while. Drummer Deen Castronovo sang "Keep On Running" in this show, but the band has been known to use various members singing in one show. Keyboardist Jonathan Cane sometimes sings as well, but now he only took his mouth organ out for some jamming in "Faithfully". During this beautiful ballad Schon switched guitars twice. Journey has a lot of great ballads, and I was surprised they didn't play one of their newest "After All These Years" from their last album "Revelation". This song has become huge in the States and also YouTube has a huge selection of its liveversions and fanmade versions. It has become my favourite ball ad from them as well, with lyrics that many can relate to and beautiful guitar work and vocal harmonies.
Like Foreigner the day before, Journey was the best band on Saturday. There weren't bad comments really, for most the only negative thing about the show seemed to be the setlist in the end. "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'" was a strange pick to wrap up a gigantic show into, although it is a good song, but nothing compared to all those bigger hits they've got. But this is Journey style, they're a band that changes setlists a bit now and then, and this time they decided to go with a smoother ending. I'm very happy to have seen them live again, and this time with Pineda, who is a very talented singer.
Setlist: Never Walk Away, Only The Young, Stone In Love, Ask The Lonely, Wildest Dreams, Keep On Running (Deen Castronovo, vocals), Change For The Better, Seperate Ways, Where Did I Lose Your Love, Lights, Be Good To Yourself, Don't Stop Believin' (middle jam session), Faithfully, Wheel In The Sky, Escape, Any Way You Want It, encore: Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin'
One of the bands I've waited to see live since their debut album "Funk-O-Metal Carpet Ride" was released in 1989 is ELECTRIC BOYS. Somehow I never crossed paths with them anywhere, but was thrilled to finally see these Swedes in their homeland, as was the full crowd fronting Rock Stage. The bands leader, singer and guitarist Conny Bloom and bassist Andy Christell have grown their fanbase during their Hanoi Rocks years, so there were a number of Hanoi fans in the crowd. The 90-minute show started with a long intro, and this was a hint of what was coming. It wasn't a surprise that the set blossomed with jamming, and I say blossomed, because this band can make even jamming interesting. Bloom is a great frontman with a lot going on all the time, and the girls melt before his eyes. The rest of the band is drummer Niclas Sigevall and guitarist Franco Santunione.
"Psychedelic Eyes" was a good opener, it has a lot of that groove which made this band magical and famous, and it has action written all over it. Action was just the name of the game for them, the only calm moment on stage was during the amazing ballad "Dyin' To Be Loved" closer in the end of the set. The sturdy sounds together with the colourful and vivid performance made this one of the best shows in SRF. Bloom was all over the stage, throwing his guitar and waterbottles into the air, fooling and spinning restlessly. This man is a trickster, you never know where to look for him next. A great comeback from the band.
Set included: Psychedelic Eyes, Into The Ditch, Groovus Maximus, Knee Deep In You, Mary In The Mystery World, Electrified, Halleluja I'm On Fire, The Change, Fire In The House, Dyin' To Be Loved, Captain Of My Soul, Rags To Riches, All Lips 'n' Hips
The progmaestros DREAM THEATER used to be a favourite band of mine for a very long time, until their music took a more musician to musician approach, sinking their teeth increasingly album by album into technical stuff, in the expense of beautiful melodies and vocal lines. By doing so they lost some of that magic that touched the common people. I never had a problem with their progressive influences and the technical side, until it started taking too much space from everything else. This lead to being not as dedicated to them as I used to be, having missed one show from them in Finland. All because of their new approach to music, and because of seing them here in SRF before that.
Dream Theater has always been a band that fills stages easily. In Sweden they seemed to have difficulties with that, which was strange. Mike Portnoy behind his huge drumkit is always an amazing sight and he's a one man show, but apart from him and keyboardist Jordan Rudess spinning behind his keys there didn't seem to be much motion on stage. Vocalist James LaBrie was quite passive, but his vocals were in better shape than in Sweden Rock 2005, and there's nothing bad to say about the musicianship in the band, all of them are still amazing and only getting better through the years. They're just starting to forget where they came from. The preface for todays gig was a good pointer where this show was heading to. Appearing onstage after the intro the band immediately took a jamming mode. That's what it seemed though, but the jamming in question was actually "In The Presence Of Enemies pt.1". This song was a tough gig starter, it runs at nine minutes and an average festival go er doesn't appreciate artistic prog overdoses. Dream Theater has quite free hands in their doings, which can also be a good thing. Sweden Rock saw Mike Portnoy together with Pete Trewavas on stage with Neal Morse, playing "We All Need Some Light" by Transatlantic. Prog greats stick together, and I was expecting something like this to happen, but sadly missed this great get-together.
Dream Theater's tenth album "Black Clouds & Silver Linings" was released later in June after SRF, and only one song was heard from that, "A Rite Of Passage", another nine-minute track. This set didn't give remission for non-prog fans, in fact the only easy track was the slow "Hollow Years". The band had sound problems at the start, the PA's died for a while, and LaBrie kept on singing "our deeds have travelled far" on his own. It was interesting, but nothing you'd want to last too long. The extremely cold weather and terrible wind was spoiling the mood for the crowd, and the tolerance to anything was really low, so the crowd kept diminishing. Dream Theater can trick all they want on stage with their amazing instruments and skills, but they aren't an easy festival band, though it is through festivals they also get new fans. This show was way too passive and shredfilled though to win over new fans. I still admire John Petrucci (guitars), John Myung (bass) and the rest, I always will, but will I ever find that same feeling again I had when they released "Images And Words" (1992)? I doubt that. So there couldn't have been a better set closer than "Metropolis Pt. 1", a definite highlight of the show for me.
Setlist: In The Presence Of Enemies pt.1., Beyond This Life, A Rite Of Passage, Hollow Years, Caught In A Web, Erotomania, Voices, Solitary Shell, Constant Motion, Metropolis Pt. 1.
"It's the final countdown!". That's what we shouted during the next band, and also had a boy and girlchoir tearing out "Carrie" as well. The Swedes EUROPE have tons of hits and these two songs are their most succesful from the 80's. Appearing in SRF for the second time with the original line-up (Joey Tempest - vocals, John Norum - guitar, Ian Haugland - drums, Mic Michaeli - keys, John Leven - bass), they had the last slot on Rock Stage on the last day, but weren't the band to wrap up SRF this year. That slot was for Heaven & Hell. It should've been Europe though. I don't remember ever hearing such an earaching noise from a crowd the size of this, and in Sweden Rock, not even on their last gig here. Europe was in fine shape and managed to grow the intense sentimental feeling song by song so, that the atmosphere was incredibly emotional as they reached midway to the set and started "Carrie". It's weird to watch even the most harsh looking bikerguys singing their hearts out to this song, but Europe's success among the colourful gang of metalheads is partly based on their good timing in the business.
The band became succesful at a time in the 80's with only a handful of metalbands out there, when most teenagers listened to pretty much every metalband around the corner. And those metalheads still stick together. Nowadays the various metal genres scatter metalheads in hundreds of directions, each sticking to their own brand of metal, so it isn't easy for bands anymore to become famous and reach the same level of success Europe did. And Europe were always a skillful band. Now that John Norum is back in the band there's even more emotional charge, he's always had his own fans, who love his vocals and guitarskills. Norum was on fire in Sweden, and got an instrumental spotlight with his own piece "Optimus". I wish they would've had time for one more of his own songs with him on vocals, but not this time. Joey Tempest was also seen on guitar during the show and his performer skills are topnotch these days. The bands latest albums have a more modern touch to them, but they still show Europe never lost their musical talent. The set opener from their last album, the title track "Last Look At Eden" worked from second one, and through rockers to touchy ballads the band was present to their fans, keeping the amazing 80's spirit of togetherness alive till the end, till "The Final Countdown", the song we all still love hearing and singing together out loud.
Setlist: Last Look At Eden, Love Is Not The Enemy, Superstitious, Scream Of Anger, Always The Pretenders, Sign Of The Times, Seven Doors Hotel, Carrie, Let The Good Times Rock, Start From The Dark, Optimus, Seventh Sign, Ready Or Not, Rock The Night, encore: Gonna Get Ready, Cherokee, The Final Countdown
The 80's magic continued in fifteen minutes, as Festival Stage welcomed HEAVEN & HELL again to the very same stage, where the band appeared in 2007. The line-up was the same with Ronnie James Dio on vocals, Tony Iommi on guitar, Geezer Butler on bass and Vinny Appice on drums. I could swear the stage was the same as well, with a graveyard on the back and gates as well. The band seemed a bit more lively than on the last time, even Iommi using the whole stage, which is a rare sight. The band counts more on the songs doing the talking than being too showy, but have their flashy moments like the lightshow, which was again colourful, yet suitably eery for the band.
They promoted their latest album "The Devil You Know" here, playing "Bible Black", "Fear" and "Follow The Tears", which worked well for the crowd. The sound was terrible though, the guitar nowhere to be heard, the crowd was freezing again in the very cold wind, and while struggling with all that the band decided to go for a very long version of "Heaven & Hell", probably for Dio to get a longer break for his vocals. Some of the crowd left because of this chaos, and because the temperatures started going down towards 0°C degrees. It took seven years of visits to Sweden Rock to finally see the weather do such a nasty trick. The festival has always bathed under sunshine with just two rainy years, this included. It took a lot of guts and determination from the scantly dressed crowd to stay till the very end. We headed to our car for the last part of the show, where we saw the whole show on screens and heard it all in the warmth.
Of all the band members Vinny Appice still keeps up the star appearance, his drumming is both visually great and up to the classic metal drumming standards, although there wasn't nothing new in his drumming, and drumsolos are just something most fans aren't keen on hearing. Dio instead seemed way too tired from the normal himself. We've all become to know him from his charismatic way of getting close to fans and enchanting everyone with his performance. Being a showman seems to be getting too gruelling on him, which is a shame, because his vocals were in much better shape this time around. And eventhough the band still only seemed to be doing a routine thing live, no one wants to see our metal heros fade out, finish or leave their earthly shells. Let's just hope if the guys continue their careers, they'll do a facelift for the show on personal levels.
Setlist: E5150, Mob Rules, Children Of The Sea, I, Bible Black, Time Machine, Drum Solo, Fear, Falling Off The Edge Of The World, Follow The Tears, Die Young, Heaven And Hell, Country Girl, Neon Knights
Best bands 2009 (from the ones seen): Pain, H.E.A.T., Tyketto, Seventh Wonder, Foreigner, Kamelot, Stormzone, Journey, Electric Boys, Europe