SURVIVOR – Rock Stage (7/10)
The first act I was about watch on day # 2 of the festival was Demon, but as my interest in that band has since long grown cold, the awesome weather took the best of me and I found it best to stay at the house, lying in the sun with a bunch of cold ones and the company of my dear friends. Which meant that AOR legends Survivor would be my first concert of the day. Survivor has never played Sweden before and I have never heard one note of them live so, I didn’t have any expectations at all. But what I do know is that I like the band a lot, especially albums like Vital Signs, When Seconds Count and Too Hot To Sleep. So it was a big disappointment that not one song off When Seconds Count was played. To be honest, their set list was a bit weird at times. The three albums I just name dropped has always been their most popular ones, so it’s really strange that only one of them was represented this afternoon. The album in case, Vital Signs, is easily their finest work so it was only natural that five out of the 11 songs were taken from that album, but why on earth would they want to leave out their best song ever, “Popular Girl”? That is nothing less than professional misconduct! That makes it even more strange that they played the 38 Special song “Rockin’ Into The Night”. I know Survivor wrote it, but it’s still a lame tune. But enough of the negativity – Survivor really played a great gig and the stuff that they did play – such as “I Can’t Hold Back”, “High On You”, “It’s The Singer Not The Song” and “Burning Heart” put a big smile on my face. Also, the fact that they now are touring with both of their lead vocalists Dave Bickler and Jimi Jamison doesn’t exactly makes matters worse. Now we get to hear all their songs with the right voice and that seemed to make the rather big crowd very happy. Jamison might be the better singer of the two, but it was Bickler that hit home run when the band finished the set with their biggest hit ever, “Eye Of The Tiger”. A very good performance that would have gotten a much higher rating had they played the “right” songs.
RICK SPRINGFIELD – Festival Stage (9/10)
It was only two years ago that Rick Springfield made his first appearance at Sweden Rock Festival. An appearance that totally blew my mind. I have always liked Springfield, without being a big fan, but to me he has always been a cute pop act and I didn’t even know he was out touring then. I know better now, so when he was announced for this year’s festival, it was one of the best reruns for the festival ever – and I really looked forward to his gig. Last time he played, the weather wasn’t exactly bad, but it wasn’t all that great either. This year, the sun was shining hot through a cloudless sky, the beer was flowing and I was a really happy camper – with huge, as in HUGE expectations. Would Springfield once again blow me away? Oh, Hell Fucking YEAH! he did! It was even better this time, even tough it wasn’t that much different to his last show. What was different this year was that he has a brand new album out, the brilliant Songs For The End Of The World, and that album’s opening track “Wide Awake” was also the splendid opener this year. “Our Ship’s Sinking” and the fantastic “I Hate Myself” also represented that album. How about a big crowd shouting “I Hate Myself” on the top of their lungs with big smiles all over their faces. Well, that’s what we did. Of course, all the hits were played this evening – “Affair Of The Heart”, “Love Somebody”, “Don’t Talk To Strangers”, “Human Touch” and the closing “Jessie’s Girl”. So brilliant. Also, the guy is so energetic on stage that even the most hardened metal fan must surrender to this. He runs through the audience, climbs up the mixing table tent, never stands still one minute – and the guy is friggin’ 63 years old. But he looks 35… This gig is extremely close to a 10/10 rating, but minor setbacks in the set list makes this “only” a 9. First off – why doesn’t he play “Souls”? It was a big hit and one of his best songs. Instead we get no less than three covers -“I’ve Done Everything For You” (Sammy Hagar), “The Man That Never Was” (Dave Grohl) and “Cross Road Blues” (Robert Johnson). Yes, they were all done very well, but I would have preferred more Springfield songs instead. And my favorite album Rock Of Life was only represented here by its title track. No “World Start Turning”? No “Tear It All Down”? And he didn’t play one single song off his last album, the killer Venus In Overdrive. Well, as I said, those were only minor setbacks and even without some of my favourite songs, Rick Springfield was once again one of the festival’s highlights. Boy, would I love to see him on a full-scale show.
BACKDRAFT – 4Sound Stage (8/10)
I bet that most people outside Sweden or Scandinavia doesn’t have the faintest idea of who Backdraft are. Hell, most people in Sweden don’t. Which is really a crying shame as they are good enough to be a household name everywhere. If it has to do with them being rather bad at promoting themselves or if it is all a record company fuck up, is not to be discussed here. What can be discussed, though, is the fact that they are a great band. If you listen to their music and / or just looking at a picture of them, it would be easy to assume that the boys aren’t from Sweden at all, but from some little hole in southern America. Their brand of raunchy rock ‘n’ roll has distinct southern rock influences and the look the part as well. Long hair, big beards and the obvious choice of jeans and t-shirts. All that makes them a perfect act for Sweden Rock. Beer, a sunny evening and Backdraft – what could be better? Well, a lot of people thought that there were lots of better things to do as their gig wasn’t exactly over crowded. Again, a shame, because Backdraft played one great gig here. I guess this happen when you’re not well-known enough. It has been said that this gig will be their last one as they have decided to call it a day after this. So, what better way to do it than at Sweden Rock and bringing in former guitarist David Nordlander to play alongside Robert Johansson and his replacement Jon Sandberg (ex Babylon Bombs). The opened with groovy rocker in “Convoy” and with stuff like “Yesterdays And Tomorrows”, “Rising” and the fabulous “Goddamn Man” really got the small crowd roaring and I can’t help but think that they are such brilliant live act and they should really be Lynyrd Skynyrd big. Drummer Niklas Matsson took over the lead vocals from singer Jonas Åhlén on their Allman Brothers cover “Blue Sky”. It worked well enough, but I would have chosen some of their own songs instead of that one. The whole thing ended with their jam track “Hillbilly Blues”. That’s a real cool track and their jam sessions are really cool, if they’re cut down to a healthy length – like today. Normally those jams can go on forever, but on a festival like this there is a time limit. For all of us who witnessed this gig, probably witnessed the last one, but I sure as hell hope they reconsider. Backdraft are too good to die!
KISS – Festival Stage (7/10)
Talk about pressure. Kiss is probably the most expensive booking in Sweden Rock’s history – and the biggest. By far! Kiss’ job this evening was to make their monies worth. Not that they care, though. In Kiss’ world, it’s enough that they show up to make everybody’s monies worth. In the last few years, there have been complaints about Kiss’ shows – Paul Stanley can’t sing anymore, their set list never changes despite a huge treasure chest of songs and that they simply just go by routine and that their hearts aren’t in it anymore, that it’s all about the money and nothing else. There’s no doubt that some of those claims are true. One of the facts that Kiss doesn’t get a higher rating is that Paul Stanley’s voice is gone. Period. He can’t even speak between songs without using his lower register anymore – what a shame. And you can’t help wondering how on earth he’ll be able to manage the rest of the tour without his voice going to bits. I’m normally totally against this, but in this case some backing tracks would have been preferred. Luckily enough, the rest of the band totally delivered. Gene Simmons was this nights giant. If anyone says that his heart isn’t in it no more, they’re a liar, because it’s easy to tell that he loves this. Also, the set list could – and should – be discussed. It’s a well-known fact that the biggest part of Kiss’ set list is exactly the same as the one they’ve been using since the reunion in 1996. And this is another thing that makes this gig only a 7 instead of a 9 or 10. It actually gets a bit dull to hear the same songs over and over and over every time they tour. Hello guys, you wrote stuff like “Strutter”, “Hotter Than Hell”, “Parasite”, “Rock Bottom”, “I Want You”, “I Stole Your Love”…. I could go on forever. But still, their songs, even when they are played to death, are better than most bands stuff and in a live situation they sound really swell and with this line up, the band is tighter and punchier than ever. They open up with “Psycho Circus”, an underrated song and it’s a nice change, but “Creatures Of The Night” would have been a way cooler opener. “Shout It Out Loud”, “Let Me Go, Rock N’ Roll” and “I Love It Loud” are all true live killers and both “Shout” and “Loud” really can’t be replaced. Their new album Monster is represented tonight by two songs, “Hell Or Hallelujah” is the first one and it works surprisingly well, despite Stanley’s struggling with the higher notes – no wonder they don’t play “Crazy, Crazy Nights” anymore. A really nice change in the set is “War Machine” off the Creatures Of The Night album, where Gene gets to breathe fire and also “Calling Dr Love” that has replaced “Heaven’s On Fire”. Good choice, but it’s real easy to get why they made that change – Paul’s voice, of course. “Say Yeah”, the only song from Sonic Boom goes by unnoticed and when Tommy Thayer starts to sing “Shock Me”, I can feel the cover band smell. That is Ace Frehley’s song and should be deleted from the set immediately. Luckily enough, only a verse and a chorus is played from it before they burst into Thayer’s own “Outta This World”, the best song off Monster. That’s how it’s done and Thayer owns the stage totally. No matter how much I love Ace, it’s easy to notice that Thayer is a vitamin injection and the guitar parts have never sounded better. At least since Ace said goodbye for the first time in 1978. “God Of Thunder” is really a must as well, I can’t see any other song do justice to Gene’s spitting blood and flying up to the light rig. Maybe if they tried to give “Unholy” that spot. “Lick It Up” is really a throwaway, but for some reason that bagatelle really works live and it’s the only song where Paul’s voice works decently. That can’t be said of “Love Gun”. The register needed for that song is way to high for Paul these days and even though it is a fantastic tune, it needs to be changed for something more easy to sing. “Rock And Roll All Nite” finishes the set and even though I know it is Kiss’ “Satisfaction” or “Smoke On The Water” and they would be slaughtered if they didn’t play it, it bores the living daylight out of me. The encore starts with “Detroit Rock City” and it really is a live killer, but enough of “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” already. It was a crap song to begin with and I can’t think of anyone being the least disappointed if they stopped playing it. The whole thing ends with bang – “Black Diamond”! It’s one of those songs that I could listen to everyday without getting tired of it. And Eric Singer really rules that song. Not only is the guy a brilliant drummer – both tight and very groovy, he also turns out to be a great vocalist with a voice not that far away from Peter Criss – they have almost the same raspiness. No, I didn’t miss Criss one bit. Or Ace, if truth is to be told. Kiss really showed us how the big boys does it, this evening and it’s such a shame about Paul’s voice – that must be killing the poor guy – because Kiss has once shown us that they are a relevant force to be reckoned with in 2013. A very good way to end day 2!