LITTLE ANGELS – Zeppelin Stage (8/10)
Another band from the late 80’s / early 90’s that has recently reunited are Little Angels. It was 18 years ago that the band split up after three great records. When they broke up they had become huge in Britain and were on the verge of making it big world wide when grunge reared its ugly head and destroyed everything for all the bands that thought that music equals fun. However, Little Angels weren’t just the ordinary pop metal outfit. They always had their own sound and were one of the first bands that mixed their melodic hard rock with soul, pop and a big, fat horn section. So what place is better to kick off their reunion tour than Sweden Rock?
But when it comes to musicians in their late forties that haven’t played together, or at all, for many, many years, you always run the risk of being both crappy and pathetic. Luckily enough, the Angels made sure that they were well prepared for the task. To say that they were well rehearsed is an understatement. The band was so tight that it felt like they hadn’t been away at all, and by looking at the members being all smiles throughout the gig you could tell that they were real happy to be back and that they were enjoying themselves plenty. The pure joy of playing again rubbed off on the audience right on the spot. Opener ”She’s A Little Angel” got the crowd going instantly and showed that lead singer Toby Jepson isn’t just a great singer, but also a killer frontman. Guitar player Bruce John Dickinson is still a fantastic guitarist, showing both a lot of feel and a brilliant technique. The horn section made of one trumpet and one saxophone made things so groovy it was impossible not dance along to their music, even the ballads like ”Womankind”!
Of course all the hits were played. ”Kicking Up Dust”, ”Boneyard”, ”The Way That I Live”, ”Young Gods”, ”Don’t Pray For Me” and the fantastic ”Too Much, Too Young” were played. As always there are always some songs you missed due to the fact that they only got an hour to play and the reaction from the crowd showed that they could have kept on playing for at least 30 minutes longer. However, this was the perfect way to start off this Thursday. Sunshine, a cold beer and a great gig by this lot really set the standard for the rest of the day.
DANKO JONES – Sweden Stage (9/10)
I wasn’t gonna watch this gig. I was about to go home, take a shower and prepare for the Night Ranger gig later on, but my brother talked me into joining him for at least just a couple of songs. Fact is, I never really got into Danko Jones’ music at all. But ok, Danko and his band went on just after the fabulous Little Angels gig, the sun was shining and I was in no real hurry, so why not. The stupid ”decibel police” in Sweden try their best to screw up any live show they can so it takes a brilliant sound man to make sure the music is powerful enough to kick your butt despite the low sound and in Danko’s case, that can be fatal if that doesn’t happen!
It didn’t for the first two songs and I was about to leave when the sound started to kick in by the third song, so then I just had to stay for one more song, and then one more, and then one more. And then… ah, what the heck, I can’t leave now… Because all of the sudden everything just knocked the living daylight out of me. The thing that gets you with Danko Jones is that the guy is 100% real rock ’n’ fucking roll. The power, the feel, the pure love of playing, the groove, the ass kicking. Everything comes straight from the heart. And the crotch. This is hard rock ’n’ roll in its most primal and pure form. So, yes, I was completely floored. And songs that, on record, I felt were a bit cliché, became live killers and I could have kept on digging for another hour. ”I Think Bad Thoughts”, ”Forget My Name”, ”Code Of The Road”, ”Cadillac”… I mean, you just can’t go wrong with songs like that at a festival. If it hadn’t been for the crappy sound in the beginning, then this gig would have gotten full marks.
So thanks to my bro for dragging me along to watch this. Who needs a damn shower at a festival anyway?
NIGHT RANGER – Festival Stage (8/10)
Just like Y&T when they played SRF in 2003, Night Ranger’s first visit on Swedish soil was at Sweden Rock. The reception Y&T got from the audience then made them come back the year after and then at least once every year. And this year they’re back in September for another gig. Let’s hope the same thing happens with Night Ranger. Because just like Y&T, they were brilliant and the reception they got from the crowd was astonishing. Reports after the show told of five really happy guys that were pleasantly surprised by the crowd’s reaction and that they would be back in this country soon for sure, which makes me happy! As an old fan of the band, the booking of Night Ranger was one of the highlights this year and so was their gig.
We all know that the band are talented as hell, but the fact is, reunions can go either way, great or crap and with a band that has always been all about quality, both in the song writing and performances, expectations are always very high. But no worries because those expectations were fulfilled to the max. Almost. Because no matter how you see it, with a treasure chest of songs like they have, there are always gonna be songs you wished they had played and some songs you wish they hadn’t. But those are trifle things. What we got here was a band full of life, full of passion, heart, soul and an eagerness to entertain. Bass player / lead singer Jack Blades must be one of the best frontmen in this genre, and the guy is tied to his bass. The band’s fun loving and positive attitude really rubbed off on the punters. The band opened up with ”Lay It On Me” from their latest album Somewhere In California and it is a great song, but an oldie would have kick started the crowd faster. That minor issue was solved already by the second tune, ”Sing Me Away” from their debut Dawn Patrol and from that moment on there was no turning back. The band won the crowd over right there. And then the classics kept on coming. ”Seven Wishes”, ”Rumours In The Air”, ”The Secret Of My Success”, ”Touch Of Madness”, ”When You Close Your Eyes” and of course their huge hit, the ballad ”Sister Christian”. The band also played both ”Coming Of Age” and ”High Enough” by Damn Yankees, the band Blades put together with Ted Nugent and Tommy Shaw of Styx. A damn good move indeed. The guys finished of their set with ”(You Can Still) Rock In America” which featured Dee Snider on backing vocals and mayhem, and their first ever hit single ”Don’t Tell Me You Love Me”.
The band really delivered the goods as musicians. Brad Gillis must be one of the best guitarist out there when it comes to using the whammy bar. He plays it, not just keep pulling it like so many others do. On second guitar Joel Hoeckstra has replaced the great Jeff Watson, for some reason. And he did a good job. Still, I would have loved to see Watson in action. My only complaints are that I would love to hear a couple of tracks more from Big Life and at least one from the underrated Man In Motion. ”Eddie’s Comin’ Out Tonight” and the cover of Ozzy’s ”Crazy Train” (that’s because Gillis used to play with Ozzy back in the day) could easily have been dropped. On the other hand, they played a brilliant version of ”Growing Up In California”, the fantastic single from their latest album and hey, you really can’t have it all, can you?
Night Ranger played one of the best concerts at this festival and if they are true to their promise of coming back soon, do yourself a favour and go see them.
STEEL PANTHER – Rock Stage (7/10)
Not to be taken seriously, but Steel Panther is a must-see. If you have a sense of humour. Ok, if you’re not a prude and and you’re into humour that is dirty as hell. Because Steel Panther is as much stand up comedy as a rock band. Musically they play the stuff that was played back in the 80’s down at the Sunset Strip and they look the part as well, colorful clothes, spandex, cowboy boots, make up, bandanas and long hair. Well, hair and hair, three out of four members use wigs and all of the songs are stolen from bands such as Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Whitesnake, Van Halen and Yngwie Malmsteen. But all of them have new arrangements and are rewritten with new lyrics and titles and melodies. But you can easily hear from where the songs are being drawn. They use so much backing tracks that their gigs are almost sing back, but all of this is just part of the piss take. The fact is, all of the guys has been playing in more or less known bands for the last 20 years, which means they are a bunch of really good musicians. If you weren’t part of the scene that Steel Panther represents, you’ll probably find them pathetic and stupid, but if you get the joke they’re extremely entertaining and to judge by the crowd, and notice they played SRF only two years ago, they have really reached out to a lot of people. Just like in 2010, they had a mixed audience, from glam rockers to guys in shirts that showed names of different black and death metal bands.
All had one thing in common. They were all laughing. With the band, not at them. Talk about bonding over the borders of music. The whole thing with Steel Panther is the piss take on everything that the 80’s scene had. Sex, drugs, rock. But make no mistake, these guys aren’t mocking it at all, they do love this kind of music and that’s why they do their thing so good. But you can’t take them seriously. I mean just look at these titles; ”Supersonic Sex Machine”, ”Asian Hooker”, ”Fat Girl (Thar She Blows)”, ”Party All Night (Fuck All Day)”, ”It Won’t Suck Itself”, ”Eatin’ Ain’t Cheatin’”.
Come on, now. No matter what your tastes in music are, if this band plays your city, get a ticket. This is funny stuff. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.
DIMMU BORGIR – Sweden Stage (8/10)
This was the first time ever that I attended a black metal concert. The whole black metal thing is new to me and frankly, I have never liked that kind of music before. And I still have big issues with the more old school stuff. Maybe it’s a generation thing and I might be too old to get it. However, in later years bands such as Watain and Dimmu Borgir has been brought to my attention. Even though the music is hard, brutal and extreme, it’s melodic enough for me to get into it. Especially the later releases from Dimmu Borgir have come to my liking.
The way they the approach their music is really appealing to me. It’s hard, heavy, big, epic and the fact that they use a lot of orchestration makes it really easy listening. So I really looked forward to see this Norwegian outfit kicking it live. And what first struck me was how tight they were. Song wise, many of their older songs were stuff I wasn’t that familiar with as the only album I have been listening to enough is their latest Abrahadabra and I have just started to go backwards into their catalogue.
Still, the whole approach of the show made me even really love songs I wasn’t that familiar with. On the negative side, a lot of the music were on backing tracks and synthesizers. Of course, there’s no chance in hell that they could afford to bring a 150 man strong orchestra and choir for the back up vocals. But it looked pretty funny when you had to listen to the female co-lead vocals through a tape in ”Gateways” and the same for the huge choirs in ”Dimmu Borgir”. The contrast between their evil painted faces and hardcore clothing and their stage rap with stuff like ”How are you Sweden Rock”, ”Are you ready?” and ”Let’s rock this place” was a bit funny. Not that evil at all and more of the stuff that you’re used to hear from band like Mötley Crüe and the likes. Still, I think it feels very relaxed by a black metal band doing so. So, my first black metal concert were, in my mind, a success and I feel pretty sure that this wasn’t the last time I saw these guys in a live situation. Even for people who usually don’t like this kind of music, a Dimmu Borgir gig is recommended.