The fact that I missed all of Wildness’ gig and most of Dynazty’s meant that the first real gig of the day for me was by Sweden’s Coldspell. I discovered them with their last album Frozen Paradise (2013) and I instantly liked what I heard. The band’s brand of Melodic Rock, 80’s style and more 70’s based Hard Rock spoke to me and after they released a new good album – A New World Arise – this year, I also checked out their earlier stuff. A very good band indeed. I have seen Coldspell once before, a few years back at the Väsby Rock Festival and they did a very good job there even if they didn’t floor me. But this time it was different. The attendance was better on this day, it was a Saturday after all, which gave Coldspell a bigger crowd than both Art Nation and One Desire. And on that stage, with that sound and light show, opening track “Forevermore” was close to a knock out. And Coldspell did a very good gig here, especially on songs like “Out From The Cold”, “Paradise” and the monster riff song “Call Of The Wild”. The guys are all really good musicians as well and guitarist Michael Larsson looks sharp with all his coolness and bassist Chris Goldsmith is a bona fide rock star who’s born for the stage, the guy repeatedly steals the show. In Niclas Swedentorp they have a killer lead singer with a brilliant voice. The problem is, he just don’t look the part on stage, the guy just don’t have the rock star outlook and he pales between Goldsmith and Larsson. But looks aren’t everything and Coldspell did a damn fine job this day!
HOUSE OF LORDS
As I dug Giuffria back in the 80’s it was a no-brainer that I would check them out when they changed some members and became House Of Lords in the late 80’s. Their self-titled debut album from 1988 completely floored me and I have been a big fan ever since – and I have also waited since then to catch them live. Today, only lead singer James Christian remains in the band but this version of the band have been together since 2005, except for new bassist Chris Tristram. I finally had the chance to see them at Väsby Rock a few years back and I chose to ignore the rumours that said that the band relied heavily on backing tracks – some even spoke of pure playback. At VRF the rumours seemed to be true though – everything sounded too perfect – which made us leave their gig early. However, I refuse to give up so I was at the front when the band took the stage on this festival as well. Did they use backing tracks on this night? Oh yes, they did but it didn’t sound nowhere as studio as the gig at VRF did. Tonight, House Of Lords were on fire and the opening with “Come To My Kingdom” was nothing but superb – and even though tapes were used, it sounded very much live.
Christian was in a very good mood and the band got a very good response from the crowd. Newer, heavier stuff like “Go To Hell” and “Battle” worked brilliantly from the stage but the biggest cheer came when the band went into their hit ballad “Love Don’t Lie” from the debut. Also both their cover of Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” and the heavy rocker “Sahara” – both from Sahara (1990) sounded awesome. The band closed with the single “I Wanna Be Loved”, the only boring song from the debut which was a bit of an anticlimax. Luckily enough the band returned with an encore playing the opening track from the debut, “Pleasure Palace” – a musical explosion for me. On the downside for me was the choice of songs. Don’t get me wrong, I love their new stuff and I understand that they want to play them, but not one single tune from the excellent Demons Down (1992)? And I must say I had hoped for a few more from the debut. That aside, I’m glad I finally got to see them in action for real, indoors with a big light show and a great sound. A great gig indeed.
The first time I heard Bonfire was in 1987. 31 one years later I make my debut at a Bonfire show – a show that only holds one original member – Hans Ziller – a member that was out of the band between 1989-1994. The reason for that is that after Fireworks, an album I thought would make them huge and me a fan, not many of their releases have spoken to me much so I haven’t really been interested. However, their new album Temple Of Lies, the second effort with new singer Alexx Stahl, is surprisingly good so the fact that they were booked to RCS suited me just fine. And the band wasn’t about to disappoint, as it turned out. The opening with intro “In The Beginning”, the Judas Priest influenced “Temple Of Lies”, “Ready 4 Reaction” and “Never Mind”, the last two both from Fireworks, was formidable. Ziller have made sure to surround himself with young (well, younger) musicians which brings a big contrast to his older self and that have resulted in a vital and hungry band – and it must be said that Stahl is a damn fine singer with a broad range. The fact that his voice is very alike original singer Claus Lessmann’s makes the old songs work brilliantly. If I closed my eyes, it could might as well be Lessmann singing. At least at times.
One downer was that no songs from Point Blank (1989) and Knock Out (1992) were played although that’s intelligible as Ziller wasn’t in the band on those records but it’s a Bonfire gig and I want to hear my fave tunes, I don’t care who was in the band on certain songs. Also, I find “American Nights” a mediocre and lyrically quite ridiculous tune – they should’ve played “Sleeping All Alone” instead. “SDI”, “Sweet Obsession” and closer “Champion” were all delivered in the best of ways but the biggest surprise – and probably the best song of the night – was the Paul Stanley penned “Sword And Stone”. It was originally written and recorded for Kiss’ Crazy Nights (1987) album but it didn’t make it so Bonfire covered it for the soundtrack to the horror-movie Shocker. All in all, this was a very good gig by a band that’s born again without a doubt – this night, Bonfire came, saw and conquered. Way to go!
MICHAEL SCHENKER FEST
Ah, Michael Schenker, this German guitar icon with a past in both the Scorpions and UFO whose career have been one big roller coaster ride but has stabilized in later years. I think the Michael Schenker Fest is a really cool idea – to go out and tour with all the singers he hired as a solo artist. I saw this spectacle at Sweden Rock Festival and even though Swedish singer Leif Sundin never got a chance to participate there due to to lack of time (and to be truthful, there are a few singers missing but it really doesn’t matter because no one really cares), it was a damn good gig and really cool to watch Gary Barden, Graham Bonnet and Robin McAuley in action. Also, the Assault Attack rhythm section of Chris Glen (bass) and Ted McKenna (drums) and the McAuley-Schenker Group’s keyboardist / rhythm guitarist Steve Mann makes this a really interesting gig. On a sad note Graham Bonnet was missing this night due to severe throat problems which meant no songs from my fave MSG album Assault Attack were going to be played. Huge, huge bummer! On the other hand, Sundin was guesting, which was fun, but not any songs from his only MSG album Written In The Sand – nothing from that record was played this night. His job was to sing UFO’s “Too Hot To Handle” and he did a great job singing that one.
Opening with the instrumental “Into The Arena” works a lot better than one would have expected and after that Gary Barden made his entrance singing five songs before another instrumental – “Captain Nemo” – signaled that it was time for Robin McAuley to hit the stage doing five songs as well. Now, Barden was ok but I have never been very much into his voice or the MSG records he sang on but he turned out to be a really good frontman. McAuley is my fave Schenker singer by far and he still owns a really hot set of pipes and the guy really owns the stage. The McAuley-Schenker albums are – except for Assault Attack – the albums I love the most in Schenker’s solo discography so those songs are always welcome. That said, I could find songs from that era that I’d rather hear than the cheesy “Bad Boys” and “Save Yourself”. Scorpions’ “Coast To Coast”, a song that Michael co-penned but never got a credit for, was the break that took McAuley off stage and brought Doogie White in.
White never sang for MSG but on the Temple Of Rock project and even though there are a few really good records under that moniker, those albums couldn’t hold a candle to the old MSG stuff – and the same can be said of MSF’s new Resurrection album. Still, I found those tunes entertaining, especially “Take Me To The Church” and “Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead”. White is a damn good singer but a bit anonymous as a frontman. UFO’s “Rock Bottom”, featuring all three singers put an end to the ordinary set and it sure was a great way to do so. But of course there was an encore waiting in the wings for us. No less than six encore songs were played where McAuley handled “Shoot Shoot”, White “Natural Thing”, Sundin “Too Hot To Handle” and all the singers on first encore “Doctor Doctor” and the last tune of the evening, “Lights Out”. MSF probably had the largest crowd of the festival, but it still wasn’t a big one. The band seemed to have a blast, though, and I think everyone in the crowd did too. Personally, I think it sounded – and looked – great. I know that Schenker isn’t that big and well-known enough to be a headliner but he and his cohorts sure acted like one. A great way to end the festival. If it was the end, that is…
Poor Reach. Here they have just reconstructed the band and become a trio, released a new record that’s bloody great and when they finally get to do a bigger kind of gig, they only get to play when the festival is more or less over and done – after the headliner. The same thing that happened to Cruel Intentions the day before happened to Reach this day – practically no audience at all. Reach’s audience wasn’t exactly as small as Cruel Intentions’ but that was more because they got to play a Saturday and people were probably not as tired as they were the day before. I decided to take one final beer and watch the guys anyway and I must say, there are lots of dynamics between the three members. It’s also very refreshing to see a band totally go for it and not giving a damn that there hardly was anyone left in the audience. The band’s new music is perfect for the stage as it’s more in-your-face and down to earth than their earlier AOR music. That meant that the songs from the new album worked like a charm live and it do help that all the members are damn good musicians and singers. That made me even more sorry for the band as I feel they had deserved a better spot in the line-up. Hopefully, Reach will get a chance to play to a bigger audience at some other festival because they do deserve to get to show a bigger crowd how good they actually are. Well fought, guys!
Wildness album review:
Photo by Hanna Henrikson