SLASH featuring Myles Kennedy And The Conspirators
Festival Stage (9/10)
After a good night’s sleep we woke up to a sunny day in Norje Boke and since there was no early concerts I had planned to watch, we could kill some time on our lawn, getting a tan and having a couple of beers before it was time to watch Slash and his band at 4 pm. It was a special gig for me as it was the first time since 1992 that I would get to see Slash play live. Also, the fact that singer Myles Kennedy visited Sweden Rock last year with Alter Bridge, a gig that left me underwhelmed and disappointed, there was some revenge to take on his part. Slash’s three solo albums are all records that are being played frequently at my place and knowing the guy’s love for performing, I had some big expectations. There had also been some rumours about Myles’ not doing the old Guns N’ Roses songs justice – his voice is very different to Axl Rose’s voice and some might feel that the Guns N’ Roses tunes need more raspiness and aggression than Kennedy’s more clean-cut and deep voice. The band kicked off with the leading single of their latest album World On Fire, “You’re A Lie” and the big crowd was with the band on the spot. What I noticed right away was how different Myles Kennedy is when he’s not tied down to playing guitar as well as singing. With Alter Bridge, Kennedy was held back by his guitar, but as a frontman with only a mike in hand, he owned the stage. The old G N’R sleaze ball “Nightrain” kicked in as the second song and the band did an awesome version of it. Myles’ efforts? He had no problem doing that song and he sounded convincing as well. This guy can customize his voice to which kind of song he’s singing, so getting the aggression and attitude out for a G N’R tune wasn’t a problem at all. Next song up was “Avalon” from the latest album. It’s a good song, but it didn’t leave that much a mark on me this day even though the crowd seemed to appreciate it. “Back From Cali” from Slash’s solo album, however, went down like a storm. The tune is mighty popular, no doubt about that. “Wicked Stone” is like “Avalon”, it passes by and people seem to dig it, but it was just there and left, kind of. “You Could Be Mine” was a real live killer, though and that there’s a hunger for Guns N’ Roses material is most obvious. I can’t even begin to imagine how much a Guns N’ Roses reunion would rule the world. It’s also so very easy to state that the G N’R material needs Slash even more than it needs Axl. The Guns’ tracks that were being played this afternoon sounded more like Guns N’ Roses than Axl’s embarrassing version of the band. “Bent To Fly” from the latest album also went down surprisingly well. I never thought of it as a live song, but there you go. So did “World On Fire”, a song that has every possibility to become a future Slash-classic. But the best song tonight was “Anastacia” from Apocalyptic Love. The song has a striking melody, a fantastic groove and a raw and stripped arrangement which makes the song perfect in a live situation. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” might have been played to death on rock radio since it came out and actually is a skip-button song for me when Appetite For Destruction is played around the house, but here it feels alive, kicking and vital and Myles Kennedy really gives the song new life – superb! Slash second band, Velvet Revolver has been under discussion a lot, but I have a soft spot for that band despite Scott Weiland’s whiney grunge vocals and tonight “Slither” sounds huge. I wonder how awesome Velvet Revolver would have been with Kennedy instead of Weiland singing. The only predictable moment of this show was the ending with “Paradise City” and boy am I fed up with that tune. It’s really a killer tune, but just like so many other rock classics, commercial rock radio has ruined the track for me and many others. But again, on this afternoon, it breathes new life. The band is all groove and Myles Kennedy… Well, the man is really a giant vocally. The most unpredictable moment was the no-show of “Welcome To The Jungle” and for that I am grateful, I wouldn’t have said no to “Rocket Queen”, though. But this gig shows that Slash has a lot to offer still and it feels so unfair that Axl is touring arenas around the world for the only reason that he owns the name Guns N’ Roses. But Slash is, as always, Mr Cool and doesn’t bother with stuff like that, see Slash is a dude who is in music for all the right reasons and with Kennedy by his side, they have all the potential to big a huge arena act themselves. Not to mention the rest of the band would be very unfair because Brent Fitz (drums, ex-Union), Todd Kerns (bass) and touring guitarist Frank Sidoris makes all the difference in the world. They are called The Conspirators and they help Slash and Myles become a rock monster. Hats off!
Rock Stage (8/10)
One of the most common reasons people have for dissing a band is that they are clones. Or that they sound a lot like another band. “They suck. they sound exactly like ….”. I have heard that about Airbourne. “They sounds like AC/DC”. – Ok. But don’t you like AC/DC? -“Yes. Of course”. – Ok. So what’s the f**king problem, then? I mean, if a band like Airbourne, that write killer songs and plays music for all the right reason, happen to borrow a great deal of a band like AC/DC, isn’t that just a big compliment to said band? Isn’t that more a reason to like them, than not to? To me, to say stuff like “I don’t like them because they sound like…” are just pretentious people with an inferiority complex. Me, I don’t give flying fuck about things like that. If you write good songs, can handle your instruments well enough and has a true love and passion for music, then I’m home. Airbourne are all of that so I bloody love this band. I first saw them live at Sweden Rock festival back in 2008 and as fan of their then only album Runnin’ Wild (2007), their gig was one of the must-sees that year. Airbourne blew me right into next week that day. The energy, passion, attitude – they were rock ‘n’ roll in its most primal shape and since then I considered myself a huge fan of the band. Interesting enough, I haven’t been able to catch them live until now, seven years later. Airbourne’s follow-up album No Guts, No Glory (2010) wasn’t bad, but failed to reach the expectations the debut had set. But with their latest effort Black Dog Barking, Airbourne set the record straight again and with a killer album like that behind them, the timing for a gig at Sweden Rock Festival couldn’t have been better. The opening with “Ready To Rock”, “Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast” and “Chewin’ The Fat” was like going into the boxing ring with both Mohammad Ali and Mike Tyson against you. Airbourne went for a knock out and knocked the audience down for the count right there and then. “Blond, Bad And Beautiful”, the best song off No Guts, No Glory and “Girls In Black” from the debut kept the rocking insanity going and the band – mostly rhythm guitarist and singer Joel O’Keeffe – were as wild as ever. The guys are known for drinking huge amounts of beer but the way they move on stage there’s no risk for any beer bellies for this lot. Joel is everywhere, even up in the rig. He actually brought his guitar with him when he climbed up to the top. “Cheap Whine And Cheaper Women” is made for the live set and so is “Black Dog Barking”, but I have never been that big on “Stand Up For Rock ‘n’ Roll”, even though I noticed that it worked like a charm. The encore with the latest album’s leading single “Live It Up” and “Runnin’ Wild” was breathtaking and afterwards the crowd must have been just as exhausted as the band. The only thing negative I can say about the gig is that they left out my two favourite Airbourne songs “What’s Eatin’ You” and “Diamond In The Rough” and that is why this gig gets an 8 instead of a 9. Yes, I believe those songs would have bettered their gig. Also a song like “Animalize” from their latest album would have turned into a live killer as well. Other than that, a brilliant gig by the perfect festival band.
Festival Stage (8/10)
When the word got out that Sweden Rock had booked Toto, I thought that people would go bananas on the SRF-forum, I thought this would be a booking that would go down in history as one of Sweden Rock’s most hated. But much to my surprise, there was a lot of positive feedback for the band and the negative words were more like “Too bad, don’t like ’em” instead of “You guys should be shot on sight for booking them!!!”, which kind of was what I had expected. But times are changing and 15 years ago a band like Toto was looked upon as a joke, is today looked upon with respect and no one is ashamed to say that they like them. I have always like Toto. They have never been my favourite band, but albums like Isolation (1984), Fahrenheit (1986) and the magnificent The Seventh One (1988) can’t be denied by any fan of melodic rock and AOR. Toto has always been taking a lot of crap by narrow-minded people just because they happen to be amazing musicians and all of them are being used as studio musicians and have been playing on thousands of records throughout the years. The people who has been the meanest and hating the most are of course, journalists, mostly on the evening papers, the papers that just doesn’t crave that much out of their workers. The reason is, of course, that those music journalist are more or less tone-deaf and doesn’t understand musicians that can actually play. For them, two chords, to not be able to tune their instruments and to sing off-key, equals feel and honesty and emotion. These people are so stupid that they don’t realise that if you love what you’re doing and play music because you love, it doesn’t matter if you’re Yngwie Malmsteen or Kurt Cobain, the whole “feel, honesty and emotion” lies within the musician, not how well-trained you are. Make no mistake, Toto loves the music they play and they love doing it and if you missed that on their Sweden Rock gig, you probably just didn’t want to see that. Hallo to you, pretentious Markus Larsson (a “journalist” at a Swedish paper). With a new album out, XIV, their best since The Seventh One, their debut gig at SRF couldn’t have come in a more convenient time. With their 7th One vocalist Joseph Williams back at the mike, Toto fired on all cylinders when the made the brave move to open the show with a new track, “Running Out Of Time”. At first the audience was a bit cautious, but after half the song, they all let go and I knew then that we would have some fine 90 minutes ahead of us this sunny and warm evening. “I’ll Supply The love” from their self titled 1978 debut brought cheers down and the unexpected “Never Enough” from their hard rock album Kingdom Of Desire (1992) went down surprisingly well even though there were some confused looks on some faces around me. Keyboard player David Paich takes over lead vocals duties for “Stranger In Town”, one of my favourite Toto-songs, but even though Paich has a good voice, I couldn’t help smiling as the guy looks pretty funny, a bit like someone’s old uncle mixed with a jester. “Hold The Line” comes earlier in the set than I had expected. It is after all Toto’s biggest hit and I would have expected it as an encore. But they make a great version of it, a little more rough than in its original form, but it is guitar player Steve Lukather’s baby this night – his lead vocals hasn’t been touched by age at all. The only halt in this show comes with the medley of “On The Run” (a hard rock song only played live) and “Goodbye Elenore” (Turn Back, 1981). I didn’t recognize the first one at all and I have always found the latter to be quite boring. “Pamela” brought things right up again with a groovy and catchy version that really rocked. “Caught In The Balance” (Mindfields, 1998) is an ok song, but to be honest, I can find at least 20 Toto songs I would rather have had in the set. “Without Your Love” is another one of those. The Fahrenheit ballad is a good song but it got a little dull there for a while. The cover of Jimi Hendrix’ “Little Wing” has been taking a beating in Swedish press, but I really dug it and I believe that Steve Lukather’s interpretation really works. That said, a Toto original would have been prefered. The new album’s first single “Orphan” works wonderfully, but “The Road Goes On Forever” from 1995’s Tambu feels a bit misplaced. Not a bad song, but hardly a must at a festival. “Great Expectations”, one of the best songs off the new record sits well next to the classics, if you ask me, but I’m not sure everyone knew the song at all. Neither “Rosanna” or “Africa” needs no further introduction, but the singing from the crowd spoke volumes. The choruses of the song must have been heard all the way to Stockholm. There are setbacks in the show, of course. Not musically or performance wise, but in the choice of songs. Too many tracks made no sense while killers like “Home Of The Brave”, “Stop Loving You”, “Endless” and maybe even the very underrated “Don’t Chain My Heart” was being left out. But apart from that, Toto put on a great show and yes, they played with heart, soul and passion – and more, they had fun – and it showed. If they come back to this country, I’m there.
Festival Stage (9/10)
The first time I heard Pyromania (1983), I was completely floored. In just days after I was also the owner of both predecessors, High ‘n’ Dry (1981) and On Through The Night (1980) and since then I have loved this band dearly. But even though Def Leppard has been touring frequently throughout the years, I haven’t caught them live since the last time they played Sweden Rock in 2008. By the way, they were awesome then as well. No new music has been released from the band since the excellent Songs From The Sparkle Lounge (2008), that followed the useless cover album Yeah! (2006) and the lukewarm, to put things mildly, X from 2002, the only two misadventures in Def Leppard’s career. But they have been touring hard despite other, more unpleasant things had come the band’s way in recent years. Guitar player Vivian Campbell was diagnosed with cancer last year and has undergone treatment which means he has missed a lot of the gigs on their recent tours, temporary replaced by Steve Brown of Trixter. However, good news travelled the way to Sweden Rock Festival and they told us that Viv is about to beat the cancer and the treatment has been working. He has even started to grow some hair back which is awesome. I was really psyched to see Def Leppard again and reports from their last tour that reached Sweden last year said that they did a fabulous gig then, so I had some high expectations. They kicked off the show with “Rock Rock (Til You Drop)”, a song that I have always found quite mediocre, but it works so well as an opener. Maybe “Stagefright” would have been better, but I’m not complaining – the band felt like they had really looked forward to this gig. When they break into “Animal” as the second song, they had already won – this was melodic rock heaven and I was flying. There might be better tracks on High ‘n’ Dry than “Let It Go”, in my book, but man what a live killer it is – and the Lepps play the shit out of it. No Lep-show is complete without “Foolin'” and the song delivers as usual and we all sing along like crazy. An album that I believe is extremely overlooked is Euphoria (1999), but from what I understand, that is kind of under discussion a great deal among Leppard-fans – I dig the album, though and for me to get to hear “Promises” – a song I love dearly – live for the first time is big. It also got a great reaction from the crowd. “Paper Sun” from the same record follows and this another one I really love. It follows the dark, epic balladry of tunes like “Gods Of War” and “White Lightning”, but I actually prefer this one – splendid! “Love Bites” can very well be one of the most awesome power ballads ever written and tonight we sing it loudly. The girl right behind me puts her hand on my shoulder and sings the chorus out loud, right in my ear with tears in her eyes – I had to join in. “Armageddon It” might just be Def Leppard’s toughest groover to date with its Rolling Stones influenced riffing and steady beat. It’s a fantastic song and we all groove along and I’m having the time of my life. Rick Savage decides to give us a bass solo – bad idea. Listen, solos are no fun and bass solos are the worst of them all. Big no-no. And why on earth they think that playing a cover of the old David Essex song “Rock On” is a good idea is beyond me. It’s not a good idea at all. With a treasure chest full of killer songs, it’s plain stupid to do such a thing. If you must, then at least give us a good cover! Next up, lead singer Joe Elliott brings out an acoustic guitar and plays “One Step Behind” (Retroactive, 1993) for us. I prefer the electric version, but this stripped version is like a warm blanket on us – me and the girl sang along together on this one as well. Next up – “Rocket”. What a brilliant tune. We all rock along to it and I never want this night to end. Their 1981 ballad “Bringin’ On The Heartbreak” was the song that broke Def Lep in the U.S. and paved way for the follow-up Pyromania to rule the American charts two years later. I understand why – it’s a gem, a killer and I love every second of it. I know that Steve Clark’s (RIP) instrumental “Switch 625” is tied together with “Heartbreak” on High ‘n’ Dry, but that doesn’t mean it has to be live as well. The song is ok, but I can come up with 20 better Leppard songs that wasn’t played tonight in seconds. Oh well, we don’t have to think about it for too long because “Hysteria” brings us right back to heaven again – the whole atmosphere on that song is just plain amazing. Then “Let’s Get Rocked”. This song really leaves me divided. That song has always left me underwhelmed and quite frankly, I find it quite ridiculous and I really can’t relate to it. But something happens when the play it live. The funky rhythm and the L.A. melodic metal sound from 1990’s get new life and I can’t help to both move and sing along to it – weird! The set ends with “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and yes, this is a song that have been played to death on the radio, but there’s no chance in Hell that they can leave the tune out – it’s a must and this night it is as awesome as it was the first time I heard it. We get an encore, of course, and “Rock Of Ages” – a groove that was stolen by more or less every American glam / melodic rock band at one point since – makes SRF groove like crazy and when “Photograph” broke out the place went wild – and my singing partner were back shouting the lyrics like possessed. There were only a few minor setbacks on this show, but they were all based on a few songs and not enough to reduce the rating. No cover songs, no bass solo and no instrumentals – instead “Billy’s Got A Gun”, “Mirror Mirror” and “Wasted”. I would also love to hear “Slang” live again. And yes, I know that Joe Elliott was no Pavarotti, but he has never been a fantastic singer. He’s no Vince Neil either – I’ll get to him in another review – and even tough his voice might not be a little rusty, it doesn’t affect the way he and the band deliver the goods. One of the best gigs this year, no doubt.
Rock Stage (7/10)
The last band to play this night was Ghost, unfortunately at the same time as Michael Monroe, another gig I had wanted to see this year. However, I have missed Ghost so many times and that wasn’t something I would do this time. I had heard so much about their live show and I really like their music. Ghost has really managed to create a really cool gimmick, a gimmick that has made the Swedish rockers a name all over the world. A gimmick that made it to a t-shirt that was worn by James Hetfield who praised them. How’s that for P.R., huh? Would Ghost have managed to break through without their Evil Pope and Nameless Ghouls image? Sure, their music is strong enough. But my guess is that it would have taken a much longer time. So for this band, that consists of musicians that has tried and tried for years and years to make it in different constellations, this Ghost image has worked miracles for them. Just take the cool idea to change the Pope for every album. Now, everybody knows that they don’t really change the Evil Pope, it’s the same guy, but the idea is awesome and it keeps the name afloat. The fact that they managed to keep Papa Emeritus’ identity a secret for so long is really impressive. It’s no big secret who is anymore, but if you don’t know, I won’t tell. Still, people really don’t care, so the image keep working. The identity of the musicians – the Nameless Ghouls – has remained a secret for the big mass to this day – I don’t have a clue who’s in the band. Well, all of this made for some high expectations on this chilly night and I was really curious to see what the band would come up with and which songs they would play. After the “Masked Ball” intro song, Ghost opened with “Genesis”, the last song off their debut album Opus Eponymous (2010), a weird choice, I must say. It’s a good song, sure, but it’s not one of their strongest, in my opinion. Anyway, Papa Emeritus III appeared and it was really a massive experience. I don’t know if I was just taken by the whole experience, but Ghost really know how to create an atmosphere for themselves. It actually felt like there was some evil force present. Already as song number two came a new one, “From The Pinnacle To The Pit” from their forthcoming album Meliora, out on August 21 and if this song was anything to go by, we have something awesome to look forward to. A brave move, though, but being predictable isn’t really Ghost’s thing. “Ritual” is a fantastic song and another killer, “Prime Mover”, both off their debut, followed – so far, this was a great gig. Next up, “Majesty”, another newie. Sounded like a really good tune, but it’s hard to judge new stuff at a festival gig, especially a very visual one like Ghost. “Con Clavi Con Dio” and “Death Knell”, both from the debut followed before the next new song, “Cirice” showed up and by now, I had started to lose interest a bit. Don’t get me wrong, Ghost’s music are brilliant, but with their image, it sometimes feels like they have painted themselves into a corner – I mean where else can they go after this? Another Papa? And their live show, that felt so epic and breathtaking at first, became more a same-same thing. Papa walked around, looked evil, swinging som kind of smoking ball around in a small chain. Maybe it’s just me that expected too much, but the fact is, I actually got bored after a while. Also, I’m big fan of the band’s second album Infestissumam (2013) and it would take three more songs, “Stand By Him”, “Elizabeth” and “Satan Prayer” – all from the debut and all of them very good – before a song from that album would appear. And, it turned out, it was the only song off that album in the first set. Looks like the band doesn’t agree with me on that record. “Year Zero” is a superb song, but there are so many more great ones from that album. They finished the set with another new track, “Absolution” and even though the new stuff sounds really good, it’s a bit overmuch with four new songs that no one has heard before. On a gig like this, one, two tops is ok. There would be an encore of course. They started with the Roky Erickson cover “If You Have Ghosts”, a really good choice and then they ended on a high note with the brilliant “Monstrance Clock” and with that, we actually got two songs from Infestissumam. But they played the whole Opus Eponymous except for the intro. To sum it up, yes, I was a bit disappointed – I had expected more when it came to their show. Exactly what I had expected, I really don’t know, but I thought the show would more than we got. But Ghost wasn’t a bad gig at all and I have all the intentions to catch Ghost live again in the future and maybe I will appreciate them more with not so high expectations and now that I know what their show is all about.
Photo: Hanna Henrikson