THE NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA
I love The Night Flight Orchestra. I have seen them live once before, at this very festival a few years back. Back then they had only one album out and since that album totally floored me, I wanted to see them live so bad. They didn’t disappoint. Fact is, they were exactly as awesome as I had expected. When I stepped down to watch them at Sweden Stage this early, sunny afternoon, things have changed some. TNFO are now an established band with four albums under their belt, all of them awesome but with their latest effort Sometimes The World Ain’t Enough their best since the masterpiece debut. As we strolled down to the stage, I asked myself what could be better than a hot, sunny day, a cold beer and watching a feel-good band like the TNFO. Yes, expectations were set high, but with a band like TNFO, they should be.
The opening with “Sometimes The World Ain’t Enough”, “Living For The Nighttime”, “Speedwagon” and the rawkin “Midnight Flyer” is splendid. TNFO plays feel-good Rock music full of Classic Rock, AOR, Pop, Hard Rock and you can even find Funk and Disco waved in here and there. “Gemini” might be one of their most feel-goody songs and it didn’t take long for the audience to get infected by their positive music and “Gemini” became the icing on the cake – so far. “Something Mysterious” brought out the 70’s pop-rock-AOR while “Paralyzed” rocked thing up before “Can’t Be That Bad” went total AOR on us, happy-go-lucky with a refrain that can move mountains – perfect on a day like this. Same with “1998”, the swing is infectious and so are the melodies and the whole song is so uplifting it’s impossible not to smile and tag along in this fest of melodies.
“This Time” and “Lovers In The Rain” kept the party going and Björn Strid even managed to make a big chunk of the crowd making a conga-line that went through the whole area in front of the Sweden Stage. You couldn’t call these guys pretentious even if you wanted to. The ending with “West Ruth Avenue” was perfect for a noon in the sun – what an amazing track it is. As a live-act, TNFO couldn’t do no wrong if they tried. Not only are the members world-class musicians, not only do they have a batch of killer songs that should make any band out there jealous, they also know how to entertain and to make an audience participate in the best of ways. In Strid, they have got a frontman to die for and the band’s sheer joy of playing is contagious – their good spirits rubs off on the crowd and I’ll be surprised big time if there was anyone watching them this day that didn’t leave with a big smile on their face. Brilliant!
As a big Magnum fan, it hurts me to state that the last few times I have seen the band live, I have been disappointed – and that’s for mainly a couple of reasons. Firstly, the band has been acting tired and Bob Catley’s voice has sounded strained and secondly, they have more or less based their setlist on new songs. The latter is ok if the gig is your own, then the paying punters knows what’s coming but at a festival, the setlist should be based on the classics, in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I really dig Magnum’s later releases but still, I want to hear as many of those old classics as possible. About Catley’s voice, when I saw him with Avantasia earlier this year, he sounded like he had got both some of his strength and range back. In other words, he sounded really good which boded well for this afternoon’s show. So for me, I just had to stroll over to the Festival Stage, crossing my fingers that they would deliver a good dose of classic Magnum for us.
The first surprise came with the opening track. They opened with “Wild Swan”! Not an obvious choice as a live-opener when you think of the song’s slower pace and the heavy and dark atmosphere. It worked splendidly and it was awesome to hear that old tune live again. Then Magnum gave in to their obsession of playing newer songs. “Sacred Blood, Divine Lies”, “Lost On the Road To Eternity” and “Crazy Old Mothers” all have the sound of classic Magnum and they’re all great songs and with the band in good spirit, the newie’s worked out just fine. Also, the quite big crowd seemed to dig them as well. But it stands clear which songs the crowd wants to hear the most when “How Far Jerusalem” broke through the speakers. It’s a magnificent, grandiose and epic tune and a one of Magnum’s most popular tunes and the reaction from the crowd were thereafter.
That said, the second and last song from A Storyteller’s Night, “All England’s Eyes” is a bit of a mystery. The song is often included in the band’s set and I can’t for my life figure out why. It’s not a bad song but Storyteller contains many songs that are superior to this one. “Vigilante” is a song Magnum used to open their show with but it’s perfect no matter when the song is played in the set. It’s uptempo, driven and crowd-pleasing – and it’s a fantastic song. Another brilliant surprise is the epic, dark and somewhat progressive “Don’t Wake The Lion (Too Old To Die Young)”. I love the tune to death but since the tune is 10 minutes long, a part of me wished they had played two shorter songs instead. It was great, though. The fabulous oldie “Sacred Hour” closed the set and this time Magnum left the festival as winners, at least through my eyes. And ears.
Yes, Magnum sounded more vital and hungry than in a long time and even though, if the choice was mine, I would have changed the set somewhat. The newer songs plus “All England’s Eyes” would be goners and replaced with four classics – “The Spirit”, “Les Morts Dansant”, “Days Of No Trust” and “On A Storyteller’s Night”, maybe? Still, I do appreciate the fact that they refuse to be just a nostalgia act and that they want to show off some of their newer material and when Magnum are as inspired and well-sounding as this day, I will let the newies slide. There’s still life in these old geezers. Thumbs up!
This was probably the booking I looked forward to the most this year. For all of you who are clueless of who Easy Action are – this is Kee Marcello’s pre-Europe band. Easy Action started out as a Glam Rock band with Kiss, Sweet, Slade, Alice Cooper and Bowie as their biggest influences but when 1986 was written in our calendars, member-changes had been done which made for a change in sound. A new singer in Tommy Nilsson instead of Zinny Zan and original bassist Alex Tyrone (Peo Tyrén) had left and their music was AOR-laden with clear influences from bands such as Foreigner, Journey and Toto. But just days before their long-awaited album That Makes One was released, Europe had snitched Marcello as the replacement for John Norum. Easy Action tried to continue with second guitarist Chris Lind as the solo guitar player and keyboard player Jörgen Ingeström as Marcello’s replacement but it didn’t work and Easy Action called it quits shortly after.
That meant that I never got to see this version of the band live, which hurt as I loved – and still love – that album and to be honest, I never thought I’d see the day of an Easy Action MK II reunion so when they were booked for SRF, I ended up in AOR-heaven. Nilsson, Marcello and Lind brought in bass-player Nalley Påhlsson, who wasn’t a member back then but he played on the album, Ingeström and drummer Björn Höglund, who has replaced original drummer Fredrik Von Gerber for reasons unknown to me. They opened the show with the Journey smelling uptempo stomper “Code To Your Heart” and it sounded amazingly good. So damn good. “Partners In Crime” follows and I’m happy to state that live the tune lies closer to the more hard rocking original version that ended up as the B-side to the single “Rosie” than the poppier version that was on the album. I have always preferred the heavier version. The catchy chorus made for a big sing-along from the crowd.
“Love Reaction” was a pure pop-song on the album but with two guitar-players, it got a heavier update live which even bettered the tune. It’s still Pop enough but with a raunchier outlook. The clearly Toto influenced single “Talk Of The Town” was given a new life recently when Swedish pop-singer Danny covered it with Swedish lyrics, with surprisingly good result, I might add, but it is the original that’s the version that really counts and this too had gotten a rawer update live. The studio version is based more on keyboards but live it was given the crunch it deserves – fantastic. Even though this was said to be a one-off exclusively for SRF, the guys have written a new song, the ballad “Only You Can Teach Me How”, a killer tune that makes me cross my fingers for a new album. Even though the tune is brand new, it went down really well – thumbs up from me.
“Eye For An Eye” was only a single B-side back when but the decision to play it live this day was the right one. It’s a rocking AOR number with nods towards Melodic Rock and holds a damn catchy refrain. Why it never ended up on the album is beyond me. Then it was time for Kee Marcello’s solo-spot. It was a soulful, emotional and atmospheric solo he gave us and at 59, the guy hasn’t lost one iota as a player. The guy’s truly amazing – easily one of my favorite guitarists ever. Why the big power ballad “In The Middle Of Nowhere” never became a huge hit back when is a mystery and live it’s even better. Made the hairs on my body stand up. Journey meets Toto in the uptempo AOR-rocker “One In A Million”, a tune with shitloads of hit-potential but never a single. Another rocked up track that is bettered by a fatter and more rowdy double guitar sound live. Kicked my ass big time.
The semi-hit “Rosie” – should have been a huge hit back when in a fair world – grooved things up with a refrain catchier than a STD. And speaking of STD, Rosie isn’t the name of a girl but symbolizes a lonely dude’s right hand when the itch needs a scratch. That’s what they told us anyway. “Rosie, I love you – Rosie whoa-whoa”! Worked like a charm live. Albeit not a bad track, “Talk Talk Talk” was always my least favorite track from the album. Too Pop and light-weight and not enough Rock – or even AOR. But this day everything seemed to work – the tune came out a bit rougher with more punch and was a real nice surprise. “Teachers Do It With Class” was the album’s sore thumb, a Classic Rock tune with no AOR vibes at all, big groove and rawer than the rest with a refrain that killed. It’s even more rowdy live, full of perspiration and edge and the band really rocked our socks off here.
As a closer, the band gave us a big surprise. To honor Easy Action’s past and ex-members, dead and alive, they decided on playing an oldie from the Glam days – and it wasn’t an obvious one. “Round Round Round” only came out a a single but never made it to an album and the cool thing was, it sounded awesome with Tommy on vocals. I wasn’t sure whether his voice would fit the stuff originally sung by Zinny, but it did. Hell yeah! Afterwards I heard only positive comments about there gig – and surprisingly many held Easy Action’s gig as the festival’s finest – and I can only agree. The band, all brilliant musicians, were tight like they hadn’t done anything but playing together for the last 30 years and the backing vocals were astonishing. And speaking of vocals, how Nilsson at the age of 59 can still hold such a powerful and big voice is insane. But most importantly, it was clear they were having fun – lots of it. Easy Action sounded too damn good for this to be a one-off. Please, please, please make a real band out of this again. I’d die for a new album and tour!
When Kiss headed out for their End Of The Road tour, most talk have been about whether Paul Stanley is lip-syncing or not. Let’s make one thing very clear – he is. Without a doubt. For at least 95% – probably more. Only the intro to “Black Diamond” is him singing live. So there you go. Do I care, then? Not one little bit. Quite the contrary, I embrace it. I said so already when Kiss played SRF last time a few years ago and I repeated it when they played Tele2 Arena i Stockholm later on. Why? Well, it’s Stanley’s voice that ruins stuff – Gene Simmons, Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer delivers and musically, Kiss sounds really good. I know that many purists would rather listen to a wounded crow than to backing-tracks but I’m not one of those. When 3/4 delivers the goods and the fourth doesn’t, well, I say yes to the fourth part getting some help to make the big picture run smoothly. That’s my opinion!
After the classic “You wanted the best…” intro, Kiss kick things into action with “Detroit Rock City”, of course, which goes right into “Shout It Out Loud” followed by “Deuce”. How’s that for a classic opening, huh! A new track, “Say Yeah”, comes in already at song # four. I embrace the fact that Kiss plays at least something new and I think it’s a great song, perfect for a festival gig. But playing it doesn’t really go hand in hand with Paul’s ranting about not playing obscure songs because most people want the hits. Well, doesn’t “Say Yeah” count as an obscure song? It was hardly a big hit when they released it back in 2009. It’s kinda funny that I call a 10 year old song new. Anyway, awesome that they played it. That said, it looked like a chunk of the crowd either didn’t really know the song or just didn’t like it that much because the reaction wasn’t nowhere as energetic as the three first songs.
Everybody knows “I Love It Loud”, though and that did show. An awesome song and no Kiss gig is complete without it. “Heaven’s On Fire” was an enormous hit when it came out in 1984, one of Kiss’ biggest and it’s a song that everyone knows. I might have grown somewhat tired of it during the years but it’s works splendid live, without a doubt. But I still can’t feel comfortable watching Kiss in full make-up and costumes playing songs by the unmasked era, it just feels wrong somehow. “Firehouse” are usually Gene Simmons’ fire-breathing song but since they don’t play it on this tour, the heavy stomper “War Machine” has taken over as the fire-breathing tune. I love the song and I’m happy they are still playing it. “Lick It Up” are “War Machine”‘s opposite. It’s a light-weight, simple Pop song in a Hard Rock suit. It goes down well live, always has, but I’m not that fond of it. I know it’s a hit but to me it’s a throwaway.
“Calling Dr Love”, however, is a killer track, big on grooves and works great live. The fact that they have picked up “100 000 Years” again after having not played it for ages gets both my thumbs up. It’s a great song and a classic and deserves to be part of the show. The fact that they tried their best to replicate the Alive drum solo complete with Paul’s rap makes it even better. Well done. “Cold Gin” is Ace’s tune with Gene’s vocals but since Ace sang half of it on his last tours, why not have Tommy Thayer singing his part? Especially as “Shock Me” isn’t part of the show anymore and neither of Tommy’s lead vocal tracks from Kiss’ latest album are either. Well, a great song that kicked butt this night. It do feature Tommy’s solo complete with his rocket firing guitar. I’m gonna put it out here right now: I think Tommy’s great. He’s a great player, a great stage personality and a big part of Kiss sounding as good as they do.
“God Of Thunder” is Gene’s blood-spitting track where he gets his solo and when he flies way up in the lightning rig. I love the song and it goes down extremely well but wouldn’t it be cool if they tried something new on this tour? Blood-spitting during “Unholy” maybe? I’d love that. I’m quite sure that Paul aimed for a “Detroit Rock City” for the 90’s when he wrote “Psycho Circus”. That never happened, of course, but it is a great song and has turned into a bonafide Kiss classic throughout the years and they totally nailed it tonight. But where Kiss has gotten the idea that “Let Me Go, Rock ‘n’ Roll” is such a big classic that it has to be played tour after tour after tour is beyond me. Sure, it’s good track and I don’t dislike it but they have written so many songs that are superior that it’s almost malpractise to keep playing it while excluding other big classics.
With “Love Gun”, another track Paul could hardly sing on recent tours, he flies through the crowd to a small stage back at the mixing table and sings the song from there. I’ve seen that stunt many, many times but it can’t be argued that it’s very crowd-friendly and makes a really good show-stunt. I guess “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” is a must for the not so hardcore fans, but I never dug it in the first place and I’m beyond tired of it – and I know I’m not alone in thinking that. I can almost guarantee that hardly anyone would give the band a hard time if they skipped it. I wish they had. “Black Diamond” is always welcome even though it really stands clear that Paul is lip-syncing when you hear his live vocals in the song’s intro. Eric Singer takes Peter Criss’ lead vocal parts here and he does it with all the glory. Eric’s a great singer and does the tune justice and the version they played this night sure shot off sparks. A great ending of the set.
The fact that the first encore is “Beth” with Singer on lead vocals doesn’t really sit well with me. The thing is, this is Peter’s song, even more so than Kiss’ song and there really is no reason for playing it. They have skipped it before without anyone complaining and playing it feels both unnecessary and disrespectful to Peter. Also, the fact that it’s only Eric on stage behind a piano (if that’s him playing…) and backing-tracks doing a sing-back makes for a tribute-band vibe for the only time this night. Nah, it should have been left alone. Next up, the night’s biggest surprise. Not that they played “Crazy, Crazy Nights” but the reaction it got. The song is watershed among Kiss-fans, some love it, some hate it but tonight it made SRF explode and people were dancing, jumping and singing along like crazy. The surprise was that the song got the hottest reaction of all songs this night. Wow. I love the song, so I’m happier for it. Awesome that they played it.
“Rock And Roll All Nite” ended the show in a confetti rain deluxe and no matter how tired I am of this song, it always feels great to hear it live. YEAH! Kiss delivered this night – and then some. It was the best Kiss show I have seen since 1998. Why? Well, Kiss were obviously having a great time, they were joking on stage, there were smiling members letting loose and firing on all cylinders. One reason for that is that one weight on their, but especially Paul’s shoulder, has been lifted. No one has to think about whether Paul will pull it off anymore, the can just relax, have fun and play their guts out. I’m sure this has a lot to do with it. Another reason for giving Paul’s tracks thumbs up.
On the downside is, of course, the setlist. Kiss’ hasn’t changed it much at all during the years and song-wise, a Kiss show is quite predictable. Paul’s words that the audience don’t want to hear obscure songs and all that yatta, yatta, is bullshit. It’s about pure laziness. I get that playing “The Oath” or “Tomorrow” might not work, but what about “Strutter”? “Nothin’ To Lose”, “Hotter Than Hell”, “C’mon And Love Me”, “Rock Bottom”, “I Want You”, “Makin’ Love”, “I Stole Your Love”? Are those classics also obscure? It’s Kiss’ last tour ever and it’s a shame that “100 000 Years” is the only song that hasn’t been part of the band’s repertoire that made it to the set. Still, with all that in mind, I’m happy I got to see them one last time delivering the goods like only Kiss can. Thanks guys for everything. I know it’s time to leave but I’ll sure miss you.
Photo: Hanna Henrikson (Night Flight Orchestra, Easy Action, Kiss 1), Jompa (Magnum, Kee Marcello, Kiss 2)