DAN REED NETWORK
Rain. I bloody effing hate rain. This Friday I woke up to sunshine, sunshine that turned to rain – we’re talking cats and dogs here – just about as we were about to leave our house for the 10 minute walk down to the festival area to check out Dan Reed and his Network. Here’s the deal – I don’t do rain. No band in the world can convince me to stand in pouring rain and watch them. Think of that what you will but that’s how I roll. Rain ruins my day – period! Luckily enough, the rain stopped just as quick as it began and as Dan Reed Network started playing as early as 1.15 p.m. which meant that nothing much were going on a the time, so the fact that we missed to watch the three first songs, “Resurrect”, “Under My Skin” and the new tune “Infected”, didn’t mean that much as we could listen to them while walking down to the festival area – and it sounded really good even from there. “Baby Now I” had already begun when we reached the stage – we could see the band playing it from afar – and the groove was intense as well. “Rainbow Child” sounded really good as well and it is DRN’s biggest hit, but for some reason it didn’t come across as well as it usually does. “Come Back Baby” came in and put the groove right back on the map and it really felt like the band was kicking here. New song “Champion” is a bit slower and combine the fact that it’s both slow and a new song that many in the crowd may not have heard removed some of the groove from the audience. But that wasn’t anything the following songs “Forgot To Make Her Mine” and “Ritual” couldn’t change. With songs like those, you really can’t fail and both crowd and band really picks up on that. Of course it is “Get To You”, the band’s biggest hit after “Rainbow Child”, closed the set and they made a killer version of it. It had slowly started to rain a bit halfway through the song, but I stuck around for it anyway – the VIP area is close to the Festival stage so I made a run for it as soon as the last note faded out. Dan Reed Network never plays a bad gig and they didn’t this noon either, but I must admit I have seen better gigs with them. Maybe the stage was too big for them, DRN are always better in smaller places, or maybe it was just one of those days, but they never hit that nerve this time. Yes, a good gig, but I’m used to great gigs when it comes to this band so yes, I’m a tiny bit disappointed. But knowing how this band rolls, they’ll probably be back soon to rock us all around the world.
Foreigner are band that has always been around in the wings for me. I have always known about them and I have liked the odd song or two, but I have never owned a record by them and frankly, I have never been that interested in them even though the kind of music they play, AOR and melodic rock, is something I love. Add to the fact that I think that their original vocalist Lou Gramm is one of the finest rock vocalists ever and my un-interest in the band is even more strange. So when they played Sweden Rock Festival back in 2009, I didn’t bother with their gig one bit. Besides, it was only guitarist / song writer Mick Jones left from the original band which, in my book, didn’t help one bit. However, afterwards everybody spoke of how amazingly brilliant they were and I started to regret that I never gave them at shot. Fast forward a few years and my interest in the band had grown big time and the reason it had done so was actually because of the album Can’t Slow Down (2009) that the new line-up released. I’m actually clueless of why, but I remember getting the urge to check that album out and what hit me was an album full of brilliant melodic rock songs and the new singer Kelly Hansen (ex- Hurricane, Unruly Child) turned out to be damn brilliant. This was a singer that I had rejected with shrug of my shoulder as an anonymous everyday melodic rock singer from pretty boring bands of the early 90’s. So there was nothing else to do to check out earlier albums and today I find albums such as 4 (1981), Agent Provocateur (1984) and Inside Information (1987) being melodic rock pearls – and I regret missing their 2009 gig even more. So, this year their booking was another one I was really looking forward to – and when they began to play, I was so happy that the rain had decided to annoy people elsewhere. The opening with “Double Vision” and “Head Games” was superb. The band was really sparking and Kelly Hansen is really an amazing singer and a frontman deluxe. “Cold As Ice” works like a charm and when I closed my eyes for a few seconds, it could might as well have been Lou Gramm on stage – it sounded very much alike his voice, Hansen can really work the Gramm stuff well. “Dirty White Boy” is a great rocker and a real live killer and it feels like the band just grooves more and more here. “Feels Like The First Time” was a big hit for the band but on record I think it’s a bit lame, but live it turns into a majestic AOR killer. A song like “Urgent” just can’t be denied whether you’re into melodic rock or not – one of the greatest AOR tracks ever and “Juke Box Hero” is nothing but a smash. On this evening it sounded amazing and the backing vocals were out of this world. Those voices, man. Do they use backing tracks? I hope not because it didn’t sound like that at all, the backing vocals were huge. And after only seven songs the main set ended, but as always there’s an encore. They came back with “Long, Long Way From Home” and as embarrassing it is to admit, I didn’t recognize the song at all. That’s when I realized that I haven’t even heard the whole self-titled debut album from 1977. Wow. It’s a great song and they made a killer version of it – and I have to get a copy of that album. Ever since the first time I heard the power ballad – and probably Foreigner’s biggest hit ever – “I Want To Know What Love Is”, I have had the opinion that it is extremely overrated and cheesy and I wouldn’t have minded if they skipped the song entirely here. But of course, that is impossible and with the help of the awesome frontman Hansen, the band managed to make a really heartfelt and emotional version of the song. He also managed to make SRF a big hugging fest. The ending with “Hot Blooded” was a perfect ending on a closely perfect concert. If I could have wished for anything then that would have been maybe a song or two of Can’t Slow Down and maybe one more song from 4, otherwise no complaints from this guy. Also, it must be said that Kelly Hansen is a keeper, don’t let go of that guy. Also, more or less every female – including my fiance – told me that the guy was quite the looker so I guess they have a ladies man up front as well. I will go out on a limb here and say that I don’t care about any reunion stuff when it comes to Foreigner – I say keep this version going. Foreigner is dead – long live Foreigner!
When I bought my first Twisted Sister record – You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll back in 1983 – I was totally clueless of how they sounded. I had read an article about them in a Swedish music magazine and I just loved the way they looked, their appearance and the things Dee Snider said in the interview, my gut feel told me that I would love these guys so I bought the album unheard. Of course, I was completely floored and since no one I knew – in fact, not a single soul at school (I was 15 at the time) – had any idea of who they were. I made it my mission to make sure that everybody got a good dose of Twisted Sister. So, I taped the album on old cassettes that I didn’t use anymore for my closest friends and in art class in school, where we were entitled to listen to music while doing our thing, I blasted Twisted Sister. On the breaks there was often a big tape recorder present and I shoved in my Twisted Sister cassette as often as I could and lo behold, no one, not even the pop people, told me to take it off or that it was crap. So when Twisted Sister became huge in 1984 with Stay Hungry, I could proudly say that I dug ’em before everyone else. But even though T.S. was huge in Sweden – the first metal band to ship 100 000 copies (platinum) they never toured Sweden with that album. Weird! So the fact that I, who was a T.S. fan when hardly anyone else were, didn’t get to see them live until their reunion gig at Sweden Rock 2003 feels really strange. And to be honest, I didn’t think they were all that great at that gig. Not bad, but I had expected more. They were better in 2009, but still something was missing. So when they were booked to play in 2012, then without make-up and costumes, I didn’t think it would work at all. Boy, was I wrong. That gig kicked my ass so hard I couldn’t sit for a week. No effects, just plain hard rock and metal like a punch in the gut!
That made for some big expectations for their last gig at Sweden Rock ever – this is Twisted Sister’s final tour ever. The reason is of course the death of original drummer Anthony Jude Pero, who so tragically passed away of a heart attack last year while touring with his side project Adrenaline Mob. Filling in on drums is, ironically, the guy who Pero replaced in Adrenaline Mob, Mike Portnoy (The Winery Dogs, Flying Colors, Transatlantic, Dream Theater). That meant that the rhythm will be intact, at least. Twisted Sister stormed the stage, as usual, with “What You Don’t Know (Sure Can Hurt You)”. “GOOD EEEEEEEEEVENING! Welcome to our show!” It must be one of the most perfect show openers ever – and it sure was a fist in the face. “The Kids Are Back”, “Burn In Hell”, “Destroyer” and “Like A Knife In The Back” didn’t leave no space for breathing – BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! Dee and his boys went for a knock-out right away and they took no prisoners! By then, the band had already won and the rest was just body count. And they kept the ass-kickers coming. Who can’t help but to surrender to “You Can’t Stop Rock n’ Roll”? Who can claim that Come Out And Play isn’t a good album when “The Fire Still Burns” beats you half-dead? “I Wanna Rock”? Nuff said! By that I was happy that “The Price” came along as a bit of a breather because so far, this had been a ass-kicking marathon! “I Believe In Rock ‘n’ Roll” feels just as natural in the set as any of the classics and for everyone who don’t think that Twisted Sister are metal band all I say is “Under The Blade”! HA! I thought I had heard some loud singing at earlier gigs but when the crowd sang the chorus to “We’re Not Gonna Take It”… Well, now we’re talking loud singing. Holy crap! The main set ended with a cover of Rolling Stones “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll”, a remain from Twisted Sister’s 70’s club days. It was fun, but I would have prefered another T.S. tune. The encore starts with “Come Out And Play”. Still don’t think T.S are metal? Well, if this tune’s not metal, then I don’t know what is. “Tear It Loose” follows and this is the first song this night that they play a mediocre tune. But the final tune “S.M.F.”, a song that have always ended their concerts does its job for real. Then it’s goodbye forever. Any complaints then? Well, “Tear It Loose” and “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll” shouldn’t have been there at all. Think about it – what about “Shoot ’em Down”? “Ride To Live, Live To Ride”? “Horror-Teria”? “Be Chrool To Your Scuel”? In 2012 they played a killer version of “Wake Up (The Sleeping Giant)” from Love Is For Suckers – I would have loved that one as well. So, with the right songs, this gig would have gotten a 10/10 review from me. Other than that, this gig really was the shit – and it can’t be said often enough – Dee Snider is one of the best frontmen that have ever set foot on a stage. So, even though Twisted Sister are no more, I hope he keeps gigging. Also, it must be said that Mike Portnoy did a phenomenal job behind the drums. Not to bash the dead, but Pero wasn’t always Mr Tight and it was so awesome to hear what T.S. sounded like with a really great drummer in the band. Going out with a bang? You fucking bet!
I missed Avantasia the first time they played Sweden Rock in 2008. I had just started to appreciate the project by then and I liked The Scarecrow that was pretty new by then, but the two first albums has never been to my liking, still isn’t – too much German power metal over them – so I drank beer instead. When they came back in 2013 I was a full-blown fan and there was no chance in Hell I would miss that gig. Avantasia’s gig was one of the best gigs that year – I met a friend in the crowd and he had traces of tears in his eyes. So you can imagine how huge my expectations were for this year’s concert. To start going on and on about “oh why didn’t they play that song or that song or…” is pointless because if I was to decide which songs to play, they would still be on that stage playing. They opened with the amazing “Mystery Of A Blood Red Rose” from the latest masterpiece Ghostlights. The project’s founder and sole song writer Tobias Sammet sings the song alone and even though I thought it sounded splendid, it was also clear that Sammet’s already strained voice sounds even more strained live now than it did in 2013. “Invoke The Machine” featuring Pretty Maids singer Ronnie Atkins is a hard and heavy track that comes alive even more on stage. Atkins is one bad motherf**ker as a singer – is there anything that man can’t sing? Awesome! “Ghostlights” is next, a brilliant tune on record but even better live. Jorn Lande and Unisonic and ex- Helloween singer Michael Kiske sings the living daylight out of it. Kiske stays on for a killer version of “Avantasia” from the debut, a song that, at least for me, works better in a live environment than on record. Bob Catley duets with Sammet on “The Great Mystery” and even though Catley’s voice isn’t what it used to be, he do have something special, both in his voice and his presence. It’s a big tune – over 10 minutes long – but still it works surprisingly well on stage.
While we’re on the subject of long songs, “The Scarecrow” comes in and it totally owns the night. It’s Jorn Lande’s shining moment and even though Ronnie Atkins did it extremely well, filling in for Lande the last time, it is Jorn’s voice you want to hear on it and the whole thing sends shivers down my spine – fantastic! Lande stays on for “Promised Land”, a fast metal rocker and a great song with a hook to die for. Yes, this one is spot on as well. But apart from “The Scarecrow”, it’s “Dying For An Angel”, a song that should have been a major hit in a fair world, that stands out as tonight’s winner. Klaus Meine of the Scorpions sings it on the record, but Eric Martin has more or less made it his song by now. As a studio version I find “Twisted Mind” a good song but not great, to tell the truth, where it was sung by Kamelot’s Roy Khan, but it lifts in a live environment where Ronnie Atkins betters it by far. Still, I could find plenty of songs I’d rather have heard. The lovely Amanda Sommerville with her clear and majestic voice brings the Celtic influenced “Farewell” from the debut to big heights. She duets with Kiske and I prefer Sommerville to Sharon Den Adel (Within Temptation) who sang on the album. Apparently, according to setlist.fm, “The Story Ain’t Over” from the “Lost In Space” E.P. was played but honest to God, I can’t remember that one – and I never wrote it down either, but if they say so. “Reach Out For The Light” is Kiske’s tune all the way. It’s taken from the debut album and even though it’s a clear power metal tune, I think it’s a great one and I guess no Avantasia gig is complete without it. It has become an Avantasia classic. We’re getting closer to the end of the gig and after a killer version of “Let The Storm Descend Upon You” from the new record where Lande and Atkins shows that they’re a duo made in Heaven, Sammet tells us that they only have time for two more songs. They rock out to “Lost In Space” where Sommerville gives Sammet a helping hand and after that, it’s goodbye and goodnight. What? Well, apparently, someone hasn’t watched the clock and it’s time to shut the festival down for the day – no more songs. So we miss the grande finale where Sammet brings in all the vocalists for “Sign Of The Cross / The Seven Angels” and all of a sudden this great gig leaves a bit of a sour taste in the mouth. I kind of feel cheated. How clumsy. I don’t know whose fault it was, but by that one point went straight out the window. I had also hoped that Dee Snider would guest Avantasia for “The Haunting” from the new album on which he sings, knowing that Snider loves to guest other bands at festivals but that didn’t happen. I guess this one might need some rehearsing before you can do something like that. Anyway, again Avantasia put on a really great show and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the project to visit Sweden in their own right – I know I will be there in a heartbeat.
Photos by Hanna Henrikson