Still pissed off about the fact that the Queensrÿche gig I had looked forward to so much had pissed away, Thursday morning looked ok. A bit cloudy, but it looked like the rain was at least on intermission. It was a warm day and I looked forward to see the comeback of Jake E Lee, a player I haven’t seen live since he played with Ozzy Osbourne at the Monsters Of Rock in 1986. Much has been said about Jake’s come back and unfortunately most of it has been negative. YouTube clips of an untight band and a singer with big problems has popped up and they also showed a guitarist that were rusty, to say the least. Also on many of the clips both singer Darren Smith and Jake looked intoxicated and obviously on something. I could be wrong there, though so don’t take it as a fact. However, the debut album from Red Dragon Cartel was a bit of a surprise, in a good way, and even though there were traces of rustiness (is that really a word? Well, it is now…) in Jake’s playing and Smith’s vocals were sometimes a bit on the sour side. So the question was, will Jake and his new band deliver the goods or will we witness another has-been disaster? Luckily enough, that wouldn’t be the case this Thursday noon. Jake was in a good mood and played like his life depended on it and the opening with Ozzy’s “The Ultimate Sin” from the album with the same title, “Deceiver” from the Cartel’s debut album and Badlands’ “High Wire” followed and were both killer. There were some major problems with Jake’s guitar and an involuntary intermission put a damper on the great atmosphere that were laid on the big crowd. The set was heavily based on Badlands material, but I couldn’t complain as I never got to see Badlands live and their debut album was a total masterpiece. Red Dragon Cartel material like “Shout It Out” and “Feeder” went down surprisingly well, but it was the Badlands stuff that drew the biggest roar. Stuff like “Shine On” and the fantastic “Rumblin’ Train” that featured a killer solo from Jake, were fantastic. however, “Sun Red Sun” is a Badlands tune that most haven’t heard before and the reaction showed that. Too bad, though, that the set ended on a sour note. “Bark At The Moon” is Jake’s trademark, but this noon it sounded stale and I got the feeling that we were watching a cover band playing a pub instead of the real deal. In fact, I have heard coverbands doing that song better than Red Dragon Cartel did today. Another negative thing is drummer Jonas Fairley. I mentioned this in the album review and the problem still exists – the guy has no swing what so ever. He keeps the beat, but totally without groove. This band needs a new drummer! But on the positive side, Jake played really well almost throughout the whole gig and singer Darren Smith was a real killer – the greatest surprise of the gig. The guy has a set of pipes to make most singers envious. Why he sounds somewhat annoying on the album is completely beyond me. It’s really great to state that Jake is back and hopefully this band will continue with this line-up (with a new drummer…). Welcome back.
A review of Red Dragon Cartel’s debut album here:
How come a band like Pretty Maids always get the early gigs at Sweden Rock? The first time I saw them at SRF was back in 2008 and they played at noon. Same thing back in 2010, an early gig. I can understand the first two times as Pretty Maids were still trying to get their career back on track. Not that they were over and out by any means, but they weren’t exactly the biggest band on earth either. But now in 2014, Pretty Maids are probably bigger than ever. Their 2010 album Pandemonium was hailed by both critics and fans as their best work since the days of Future World back in 1986. The success continued with the follow up Motherland from last year and this year’s Louder Than Ever – an album full of new recordings of some of their 90’s song plus a few new ones has also gone down like a storm. That’s why Pretty Maids deserve a better time of the day to play at. But nothing can stop the Danish machine and these guys doesn’t seem to give a rat’s ass about when they play. The opening of the show is nothing short of brilliant. “Mother Of All Lies”, the first single from Motherland opens and the crowd is right with them on the spot. “Nuclear Boomerang”, first single of their latest album and “Red Hot And Heavy” sets the standard for the rest of the show. This is how it feels like to get run over by a steamroller, folks. This band has an ability to mix metal with songs that are more or less pop, like the fantastic “Little Drops Of Heaven” and “My Soul To Take” without anyone even take a notice of how different from each other these tunes are. The band gets a fantastic reaction no matter what. Same thing with new and old stuff. New stuff like “I.N.V.U.” and “I See Ghosts” gets almost a welcome as good as older classics like “Yellow Rain” or “Back To Back”. The only misadventure this noon is “Please Don’t Leave Me”, originally recorded by John Sykes and was co-written by Philip Lynott. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad song, but there are so many greater tunes in their vault. Yes, we all sang along, but we did that just because. Of course, the biggest roar went to “Future World”, their most popular song ever. No Pretty Maids gig is complete without it. What also strikes me is that Ronnie Atkins still is such a fabulous singer despite the fact that he turns 49 in November and that Pretty Maids material is pretty rough and tough to sing. He impressed the hell out of me last year when he visited SRF with Avantasia. I have never ever seen a bad gig by these guys in my entire life, but I’m not sure if I have ever seen them this good. One of the best gigs of the festival.
Reviews of Pretty Maids albums here:
I can guarantee one thing; if it wasn’t for Sweden Rock Festival, I would never had the chance to see Robin Beck live. And it’s not only her, lots of artists would never had come to our little country by themselves. So Robin Beck was one of the best bookings this year and one of the gigs that I looked forward the most to see. Most people’s reactions when Beck is mentioned is: Who? When you respond: You know the chick who sang “First Time”, the Coca Cola ad? it starts to ring bells for people. For most people, Robin Beck is a one hit wonder and they have no clue that she has actually made no less than nine records, the last one, Underneath, came out last year. For me, though, Beck was never no one hit wonder. When her second album (if you actually count her debut album Sweet Talk from 1979, most people don’t) Trouble Or Nothing came out in 1989, it was an absolute favourite of mine as the melodic rock / AOR thing was just right up my alley. The fact that Beck was hotter than hell and had an incredible voice didn’t exactly hurt either. But since her audience in Sweden isn’t exactly huge, a Robin Beck tour of Sweden doesn’t seem very likely, so thank you Sweden Rock, for this. And it seems like Beck was genuinely happy to be here as well as she stated that “Sweden Rock finally took me”! I was both happy and excited to see Mrs Beck in concert but it’s always a bit worrying because I have never seen her in a live environment before and I really didn’t want this to be a big anti-climax. What if she was a total bore live. What if this would suck! Luckily, there was no need to worry because just a few seconds into the opening track “If You Were A Woman (And I Was A Man)” (originally recorded by Bonnie Tyler) it was clear that she was in fine form and that her band, that featured Swedish guitarist Tommy Denander (Impera, Radioactive), was as tight as a camel’s arse in a sandstorm. As Robin Beck has released quite a bit of music, I was curious of which songs that would be played this afternoon. That the bulk of the show would be taken from Trouble Or Nothin’ was a no-brainer, but what about the newer stuff? Well, not to get ahead of myself here, but in my opinion, the right songs were chosen. Except for the ridiculous “Catfight” from her latest album. It’s such a lame song. Out of the 10 songs on Trouble Or Nothin’ all but three were played which was a good choice. Second song “Don’t Lose Any Sleep” (an old John Waite tune) hit perfectly and the fantastic rock ballads “Save Up All Your Tears” and “Tears In The Rain” made us all sing along. But the biggest challenge this day must have been the ballad “Hold Back The Night”. Written by Alice Cooper and Desmond Child, it goes really high vocally and there’s no question why Coop decided not to record it. He couldn’t hit those notes if his life depended on it. Not to slag Coop off at all, it’s just a very hard song to sing. Beck nails it on record, but would she do it live? Of course, she would. I got goosebumps out of that one and Beck’s voice is really impressing. To say that Beck is my favourite female singer of all time is an understatement. The girl turns 60 in November and not only does she look fantastic and half her age, there is nothing in her voice that would anticipate a downward spiral range-wise. There was lots of jaws down dropping this afternoon. “Hide Your Heart” (done by Bonnie Tyler, Kiss, Molly Hatchet and Ace Frehley as well) tore down the roof (roof…?, well, you get the idea.), but of course “First Time” was the one that got the whole audience singing along. It’s not a favourite of mine at all, but I guess she could never leave that one out. The new stuff went home surprisingly well. “Wrecking Ball” and “Follow You” (that finished the show) from her new album got a great response, but I guess the groovy AOR bomb, “All That Depends” from The Great Escape, originally recorded as a duet with Joe Lynn Turner, but here Joe’s part was done by Beck’s hubby, House Of Lords singer James Christian (lucky bastard!) who was handling bass duties, was the newie that went down the best. Christian is and has always been a brilliant singer and he does his part brilliantly. It’s unfair that this song never became a huge hit as it sure deserves to. The only thing here to complain about is that there might have been a couple of ballads too many and I would have liked a little more action on stage. As for now, there were a little too much just stand and sing. On the other hand, this isn’t Skid Row so headbanging and running around like wild dogs has probably not ever been a part of her show. If Beck and her band ever returns to Swedish soil I will be at the front row once again.
Reviews of Robin Beck’s albums here:
The minutes after Robin Beck finished her gig it started to rain. First tiny drops, but it didn’t take long before the sky opened up and it started to pour. We managed to find a beer tent pretty quick and hid from the rain and after five minutes it stopped. But because of the rain it had started to become chilly and the ground was soaking wet which meant that so were my shoes. Again, this takes the fun out of a festival for me. I don’t like to walk around with wet shoes and when I don’t feel comfortable, it sure affects the way I look at a gig. So the circumstances weren’t really top-notch for Black Stone Cherry. I have seen the band on a couple of occasions before and they have always been great so I had some pretty high expectations for this concert. The band opened with “Maybe Someday” from their self titled debut album, followed by the first single off their latest album Magic Mountain, the pro stoner “Me And Mary Jane”. Normally those songs would have shot through the crowd and made everyone go berserk, but this day I didn’t get the feeling that Black Stone Cherry really pulled it off. Older stuff from their two first albums like “Ghost Of Floyd Collins”, “Rain Wizard”, “Hell Or High Water” and the brilliant sing-alongish “Blind Man” are all perfect for a festival and in a live environment, but it was the same thing with those – they were good, but didn’t really reach the high standard I know that Black Stone Cherry are capable of. I was also curious of how their newer material would go down. The songs from their last album Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea are a bit more commercially written and stuff like “Like I Roll” and “In My Blood” never really left the ground although both “White Trash Millionaire” and “Blame It On The Boom Boom” both did their job. The stuff from their latest album, “Fiesta Del Fuego”, is a killer song, but their new album hasn’t been out that long and it kinda felt like too many in the audience really hadn’t heard it enough to recognize it. They also had to play a drum solo. A drum solo at a festival is a big no-no. If you want to take the edge off things, then play solos at a festival. Also, I got the feeling that the Festival Stage was a bit too big for the band. Maybe it’s just me, but I really believe that a smaller stage like Rock Stage or Sweden Stage would have fitted the band better. Now, I don’t want anybody to get me wrong here, I thought that Black Stone Cherry played a good gig and the guys really gave their all, but today, it felt that that extra little spark was missing. However, Black Stone Cherry will be back in Sweden in October and I sure will be there, because I know that these guys are a brilliant live act.
Reviews of Black Stone Cherry albums here:
I have been a Tesla fan since I first heard their debut album Mechanical Resonance back in 1986, but the first time I ever saw the band live was at Sweden Rock back in 2008. The sun was shining, it was hotter than hell and we had cold beer. Tesla rocked our socks off that day and their gig remains as one of the best gigs I have ever seen at SRF. The sheer pleasure of playing to an audience that has waited so long to see them really showed. This year, Tesla has a new album out, Simplicity (soon to be reviewed here), and what place to promote it could be better than Sweden Rock? The opening, however, was a bit shaky. Not because the band felt rusty or anything, but the first song was “I Wanna Live”, a not that well-known song from their 2008 album Forever More. But “Hang Tough” and “Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out)” put things in order and “Mama’s Fool” from the underrated Bust A Nut got a great reaction from the crowd. “Into The Now”, the title track from their 2004 reunion album and the brand new “MP3” are both great songs, but it felt like the biggest bulk of the audience weren’t that familiar with them and therefore the action faded a bit during those songs, but I thought they were great. But what struck me was just how good Tesla sounds. The old songs has aged brilliantly and the band is a really tight unit. The ever smiling lead singer Jeff Keith hasn’t lost any of his strength in his voice despite being in his mid fifties. Not only does he sound just like he did way back when, the guy practically looks the same as well. Remarkable! His huge smile was one of the things I remember most from Tesla’s gig in 2008 and it was the same thing this evening. How much that had to do with any ingestion of rock tobacco isn’t something I’ll speculate about here, though. A happy camper he was and that was contagious because the atmosphere was very lively and it made the whole audience have a really good time as well. This is how you front a band at a festival, folks. The rest of the songs were all about classics and that showed. “The Way It Is” put on a big groove, “Signs” made the whole crowd singing along from the depths of their throats, “Love Song” drew the biggest cheer of the gig and “Getting Better” and “Modern Day Cowboy” made us all go apeshit. But if you want a big crowd go bananas and dance, then play “Little Suzi” as an encore. That’s what Tesla did and that’s what happened to us. When they ended with the magnificent “Cumin Atcha Live” all I could think of was how great a band Tesla are and that I wanted more. Much more. Tesla were never a huge band in Sweden, but by the reaction they got this day, I’m sure that they would pull a decent crowd if they came here on their own tour. This was one of the best gigs this festival, without a doubt. All hail Tesla!
Every year, Sweden Rock tries to break in artists that usually shouldn’t fit their brand, bands and artists that aren’t nostalgia acts or dinosaur bands that has been playing since Jesus went to pre school. Earlier artists like Disturbed and Sevendust and grunge bands like Soundgarden has gone down very well with many of the punters and in my opinion Sweden Rock is very right in doing so – in fact, I believe they would benefit from booking more of those kind of bands. This year, it was Alter Bridge’s turn to be one of those artists and it was a booking I embraced. I had heard so much about their concert in Stockholm last winter – only good things, I might add – and I was both curious and excited to see them for the first time in my life. Also, Myles Kennedy is one of my favourite singers so I made sure I had a good spot at the front when they began to play. They opened with the fantastic “Addicted To Pain”, a really heavy number from their latest album Fortress, but all I could hear was a messy noise of bass and drums. The guitars were in there somewhere but it was impossible to hear any nuances or melodies and Kennedy’s voice was so low in the mix that it was drowning in the thunderous rumble. Some sound guy should get fired after this mess. I could take it for that song and for the two following songs “White Knuckles” and “Find The Real” until I moved my ass back into the middle and there the sound was better, but still not good. Unfortunately, my guts were gone because of this and even though they tried their best to mend what had been broken, the gig never really took off after that. But I didn’t want to give up and leave just yet. I had been waiting to see them for too long and even though their gig was a disappointment, I’m glad that I did. As a new fan, the songs that worked best for me was the new stuff, like “Cry Of Achilles”, “Fortress”, “Farther Than The Sun” and “Waters Rising” and of course the two songs they played from my favourite Alter Bridge record AB III, “Ghost Of Days Gone By” and “Isolation”. Only two songs from that album isn’t enough at all! Also, the Festival Stage turned out to be way too big for the band. Alter Bridge is not a show band and their stage act isn’t about running around like crazy, that plus the fact that singer Myles Kennedy is locked to the mike stand as he plays guitar on every song, makes the stage astronomic. No, this band would definitively have benefited from a smaller stage and way better sound. The biggest anti-climax of the festival for me, I’m afraid. But when they return to Swedish soil, I will give them the benefit of a doubt.
Reviews of Alter Bridge albums here:
I have seen Rob Zombie live on two occasions before. The first time was at Sweden Rock back in 2012 and when he went on it was still bright outside and the sun hadn’t set yet so the whole theatrical aspect of the show got lost because of the sunlight. But despite that, Zombie put on a great show and his gig were one of the best performances at the festival that year. The next time was at an indoor venue in Stockholm where he and his band completely slaughtered Marylin Manson and his band that were the co-headliners. This year, Rob Zombie (born Robert Cummings) got himself a better time to play (9.45) and could therefore make more of his show. But I remembered his indoor gig in Stockholm all too well and the show he had brought to SRF wasn’t anything in that league. In fact, compared to what we had expected, this show was a bit choosy – almost stripped down if you measure it by the usual Rob Zombie standards. A lot of it had to do with the fact that SRF had put him on the smaller Rock Stage when he, of course, should have been playing on the Festival Stage. The full show is just too big for the Rock Stage. He and Alter Bridge could have switched stages, come to think of it. But this doesn’t mean that Rob Zombie and his band (John 5 – guitar, Piggy D – bass, Ginger Fish – drums) put on a dull show. Nope, see Rob Zombie doesn’t do dull. Zombie is an entertainer and showman from his toes to his fingertips and he’s magnificent at working a crowd. The openers “Meet The Creeper”, “Superbeast” and “Scum Of The Earth” are all monsters and Rob Zombie dances around the stage like the Devil himself. “Living Dead Girl” is a fan favourite and “Big City Radio And The New Gods Of Supertown” from his latest album Venomous Rat Degeneration Vendor has all the right elements to become one and it works perfectly this Thursday night. So, when we’re all being working up a sweat we’re being served a drum solo…. Normally a drum solo could kill everything that has been worked up, but this is a really groovy one and not that long and it’s more like an intro to the next song, the old White Zombie classic “More Human Than Human”. No Zombie gig is complete without it and it is one of the best songs Rob has ever written. “Sick Bubble Gum” is a killer and must be played but neither “House Of 1000 Corpses” or “Trade In Your Guns For A Coffin” has the effect on the crowd that they maybe should have. There are other songs that I guess could have kicked some serious ass instead. “Spookshow Baby”? “Mars Needs Women”? And the completely unnecessary cover of Diamond Head’s “Am I Evil”, then. I don’t get it. Hasn’t Metallica played that one to death already? No, do an original Zombie tune instead. The great “Thunder Kiss ’65” should have ended the show, but instead it leads into a guitar solo that leads into a cover of Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out”, but just like Zombie points out, it would be rude to play the whole song as The Coop himself will be doing it on the main stage in a couple of hours. Again, I really don’t see the point in doing the song at all. And that’s the end of the show but “The Lords Of Salem” marks the return for an encore and “Dragula”, Zombie’s biggest hit, is the last encore and the crowd is with him on that one all the way. A few minor setbacks, but as a whole, another killer night with Rob Zombie. If he plays your town – go see him!
Review of Rob Zombie’s latest album here:
I know that Alice Cooper has played Sweden Rock before, but if I’m not mistaken, he never have headlined the festival before. Because even though Alice Cooper usually draws a pretty big crowd he has never been a huge act here – except in 1990 when Trash sold shitloads of copies. But on his tours after that, he might draw somewhere along 5000 to his shows. But when Alice Cooper were booked this year, it felt only natural that he should headline the festival. It is actually really weird that he hasn’t done so before because Alice is not only a living legend, he also never plays a bad gig. I can’t even remember how many times I have seen his show, but I do remember that I have always left the venue pleased. Alice Cooper is also one of those dinosaur acts that actually changes the songs he plays once in a while, unlike bands like Kiss or Mötley Crüe, who plays the same set list night after night, year after year. Of course, he has a bunch of songs he has to play, but it’s always exciting to see which obscure songs that has found its way into the set. This night, Coop and his band has gone out of their way to make sure that SRF got their monies worth. A huge stage, a fantastic light show and a sound I didn’t thought was possible on the Festival Stage. The opening with “Hello Hooray” was brilliant, with the intro “The Underture” from his latest album Welcome 2 My Nightmare, that went straight into “House Of Fire”, a lost pearl that should belong in his set by default. That pop metal anthem got the crowd on their feet and for me, Alice Cooper won right there and then and the rest of the show would a triumphant ride to the top of the hill. After that Alice Cooper and his band – Ryan Roxie, Orianthi and Tommy Hendriksen on guitar, Chuck Garrick on bass and Glen Sobel on drums – could do no wrong. Orianthi needs a special mention as she is not only drop dead gorgeous, she can also handle the guitar like a motherf**ker – how impressing. By far the best guitarist in the band, which speaks volumes as both Ryan and Tommy are really good. “No More Mr Nice Guy”, “Under My Wheels”, the very Rolling Stones-y “I’ll Bite Your Face Off” and “Billion Dollar Babies” all goes out there and collects the trophies. “Caffeine” might be an anonymous song on record, but live it grows into a monster and when the fantastic “Department Of Youth” gets welcomed back into the set, I’m in heaven. Hey Stoopid was an uneven album and the title track is ok, but it’s not good enough to have a regular spot in Alice’s set list. “Wind Up Toy” and / or “Might As Well Be On Mars” would be a much better choice and “Dirty Diamonds” is ordinary and when it’s furthermore completed with bass, drum and guitar solos, we get the night’s first setback and the reason this show didn’t get a 10/10 rating. But Coop rises without even being close to be knocked out with “Welcome To My Nightmare”, “Go To Hell”, “He’s Back (The Man Behind The Mask)” (a song they only play in Sweden), “Feed My Frankenstein” and “Ballad Of Dwight Fry”, all of the shortcomings are forgotten and we smile again. “Killer” is only played partial and this is where the execution with the guillotine takes place. The scene is finished with “I Love The Dead” instead and that song is the introduction to what is the night’s second debacle; the covers medley. “Break On Through” (The Doors), “Revolution” (Beatles), “Foxy Lady” (Jimi Hendrix) and “My Generation” (The Who) all pays tribute to fallen rock stars and influences for Alice (hence “I Love The Dead”…) and yes, Alice is about to release a covers album and yes, I get the point – and no, this is not bad at all – quite the contrary, but the fact is, I want to hear Alice Cooper songs. Well, as I said the band does faultless versions of the songs and when they kick right into “I’m Eighteen” and “Poison” all is forgiven. “I’m Eighteen” is a song I have grown sick and tired of ages ago, but when they play it this night, it’s magical. I have never heard that song sound so fresh and alive before. The encore is of course “School’s Out”, with Rob Zombie and John 5 joining Coop’s band. As I said, I have seen Alice Cooper in concert numerous of times before, but I do believe that this is the best I have ever seen him / them. What I wouldn’t give to get an official DVD of this gig. A truly magical night!