STRONG FINISH TO A GREAT FESTIVAL
Show Date: May 2, 2015
Location: Columbia, Maryland, U.S.A.
Venue: Merriweather Post Pavillion
Band Websites: www.yandtrocks.com www.queensrycheofficial.com www.tomkeifer.com www.europetheband.com
I had always heard rave reviews of Y&T‘s live performances but have never really been into the group’s music that much even though I admittedly enjoy just about any song that I have heard from the seasoned veterans. Having unfortunately stayed for Warrant‘s entire set including the band’s rather disorganized set closer “Cherry Pie”, I made my way to the side stage to catch Y&T. Not surprisingly, there was a huge crowd on hand to catch the band. I made my way through the crowd without really forcing myself into it to get a better vantage spot. As had been the case with the side stage for the entire Day Two of the 2015 edition of the M3 Rock Festival, if you were not in the front rows for that stage, your sight line of that stage was going to be severely impeded and that adversely affected my enjoyment of Y&T‘s performance to a certain extent. I am definitely one of those people that like to be up close when enjoying a live concert.
Having grown up in the 80s era of music videos, the first songs that I heard from Y&T back in the day were “Contagious” and “Summertime Girls” so it was a real treat to hear the band play both of those songs during the rather limited portion of Y&T‘s set that I was able to catch. “Contagious” in particular sounded just fantastic. You could tell just how much pride that Y&T frontman Dave Meniketti has in what he and his band do as he declared that Y&T do not get any additional help (i.e. presumably backing vocals or anything like that) when they are on stage and that would stay that way as long as he was in the band. Meniketti shared a cool story with the crowd about the last song that I was going to hear from Y&T before heading over to the main stage to hear Queensryche. Apparently, Y&T had all their songs ready to go for their Earthshaker record back in the very early 80s when their producer asked if they had any extra riffs that he hadn’t yet heard. From that came the Y&T classic “Rescue Me” which is actually one of my favorite tracks from the band. Although I only got to hear four songs from Y&T at the M3 Rock Festival, I was quite impressed with them and will make it a point to try to catch the band play live once again in the future.
The can’t miss portion of the 2015 M3 Rock Festival was next so I left Y&T‘s set so that I could get back in time to catch the beginning of Queensryche‘s set. My buddy The Meister had actually previously found a ticket on the ground which provided an upgrade to what we had in terms of our VIP seating for the main stage since it was a spot in the first few rows of the coveted and pricey floor section. I believe the best “rockstar” VIP seats went for $850.00! To be fair to my friend The Meister, he did make valiant attempts to try to find the ticket holder including Facebook inquiries but to no avail. We ended up sharing the ticket between the two of us and another Toronto friend Nicola. I do remember talking with Nicola about how long that each of us would be able to use the ticket for Queensryche‘s set but Nicola ended up letting me use it for the entire set — thank you Nicola. After witnessing Queensryche‘s impressive performance at last year’s M3 Rock Festival and in particular just how good frontman Todd LaTorre could sing, I was looking forward to it all over again. As expected, Queensryche and in particular LaTorre did not disappoint. Can anyone even touch LaTorre as a vocalist these days? That guy sings and screams absolutely unbelievably!
Although I thoroughly enjoyed Queensryche‘s set, I was a little disappointed at their setlist which was almost identical to the one they played during the 2014 edition of the M3 Rock Festival. I would have loved to hear more different songs this time around such as “Best I Can” or “The Needle Lies”. Nevertheless, there is no denying that the songs that were played by Queensryche sounded really good including “Walk In The Shadows”, “Warning”, “Eyes Of A Stranger” and my personal favorite “Empire”. The three tracks not included in last year’s M3 set from Queensryche were “Silent Lucidity” (isn’t a band expected to play their biggest hit all the time?), “En Force” and “NM 156”, the latter of which I am simply not fond of. Just like last year, I think that Queensryche and especially LaTorre’s impressive singing gained them even more respect and certainly some new fans from their stellar performance.
Next up was Cinderella’s Tom Keifer on the side stage. With nightfall having creeped its ugly and dark head, it was quite difficult to get a good view of the stage as the hill down to the side stage seemed pretty much packed. This was not surprising as leading into the 2015 edition of the M3 Rock Festival, there seemed to be some controversy on who should be the M3 headliner and Keifer seemed to be the prime act that naysayers wanted toppling Europe as the main festival act. While there is no denying Keifer‘s popularity among M3 attendees, I still think that Europe were the best headliner that the M3 Rock Festival could name out of all the acts that it obtained for its 2015 edition. I was pleased that I was able to catch the first song played by Keifer since the two M3 stages had unfortunately overlapped somewhat throughout the entire second day of the festival. Kicking off his set with the Cinderella classic “Bad Seamstress Blues / Fallin’ Apart At The Seams”, it seemed that Keifer had the entire crowd in the palm of his hands. Next up was “It’s Not Enough” from Keifer‘s solo record The Way It Goes which would have fit very nicely on a Cinderella record. By the time that Keifer and his group were finished playing the two Cinderella songs “Somebody Save Me” and “Shake Me”, there seemed to be a real buzz among the crowd. This is when Keifer took a short video of the crowd on hand before advising that he loves when the audience sings the chorus of this next “old country blues song” which was of course “Heartbreak Station” and which sparked a loud sing along from just about everyone in the crowd.
Since Keifer has hit the road in support of his solid but eclectic solo record The Way It Goes, he has brought his wife Savannah on the road with him and as part of his band. Ever the gentleman, Keifer always seems to put his wife high up on a pedestal and he did it again when he introduced her by saying that he wrote the next song about her since she broke his heart but made up for it by marrying him later on. What followed next were two more Cinderella classics “Don’t Know What You’ve Gone (Till It’s Gone)” and “Nobody’s Fool” which kept the audience singing along. Sadly, this was my cue to leave as Europe were scheduled to hit the main stage very soon and it seemed that Keifer was nowhere close to finishing his set based on his setlist from when I had seen him play in July 2014. Given that Europe were doing their first (mini) tour of the States in ten years, it seemed to me that I would have many more chances of seeing Keifer play than Europe in the future. In addition, I had been lucky enough to see Europe play live just a mere nine days prior and knew that they would put on a great show. As I walked away hearing Keifer play “Solid Ground”, I felt a bit of a sense of frustration in having to miss the rest of the Cinderella frontman’s set. As it turns out, I regrettably missed a whopping six songs including “Night Songs” which is one of my favorite Cinderella tracks.
Europe hit the main stage with the title track of their new record War Of Kings. Frontman Joey Tempest was all smiles and full of energy. I felt bad for Europe given that the venue was nowhere near packed the way it should have been at the beginning of their set and since Keifer was nowhere close to finishing his set. Judging from the crowd around me, it seemed that a lot of the audience was not familiar with Europe‘s newest record. As a big Europe fan myself, I was very familiar with the Swedish rockers’ material so enjoyed all of the songs that they played even though half of the material came from their last three records dating back to 2009’s Last Look At Eden. Europe‘s setlist for their M3 gig was eerily similar to the one that I had witnessed and heard nine days prior. In fact, it was the same setlist minus four songs with the order of the songs played varied a little bit. Unfortunately for Europe just like their European counterparts Krokus, they did not get the memo to concentrate on mainly only playing their biggest hits. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Europe had included all of their biggest hits including “Rock The Night”, “Carrie”, “Cherokee” and “The Final Countdown” in their M3 set and the crowd in general would likely not be that familiar with whatever else they played. Accordingly, whether they played “Open Your Heart” best known from 1988’s Out Of This World or songs from their newest record War Of Kings would likely make not much difference past the “big four” songs from The Final Countdown.
Just like nine days prior, I thoroughly enjoyed Europe‘s set and this was the one band at the M3 Rock festival for which I was giving almost all the song titles to my friend The Meister rather than the other way around. The one noticeable thing that Tempest does so well on stage is juggling his microphone and mic stand. He is very adept at doing so and that provides a source of entertainment right there for anyone watching the band play live. After the second song played, Tempest advised the crowd that the last time that Europe had played in Maryland was as the special guest for Def Leppard way back in 1988. By the time that Europe had played their third song of the night, “Rock The Night”, it seemed that the crowd had “warmed up” to the Swedish rockers. Clearly, Europe‘s biggest hits got the biggest reaction from the crowd but I enjoyed their “lesser” known material as well which I will qualify as any songs other than the “big four” from The Final Countdown such as “Ready Or Not”, “Last Look At Eden”, “Firebox” and their latest single “Days Of Rock ‘N’ Roll”. With the Merriweather Rock Pavillion having from what I understand a very strict sound curfew of 11:00 pm, it felt like Europe sped things up a little bit at the end to be able to play their last three songs of the night: “Cherokee”, “Days Of Rock ‘N’ Roll” and of course “The Final Countdown”. Overall, I thought that Europe put on a great performance and were worthy headliners of the 2015 edition of the M3 Rock Festival.
Once again, the M3 Rock Festival delivered a fantastic two days of music and I can’t wait to go back next year, hopefully to a much higher side stage and less overlapping of songs between the two stages. I thought that the best performance was by the Killer Dwarfs. My favorite performance was from Dokken taking into account how excited I was to hear them play having not seen them play live since 2002. Finally, the band that surprised me the most in a great way was Tyketto.
02. Breaking The Silence
03. Walk In The Shadows
04. En Force
06. Silent Lucidity
07. NM 156
08. Eyes Of A Stranger
10. Queen Of The Reich
11. Jet City Woman
12. Take Hold Of The Flame
Tom Keifer’s setlist:
01. Bad Seamstress Blues / Fallin’ Apart At The Seams (Cinderella cover)
02. It’s Not Enough
03. A Different Light
04. Somebody Save Me (Cinderella cover)
05. Shake Me (Cinderella cover)
06. Heartbreak Station (Cinderella cover)
07. Don’t Know What You’ve Got (Till It’s Gone) (Cinderella cover)
08. Nobody’s Fool (Cinderella cover)
09. Solid Ground
10. Night Songs (Cinderella cover)
11. Coming Home (Cinderella cover)
12. Shelter Me (Cinderella cover)
13. With A Little Help From My Friends (The Beatles cover)
14. Gypsy Road (Cinderella cover)
01. War Of Kings
02. Hole In My Pocket
03. Rock The Night
04. Last Look At Eden
05. Scream Of Anger
07. The Second Day
10. Ready Or Not
12. Days Of Rock ‘N’ Roll
13. The Final Countdown