Nubian Rose are a pretty new Swedish melodic rock / AOR band with one decent album under their belt. Their debut sure had its moments and now it was time for me to watch them live for the first time ever. Or at least, that was the plan. Now, Nubian Rose has gotten some rave reviews from English press and even though their debut might had one or two things left to desire, I was looking forward to seing them. But, as thing turned out, the band had to cancel and the reason was that lead singer and front woman Sofia Lilja was pregnant with her and her guitar playing hubby Christer Åkerlund’s second child and the couple were due anytime. Too bad, but it was nice to see the couple in the audience for Treat’s gig and it was nice to exchange a few words with them afterwards. Very nice people indeed. Good luck with the little one and with the band. Treat was called in at the eleventh hour and as a fan that has seen them on several occasions, I wasn’t worried one bit that they wouldn’t deliver. Just like Candlemass, Treat are on their farewell tour and just like Candlemass, it’s insane to put this band to sleep now. I mean, sure, it’s a good thing to quit while you’re ahead, so to speak, but I’m completely confident that this band has at least a couple of more albums and tours in them. Treat were always a great band, both on record and live, but the fact is, they have never sounded better than they do now. So for God’s sake, don’t quit now, boys. And just like always, the guys played a brilliant gig – in fact, this one might just have been the best ever. Sure, they had to go on early so they had to cut the set a bit, so no “Dancing On The Edge” today, which kinda sucks as it is my favourite Treat song, but the way they ran us over this noon was just mind-blowing. “The War Is Over” has become Treat’s mandatory opening song and I can’t think of any other song better for the job. The Zeppelin / Whitesnake esque “Ready For The Taking” kicked our asses hard and “Paper Tiger” is more or less the perfect melodic rock song. It has the hooks, the melodies and the catchiness, but at the same time it rocks like crazy and is a perfect live song. Their medley of “Rev It Up” / “Party All Over” / “Too Wild” is such a crowd pleaser – brilliant! I know that lots of people like “We Own The Night” and it sure gets people singing, but I don’t really grasp that one. Ballads were never Treat’s strongest side and this song is no exception. They have shitloads of better songs, in my opinion, but hey, it sure does its job, so what do I know? “Roar” is another one of Treat’s amazing commercial rockers and just like “Papertiger”, this one should have been a hit in a perfect world. It’s perfect in their set and should never be removed, should Treat decide to keep playing. “Get You On The Run” is one of Treat’s most famous and popular songs and always goes down like a storm. But the highlight of every Treat concert is “Conspiracy”. It contains everything a great rock song should and Anders Wikström’s guitar solo is such a treat (pun intended). I know I pester about this every time I mention this band, but I always get so damn impressed by Wikström’s playing. He was never acknowledged as a guitar hero back in the day, even though he should have been – everything was Malmsteen, Norum and Marcello back then – but in my book, Wikström sure belongs up there. “Skies Of Mongolia” is another must-play – their latest (and final?) album Coup De Grace sure has lots of those – and when the band finishes with “World Of Promises” nobody in the crowd stands still. Sure, the song is a bit cheesy, but with a chorus like that, it’s pretty much irresistible. Again, Treat has played an amazing gig and proved that they still are one of Sweden’s most brilliant live acts. Not only Sweden’s, I might add, this is world-class. This band really should have made it huge!
It was a somewhat weird feeling to go see Coldspell AFTER Treat. Coldspell isn’t really a household name yet and Treat is a much bigger act. Of course, had Treat been booked first hand and not as a replacement, I guess their gig would have been put on a later hour. Still, I was looking forward to seeing the band as they are a new acquaintance to me and the fact that their latest album Frozen Paradise is a real killer. But it didn’t start off very well. The two first songs “Out From The Cold” and “Angel Of The World” were more or less ruined by the horrific sound. Everything was just a big noisy ball of sound and it was almost impossible to hear anything at all. Thankfully, that was fixed pretty quickly and by the third track “Six Feet Under” the sound was improving and by song no. four, their single “Paradise” everything was sounding the way it should. “Paradise” should really be a huge song, if you ask me. It has everything a rock hit is supposed to have. It’s catchy, it’s heavy enough and it rocks with the best of them out there. Both “Night Falls” and”Eye Of The Storm” is are great songs taken from their debut album Infinite Stargaze and “Heroes” is another really strong piece of work that leans into more progressive terriories – Queensrÿche comes to mind at times – is taken from their second album Out From The Cold and judging by those songs, I have some back catalogue checking out to do with this band. “Time” closed this show and despite their technical problems and the not so big audience, the band rode out the storm and performed a really good concert. Still there are some problems, the way I see it. In Niclas Swedentorp they have a brilliant lead singer but as a frontman he leaves things to be desired, I’m afraid. The guy looks like your next door neighbour and he doesn’t look comfortable fronting a band like this. At least today, he didn’t. The fact that he has two rock star de luxe looking – and acting – dudes on each side of him in guitarist Micke Larsson and bassist Chris Goldsmith doesn’t really makes things easier. He kinda gets lost in between those two and especially Goldsmith draws attention with his stage act. That said, Coldspell is a tight unit with some really great tunes to match and I would gladly give them another go at their own court.
As a really big fan of Irish retro rockers The Answer, this booking was one of the best ones for this festival. I had seen the band once at Sweden Rock Festival, back in 2007 when they had only released their debut Rise and I liked them, but even though I really liked that album, it wasn’t strong enough to make me a big fan. I became a big fan when they released the follow-up Everyday Demons in 2009 and I have loved the band dearly ever since. Their amazing 2011 effort Revival only strengthen my love for the band and their latest album New Horizon just proves that this world isn’t a fair place. With a little justice in the world, The Answer would have headlined festivals around everywhere by now, but instead they only draw a small crowd on an event like this. But the band didn’t seem to care and neither did we who loves the band because together we all had a real blast this early evening. The band kicked the set into motion with the title track of their latest album and it was pretty clear that singer Cormac Neeson was completely lost in the music and in a world of his own. If he had any chemical help with taking him high up in the stratosphere isn’t something I want to speculate in, but he sure seemed to love what he was doing, almsot like he was in a trance. Also, it sure is uplifting to see a band playing for a pretty small crowd and just don’t give a damn. Instead, Neeson was telling us time and again how much fun it was to play in Sweden again and the whole band really gave it their all – maybe they were seeing double because they sure acted as if they were playing to 10 000 people or something. The only negative thing I can say about this gig – and at least one point had to go for this – is that no songs from neither Everyday Demons or Revival were played. It is, of course, just a matter of taste, but those albums are my favourite The Answer albums, so even though they played a great set and all the songs are good, I was left a little disappointed because of that. Still, new stuff like “Speak Now” and “Spectacular” were awesome and “Under The Sky” and “Come Follow Me” from their debut went down like a charm. The long bluesy jam of “Memphis Water” had a brilliant groove and never felt stretched at all. The finishing “Preachin’¨ became something else as Neeson decide to jump out in the audience acting like a preacher, making us bend down on our knees just to jump again – over and over again – really, really cool. I guess he couldn’t have pulled a cool stunt like that had there been a huge crowd there. To sum it up, The Answer put on a really great show and maybe, just maybe the band got themselves some new fans this evening. We just can’t let a great band like this slip through our fingers – the world needs bands like The Answer to take over when the big bands are no more.
Just like Pretty Maids, Norwegian (with an American singer) melodic rockers TNT played Sweden Rock Festival just a month ago and I witnessed that gig as well. But as a TNT fan, there was no complaints from this guy to get to watch the band once again. Before the gig at Sweden Rock, I got some disturbing news that singer Tony Harnell’s voice was pretty shot and that the band didn’t really sound that tight, but thankfully all that had been fixed when they hit the stage and kicked off a killer set, so I wasn’t really worried that the guys would screw this up either. What I really can’t understand, though, is that the two openers “Invisible Noise” and “She Needs Me”, two “newer” songs hasn’t been changed since SRF. The songs aren’t bad at all, but they aren’t that well-known to function well as openers and I’m a little baffled that the band hasn’t noticed that. Also, one of their biggest songs, “Everyone’s A Star”, wasn’t played at SRF and it wasn’t played this evening either. Guys, there’s your opener – every TNT fan knows it and it’s a great song as well. Tony Harnell’s voice worked pretty well this day, but he felt a bit more strained than at SRF, but he just took some more help from the band’s two back-up singers and the audience. Yes, back-up singers – kudos to the band for the use of them instead of backing tracks. TNT also didn’t have as much time to play as at SRF so they cut “Downhill Racer” and “Forever Shine On” from the set. Wrong songs to leave out, in my book. They should have changed either one of the openers or “My Religion”, again not a bad song, but they have so many more familiar and better songs to play. But the songs they did play – “As Far As The Eye Can See”, “Caught Between The Tigers”, “Tonight I’m Falling” and “Intuition” are all so damn brilliant and caused me goosebumps all over. To play ballads at a festival gig can be somewhat risky, but both “End Of The Line” and “Northern Lights” worked brilliantly and the crowd’s sing-along to “Seven Seas” was loud as hell – just like it was a month ago at SRF. They ended their concert with “10 000 Lovers (In One)” – their biggest hit – and with that, the band had shown everybody that there are still life in the Norwegian beast. It’s gonna be a blast to follow them from here to see if they can be a force to be reckoned with when it comes to creating new material and still be of any modern value and just not another nostalgia act. I bet they will.
HOUSE OF LORDS
I have been a House Of Lords fan since they released their debut album back in 1988, but I have never managed to catch them in action live, until now. A lot of that has to do with the fact that they haven’t visited Swedish soil that frequently. In fact, I can’t remember if they have ever played here before at all. The band that I discovered back in the day is, however, not the same act that has been playing under the House Of Lords moniker for the last eight years. Originally, House Of Lords were the continuation of ex-Angel keyboard wizard Gregg Giuffria’s own band Giuffria. Gregg, guitarist Lanny Cordola and bassist Chuck Wright were all members of Giuffria and with James Christian replacing vocalist David Glen Eisley and adding a new name to the band, House Of Lords were born. In fact, many of the songs on House Of Lords’ self titled debut album were meant for Giuffria’s third record and Eisley has a bunch of co-writings on that album. Giuffria and Christian managed to keep House Of Lords alive for three albums with different constellations before they disbanded in 1993. The original line-up tried to reunite – without Giuffria – in 2004 with the horrific album The Power And The Myth, but that fell apart almost immediately. Since 2006, House Of Lords are James Christian’s band – with Gregg Giuffrria’s blessing – and they have quite successfully kept on releasing albums, some of them brilliant, some of them just good, but none bad and they have just released their fifth album since their restart, Precious Metal – their 9th if you count all albums. I looked forward to watch the band, even though I must admit I think the band is quite anonymous these days. Sure, the band – Jimi Bell guitars, Chris McCarvill – bass, B.J. Zampa – drums – are competent and tight and they are all great musicians, but to me, this is James Christian with a back-up band. The band kicked off their set with “Sahara” from their 1990 album with the same name and it was a wall of sound that came over us. It sounded good – really damn good. Almost too good. Another title track followed, “Big Money” and already by that song me and my friends got suspicious of the band might be using of backing tracks. The fact that the backing vocals was pre-recorded was of no doubt, but I never spotted a keyboard player either so I guess that was a backing track as well. Both the latest single “Battle” and title track no. 3, “Cartesian Dreams” were really in your face and Christian was singing so well that, even though I cannot prove it, I’m pretty sure even the lead vocals was on tape. Christian might have been singing over the pre-recorded vocals, but this wasn’t all live – this sounded like a record. When a piano / keyboard based ballad like the terrific “Love Don’t Lie” is being played without a keyboard player, things became too much for me to take and after the brilliant “Come To My Kingdom” and “Permission To Die” sounded like a CD and there was a guitar / keyboard intro where Bell didn’t even touch his guitar, both me and my group of friends had enough and left. I have no problems with bands using the odd backing track here and there and I’m sure I have witnessed concerts with them being used without my knowledge, but when it’s this obvious, I don’t think it’s fun anymore. When I see a gig, I want to see a live band play, not a playback one. I know that James Christian is a brilliant singer and I know his band are a great bunch of players and that makes this so much more disappointing. Why all of this nonsense? These guys should be able to put on a kick ass show without such crap. The only reason they got as much as a 5/10 is because their songs are damn great, but I felt betrayed and fooled here. Not ok at all.
I have seen Europe in concert more times than I can count (well…), but this gig was really something special. Upplands Väsby – a suburb to Stockholm for all of you who don’t know that – is the guys’ home town. This is where they grew up (except for drummer Ian Haugland) and this is where everything got started way back in the late seventies when lead singer Joey Tempest – then in a band called Blazer – met guitarist John Norum – then in a band called WC (yes, really!!) – and decided to form a band together. They picked up drummer Tony Reno (replaced by Ian Haugland after two albums) and bassist Peter Olsson (later replaced by John Leven) and formed Force – the band that later won a music competition, then under then Europe banner, that gave them the recording of an album as first price. Keyboard player Mic Michaeli was added for the tour of their second album back in 1984. So, when Väsby Rock wanted a band to headline the second night of the festival, there really was no other choice than Europe. Candlemass, who headlined day one also have their roots in Upplands Väsby. So, after over 30 years together as a band, things have finally come full circle for the band and there was no doubt that this gig was full of emotions, both for the band and for the Väsby natives who organised this festival. In my book, Europe has never been better as a band, both on record and live and today, Europe are a classic rock band right up there with their influences as Deep Purple and UFO. The teen pop image that was glued upon them in the 80’s is long gone and even though they play songs from that era, the whole feel of the band today is more mature – and I mean that in a good way. They kicked their set into motion with two newies, the self-explanatory “Riches To Rags” and the brilliant “Firebox” from their latest album Bag Of Bones and even though I keep hearing about the somewhat mixed reactions of Europe’s sound of today is, the new songs gets a remarkably great reaction from the crowd. “Superstitious” is next and this time Norum more or less nails Marcello’s fantastic solo and that hasn’t always been the case, see. “Scream Of Anger” is a metal track off their 1984 Wings Of Tomorrow album and it always sounds terrific live. The ballad “New Love In Town” is good enough, but it is a bit of a bagatelle, a nice little breather before we get the awesome return of both “Stormwind” and “Wasted Time”, also of the Wings Of Tomorrow album, the latter contains one of John Norum’s best guitar solos ever. “Wings Of Tomorrow” is a brilliant tune that gets a bit heavier here as it is guested by H.E.A.T. guitarist Eric Rivers, another Upplands Väsby native. “Open Your Heart” might not be the best song Tempest has ever written, but it was a really big hit in Sweden and I guess it is a must-play. The song doesn’t really suck, so I guess I’m ok with that. “Girl From Lebanon” sits steady in Europe’s set and it’s the only song off 1991’s Prisoners In Paradise that the band plays live nowadays. It’s a shame as that album is pretty underrated, in my opinion. The newie “Demonhead” (which is also the name of the band’s own beer) kicks our butts before it’s time for that song. Yes, the crap song. Yes, I’m talking about “Carrie”, one of the lamest ballads ever written. Europe will never earn a 10/10 from me as long as that shitty song is still in the set. Yeah, yeah, I know it was a big hit, yada, yada, but I’m pretty confident that there would be few complaints if that song was being dropped once in a while. Fact is, I don’t know that many people who actually likes that song. “In The Future To Come” from their 1983 self titled debut is an ok song on record, but goes down like a charm live and it was really cool to hear it and “Let The Good Times Rock” from 1988’s Out Of This World has always been a live killer, although Norum has some real difficulties to nail Kee Marcello’s guitar parts here. Why “The Beast” from Last Look At Eden is still in the set leaves me a bit puzzled. Not that it is a bad song, but it is pretty anonymous and there are so many better songs on that album. I am, however, extremely thankful that one of my favourite Europe songs of all time, “Dance The Night Away”, has gotten a place in their set again. What a jawbreaker that one is – thanks for that. “Rock The Night” ends the set, guested by Tone Norum, John’s younger sister, on vocals. For you who don’t know, Joey Tempest wrote an album for Tone back in 1986, “One Of A Kind” and the members of Europe played and sang on it as well. The band came back with their own “Kashmir”, “Last Look Of Eden” and I though all of Väsby would just rock itself away and when “The Final Countdown” ended the party, there couldn’t have been one pair of legs that weren’t jumping up and down. I know I might complained about too many things here for a 9/10 review, but the band was so fired up that you could almost touch their sheer joy of playing at home. They were playing to their families, their old friends and the fact that there was 5000 people in their home town, welcoming them was very emotional to watch. I mean, they even introduced the photographer they had hired for the night, Tallee Savage – another Väsby native – and brought her up on the stage and how often does that happen? I think this was a magic night and all the joy and happiness on stage was contagious. When it was over, I was smiling from ear to ear. I wish all concerts could feel like this.