SWEDEN ROCK FESTIVAL DAY THREE
Show Date: June 10, 2011
Location: Solvesborg, Sweden
Venue: Sweden Rock
Reviewer: Dirk Ballerstaedt
Band Website: www.swedenrock.com
Sweden Rock Day One Review: www.sleazeroxx.com/concert/srf2011-1.shtml
Sweden Rock Day Two Review: www.sleazeroxx.com/concert/srf2011-2.shtml
After another short night, it was Steelheart who kicked off day three of the Sweden Rock Festival for me. Singer Miljenko Matijevic, guitarist Chris Risola (from the 1990-1992 line-up), bassist Rev Jones and drummer Mike Humbert showed everyone how to kick ass at noon — usually lunchtime for normal people. With these American hard rockers it was a delicious dinnertime, and what Steelheart served up was one of the highlights of this year’s festival and proved without a doubt that musicians can rock at midday. It was no wonder that more and more fans came out of their camping tents as the very first songs crashed through the P.A. system, and before long the field in front of the ‘Rock’ stage was filled with thousands of people enjoying wonderful Steelheart songs like “Everybody Loves Eileen”, “Love Ain’t Easy” and “She’s Gone”. But it was “We All Die Alone” and the anthem “Stand Up And Shout” that the crowd demanded most, as everybody knew these tunes from the motion picture ‘Rockstar’, and the crowd freaked out as the band performed them before leaving the stage with a smile on their faces as big as the ones the entertained crowd had.
It was a glorious start to day three, and as I moved over to the great ‘Festival’ stage I was anticipating the return of another 1990’s hard rock band that became famous with a few hit songs — but to tell you the truth, nobody expected a return of this magnitude. And let me tell you, Mr. Big did it… big! After the Sinatra-intro the band fired everyone up with their classic songs like “Addicted To That Rush”, “Just Take My Heart”, “Green-Tinted Sixties Mind, “Alive N’Kickin'”, “Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy”, “Road To Ruin”, and the smooth n’sweet ballad “To Be With You” alongside tunes from their newest album ‘What If…’ like “American Beauty”, “Undertow” and “I Get The Feeling”. Oh boy, after sixteen years the original line-up featuring Billy Sheehan (master of all basses), Paul Gilbert (six-string God), Pat Torpey (drums n’sticks) and Eric Martin (lead vocal harmonizer, who also had a broken right arm) performed early in the afternoon while the masses streamed right to where the action was, and I would guess that eventually over 10,000 people viewed the event that had no drawback or mistakes.
It was more than exciting to have a band reunite, and especially one well known for their harmonies, melodies and performances. While I was never that big into Mr. Big, after this show that may change. As it looked to me, Mr. Big didn’t seem to expect this kind of success at Sweden Rock — and vice versa, as the rock fans didn’t seem to expect a show of this greatness. The four musicians displayed the same joy on stage as the fans standing in front of them did, and it should be obvious by now that Mr. Big was another of the highlights and one of the biggest surprises of this mighty Festival.
As Mr. Big walked off stage the crowd had to decide where to go next and I decided to crawl to the world of ‘ice’. Iced Earth was on the ‘Rock’ stage and even though the epic metal from America blew me away after a few songs I took a break and went to the ‘Sweden’ stage to hear a few songs from Evergrey. A Swedish band from Gothenburg, Evergrey mainman Tom S. Englund and his bandmates did some great modern metal with political and dark themes — which their song “Wrong” displays best. Finally I headed back to Iced Earth to see Jon Schaffer and old/new vocalist Matt Barlow. Their epic melodic metal was as strong as I expected and the sound was brutally sharp — and the die-hard fans banged their heads and got blown away like they should at a metal show.
As Iced Earth finished I went over to the ‘Zeppelin’ stage to watch some funny and weird country-polka-rock provided by the legendary Jason & The Scorchers. Singer Jason Ringenberg got the first good laugh of the day as he thanked Judas Priest for opening for Jason & The Scorchers (as Judas Priest had closed day two the night before). These kinds of bands are a must have at festivals like this because they offer something a little different. It is no secret that bass player Al Collins usually plays with the Stacie Collins Band and drummer Pontus Snibb is the main singer/guitarist of the Swedish band Bonafide (who have just finished working on their new album) — and Jason Ringenberg is a great entertainer in his own right, and that is what his show is all about. You will get good and funny music as well as a ton of laughs — what more do you want from a rock show?
Do you want it so heavy that your ears might bleed? If so, you’d better check out Down, the all-heavy band with legends as band members. I went back to the ‘Festival’ stage to get a fine dose of the heaviest stuff I had heard in a long time provided by the New Orleans based band featuring Pantera members Phil Anselmo and Rex Brown, Corrosion Of Conformity‘s Pepper Keenan, Crowbar‘s Kirk Windstein, and Eyehategod‘s Jimmy Bower. Down probably provided the hardest metal performance at this festival and played without gimmicks or a big show — it was just in your face metal. With deep, deep vocals, no sweet talking and thunderous driving riffs, Down brings you ‘down’… but in a positive way.
Right after it was time to wander from the greater stage back to the ‘Sweden’ stage once again to await the rockers with the black and yellow stage clothes, better known as Stryper. One of the most successful American Christian metal bands, Stryper have existed for nearly thirty years and I have known about the band since their early days as Roxx Regime. Stryper entered the stage with a bit of smoke during the fading daylight and rocked everyone with “Sing-Along Song”, followed by “Murder By Pride” before playing the all-time ’80s classics “Loud N’ Clear”, “The Rock That Makes Me Roll”, “Surrender”, “The Way”, “Jesus Makes Me Wanna Sing”, “Calling On You” and covers like Black Sabbath‘s “Heaven And Hell” (in memory of Ronnie James Dio) and Judas Priest‘s “Breaking The Law” (in memory of good old British heavy metal). While I saw them a few hours earlier at a signing session for the fans, I must say that Stryper are four fine and kind men who understand that true fanship is the best way for a band to survive for so many years. Immediately after playing a few songs more and more people were drawn to the Stryper show (probably over 4,000) and it seemed that Christian metal (or ‘white metal’) is still alive and well. Michael Sweet is still an amazing lead vocalist with a pure rock ‘n’ roll voice and killer screams — Oz Fox is still an excellent guitar player, while bassist Tim Gaines and drummer Robert Sweet are the solid ground of the Stryper sound. The encores, “To Hell With The Devil” and the highly demanded “Soldiers Under Command” closed the well done show. After playing for 90 minutes I was impressed with how well Stryper rocked, and at the end of the show Michael Sweet asked the audience if they would like to join him in prayer and they obliged. Nobody laughed, it was just seen as natural that Stryper would finish their show with a prayer and by throwing ‘Metal Bibles’ into the crowd — two thumbs up!
Then, with a fifteen minute break, I had just enough time to walk around a little bit and look at the metal community in attendance (some funny guys there), before a band I had never seen live before was about to start on the ‘Festival’ stage. I saw the stage design, with images of classic horror movies (mostly b/w picture films), and awaited to see some surprises. Rob Zombie, the New York based filmmaker and singer (formerly with White Zombie), played an energetic show filled with very good alternative/industrial metal and was helped out by the musicians around him — former Marilyn Manson members John 5 (guitars) and Ginger Fish (drums) along with Wednesday 13 bassist Piggy D., who reminded me of a very young Nikki Sixx. Piggy D. is also creative in many other ways as he has his own record company and does his own merchandising, and he also comes across as a nice guy on stage by looking the fans straight in the eyes while having a good time with songs like “Mars Needs Women”, “Dragula”, “Superbeast”, “Scum Of The Earth” and “Pussy Liquor”. Even though the lyrics can be rather simple, the very groovy music forced you to move — and Rob Zombie moved us all. Zombie himself is an artist that does a lot of stuff (horror movies, music, etc.) and is also a fun guy while storming the stage — he is the type of person you enjoy watching while he performs his kick-ass set. This was his first appearance at Sweden Rock and the band won over the thousands of people in attendance, and even won over me! I just couldn’t find any faults in Rob Zombie‘s live show.
After Rob Zombie‘s brilliant show I walked over to the ‘Rock’ stage to see German band Helloween and listened to the creators of the ‘Keeper Of The Seven Keys’. My home country musicians did a great job, and countless fans stood there and banged their heads with fists raised high in the air. For Helloween it was a big success to perform for such a large crowd, and they also had a great time on stage with a big lightshow while playing tracks from the older days including “Dr. Stein” and newer stuff like “Are You Metal”… to which the audience loudly answered ‘yes’!
While Helloween was finishing up their set, many people were moving to the ‘Festival’ stage again to get a good view of the evening’s headliner Whitesnake. All I can say is that a storm broke loose when David Coverdale and his band opened a wonderful rock concert by doing all the Whitesnake classics like “Love Ain’t No Stranger”, “Is This Love”, “Fool For Your Loving” and “Here I Go Again” along with new songs “Forevermore” and “Steal Your Heart Away”. But the highlights were during “Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City” when Coverdale invited former bandmate Bernie Marsden to come on stage to play some guitar and during “Still Of The Night” where another member of the Whitesnake family appeared on stage, this time Adrian Vandenberg.
It was a cool show, with an awesome setlist, and a legendary lead singer who blew away all the young dudes at Sweden Rock with an ease that you have to respect. David Coverdale is an old-school entertainer — he’s not arrogant, just a powerful singer who runs around the stage like a tiger hunting prey. Whitesnake was an awesome finale for day three, and maybe even the climax of this year’s Sweden Rock.
And when I think about it, what will the rock scene be like when all of these legends disappear? I mean Rob Halford, David Coverdale, Ozzy Osbourne, Gene Simmons, Bruce Dickinson, James Hetfield and others don’t really have any successors. And even when these people are having bad times on stage, their classic works can make up for it.
Oh boy, it was three a.m. as I fell onto bed again and got about five hours of sleep before returning to Sweden Rock’s final day — and a collection of more fine rock bands that included the closer Ozzy Osbourne.