I love Avantasia. The fact that Tobias Sammet decided to take this spectacle out on the road for the first time some 10 years ago is really cool – and a bit unexpected. I mean, it must cost a fortune to put all these musicians on a pay-roll, especially as Avantasia hardly plays arenas. I have seen them live on two occasions in the past, both times at Sweden Rock Festival. Both times, Avantasia delivered the goods brilliantly but the fact is, those were festival gigs which means shorter play-time which means that Avantasia had to cut their set for more than an hour. So when it was announced that they would play Stockholm on their Moonglow world tour, me and my wife bought tickets as soon as they were released. So what would turn into a 24 song, three hour plus show was lying in wait for us – and my expectations were high. And then some.
I turned 50 in August. Ever since I picked up Christmas Eve And Other Stories (1996) and became a big fan of this ensemble, I have wished to get the chance to catch them in concert, something I never thought I’d get to do since they only tour for two months in the US and I happen to live in Sweden. Well, for my birthday, my beautiful wife Hanna gave me a present – a trip to San Francisco for a week and with the help of one of TSO’s singers, Mats Levén, we got tickets for their gig in Oakland – a smaller place that only holds around 6000 people. TSO usually plays for somewhere between 10000 – 15000 seats. So off we went to SF where we hooked up with Levén’s wife Lotta and their two kids and another friend, Sofie and together we had a nice little vacation, doing tourist stuff. I had a blast – thank you guys for being awesome!
I’ve been a Kiss fan for almost all of my life. When I was a kid, most guys were Kiss fans even if you haven’t heard a note from them. You loved Kiss and that was that. We had all seen the pics and everybody knew of them and Kiss were the shit. One day, my very cool – and three years my senior – neighbor asked me if I wanted to buy his cassette of Kiss Alive (1975) and of course, that was a no-brainer. I had never heard a note from Kiss, but Hell, it was Kiss, man – I just had to have it. So I got the money from my mom and the cassette was mine. I will never ever forget the feeling when I put the tape into my small player and the intro “You Wanted the best…” followed by the opening riff of “Deuce” broke loose. I was stunned, floored, knocked for six. I had never heard anything like it before and that was all it took for the seven-year old me to become a fan. A real fan that had actually heard their music, that is. After that, I saved up all my money to buy Kiss (and Sweet, to be honest) records and cassettes.
Another year, another Y&T gig – and no one is happier than me. I remember back in the 80’s when as a huge Y&T fan, I was wondering why the Hell this band never showed up in my little country. I mean, every band and their mother played here so why not Y&T? I loved the band, I had a lot of friends who loved the band and they had a pretty big following in Sweden. Hell, back in 1984, their then new album In Rock We Trust showed up at our top 20 chart, so they did sell albums as well. But nope, no Y&T concert in sight. It took all the way to 2003 when Sweden Rock Festival gave them a call and asked if they might wanna reunite for a gig. They did – it was their second reunion – and original members Dave Meniketti (lead guitar, lead vocals), Philip Kennemore (bass, 1953 – 2011) and Leonard Haze (drums, 1955 – 2016) together with new guitarist John Nymann played a fabulous gig in front of a really big crowd, a gig that made the band come back they year after to play another killer gig and with that, Y&T were back in action again and since they have visited Sweden every year to play. Due to health reasons, Haze quit the band shortly after and was replaced by Mike Vanderhule, a line-up that was consistent until bass player and the core of Y&T with Meniketti bit the dust in 2011, losing a battle with cancer. His replacement Brad Lang played in the band until this year when he left to treat his alcoholism. That meant that this gig was the first one in Sweden for new bass player Aaron Leigh.
This thing was really a release party for the band’s brand new record Ghost Of Graceland and a bit of a celebration that since the release, April 15th, the album had charted in many European countries and also in the US. But a release party usually happens like this: You get in the venue where the album is played in the speakers over and over and over and the band comes out and mingles a bit until it’s time for them to take the stage. Usually five or six songs are being played, most of them new ones and after that, it’s time for signing records and shirts and stuff while we all party like it’s 1999. It didn’t happen exactly like that this night. This was more set up like an actual gig with a signing session afterwards. Nothing wrong with that, but the whole night ended pretty quick after the band had played their gig and the fans had got their stuff signed. Some more heavy partying wouldn’t have hurt, but a few of us hit the town instead so we did get our share of beer anyway.
Back in the 90’s when grunge and then nu-metal had killed off all the great rock bands, there were always some of them that I wished could reunite more than others. One of those bands was Dan Reed Network. I had loved that band since their 1987 debut and there was a big musical hole that really couldn’t be filled when they split up / went on hiatus. Sure, Dan Reed himself came back in 2010 with a solo record and has been touring frequently since then, but his solo stuff is more mellow and poppier than the fierce funk rock attack that were Dan Reed Network. Up until 2012, there wasn’t much hope for a Network reunion, there were rumours that the members didn’t really get along, especially Reed and keyboard player Blake Sakamoto seemed to have a beef with each other so when the news got out that the Network were back for a few shows at the end of 2012, I was hoping that they would do a full tour and not just a few gigs back home. That would happen and almost exactly two years ago (2013-10-10) the band stood on the stage in a club, Debaser in Stockholm (reviewed here) and I was as happy as a kid on Christmas Eve. It was the first time I saw the band since they opened up for Rolling Stones back in 1990 (I had seen they as openers for Bon Jovi in 1989 as well) and they blew me – and everyone else, I guess – away. So I had some high hopes for this gig as well. The only downside this evening was the absence of Blake Sakamoto, who have to stop touring because of family issues at home (hmmm….). He is being replaced by one Rob Daiker from Reed’s solo band. Permanently, if I’m not misinformed. But first out tonight was a new band called Locomotive.
I’ve always been a band-guy more than a solo artist-guy. I think bands are way, way cooler than solo artists. But I can totally understand why a some dude in a band would want to go solo every now and then. If you want to release music that is really different to the band you’re in, then more power. But I really don’t understand why you wanna do a solo album that sounds exactly your band, unless you hate your band members’ guts or something. Especially if you’re the main song writer in said band. I think you might know where I’m going with this. See, Tom Keifer – Mr Cinderella – released four albums with his band Cinderella between 1986 – 1994 and on those records, Keifer wrote 90% av all the songs. After a long hiatus, Cinderella are now back playing together again and what all Cinderella fans want is a new album, of course. But instead we got a Tom Keifer solo album. Sure, this album had been in the works for many years and was a long time coming, so I guess it was just the timing that felt weird. Here are Cinderella back out touring and we get a Kiefer solo record…
To be honest, I’m not that sure if another live review of this Y&T gig will warrant anything new at all, in some ways it feels like I can just do a copy – paste of an old review because Y&T are always fantastic live and the always deliver the goods and they don’t sport a huge stage show with lots pyro and such. But at the same time, I hope that somebody might read this review that haven’t read the old ones and by that get inspired to go and see them the next time they play live. Because the fact is, Y&T are one of the most brilliant live acts I have ever seen in my entire life and everybody I have talked to that has seen them play agree with me – Y&T ARE a fantastic live band with fantastic songs and fantastic musicians. Y&T were once a band that managed to keep all their original members for many, many years, in a time when everybody changed line-up more often than seldom. From 1974 – 1986, the band were Dave Meniketti on lead vocals and lead guitar, Philip Kennemore on bass, Joey Alves on rhythm guitar and Leonard Haze on the drums.
A lot of things has happened since AC/DC’s last tour – the one that started with the release of their last album Black Ice in 2008. Back then, the line-up was intact even though there were always some legal (read: drugs) situations with problem child (pun intended) drummer Phil Rudd, who now and again had been busted with the possession of marijuana. But things change and the first thing that infected the band was that original member, rhythm guitarist, main songwriter and band leader Malcolm Young was reported ill and later it turned out that he suffered from dementia and even though his songs were used for the latest album Rock Or Bust, he didn’t play on it and, it turned out, he would never play with the band again. Next up, bad boy Rudd were busted for meth possession and attempt to murder. The latter accusation was later dropped but this was enough for his second sacking from the band, the first was back in 1983. That meant that for the tour no less than two new members were being inducted to AC/DC’s line-up. First in was Angus’ and Malcolm’s nephew Stevie Young, a guy who was a stand in for Malcolm back in 1988 when Malcolm had to seek help for his drinking problems. Stevie also plays on the new record and is now a permanent band member. Rudd’s place was filled by one Chris Slade who was in the band back in 1990 for five years before Rudd returned to the band. Despite of all AC/DC’s internal problems, the new album showed a band that sounded more fresh and vital than in many, many years. To me, their new album is their best effort since the underrated Flick Of The Switch back in 1983. But still, there is no denying that after all the shit that has happened to them, their new tour feels like their farewell tour, even though none of the members have said anything about the matter. It’s just a hunch, but a hunch that I have heard lots and lots of people has had and I’m pretty sure many bought a ticket for this tour to say goodbye, like this would be the last time we would get to see this fantastic rock band live.
“Thank you all for showing up. I haven’t been to Stockholm for about seven years, so thanks for remembering me and showing up tonight”. Those words were Robin Beck’s, in between two songs. That means that she played my city in 2008 or so. Why wasn’t I there then? Or more accurate, why didn’t I have a clue of that she had even played in Stockholm before? When Robin Beck played Sweden Rock Festival last year, I thought that was the first time she played in Sweden. But apparently not. Well, being a Robin Beck fan since 1989 when I bought Trouble Or Nothin’, going to this gig was a no-brainer. The first thing that I noticed when I arrived at the club was how empty it was. When the opening act, Captain Black Beard, went on, the place was embarrassingly empty – there couldn’t have been more than 30 people in there. Poor opening act. Judging by their name, I would have thought they looked like truck drivers, tattooed with huge beards, beer bellys and baseball caps, screaming their way through a heavy metal rampage set. Well, nothing could be further from the truth – they actually looked like normal rockers, no more no less and they were actually really good. This was straight forward hard rock complete with some big hooks and for some of the songs, really radio friendly melodies. But they were never cheesy and always keeping the rock in front. Despite the small crowd, they kept the spirit up, obviously happy just get on the stage this Sunday evening.