TREAT – Rock Stage (9/10)
If there ever was one Swedish hard rock band that never got all the attention they deserved, it’s Treat. Back in the 80’s the were pretty big, at least in Sweden, but they never got past the # 2 spot, always one step behind Europe. Which is totally unfair. Not to diss Europe, I love that band, but Treat has always been equally as good. I saw them live as a snotty, pimple faced teenager and I bought the records and I can proudly say that I am a fan. But one thing stands very clear – Treat has never been better than they are now, after their reunion in 2006! And their reunion album Coup De Grace is by all means their best to date. And speaking of to date, it will probably be the last album we will get from them because, ladies and gents, Treat are right now on their farewell tour. After this, no more Treat. And that is such shame. I personally feel that they have so much left to give, both as an album making band and a live act. I have seen the band numerous times and they have never sounded as good as they did today – and we’re talking about a brilliant live band here. There has been one change in the line up since last time, Fredrik Thomander (ex Vildsvin) has taken over the bass duties from Nalley Påhlsson (Therion) and joins Anders Wikström (guitars), Jamie Borger (drums), Robert Ernlund (vocals) and Patrik Appelgren (keyboards, rhythm guitar) on the road – and they sound as tight as ever. The guys kick off with the killer “Roar” from Coup De Grace and moves right along with “Strike Without A Warning” and they apparently go for a knock out right from hello. Killer versions of “Ready For The Taking” and “Paper Tiger” follows before a medley of “Rev It Up” / “Party All Over” / “Sole Survivor” and “Too Wild” makes us sing and jump for joy. Then they surprise us. Mats Levén, who are at the festival playing with Candlemass (how’s that for contrast, huh?) comes in and sings “Learn To Fly” from their self titled 90’s album on which Levén had replaced Ernlund on at the time. My God, that boy can sing! A fantastic version, that one and made us wish for another track from that very underrated album. But it wasn’t meant to be so instead we got the hard rocking “The War Is Over” and unfortunately, the lame “We Own The Night”. That song is the reason this got a 9 instead of a 10. But maybe I should have given them a 10, if only because the gave us “Dancing On The Edge”, my all time favorite Treat song. Thank you guys! The rest of the gig was pure melodic rock heaven. “Get You On The Run”, “Conspiracy”, “Skies Of Mongolia” and “World Of Promises” ends their set in a brilliant way and it made me wish for at least one hour of Treat more. And then, that’s it. Over! Finito! One of the best bands Sweden has given the world are no more. Did I say that it’s a shame? In my opinion, guys, this should not be the end, this should be a new beginning.
HARDLINE – Sweden Stage (5/10)
Everybody who’s into AOR and melodic rock knows who Hardline are, everyone else don’t. When I first heard of the band, it was through Headbanger’s Ball Europe in the early 90’s and I was informed by veejay Vanessa Warwick that it was band formed by guitarist Neal Schon and drummer Deen Castronovo (both today in Journey), fresh out of Bad English. But it was a modified truth. The truth was that the band was formed by brothers Johnny (vocals) and Joey Gioeli (guitars) plus bass player Ted Jensen, that hired Schon and Castronovo when they had problems securing a record deal. The band had big hits with “Can’t Find My Way” and “Hot Cherie”, the latter written and recorded by Rick Derringer for his DNA project, and their album Double Eclipse (1992) went platinum over there. But the rest of the world remained cold and when grunge took over the band split up. Johnny Gioeli has since worked as the lead singer for German Ritchie Blackmore wannabe Axel Rudi Pell. And he has also reformed Hardline. Now let’s one thing very clear here – this is not a reunion of any sort – this is nothing other than Gioeli’s solo project. The rest of the “band” are handpicked musicians from their record company Frontier’s stable plus drummer Mike Terranna, also with Pell. Where the debut was a real killer, the rest of the albums are uneven efforts, except maybe their latest album Danger Zone, that was really good and which title track opened this show. I can’t say that this was a “WOW” booking for me, but interesting enough to watch anyway. And they are good, no doubt about that. Gioeli is a magnificent singer and his backing band are tight and can really play their instruments, especially Terranna, who is a real nutcase behind his drums. But unfortunately, they are not interesting to watch at all. Sure, newer stuff like “Danger Zone” and “Fever Dreams” works out well and of course, the songs from Double Eclipse, “Takin’ Me Down”, “Dr Love”, closer “Rhythm Of A Red Car” and of course, the brilliant “Hot Cherie” that brings down the highest cheers. But I can’t find one single reason for a band like Hardline to bring on both a keyboard and drum solo on a festival gig, where there might be people watching who has never heard them before. That kind of kills it – at least a bit. I’m not gonna say that this was a bad gig, because it wasn’t, but it didn’t exactly set my world on fire either.
ASIA – Rock Stage (8/10)
This is a band that I have been a fan of ever since they released their self titled debut back in 1982 and I really like every single line up they have had, including the John Payne fronted one. As the band members arrived to this project with huge egos from their former bands, lead singer / bass player John Wetton was with Uriah Heep and King Crimson, guitarist Steve Howe with Yes, drummer Carl Palmer with ELP (Emerson Lake Palmer) and keyboard player Geoff Downes with, errrr…. Buggles (“Video Killed The Radio Star” anyone?) and also Yes, conflicts were bound two happen and sure enough, shortly after their second album Alpha, Howe left and was replaced by former Krokus guitarist Mandy Meyer. Since then the whole thing fell apart leaving only Downes as the sole original member. As the words in the press between the old original members had been everything but nice, an Asia reunion wasn’t anything anyone were holding their breath for. But in 2008 it actually happened – and it lasted for five years and three albums, very good albums, I might add, before Steve Howe once again left the band, this time on a much friendlier note. Only months before this gig, they announced the replacement in young guitarist Sam Coulson. Having never seen or heard anything by Asia live, I was really curious of how they would sound and appear. First of all, these guys aren’t exactly Mötley Crüe, so the visual parts aren’t that much to write home about. The look like bunch of old guys, no more, no less and you wouldn’t probably take notice if they sat beside you on the bus. It’s also quite funny to spot young Coulson,who looks like the rest of the band’s grandson. But it doesn’t really matter as they sound really good. The first four songs, “Only Time Will Tell”; “Wildest Dreams”, “Don’t Cry” and the new “Face On The Bridge” off their latest album XXX really hits home run. After that, they really can’t do no wrong, except maybe for a couple of solo features. But with songs like “Open Your Eyes”, “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes”, “Go”, “Sole Survivor” and closer plus Asia’s biggest hit “Heat Of The Moment”, well performed on a sunny afternoon, are really impossible to disappoint. And for all people who think that Asia’s music are lame and dull, I’d say quite the opposite. I didn’t lose interest for a second. I would welcome them back any day.
CRAZY LIXX – Rockklassiker Stage (8/10)
Another band that seem to have gotten a bit too big for the Rockklassiker Stage are Swedish melodic hard rock fivesome Crazy Lixx, judging by the big crowd in front of them this evening. For readers who don’t know this band, a short introduction might be in order. The band started out back in 2002 by singer Danny Rexon and guitarist Vic Zino (who today makes his living in Hardcore Superstar), but it took them until 2007 to release their debut album Loud Minority. When they started they were a part of the Swedish Glam & Sleaze movement that ran riot in Sweden during that time, but Crazy Lixx are much more than that. In fact, they play more of an arena rock thing, with their killer hooks and big choruses. Which I guess is the reason why they are such an amazing live act. Today Rexon and original drummer Joel Cirera are joined by Andy Dawson, who replaced Zino in 2008, Edd Liam who first joined as a touring guitarist but are now a full-time member and new bass player Jens Sjöholm who replaced original bass player Loke Rivano (who I accidentally bumped into at the festival’s entrance earlier this day, what a nice guy!). And this evening, these boys kicked some serious ass. Like a fist in the gut, they opened their set with “Young Blood” from their latest album Riot Avenue and went right into the clichéd titled, but very effective “Lock Up Your Daughters” just to give us the song that Warrant wished they had written, the brilliant “Dr Hollywood”. After these songs, the battle was won. It was a true pleasure to see how energetic the crowd were and that this new generation of melodic hard rock bands actually can reach out to a pretty big audience. As musicians, the band are at worst flawless and at best brilliant. Still, my opinion about solo spots is that they steal away valuable song time. Both Dawson and Liam are great players, but I prefer to see and hear them shine within the songs and not by themselves. Also, I don’t get the “Cum On Feel The Noize” (Slade, Quiet Riot) / “We’re Not Gonna Take It” (Twisted Sister) sing along medley. They could have squeezed in two more Lixx tunes instead. But, as they went along with killers like “Rock And A Hard Place”, “Blame It On Love”, the near deadly party tune “She’s Mine” and the bastard child of Poison’s “Unskinny Bop” and Def Leppard’s “Let’s Get Rocked” called “My Medicine (R.O.C.K.)” all the negative stuff was soon forgotten. Hell, even the worst melodic rock hater should surrender to a hard rock attack like that. The encore of “Heroes Are Forever”, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” and “21 Til I Die” only secured the fact that this lot is one helluva live act that fits like a glove on a festival like this. For everyone out there who has the chance to go and see the band live – do it! Yes, I know the name might not be a stroke of genius, but look past that and give them a fighting chance. They deserve it, YOU deserve it and what’s in name anyway?
EUROPE – Festival Stage (8/10)
There was a lot of talk about this headlining spot that Europe got. Lots of people were doubtful that Europe actually are headline material. Well, they did headline Sweden Rock back in 2004 when they reunited, but the fact they had just reunited was kind of a big deal and that was why the got that spot then. Well after this gig it stands clear that, of course they are headline material. Another thing discussed was that of the rumoured guest appearances. Europe are celebrating their 30 year anniversary of the release of their debut album and guests really felt like a must. Old members were mentioned as guests and by that it wasn’t that hard to figure out who as they only have two ex members. Of course speculations began, should Kee Marcello show up? Original drummer Tony Reno? Well, none of them did. Tony Reno was asked but declined to participate. As for Marcello, he wasn’t even asked, which I believe is a total cop-out. I mean, if there is some bad blood between certain members, well, be adults about it and forget about them for one night. It’s not like they have share beds or something. In my opinion, they owe it to the fans to at least ask him. One point went out the window for that. As for the other guests it soon stood clear that both Scott Gorham (Thin Lizzy, Black Star Riders) and Michael Schenker would appear. Cool, but really, other than being major influences for the band, they really don’t have that much to do with Europe at all. Anyway, enough of the whining. The more back to the 70’s and more bluesy sound that Europe now have has split their fans in two camps – one that hates it and one that loves it. I love it! And I love their old sound as well and with their fine mix of both eras, I get the best of both worlds at a Europe show. And to me, they are a fantastic live band. To open up with three new songs “Riches To Rags”, the brilliant “Firebox” and “Not Supposed To Sing The Blues”, all from their latest killer album Bag Of Bones, is a brave move, but I think it worked like a charm. But when their most metal track “Scream Of Anger” bursts through, the audience truly goes ape. “Superstitious” is always a crowd pleaser, but its guitar solo belongs to Kee Marcello and John Norum always has big trouble nailing it. Hallo guest spot! “No Stone Unturned” and “New Love In Town” are both great songs, but actually they feel a little out-of-place this night. But things are totally saved when they visit their debut album with “In The Future To Come” and “Paradize Bay”, the latter not played since 1989. You can sense that their audience has longed to hear those old tunes again. And from their debut they take a giant leap into 1991 and the ill-fated Prisoners In Paradise album. “Girl from Lebanon” has been played at every tour since their reunion and it is great song, but the big surprise this night was that they played the title track “Prisoners In Paradise”. That song hasn’t been played live since 1992 when Marcello was still in the band. John Norum has refused to play it, as he loathes the song, so that’s understandable, but what a nice gesture to play it anyway on this night. Kudos, John. “Always The Pretenders” from the oh so condemned (not rightfully so) Secret Society finishes the first set of the gig. The guys give us a little breather with an acoustic set of “Drink And A Smile” and “Open Your Heart” before the kick it out again with “Love Is Not The Enemy”, the magnificent Out Of This World tune “Sign Of The Times” (again, Kee is missed), “Start From The Dark” and “Wings Of Tomorrow”. Phew! This was some really energetic set and a breather was welcome. Too bad that breather was called “Carrie”. “Carrie” is not a good song. It’s lame, cheap and cheesy. But it was a huge hit and I guess there’s a demand for it. But to me, goodbye to point #2. Time to restore the wrong that is “Carrie”. Scott Gorham enters the stage and together they play a vital and groovy version of Thin Lizzy’s “Jailbreak”, a song Scott will play once again the next day with his own band Black Star Riders. The awesome “Seven Doors Hotel” kicks us right in to next week before a drum solo takes place. Thanks a lot! Another point would usually have flown here, but Ian Haugland is one funny character, so it stays. “The Beast” is a throwaway, but “Let The Good Times Rock” is a killer and then Michael Schenker takes the stage for great version of UFO’s “Lights Out”. Great stuff – and Schenker is still an amazing player. “Rock The Night” ends the show and we do just that. As an encore they give us their own “Kashmir”, the brilliant “Last look At Eden” before the whole thing ends with THAT song. I’m really dead tired of “The Final Countdown”, but no Europe show is complete without it and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s the ultimate show closer, in my book. At least one of them ultimate show closers. I know that this show will receive mixed reviews, much to fact that they played a lot of new stuff, but you won’t hear this guy slag it. I think they showed everyone how to celebrate an anniversary and I think there is life in this band for many, many years to come. Cheers!