Sweden Stage (8/10)
We woke up to a beautiful, sunny and warm summer day this Friday and while my summer-house mates decided to take it easy around the house, I decided on taking a stroll in the sun to the festival area and check out Dare. I hadn’t seen them live since 1988 when the opened up for Europe in Stockholm even though they have played Sweden Rock once before. That time they played at the same time as another band – can’t remember which – that I wanted to see more. For you who don’t know who Dare are, they are being led by former Thin Lizzy keyboard player Darren Wharton, on lead vocals in this band. Their debut record Out Of The Silence is considered an AOR classic in melodic rock circles and it is definitely once of the best AOR albums as far as I’m concerned. But on the last few albums, Dare has concentrated more on playing soft songs, very much influenced and inspired by Irish folk music. It’s not strange, after all Darren is Irish. Anyway, I like all their records, but none of the albums has ever reached the quality of their debut. To this gig, Darren had brought back his old gunslinger Vinny Burns, the guy who was in the band when their debut was recorded and written but has since left the band – very good news indeed. Darren, looking extremely healthy and fit, was on a glorious mood and was all smiles all the gig through. After all, this gig started pretty early – at noon – and I guess he was happy that they could bring out a pretty big crowd. Dare started with “Sea Of Roses” followed by “Storm Wind” and “Where Darkness Ends” all taken from their 2004 album Beneath The Shining Water. I’m not very familiar with those songs even though I own the album, but it was clear that they were enjoyed by the audience. I enjoyed them too, but they are a bit too soft for me. But luckily enough, Dare had decided to rock them up a bit. “Beneath The Shining Water” was next and it draw some pretty loud cheers from the crowd – Dare sure had some real fans there. A cover of Thin Lizzy’s “Emerald”, also on Dare’s album Arc Of The Dawn (2009), followed. The song has a different arrangement in Dare’s hands, it’s softer and ballad-like, but that’s ok, there’s no reason doing a cover if you don’t make the song your own. As a big Lizzy-fan, it’s always great to get to hear some of their stuff and Dare does it with love and respect and their version is actually very good. After “Emerald”, Dare change direction quite the bit. “Wings Of Fire” from their hard rock album Blood From Stone (1991) hit us like a fist in the gut. Back in 1991, hard rock hade taken a heavier turn with the success of Guns N Roses and Skid Row and that Dare had been told by their record company to follow that trend is beyond all doubt – Blood From Stone was a complete sell out. That said, it’s not a bad album at all, quite the contrary, but hard rock that even was on the border to metal at times suited the band badly. But live “Wings Of Fire” kicked ass. It wasn’t played as heavy as on the album, but it sure rocked us. The same can be said of “We Don’t Need A Reason” from the same album, here in a more “Dare-like” arrangement, which sounded way better. Maybe Dare should re-arrange all the songs on Blood From Stone and record it again. But the greatest response this noon was given to the band when everybody knew that it was Out Of The Silence-time. When the band broke into a rocked-up version of “Abandon”, there was no doubt which album that is Dare’s most popular one. “Into The Fire” had also gotten a small face-lift and had eaten some steroids and became a heavier groover than what we’re used to. “The Raindance” has always been my favourite Dare song and live it worked like a charm and many of sang along as loud as we could. The Phil Lynott tribute “King Of Spades” is a slow ballad, but is a must live – a fantastic song filled with emotions and “Return The Heart” (re-recorded on Arc Of The Dawn, re-named “I Will Return”) is also a slow ballad-like track, got to end the concert. The latter were played faster than on the album which made it a great closer. It was great to able to state that Dare has made a killer gig at the festival. The fact that Dare’s music – on record – could be just a bit too soft for comfort, might have people to believe that they are a dull live band, but they’re far from that. They were great back in 1988 and they were great today. They do get heavier and more up-tempo live and the fantastic melodies stays in your head forever afterwards. Let’s just hope that Darren and Vinny will get back together and record an album in the vein of Out Of The Silence. That would many of us real happy campers.
Sweden Stage (9/10)
After a few hours of relaxing in the sun with some beers and good music back at the house and quick stop by 4Sound Stage where Rock Goddess impressed me, it was time for some southern rock. Dokken played at Rock Stage at the same time, which was a bummer, but I had already managed to miss Blackberry Smoke three times and I was not going to repeat that this day. Normally, I am not a big fan of southern rock. Sure, I have always liked Blackfoot, but in my book, they are more a hard rocking boogie band than southern rock and yes, I have a soft spot for Kid Rock’s southern influenced groove. But bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet and 38 Special were never my scene. When Blackberry Smoke played Sweden Rock the first time, back in 2010, I had no idea who they were or what kind of music they played so I didn’t bother checking them out. But afterwards, I heard so many talk about how great they had been, but still, they played southern rock so I didn’t care. Until one day a friends of mine more or less shoved their second album, A Little Piece Of Dixie, down my throat and after one listen, I was a fan. So this was a gig I was looking forward to. They kicked right into motion with opener “Six Ways To Sunday” (The Whippoorwill, 2012) and the groove started immediately and when their new album’s opener, “Let Me Help You (Find The Door)” broke out, Blackberry Smoke had us all in their hands. “Like I Am” (A Little Piece Of Dixie) has a contagious groove that makes it impossible to stand still and when they hit the foursome of “Crimson Moon”, “Pretty Little Lie”, “Fire In The Hole” and “Rock And Roll Again”, they hit pay dirt – and then some. The groove and the swing that this band delivered could have made a paralyzed get up and dance. “Good One Comin’ On” has this country swagger that really makes it irresistible. It also has awesome lyrics, the kind you just know that someone in the band has lived through at some point. “Sleeping Dogs” and “Shaking Hands With The Holy Ghost” are both rockers that belongs in the sun on a festival with a beer in your hand. “Wish In One Hand” is one of my favourite songs off their new album Holding All The Roses and judging by the crowd’s reaction, I’m not the only one that digs the tune. “Ain’t Got The Blues” is a slower piece, a blues piece actually, that gives us some breathing room, but the thing is, Blackberry Smoke even makes slow blues tunes swing! Blackberry Smoke has made themselves popular in Sweden just by writing great songs and touring, they have never had a hit song here, but the reaction “Up In Smoke” got, you could have thought otherwise – it got the reception of a real hit. “One Horse Town” is little ballad about their hometown and how hard it can be to get by there. Nothing for a festival crowd, in other words? Wrong. The song went down real well, all their songs did, actually. The rough rocker “Payback’s A Bitch” and the country smelling half ballad “Ain’t much Left Of Me” ends my first ever Blackberry Smoke gig and one the best moments at this years festival. Blackberry Smoke is a killer live act and I can almost guarantee that no matter if you’re into southern rock or not, you will surrender to this lot. Their groove, charisma, heart and passion is really contagious and impossible to resist. I will never miss a Blackberry Smoke gig again!
Festival Stage (9/10)
It was well about bloody time. Time for Opeth to finally be booked to the festival stage, I mean. When it comes to progressive rock, I am very selective. There are shitloads of progressive metal bands out there, but I only dig a few of them. Dream Theater, Bigelf, Threshold, Shadow Gallery and of course Opeth. However, very few of them has managed to entertain me at a festival. When I run around at the festival area, I wanna have fun, I want groovy music, I want music that makes me want to party – for the most. When I saw Threshold – a band I had longed to see live, they left me underwhelmed and when Dream Theater played many years ago, I left after just a few songs, bored. And I have seen Dream Theater live on their own many, many times. Opeth, however, are a weird beat for me. Everything they are about are everything that I’m not – but still I like them. No, I bloody LOVE them. They are actually one of my favourite bands and when the played Sweden Rock back in 2010, I saw the whole gig, from the first chord to the last. The thing with Opeth is that they operate in a very pretentious genre – or genres, both death metal and progressive rock can be extremely pretentious and driven by cans and can’ts. Those things doesn’t bother Opeth one iota. They mix styles uncontrollable and plays the way they see it fit – if it sounds good, they do it. That’s what happens when your main song writer is a fan of everything from prog – to death metal – to pop metal. Still they have a sound and identity of their own. Live they are also so unpretentious as it gets. Guitarist and singer Mikael Åkerfeld’s stage rap in between songs is plain hilarious. The guy could do stand-up comedy if he wanted to. I have heard criticism of that, from “true” metal people, but the way I see it, it differs Opeth from the more conservative acts. I love to listen to Opeth play their songs and be totally seduced by their musicianship and all the interesting turns they take, but I also love to smile and laugh, especially at a festival where laugh and smile are key words to me. In between songs, Åkerfeld said: “We will entertain you with some music today – and in a few hours there will come a band that will entertain you with all BUT music”. He probably didn’t know then just how right he was! Now there are a couple of things I was curious to see this afternoon. Would Opeth fill out the very big stage, they don’t really move around that much, see and would they give us a set list of songs taken from their whole career or just the non-growl songs from their last two albums? First question, yes they did – the Festival Stage belonged to Opeth. Second question, they brought out the old songs as well, thank you very much for that. In fact, their set list was almost perfect this day. The problem with Opeth’s long songs is that they don’t have time to play that many of them and they have so many killers they could play. No matter how you turn it, there will always be songs that you miss. They opened with the two openers from their latest album Pale Communion (2014), “Eternal Rains Will Come” and “Cusp Of Eternity”. Great songs both of them and they fit the stage like a glove. It was the first time I have heard them live. “The Drapery Falls” from Blackwater Park (2001) followed and brought down some major cheers – it’s a very popular album, that one. Still Life (1999) is one of my favourite albums by Opeth, but it has been a bit overlooked in their set list, so I was very happy that the brilliant “The Moor” showed up. “Windowpane” is a good song, no doubt, but it’s taken from their “soft” album Damnation (2003) and I’m not that sure it belongs in their set. I can name at least 10 songs right away that I would rather have heard. But “The Devil’s Orchard” from 2011’s Heritage gets them right back up again – a fantastic song that works great live. When “The Lotus Eater” breaks out, I’m in heaven. It is taken from my favourite Opeth album Watershed (2008) and it is one of those albums that they could have played in its entirety and this noon Opeth kills with it. From Ghost Reveries (2005), another of my Opeth faves, comes “The Grand Conjuration”, one of the best songs off that record and now I’m wondering if there’s a chance that Opeth could be headlining the whole festival in a few years – they are that good and their fan base seems to increase all the time. “Deliverance” from, well, Deliverance (2002) ends this phenomenal set. I really like that song, don’t get me wrong, but when it comes to this song and “Windowpane”, I can think of shitloads of songs that I would have loved to hear instead. Had they changed those songs to say, “Hex Omega” (well, any song from Watershed, actually) and “Reverie / Harlequin Forest” or “Face Of Melinda” I would have given this gig 10/10. That’s how much of a bull head I can be. Still, another amazing gig from Opeth. If you haven’t already discovered them, then do so. Now! My fiance finally got what the fuss of Opeth was about at this very gig. Another fan added to the list.
Festival Stage (2/10)
The roller coaster that Tommy Lee uses during his drum solo is very symbolic of Mötley Crüe’s career, even though that’s not intentional from his part – I assume. The quality of their records has been varied, to say the least. Albums like Shout At The Devil (1983), Dr Feelgood (1989) and the John Corabi fronted Motley Crue (1992) are all nothing but fantastic and at least the two first are looked upon as true rock classics today. Their debut was mediocre song wise and the production lacked some, but it won because of youthful hunger, passion, attitude and an us-against-the-world attitude. Then there are albums such as Theatre Of Pain (1985), Girls Girls Girls (1987) and New Tattoo (1999), that were underwhelming, to put things mildly. If you picked out the best songs on Theatre Of Pain and Girls, you might get one pretty good record out of that. Then there has been inside fighting, drug overdoses, death, resurrections, prison sentences, car crashes and divorces like you could never imagine. There has been so much outside crap surrounding this band that it has at many occasions over shadowed the fact that Mötley Crüe actually is a damn good rock band that, no matter what you might think, always put the music first. At least that has always been their intention. I remember watching the band at Monsters Of Rock 1984 and as openers for Iron Maiden back in 1984 and they were ruthless, they killed and took no prisoners. But already two years later, the drugs has started taking over and their Theatre Of Pain tour felt a bit tired. When I saw them next, they were drug free, on the Dr Feelgood tour and was more or less blown off stage by a young and hungry Skid Row. Not that Mötley did a bad gig then, quite the contrary. It should take sixteen years before I got to see the Crüe again, at SRF 2005 on their reunion Carnival Of Sins tour. That gig might have been the best show I have ever seen with the band. They were hungry, focused and determined to show everybody that they had still a lot to offer. But the gig at Stockholm Globe just six months after the gig, they felt jaded and tired again and the last time they visited SRF in 2012, they were just plain bad. But when they made it clear that this would be their last ever tour and there were even contracts signed to prevent another farewell tour, I thought that this time Mötley Crüe would be prepared from their teeth and once and for all show the world who the big guys are – and reports from the tour has been overwhelming. The tour has been sold out and it has been a huge success, so I thought that we would get our asses kicked big time this night in June. Boy was I wrong. When they opened up with “Saints Of Los Angeles” I was all smiles. How awesome to open with that great and underrated song. And it sounded really good at first. Then came Vince. My jaws dropped. I mean, the guy has never been a great singer, but he has a personal voice that works the purpose and he knows how to work an audience. But in later years, his voice has gotten worse by the year and when he opened his mouth this night, it sounded worse than ever. The hits kept on coming – “Wild Side”, “Primal Scream”, “Same Old Situation”, “Looks That Kill” – brilliant songs, but Vince ruined them all. Thing is, Vince is in bad shape. He’s overweight, his voice is shot – and then some – and he hardly manages to sing at all – the guy lacks all strength to hold any kind of tune. And his eyes… they speak volumes. His eyelids hang, the look is blurry and he actually looks confused and somewhat depressed. This is not the Vince Neil I once knew, this is just a shell of what once was. And when they do “On With The Show”, one of the few Mötley songs that actually requires som really good singing, it becomes obvious. Vince is done, he’s voice isn’t shot, it’s gone, it’s no more and he’s dragging the band down with him. He can’t even manage an easy tune like “Smokin’ In The Boys Room” and he actually fuck up a punk song, the cover of the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy In The UK”. I can’t believe what I’m hearing, to be honest. And when Vince disappears from stage in the beginning of “Dr Feelgood” – not his fault, technical problems – it really doesn’t matter. Actually, it feels good (pun intended) to not have to hear him sing at all. Then there’s “Shout At The Devil”. You know how Vince usually just sing a word here and there? “Wolf.. night… blod-stain…sta-aa-age”. Well, if he could at least have done that tonight. Now it sounded more like “wooooo..niiiiii… (pause) shout… aaaaaeeeddeeeoooo”. I’m not trying to be funny here, this is how it sounded and this is how he sang during THE WHOLE FUCKING GIG!!!!!! That’s when I left. I couldn’t stand no more. I heard in the background on my way to the bar the slaughter of “Don’t Go Away Mad” starting and in the VIP area, the Crüe gig was the talk of the evening and everyone – 100% of us – all agreed. This is it – Mötley Crüe’s farewell walk of fame had turned into a walk of shame and that they would go out with a bang wasn’t an oportunity anymore. The thing is, it feels unfair to diss the whole band for this gig, because the rest of the guys didn’t screw up one bit. Nikki Sixx, the heart and soul of the band kicked ass just like always, the guy is rock ‘n’ roll impersonated and one of the coolest rockers ever, Mick Mars is a riff God and the guy that brought heaviness and some rhythm & blues to the band’s sound and live, he actually still delivers despite his disease. The guy is brutal and I have so much respect for the guy. And Tommy Lee, well his stage ADHD makes him one of the most entertaining drummers ever. He’s great, loves his drums and plays with groove, swing and punch. But everything falters with Vince. I feel sorry for Sixx, ars and Lee, but Vince, he’s just tragic. The guy obviously doesn’t care about his fans – or himself – enough to get in shape for their last tour. Dude, you’re a millionaire, you don’t have to get up to work in the morning. All you had to do was to get a personal trainer, get to the gym, go on a diet, stop drinking and get some vocal coaching three months prior to the tour and get in fucking shape and I can guarantee that this would have been the farewell we all had wanted it to be. Instead of a “Damn! It’s over!”, this is “so relieved this is over…”. This is not the way a great band like Mötley Crüe should go out, this is just sad and all I can think of is now we can look forward to a future that belongs to Sixx A.M. instead. Sad!
Sweden Stage (10/10)
After a couple of beers and a rum (Sweden Rock’s own brand – yummy) and coke we headed off to the Sweden Stage to take our minds off Mötley Crüe’s total failure and watch one of the best live acts I have ever seen – Sweden’s H.E.A.T. I have seen the band live on many occasions and not only have they always been fantastic every time, they also keep on impressing me – every time. I was never a big fan of the band to begin with. Their two first records were good, but they never gave me the feeling that H.E.A.T. would be a world-class act. Not to kick on original singer Kenny Leckremo, but it was with the addition of their new singer Erik Grönwall that the band took the step from a good band to a band with world domination potential. No, I’m not exaggerating one bit, H.E.A.T. are that good a live act. Fact is, I have heard of people who genuinely loathes H.E.A.T.’s brand of AOR / melodic rock, but still digs their live show. And after watching a tired, over weight, jaded and worthless Vince Neil, I couldn’t wait to get to see the high energetic Grönwall in action. And Grönwall is right on the spot from the first chord. The opening with “Point Of No Return” and “A Shot Of Redemption” from their latest killer record Tearing Down The Walls, is nothing but amazing. Grönwall is like a Duracell rabbit with a bad case of ADHD all the time and together with the addictive groove and the striking melodies, H.E.A.T. hits a homerun right away. They continue with a Address The Nation trio of “Better Off Alone”, “Heartbreaker” and the brilliant “It’s All About Tonight” and with the risk at offending someone, if you were there and haven’t already surrendered to this musical force, there has to be something wrong with you. With the risk of sounding repetitive, I really can’t believe how great a frontman Grönwall is. He’s the kind of person that makes frontmen like Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler look like turtles. If this band ever start getting ideas about getting Kenny back, they should be committed. But it’s not only Erik that make H.E.A.T. such a brilliant live act, the rest of the guys – especially guitarist Eric Rivers and drummer Crash – has some huge charisma and attitude. This is a BAND without a doubt. The hard rock inferno continues with…ehh…”Inferno” (yes, pun very much intended) and the title says it all, but maybe the song should have been called “Mayhem” instead… The instrumental intro “The Wreckoning” brings us right into the latest album’s big ballad title track “Tearing Down The Walls” and the big crowd is an ocean of waving hands – and the crowds singing must have been heard for miles. “Mannequin Show” might have a melody reminiscent of Britney Spears’ “Oops I Did It Again”, but this is a melodic rock masterpiece, the kind that Jon Bon Jovi could have sold his mother to write and of course, this song goes down like a storm this night. But to not play any pre-Grönwall tunes would be disrespectful to their fans that has been with them from the beginning and while “Late Night Lady” might be somewhat forgettable on record, it gets a new life live. “Beg Beg Beg” is to me the hit that never was and I’m not sure why because it’s catchier than an STD, but live it sure kicks some major ass and it’s easy to see that the song is appreciated. They also manage to put in a snippet of Deep Purple’s “Highway Star” in the middle of the song which sounds awesome. The piano ballad “All The Nights” is a surprise but it gives us some breathing room which is actually needed after the musical attack we’ve under for the last 11 songs and it sits beautiful this lukewarm summer night. “Downtown” is also slower and has a both jazzy and bluesy feel that goes straight to the hearts of us and when they finish of the show with “Enemy In Me” and “Emergency”, the melodic rock mayhem is completed. Almost. Because yes, there is an encore to be. “Breaking The Silence” is first and the crowd really goes wild which continues with their mini-hit “Living On The Run”. The crowd pleasing half-ballad groover “Laughing At Tomorrow” makes us all going for the drunken backing vocals that they had on the record and at 2 am, it kinda works. No “1000 Miles” tonight and that’s a surprise. It’s a great song but I can live without it as they have so many better songs. It’s bloody fantastic watching a band like this kill every time they get on stage and I’m not surprised at all that they are getting a bigger and bigger crowd outside of Sweden. Especially England have surrendered to their high energetic live show. Mötley Crüe might be an arena band and the headline act of this festival, but for me – and I can guarantee, everyone who saw H.E.A.T. this night – H.E.A.T. were the true headliners this Friday night. And speaking of which, here we have a band that could – and should – be the next headline act for Sweden Rock when all the dinosaurs of rock have quit. If I get to decide, they should headline in the next couple of years. One of the best live acts you can see right now!
Photo: Hanna Henrikson