Sweden Rock 2012 - The year Dee Snider owned the festival.
It was also the year of changing weathers with a lot of rain one day and sunny the next. This was the eight time we visited Sweden Rock. The festival has grown a lot since our first visit in 2003, also being sold out for many years now. This years headliners were EDGUY, SOUNDGARDEN, TWISTED SISTER and MÖTLEY CRÜE, but as usual the festival offered all sorts of music, with the exception of AOR being cut down to the Norwegian Return, who are close enough to AOR (-What about Night Ranger, H.E.A.T.? - Ed). Melodic hardrock bands were still plenty though. This year Sweden Rock was blessed with good sounds, only a couple of bands were hit even harder with the bad ones. The Rockklassiker stage was moved to the other side and a couple of other things were in other places too, the signing session tent being one, which was one of the places you could catch the star of the year, Dee Snider (Twisted Sister), who was really busy this summer, doing appearances all over the festival.
Swedish melodic rockers H.E.A.T. were playing the Zeppelin stage just before eight o'clock to a full crowd. The band has become quite huge in some countries, and in Sweden they had a great fanbase rockin' and screamin'. H.E.A.T. showed in one hour that they can still renew their show and have a helluva good time on stage, like singer Erik Grönwall showed with his awesome high kicks and screams and Crash's drumsolo having a funny machine jazzbeat in the background, although he failed in timing with the machine. Most of the set included songs from their latest album "Address The Nation", so the gig was fresh in that way too. The weather seemed to be making fun of us this year. During this set it was very cold (come on, what does H.E.A.T. stand for?!), and during another band's set the sun started shining (more about that later), but the cold didn't seem to bother Jimmy Jay (bass), Dave Dalone (guitar) and Erik, who played in sleeveless t-shirts. Maybe all that kicking and running kept them warm. The band (also with Eric Rivers, guitars, Jona Tee, keys) was as usual very energetic and the crowd very noisy for them. H.E.A.T. was one of the bands that suffered a bit from bad sounds, but they were still lucky compared to their Swedish mates Dynazty.
Setlist: Breaking The Silence, Better Off Alone, Living On The Run, Late Night Lady, Falling Down, drum solo, Heartbreaker, Downtown, In And Out Of Trouble, 1000 Miles, It's All About Tonight, Never Let Go, Danger Road, encore: Beg Beg Beg, Who Will Stop The Rain.
DYNAZTY, also playing hardrock, went on at half eleven in the evening in darkness with good lightshow backing them up. It was hard to enjoy the show though, because the sounds were the worst ever heard. Hopefully this isn't usual for Dynazty, but the sounds got a little bit better towards the end. The guys enjoyed playing and had a blazing one hour show. Nils Molin (vocals) has an amazing voice that carries far, and thus ended up being the element one listened to in the show because of the bad mixing. The guys had a great show anyhow.
Humour blossomed each day in Sweden Rock and on Wednesday that was brought to us by the days headliner, German powermetal group EDGUY. The show started with circus music intro, hinting of what's to come. After the powerful start with "Nobody's Hero" and the followers, vocalist Tobias Sammet had a fun speach. There were "45,000 people left outside of the festival area, who couldn't attend the Edguy show". A competition followed between Finland and Sweden. You know, the endless battle between neighbouring countries. Edguy just recently visited Finland, so it was time to see which country screams loudest. I'm not sure who won, but the crowd was loud. With all the talking Tobi did, he mentioned he was auditioning for Manowar, the best band in heavy metal. Tobi is right at home on stage, and again pulled a great show with his fellow bandmembers. Just don't take him too seriously. If you've attended other Edguy shows you know the jokes already. The show was a mix of new and old songs, and some covers in between like Europe's "Final Countdown" -bit in the middle of "Vain Glory Opera". The crowded field witnessed, that Edguy is a powerful live band with a charismatic singer, and they nailed the evening perfectly.
Setlist: Nobody's Hero, The Arcane Guild, Tears Of A Mandrake, Rock Of Cashel, Land Of The Miracle, Lavatory Love Machine, Vain Glory Opera, Robin Hood, drum solo, Ministry Of Saints, Save Me, Superheroes, encore: Babylon, The Trooper (Iron Maiden), King Of Fools.
Another Toby kicked this morning off, he was Toby Jepson and his hardrock band from UK, LITTLE ANGELS. They gained some recognition in the late 80's and also supported the monster rock bands Van Halen and Bon Jovi in Europe early 90's. After eighteen years they are back doing reunion shows, so as an old fan it was time to check them out again. The weather was behaving well during their early afternoon set, and Toby still had the pipes left to sing all those old songs. The band was in great mood, performing in big arena manner with a saxophone, trumpet, guitars, bass and keys to back up Toby, who also played the guitar occasionally. Surprisingly the set kicked off with their old hit "She's A Little Angel", a song that rotated on MTV back in the good ol' days. The band enjoyed playing so much, that the drumparts had to be switched during the show, because Mark Richardson was hitting them so hard. But with his huge biceps I would be afraid to be the drumkit. The horn section was right on the money, David Kemp possessing all of the sax-player characteristics and doing great front appearances. "Womankind" was very cool with sax and three guitars, but the band did a great job throughout the show, like they never even took a break from the scene.
Setlist: She's A Little Angel, Kicking Up Dust, Boneyard, Radical Your Lover, The Way That I Live, Don't Prey For Me, Womankind, Back Door Man, I Was Not Wrong, Too Much Too Young, Young Gods.
Come half five, Festival Stage saw classic rockers from USA, NIGHT RANGER (- not an AOR band? Hmm... -Ed) . It was the first time the band performed in Europe, so many of their fans saw them the first time. It was the third time for me, so I knew we were in for a treat. Night Ranger delivered exactly a treat, they serve their fans an enjoyable, professional show sound-and performancewise. Guitarists Brad Willis and Joel Hoekstra don't just stand still, but run to greet their fans around the stage and give their guitars all the spins you can imagine. They must be in great fit to run as much and do their gymnastics, but if Gillis ran ten kilometers before this show like I heard, it's no wonder they've got so much more energy than other bands. It's also amazing how vocalist Jack Blades never seems to run out of energy either. Even when he hurt his hand on the mike he kept performing like nothing happened, with the bloody smudges in his face too. That's professional if anything. And his great spirits just catch on to everybody, even those who had never even heard of the band had to admit these guys gave an outstanding show.
Night Ranger is a rare band among the classic bands also in their way of presenting their drummer. Kelly Keagy always performs sideways, so that the audience can see him better. Besides being the drummer, Keagy is an important member in the band also because he sings, and sings well. His part in the classic "Sister Christian" never leaves anybody cold, and he always walks close to the audience to sing while not drumming. Their set included a lot of greatest hits, and a special treat was given with the Damn Yankees songs that most people seemed to know, love and also sang well along to. Damn Yankees was a band, that many still wish to see live, with members Blades, Ted Nugent, Tommy Shaw (Styx) and Michael Cartellone (Lynyrd Skynyrd). All these members have performed in Sweden Rock over the years, and this year Cartellone was also here. Too bad it seems they're not getting back together, but there are hopes of hearing the songs more live in the future in some form. Night Ranger performed those classics brilliantly as well.
The star of this years festival, Dee Snider, did an appearance with the band in "(You Can Still) Rock In America", and he was having fun on stage with the Rangers. I would've rather listened to the Rangers by themselves. Night Ranger should perform more over here, it seems like they could have as much demand here as in their homeland, the crowd loved them so. Sadly the set was missing "Four In The Morning", "Goodbye" and "Sentimental Street", great classics from their third album "7 Wishes" (1985).
Setlist: Lay It On Me, Sing Me Away, Seven Wishes, Coming Of Age (Damn Yankees), Rumours In The Air, Crazy Train (Ozzy Osbourne), Growing Up In California, The Secret Of My Success, Eddie's Comin' Out Tonight, High Enough (Damn Yankees), Touch Of Madness, When You Close Your Eyes, (You Can Still) Rock In America (with Dee Snider), Sister Christian, Don't Tell Me You Love Me.
The next review contains filth in unbearable amounts for some, and thus isn't suitable for the underaged. So please continue to Sebastian Bach, thank you. Adults and dirtbags please continue reading. The next show was gonna kill you laughing. STEEL PANTHER (US) continued soon after Night Ranger on the opposite side of the field on Rock Stage. Another hour and a half was spent in their humorous, sexdrippin', corny 80's hardrock show. These guys are the masters of hardrock parody, and it's impossible to get a grip of all the craziness that they shove at you through the show. The cheesy things are thrown at you during the speachess, in the songs, in their choreography and in every breath they take. Even their audience is thrown into the show and taken on stage. So, meet Michael Starr (vocals), Satchel (guitar), Lexxi Foxx (bass) and Stix Zadinia (drums). I can't tell you even half of what happened in the show, nonetheless it would probably be illegal or too dirty to publish. But we'll publish some anyway.
Turn on the smokemachine, and along comes a drummer chasing the smoke. But where's the rest of the band then? Ah, slowly appearing from the huge smoke cloud. Probably a cloud from the weed they were smoking before hitting the stage. These stallions of hair rock didn't falter on stage though, right on they started rockin' hard and the crowd went nuts. Already after the third song they introduced the band. Starr was not Brett Michaels (hell, so close anyway), and had NOT gained 50 pounds, and Zadinia was the "best drummer in this band". The guys are crazy on flappin' their jaws, so I missed so much of the jokes, but Starr also wanted to thank his mom and dad for sperming a pussy. This show contained so much dirty words, that I lost count on them. The show supressed with hairspray and colours that make you go blind continued, with them guys shoving their bodyparts all over and licking anything that moves.
Early on the show Starr and Satchel wanted to see, who's side of the audience screams loudest. Starr's was a winner. Meanwhile the crowd was waving a doll in the air with a ZZ Top -style hairy pussy, and the band wanted to remind not to bring girlfriends to the show, it was like bringing a syphilis to the doctor. Ehrr, right. Some more hairspray was in order and "weed smoke", and Lexxi takin' a glance at the mirror, and we were treated the rest of this madness. The band was pleased to welcome a big bunch of girls on stage at the end of the show and for the guys' pleasure even big tits were seen. Satchel was rubbin' himself on some with the smile of hundred orgasms. Lucky for us he was still able to continue the show and not go catch a sandman after a smoke. Despite Steel Panther being a parody band, the guys played great with great sounds and in really really really really really really great weather (you understand this if you've spinned your Panther's well), and the crowd loved them a lot, although coughing up loads of smoke afterwards. I wonder if it was the smokes fault that everything was weird, twisted and out of place here...
Setlist: Supersonic Sex Machine, Tomorrow Night, Fat Girl (Thar She Blows), Asian Hooker, Just Like Tiger Woods, Gold Digging Whore, Turn Out The Lights, Community Property, Eyes Of A Panther, Girl From Oklahoma, Party All Day (Fuck All Night), It Won't Suck Itself, Eatin' Ain't Cheatin', 17 Girls In A Row, Death To All But Metal.
USA was presented well in Sweden Rock this year, as SEBASTIAN BACH was another band from the land of rockwonders. Bach has been to Sweden Rock a few times, and his success hasn't faded away. The Skid Row days are fondly remembered by fans, and it's these songs that always make crowds go wild. The crowd was already wild from the booze though, it was nearly ten o'clock as "Slave To The Grind" kicked off. A great start for the show that was very dynamic and in your face, but Bach had trouble with his voice. Nothing new there though, he hasn't been able to hit the high notes well in years anymore and was off-key in places, but he does wonders with his screaming, so most still loved what he was able to give. Bach is still a very good performer, and a joker. After "Big Guns", with Nick Sterling's great guitarwork, Bach announced "we have a special guest Axl...just kidding. Even though he would be here tonight, he wouldn't be here yet", referring to Axl Rose (Guns'n'Roses), who often runs his business not minding of others and running late for shows. There was no guest though, and the band continued on. Later Bach mentioned that Dee Snider is here in Sweden Rock, but he was to come on stage later on.
"I Remember You" lift all the cellphones in the air lighting the night, mostly after Bach ordered to do so, but many sang along and Bach counted on most people knowing the lyrics. It was the second last song when Dee Snider came along and well, we didn't really want to hear it now, but they had to do it. "We're Not Gonna Take It", the Twisted Sister cover was next, and it was also heard the next day from the band themselves. The set closed with an obvious killer, Dee still participating the "Youth Gone Wild", and everyone left the area pleased of seing that Bach was still the adrenaline bunny, only his voice getting the most beating during all these years. The band behind Bach was Johnny Chromatic (guitar), Bobby Jarzombek (drums), Jason Christopher (bass) and Sterling.
Setlist: Slave To The Grind, Kicking & Screaming, Dirty Power, Here I Am, Big Guns, (Love Is) A Bitchslap, Stuck Inside, Piece Of Me, 18 And Life, American Metalhead (Painmuseum), As Long As I Got The Music, Monkey Business, My Own Worst Enemy, I'm Alive, I Remember You, Tunnelvision, We're Not Gonna Take It (Twisted Sister), Youth Gone Wild.
On the main stage another US band was starting their show soon after Bach finished. Grungemasters SOUNDGARDEN were a much waited band. Still in their old form (Chris Cornell - vocals and guitar, Kim Thayil - guitar, Ben Shepherd - bass, Matt Cameron - drums), it had been nearly 20 years since I saw them the last time, so I waited to see them a lot too. It didn't take long to notice after the band started though, that this show was a disappointment. The band seemed unwilling to perform, and appeared as if they were in a slow-motion movie. What could have saved a lot would've been a mind-blowing setlist, but the gig even started with an uninspiring liveversion of an average song, "Searching With My Good Eye Closed". The sounds seemed somewhat of a problem during the Soundgarden and Mötley Crüe sets. It could've made a good difference had I moved closer to the stage, but couldn't bother since the performance lacked motivation. One can't enjoy a band that has a hard time confronting their audience. I decided to watch a few more songs just to give them a chance.
The set continued in lame manner, even with their hit "Spoonman" as the second song. Cornell, who is a gorgeous guy and has earlier given good performances too, was like the extension to the depressive band now. He hardly moved on stage, and there was even a catwalk he could've used. His hair was hanging down on his eyes, and his eyes stared into space. This band was so different compared to their fellow countrymen Steel Panther. Different drugs, different moods? Don't know which bands use drugs anymore, but Soundgarden are on a wrong diet the least. Cornell's voice was sadly mixed quite low, and it wasn't the same as in early 90's. I still wanted to hear them do a bigger song and convince they weren't complite shells on stage. For me that song was "Outshined". And no, they just didn't work. The setlist was rather nice in the end, but what the hell went on in Festival Stage? Or rather, what the hell didn't. Soundgarden was the biggest disappointment of the whole festival, and they could've been so much more.
Setlist: Searching With My Good Eye Closed, Spoonman, Let Me Drown, Outshined, Flower, Drawing Flies, Hunted Down, Blow Up The Outside World, Fell On Black Days, Ugly Truth, Loud Love, Live To Rise, My Wave, Burden In My Hand, Rusty Cage, Gun, Black Hole Sun, Room A Thousand Years Wide, encore: Jesus Christ Pose, Beyond The Wheel, Slaves & Bulldozers.
The only American band we saw on Friday was ADRENALIN MOB, who started already at twelve on Rock Stage. I had only heard a couple of songs from them, so the only thing I was waiting to see was how the collaboration of drummer Mike Portnoy (Avenged Sevenfold, ex-Dream Theater), Symphony X singer Russell Allen, Sonic Stomp guitarist Mike Orlando and John Moyer (bass, Disturbed) would work out live. On their debut album "Omertà" they form a tight unit, but it hasn't been received completely with great reviews.
As the rain poured down, and it kept pouring down the whole day, the band kicked the set off with "Psychosane", a very massive sounding track with a grungy touch to it. The band delivered just what was expected from them, a solid powerful performance that only professionals can deliver. The band is very convincing on stage with the amount of tattoos they have, and the tough guy image all around. Allen sings differently in Mob than in Symphony X, with a more manly attitude from lower key. This manly attitude is all around them, but it wouldn't work without it. Portnoy sings also, and his drumset isn't as massive as it was with Dream Theater.
The Adrenalin Mob fans seem to have much appreciation towards them, mostly Allen receiving the cool comments like "voice of 1000 angels" and Portnoy saying Allen has a heart of gold. There's no bad comments when it comes to this band, live they rock like that freight train, they're all talented and when it comes to guitar solos, Orlando leaves his fans speachless with their mouths wide open following his fingers on the fret. The rest of the crowd had a couple of great laughs as the Sweden Rock team filmed some of those open mouths in the audience, great stuff. The band finished with "Mob Rules", with words "Ronnie James Dio, we love you, we miss you". Don't we all, and the guys did a great job on the cover.
Setlist: Psychosane, Feelin' Me, Indifferent, Down To The Floor, Angel Sky, Freight Train, Believe Me, All On The Line, Hit The Wall, Undaunted, The Mob Rules (Black Sabbath).
AXEL RUDI PELL (DE) doesn't do much gigging, but now he was in Sweden Rock again after a few years. The melodic rock guitarist has a new album out, "Circle Of The Oath", and their first leg of the promotional tour is soon over. The show in Sweden included four new songs, and as Pell is known for long songs and a whole lot of soloing, the setlist was quite short. The band (Johnny Gioeli - vocals, Volker Krawczak - bass, Ferdy Doernberg - keyboards, Mike Terrana - drums) is always a pleasure to see, although now it seemed like they had ran out of juice somewhere along the tour. Usually there's a lot of action going on with them, but now it was mostly Gioeli doing the running and performing.
Performance apart, the band was still in shape, and Pell even smiled at times. The crowd seemed to know the new songs pretty well, and it was a surprise to see the field so full of people. Although the show was as good soundwise as you can get from Pell, the trouble with them is always the same. Pell has a very big catalogue of albums out, but he chooses to do a lot of cover songs and medleys, that aren't that enjoyable. Live he could also shorten his guitar parts a bit, doing a seven minute song after another is a bit much to handle for a festival crowd. But Pell played very well again, and he shouldn't be out to prove that with lengthened solos. Terrana had added something new to his drumsolo, playing with a background tape blasting circusmusic. The circus theme seemed a German thing, as Edguy had their bit. The whole drumsolo business seems to be suffering from a downturn, as H.E.A.T. also spiced up their drumsolo, not to mention what Tommy Lee of Mötley Crüe had in store for us on Saturday. It is much nicer to listen to drumsolos with a trick attached. The set finished off with "Tear Down The Walls", a great old rocker, and now it was time for Doernberg to do what I had been waiting for, grab his keys for a walk around the stage. If only they had animated the show like this as they usually do it would've been more enjoyable. Now the band was so distant to the crowd.
Setlist: The Guillotine Suite, Ghost In The Black, Strong As A Rock, Before I Die, The Masquerade Ball / Casbah / Dreaming Dead (incl. Whole Lotta Love bit by Led Zeppelin), Drum Solo, Mystica (incl. Mistreated by Deep Purple), Circle Of The Oath, Tear Down The Walls, Nasty Reputation, Rock The Nation.
Another German band was up next, MICHAEL SCHENKER'S TEMPLE OF ROCK. With Scorpions members Herman Rarebell (drums), Francis Bucholtz (bass) and Michael himself, the band also comprise Wayne Findlay (guitar/keyboard), backed with a great singer Doogie White (ex-Rainbow, Yngwie Malmsteen). With such a lineup there is much to wait for. Schenker has also played in Sweden Rock before, and hasn't offered anything earthshaking, mainly due to his setlist or his lifeless presence on stage hiding somewhere in the side, but this year it was more of a show than before, and the setlist was better too. The instrumental "Into The Arena" was a good opener, giving the spotlight to the leader of the band at first. This seemed to rock well, and the good vibes continued as White stepped in for "Armed And Ready". Not used to hearing White doing the vocals for this it was weird at first, but he is a vocalist that fits into most rock bands, so it only took a moment to get used to it. The band did a setlist mixing Scorpions, UFO and Michael Schenker, "Lovedrive" and "Another Piece Of Meat" being the next well rocking tunes from the Scorps' catalogue. Michael was more on the spotlight now than before, so that was good, and seing him perform with old Scorpions members was also rekindling memories.
Setlist: Into The Arena, Armed And Ready, Lovedrive, Another Piece Of Meat, Cry For The Nations Let Sleeping Dogs Lie, Coast To Coast, Assault Attack, Before The Devil Knows You're Dead, Lights Out, On And On, Let It Roll, Shoot Shoot, Rock You Like A Hurricane, Rock Bottom, Holiday, Blackout
As the rain was pouring down the whole day and getting really bad at the time of Blue Öyster Cult, we had to draw back to the backstage tents, because our feet were all wet already and it was still nearly ten hours to go and suffer from the cold and rain. The backstage had a lot going on, although the bands have their own area to stay in. Dee Snider was seen signing the Corvette backstage (with a plate stating "awesome"), so I took a pic of that. H.E.A.T. took a dip in the hot tub that was meant for anyone in the backstage, missed that one though. Also Gotthard took time to pose with some fans. The backstage has all sorts of people, not only the working ones. I didn't have the juice to have photosessions with musicians, or the nature to trouble them this time around, so I prefered to be the observer now. Backstage also offered some live music from less known artists, so it was nice to hold the rain here, and also get some fuel for the engine, so that we could still last that ten hours ahead. One of the food stands offerend spicy food, and the sauces looked like they were after your life. (Pictured left) .
One band that I would've loved to see was Ugly Kid Joe, but schedules were overlapping again this year, so for me GOTTHARD was the definite choice. Hailing from Switzerland this band isn't new to Sweden Rock either. Only the last time they were here was with their late singer Steve Lee, who died in a traffic accident in USA October 2010. With the great loss for both fans and the band, the band carried the thought of putting Gotthard to rest, but with the support of their fans and the blessing of Steve’s parents the band decided to continue. Nic Maeder was the lucky one to replace Lee, and he had huge shoes to step into. How the new outfit would work live raised a lot of curiousity, and it was either that or the success Gotthard has gained before in Sweden Rock, that filled the area of Rock Stage.
The start might've been a bit stiff from Maeder, but he warmed up fast. The band was as professional as before. The only thing different now was the fact that the bands leader is now the guitarist Leo Leoni, maybe only for a while until Maeder grows out of his tension. Leoni did stunts that I haven't seen him do before, when Lee still owned the crowd. He was playing the guitar behind his head, and going for the catwalk. It was strange to see the roles changed, but I wouldn't mind if Leoni kept doing this even after Maeder had found his place in the band. But it didn't take long to notice Maeder has the pipes needed for the songs and strangely the sound so close to Lee. He is also a very good singer, and as they got into "One Life, One Soul", he proved he can also put a lot of heart into performance. This piece was done by only him singing and keys backing him up. Although I love the original version a lot, this version moved a lot too. Here it was, the prove that everyone was waiting for, Gotthard are back with a singer that has what it takes.
The set wasn't the all too usual Gotthard set, mainly because they played new songs too from their latest album "Firebirth". The set was still full of songs that kept the crowd partying and all the celebration was like a commemoration for Lee. Those who had the pleasure of seing him live know what a great performer and a charismatic person he was. Some of us must've been dancing the tears of joy and sorrow, for the memory of Lee and the comeback of Gotthard. "Lift U Up" worked well for shaking off all these feelings, and how strange it was to see all the people jumping up and down like in the good old days. It was as if Lee was still here in spirit. I can't express the joy enough I feel, that Gotthard decided to continue. The band has always been brilliant live, and with Maeder they're close enough what it takes to have lost such a great leader in the band. Gotthard received so much positivity from the crowd it was amazing, and it didn't go unnoticed from the band either, who were all smiles on stage. Definitely one of the best shows in Sweden this summer and I'm glad for the boys they received such a huge welcome.
Setlist: Dream On, Top Of The World, Starlight, Master Of Illusion, Remember It's Me, Gone Too Far, Hush (Billy Joe Royal), One Life One Soul (backed with keys only), Nothing Left At All, Mountain Mama, Right On, The Story's Over, Fist In Your Face, Lift U Up, Anytime Anywhere, encore; I Don't Mind, Mighty Quinn (Bob Dylan).
"Gimme a D, gimme Arkness!". Ahh, there it was what I had been waiting for from this band. Something to make me pee in my pants. Well, I didn't, but nearly did. These enthusiastic and wacky words were screamed by Justin Hawkins, THE DARKNESS (UK) vocalist, and there's no better band introduction ever heard on the planet. I still keep laughing at it. Hawkins is a man with great timing on jokes, and the star of the band. The band will have their new and third album "Hot Cakes" out this August, and a couple of songs were heard from it in Sweden. Having never seen The Darkness it was time to check out a few songs, although never being a fan myself. I ended up watching the whole show, it was so addictive, just brilliant entertainment that everyone should check out even once. When Justin Hawkins spills out his first notes with the high pitched falsetto and the bass player Franklin Poullain appear on stage in the 70's outfit, you'll laugh your heart out. Poullain is probably the only man on earth still wearing those clothes and boy that headband together with his high curly hair and mustache, how brilliant is that! There's a lot going on in a Darkness show, so it's good Sweden Rock had the catwalk once again so this band had enough playground on stage.
With all the rain that was pouring down the whole day what would be more strange than the sun to come up during The Darkness show. Sweden was being sarcastic this year, as during the H.E.A.T. show it was very cold, and now this. The band seemed to get a spark out of the sun, and Hawkins decided to take off his shirt. The vocalist is covered with tattoos, and with his mustache, beard and the messy hair he looks like a serious rocker, which he isn't of course, and if you don't get that by listening to his singing or catching the jokes on stage you should see it by the time he first changes the outfits he's got. They're absolutely ridiculous, but very brilliant. But the man is very lovable, at least on stage.
The show was thoroughly very energetic, the band did a number of high airjumps high-fiving each other in the air and the cowbell was presented classically by Poullain, who played it with an empty stare and a serious face. More cowbell was in place for sure. A lot of hits were heard, but strangely when "Friday Night" came and Hawkins needed some crowd singing for it, nobody sang. But who in their right minds would and could sing like Hawkins anyway?! It's just not done. Hawkins replied to the silence by making noises to the mike.
The show wasn't still over yet, no. A great guitar solo by Dan Hawkins was heard too. Well, great as in funny groping of notes, which is of course part of the humourous show. Oh man, I wish all the bands had such wicked solos. Meanwhile Justin was being carried among the audience, and the crowd loved it all. Drummer Ed Graham seems to be the only member in the band that is only there for playing, or then I just missed what he was doing. Here was another great show in Sweden Rock, a show that glued a non-Darkness fan to the spot and there's nothing weird about it. The Darkness is all about pure entertainment. Great comeback from the band, that gets ten points from being so cleverly visual too.
Setlist: Black Shuck, Growing On Me, The Best Of Me, One Way Ticket, Nothing's Gonna Stop Us, Get Your Hands Off My Woman, Everybody Have A Good Time, Love Is Only A Feeling, Concrete, Friday Night, Every Inch Of You, Is It Just Me?, Street Spirit (Fade Out) (Radiohead cover), Givin' Up, Stuck In A Rut, I Believe In A Thing Called Love, Love On The Rocks With No Ice.
As Friday didn't offer much for me later on (having seen most bands so many times already), THE FLOWER KINGS (SE) were the next choice. These progressive rock maestros lead by vocalist/ guitarist Roine Stolt have a keen fanbase, and as I got to the Festival Stage it was hard to believe ones eyes, the crowd was very colourful from young Dimmu Borgir fans to the old Yes fans and everything in between, even Mike Portnoy watching from the side of the stage. But The Flower Kings are a band with so many influences, and with ten studio albums recorded, they're not a new band anymore. This was also their reunion gig, and saw members Jonas Reingold (bass), Tomas Bodin (keys), Hasse Fröberg (vocals, guitar) with a new drummer Felix Lehrmann (drums).
With all the various material the band has out you would've expected them do a more colourful set, but they performed the more mellower stuff like "In The Eyes Of The World", "I Am The Sun", "The Truth Will Set You Free", "Stardust We Are" and "Last Minute On Earth". It's all good progstuff, but such long and mellow songs all played in a row get a little bit tiring. I felt like I was at a Pink Floyd show, only the drugs were heavier and the band played in slow motion times thirty. And I didn't see Portnoy step on stage like rumoured, but I missed some of the show. All the respect to these professional musicians, they didn't let down with their playing, but I had to go get me some Motörhead to rattle this hypnotized cage and drop me back to earth.
Only a glance to the end of the MOTÖRHEAD set, which I've seen far too many times and mostly in Sweden Rock, and you could say this was the worst set seen from the band here. Lemmy was so wasted that he could hardly keep his eyes open and the set was dragging along. Not too many people enjoyed them fully this time around. What is the proof of a great Motörhead show then? The front rows are a pack of wild animals and Motörhead shows usually leave injured people behind. A whole lot of crowd surfing also goes on. I didn't see any of that at the end. But it was nice to see that Motörhead had brought their bomber with them again, the lighting rig that is a replica of Heinkel He 111-bomber.
TWISTED SISTER began soon after, and we watched a few songs, but as they've been to Sweden Rock many times too, they offered nothing new for us, except they played without their make-ups. They seemed to offer a great show again. And yeah, "We're Not Gonna Take It" is a must in the setlist.
The Norwegian RETURN, who play the AOR of the mellowest kind, played on the Festival Stage. They were waited by many, as they haven't toured much in their career that started already in 1980. The area was full of Norwegians, but a handful of other people were also excited to see them and amazingly people knew their lyrics and were singing along loudly. What seemed to be a strange, less familiar band pick for a main stage, turned out to be a very good pick indeed. The sun was shining again and this was a good, relaxing start for the day. The band played their hits and vocalist Knut Erik Østgård showed he can also play the keys and guitar. The band was very relaxed, but also used the stage well, their drummer Øyvind Håkonsen, guitarist Henning Ramseth and Tore Larsen (bass) using the catwalk and inspiring the crowd to more louder singalongs. The catwalk was now a very good idea, since the drumcarousel by Tommy Lee was in place in the background, taking a lot of space.
Setlist included: Change The Attitude, Having Fun, Take Care Of Your Woman, Steal Your Heart Away, Take This Heart, Tonight, Friends Will Be Friends, The Loner, Little Miss Easy, Sing Me A Song, Life Must Go On, Ridin' On A Rainbow, To The Top, Can You Forgive Me, Bye Bye Johnny.
One of the greatest shows I've ever seen was from FISH (UK), when he visited Finland and Tavastia club in mid-90's. The former Marillion singer is a very charismatic person and also a very enchanting performer, and seems like a very warm hearted person too. I was very much looking forward to seing him again in Sweden, where he had a seventyfive minute slot in the afternoon. The weather was treating people nicely, so we sat on the lawn enjoying the set that was very laid-back and down to earth. Among playing songs from most of his solo albums he also sang two Marillion covers, and talked about the day when the world ended, referring to September eleven and Iraq during the "Innocent Party". It might've been too much politics for some, but it's nice to notice there are still bands and people out there with a message in their music. Fish can't sing like he did back in the days, but he is still the same amazing performer that makes you forget the outside world. It's something he has in common with Savatage's Jon Oliva, both are great storytellers.
Setlist: Faithhealer, Credo, Assassin (Marillion), Long Cold Day, Innocent Party, Virgil, So Fellini, Open Water, Fugazi (Marillion).
Swedish ELECTRIC BOYS were playing in Sweden Rock again, so I went to check them out, because the last time these boys played here they were rockin' hard. It was the year of their comeback in 2009, and it was an unforgettable show with a lot of twists and action. I got to the Sweden Stage just in time to catch my favourite "Dying To Be Loved", the timeless ballad. Having also played with the Finnish Hanoi Rocks, the Conny Bloom fronted hardrock band was doing its trick again, they were throwing their rhythmic curveballs at the crowd again and grooving with enthusiasm. The only thing spoiling the mood a bit was the wind gusts that were throwing the sounds all over. The setlist was about half the same as in 2009 with three newer songs from their fourth album, 2011 release "And Them Boys Done Swang". Electric Boys are popular in Sweden, both times I've seen them they played to a full crowd that loved to party to their groove. These hardrock funkrockers can kick off a party any time of the day.
Setlist: Psychedelic Eyes, Into The Ditch, Groovus Maximus, Knee Deep In You, Father Popcorn's Magic Oysters, Welcome To The High Times, Electrified, Angel In An Armoured Suit, Tear It Up, Dying To Be Loved, Rags To Riches, Bad Motherfunker, band introduction, All Lips 'N' Hips, encore: Mary In The Mystery World, Captain Of My Soul.
It has been as long as thirtyseven years since BAD COMPANY (USA, formed in 1973) has been seen together live outside of the UK on the European continent. Now it was time for Sweden Rock to see them in their original lineup, only Boz Burrell missing, who passed away in 2006. Paul Rodgers is a living legend with his voice, and the band was highly anticipated. Filling the whole area this legendary band started their set with a classic "Can't Get Enough" that promised a great set. Rodgers came in front of the catwalk many times, also playing the grand piano and acoustic guitar with Howard Leese, former Heart-member between years 1975–1997. As an old Heart-fan it was a pleasure seing him live also. Looking at the side of the stage you could also spot the Lynyrd Skynyrd-members watching the gig. The setlist was full of classics, but could've had more uptempo rockers. Still, Bad Company were in great form and Rodgers still owns one of the greatest voices in rock that soars bright and far. This was one of the best shows in Sweden Rock this year.
Setlist: Can't Get Enough, Honey Child, Run With The Pack, Burnin' Sky, Young Blood, Seagull, Gone Gone Gone, Electricland, Simple Man, Feel Like Makin' Love, Shooting Star, Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy, Movin' On, Deal With The Preacher, Good Lovin' Gone Bad, Bad Company, Ready For Love.
The American hardrock band SLAUGHTER made their debut in Sweden Rock this year. It's been a long, long wait for their fans. The bands glory days were in early 90's, when they released ”Stick It To Ya” (1990) and ”The Wild Life” (1992) with hits ”Up All Night”, ”Fly To The Angels”, ”The Wild Life” and ”Real Love”. It wasn't possible to see the original lineup anymore, as guitarist Tim Kelly was killed in a car accident (1963-1998), and drummer Blas Elias is busy with the Blue Man Group. Jeff Blando has replaced Kelly, and the drummer was now the extraordinaire Zoltan Chaney, who I was really looking forward to seing live, as his amazingly wicked and funny style of playing is seen on videos all over the YouTube.
Having seen Slaughter in 2003 I wasn't expecting that Mark Slaughter (vocals, rhythm guitar) was gonna amaze with his vocals, as he's been having trouble with his voice for a very long time, earlier dealing with nodule on his right vocal chord that was operated in August 1992. Mark has also worked as a voice actor and composer, and you can find samples of his different voice styles from his own website. He does great job at those. His singing was exactly what expected, the high parts were difficult and he also sang offkey, and this problem together with the bad sounds were the turn offs of the show. But the band, with Dana Strum on bass, performed well and Mark was still enjoying the time on stage, giving all he got for the fans. He even jumped among the audience during "Eye To Eye" and fans got to shake hands with him and get hugs. He did this also in Florida in 2003, it might be one of his favourite stunts, which hardly any musician has the guts to do nowadays. Mark was treated well though and got back on stage without a scratch.
Most of the showtime I kept my eyes on Chaney (Vince Neil) though. This man should have his own drumshow, he is extremely entertaining and fun with his playing style, you don't get to see something like this really. He plays the drums with one hand, meanwhile balancing the other drumstick on his palm straight up in the air, then drumming away between his legs, sitting on his bench and kicking the drums with one leg, hitting the drums while standing on the bench, jumping behind the drums, juggling with the sticks, whirling the sticks behind his back, and finishing the set with a high jump from the amps to the drums. This is only some of the stuff he does, you have to see it yourself. I felt sorry for the rest of the guys for all the attention Chaney got, but maybe this was a conscious decision for a more active show. Slaughter treated the fans with a new song too, "Living Inside Myself", an ok rocktune that Mark performed well. The band finished the set with the rocking "Up All Night", and some fans were pleased to get their hands on some guitar picks the band threw at them. Let's see if Slaughter returns to Europe again someday, their fans did have a good time with them.
Setlist: The Wild Life, Take Me Away, Burnin' Bridges, Spend My Life, Mad About You, Eye To Eye (with Heaven And Hell middle part), Living Inside Myself, Real Love, Fly To The Angels, Up All Night.
It was still a nice weather and a warm evening, when the American Southern Rock pioneers LYNYRD SKYNYRD started their set. The crowd mostly kept their eyes on the original guitarist Gary Rossington, singer Johnny Van Zant and Rickey Medlocke (guitar), but apart from the rest of the band that does their job so damn well from show to show, (drummer Michael Cartellone, Mark "Sparky" Matejka (guitar), Robert Kearns (bass) and Peter “Keys” Pisarczyk (keys), the bands background singers Dale Krantz Rossington and Carol Chase add good female sparkle for the otherwise male-dominated show, that is of course the main thing here. These pioneers offered one of the best shows of the day, their carefree presence was backed up with professionalism, where the highlights of the show were once again the brilliant and seamless collaboration in guitarwork. Three guitars make magic, and all the axemen made the show worthwhile not only with the great playing, but also doing great front appearances.
Van Zant is a perfect singer for the band, who radiates great warmth and sympathy, and his vocals touch deep. There's a great spirit of unity in their shows, that lays strong ground on respect towards family, brotherhood, God and love. You can't go wrong emphasising these, and bringing these principles on stage are the basic elements for bands like Skynyrd. Wouldn't work for bands like Dimmu Borgir or Cannibal Corpse of course. There wouldn't be a perfect Skynyrd show, if they didn't play "Sweet Home Alabama" or "Free Bird", and those closed the show for the strangely quiet crowd, which still did seem to enjoy the band very much. "Free Bird" was done with great showmanship, the band is serious about entertaining, and a lot of action went on closing up the show. The best guitar work was heard and seen here with unbelievably seamless playing, and the cavalcade ended at the three axemen soloing together for minutes at the spotlight. It took twelve minutes to do the whole song, but I enjoyed every minute. Skynyrd proved, that old dinosaurs like them don't disappoint, they've been there for years sharpening their skills, and hopefully we'll be able to see them still going for a very long time.
Setlist: Workin' For MCA, I Ain't The One, Skynyrd Nation, What's Your Name, Down South Jukin', That Smell, Saturday Night Special, Simple Man, Gimme Back My Bullets / Whiskey Rock -A-Roller / The Needle And The Spoon, Tuesday's Gone, Gimme Three Steps, Call Me The Breeze (J.J.Cale cover), Sweet Home Alabama, encore: Free Bird.
KING DIAMOND (DEN) was a much waited guest in Sweden Rock. He hasn't played live in nearly six years due to his health problems, suffering from a herniated disc in the spine and having gone through an open-heart triple-bypass surgery November last year. This was the only Scandinavian gig for him this year. The show was gonna be even more spectacular than before, with the castle-like stage props with huge gates, crosses and eery lighting. Some of those props have been used before, but now it was on a bigger scale and very impressive. The gates were moved after a few songs so that the crowd got a better view of the band, which is King Diamond (vocals), Andy LaRocque (guitar), Hal Patino (bass), Michael Wead (guitar), Matt Thompson (drums) and Livia Zita, King Diamond's wife and background singer. The show also included guests from King's past; Michael Denner, Hank Sherman and Mickey Dee, and Michael Poulsen from Volbeat.
The amazing thing was how King's vocals have gotten better since the last time I saw him in Finland. It made many wonder the possibility of using a background tape, but he seemed to sing too well to mimic a tape. Who knows then, but if he was singing live it was a great improvement. The set that was both good with song selection and the eery mood King Diamond is known for, was also inspiring with the various characters placed to the songs, that tell the stories of Melissa, Abigail La Fey and King's grandmother to mention few. Jodi Cashia did some of the characters. The band starts to work on new album this fall.
Setlist: The Candle, Welcome Home, drum solo (Matt Thompson), Voodoo, At The Graves, Up From The Grave, Let It Be Done, Dreams, Sleepless Nights, guitar solo (Andy LaRoque and Mike Weed), Shapes Of Black, Come To The Sabbath (Mercyful Fate cover with Hank Shermann and Michael Poulsen), Eye Of The Witch, encore: The Family Ghost, Halloween (with Michael Denner and Mikkey Dee), encore 2: Black Horsemen.
MÖTLEY CRÜE (US) doesn't need much introduction. The legendary hardrock band was the headliner on Saturday and eventhough they're a crowd magnet by themselves, there was one more thing that raised interest towards them. In the past drummer Tommy Lee has been dreaming about a huge drum rollercoaster, that has been seen as a smaller version in their shows, but now it was time to do it in a big way. The new bigger scale filled the whole back area of the stage, and even reached the roof. It was already visible a bit behind other bands gigs on the Festival Stage, but when the band finally revealed it, the crowd waited impatiently when is Lee gonna take that ride on it.
The set started promisingly with the boisterous party track "Wild Side", featuring two female background singers, who shined more vocally than Vince Neil, who unfortunately nowadays has a lot of trouble with singing. His offkey screaming was a turn-off at the show, where the band otherwise was still as convincing as a hardrock band can be, and stimulated both their male and female fans with loads of visual treats. The setlist was filled with great classics, that soundwise worked best closer to the stage. Although Crüe has a history of decadence, they were like quireboys compared to Steel Panther, who's show was a nasty one to watch and listen, but at least "Piece Of Your Action" had a filthy introduction; "we always write songs about pussy". If you were waiting more filth from the Crüe, Lee had some dirt in store at the end of the show, but that's it. A show that once was dirtier was probably cleaned up for the festival with underaged fans. The crowd that was mostly enjoying the set didn't seem too inspired from "Primal Scream", off of "Decade Of Decadence", a greatest hits compilation. I always thought it was a dynamic song, so it was great to hear that live as well. It even worked better than the old classic "Too Fast For Love", that seemed to be dragging.
For the frontrow fans it must've been a real high to have their idols walk in front of them. The band rocked all corners of the stage and the catwalk, the only not so active member being Mick Mars, who has struggled from chronic, inflammatory form of arthritis all his career. Nikki Sixx together with Neil visited the sides most, and earned most of the admiration. After doing one of their biggest hits, "Smokin' In The Boys Room", (Brownsville Station cover), it was time for the rollercoaster drum solo. In the great lightshow Lee first drummed away alone, then taking a lucky Swedish girl Veronica for a ride of her life. As Veronica sat behind Lee, the couple rode frontside first, then backwards. It wasn't a fast ride, but who wouldn't have wanted to experience that with Lee. The nearly ten minute rollercoaster ride was very entertaining visually and even had Lee hanging upside down. Lee seemed to be in adrenaline high at this point, and that high caught the fans too, and even more so when they kicked off to "Dr. Feelgood".
The rest of the set was pure magic, "Girls, Girls, Girls" from the same titled album (1987) continued the adrenaline high, then slowing it down with their greatest ballad "Home Sweet Home" from the "Theatre Of Pain" -album (1985) to yet another fast rocker, "Kickstart My Heart" from their best-selling album "Dr. Feelgood" (1989). If this set didn't please you, wonder what would've. Mötley Crüe are still great entertainers and perfect headliners. The band left the stage after throwing a few buckets of fake blood at the crowd. Hopefully it really was fake blood, and the band didn't go all Ozzy at them.
Setlist: Wild Side, Live Wire, Too Fast For Love, Saints Of Los Angeles, Shout At The Devil, Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away), Same Ol' Situation (S.O.S.), Looks That Kill, Piece Of Your Action, Primal Scream, Smokin' In The Boys Room (Brownsville Station), rollercoaster drum solo, Dr. Feelgood, Girls Girls Girls, encore: Home Sweet Home, Kickstart My Heart.
And that was it for this year. Mötley Crüe were a great closer for the festival, and eventhough this was one of the coldest Sweden Rock's we've attended, the cold hardly got to the bones, thanks to the bands that hadn't lost their rockspirit and kept us warm both mentally and rocking us hard. Also thanks to the Sweden Rock team, that had worked hard to make the festival more functional and comfortable since last visit. Not all big festivals function nearly as well as Sweden Rock.
Report by Satu Reunanen, satu [at] rockunited.com, and Janne Neuvonen.