INTERNATIONAL FIREFEST CROWD DESCENDS ON ROCK CITY
Show Date: October 21, 2011
Location: Nottingham, England
Venue: Rock City
Reviewer: Dirk Ballerstaedt
Festival Website: www.thefirefest.com
After a ninety minute flight to London, England, followed by another ninety minute trip by train, I arrived in the city of Nottingham — which is well-known for the legendary Robin Hood, the avenger of Sherwood Forest. But since the Firefest Festival was established back in 2005 Nottingham has become well-known for holding the annual melodic hard rock and AOR festival at rock music’s number one club Rock City. The festival is run by a fine staff of enthusiastic people who are also true believers of the rock genre — they sort out the bands all by themselves, and sometimes it takes several years to convince bands to reunite for a special appearance at the event.
After the three days and nights that I spent in Nottingham, I could tell that every band was honored to perform at the Firefest Festival in front of a fantastic international crowd. There were fans from Switzerland, Germany, Japan, America, Belgium, Russia, Peru, France, Sweden, Denmark, Italy… too many to mention really, and it was pretty wild to see people travel such long distances (like I did) just to watch great bands.
It was the British melodic rockers Serpentine who kicked off the festival, and they performed a good warm-up show — and I had the same good impression of the band as I did when I saw them four weeks earlier at Germany’s H.E.A.T. Festival. Singer Matt Black did a great job despite only having time to perform just six songs from the band’s repertoire. It is a bit difficult to play such a short set, but Serpentine‘s brand of AOR is the type that makes you have a good time.
Which leads me to the following band — Stockholm, Sweden’s Houston. They had tons of keyboards and a singer who entered the stage in a boxing robe — I began to ask myself why he thought he would be having a fight on stage. Against who… the audience? The other acts? Against himself I guess, because the vocalist, Hank Erix posed a bit too much for my taste. The band itself was okay, but it seemed like they just threw some musicians together (one guitar player is from Swedish band OZ) to play live — you still need to have soul to breath into the music in order to fill a club. In the ’80s posing on large stages was accepted, but it’s now 2011 and seems a bit ridiculous.
In between bands there was about a twenty minute wait while rebuilding the stage, giving fans plenty of time to have another beer or walk to the bathroom. Right after Houston it was time for the solo show by one of the best voices in hard rock, Terry Brock, who is mostly known for his recording and live work with bands such as Strangeways, Mike Slamer, Giant, The Sign, Seventh Key, Johnny Van Zant, Molly Hatchet, Kansas and the Steve Morse Band. I personally first remember hearing Terry Brock back in 1983 when I first listened to Kansas‘ ‘Drastic Measures’ album.
Terry Brock mostly performed songs from his two solo albums ‘Back To Eden’ (2001) and ‘Diamond Blue’ (2010) and started his awesome show with the wonderful “Face In The Crowd” followed by “Another Chance”. Then he played the tunes “I Wanna Love Someone”, the newer “Diamond Blue”, the heavy “Broken”, the soulful “The Rain”, and “No More Mr. Nice Guy” before finishing the too-short set with the anthemic ballad “Coming Home” and “Soul Salvation”, a song from his backing band Valentine. Somebody once said that Terry Brock is climbing the throne of legendary Steve Perry (of Journey fame), and I would say ‘sit on it already!’ It was awesome to see how much the audience loved Terry Brock‘s incredible solo performance, as did I, and I was happy to be able to see him again the next day when his old band Strangeways played at the festival.
After that came the unexpected climax, former Survivor frontman Jimi Jamison. I was never that into Survivor, but it’s impossible to avoid their hits — you can’t be a melodic rock fan without knowing the over-the-top classics from the Rocky films, namely “Eye Of The Tiger” and “Burning Heart”. Once Jimi Jamison burst onto the stage to “It’s The Singer Not The Song” the venue was packed and the people went totally nuts… man they loved him and he deserved it. He knocked everyone out with the second song, the timeless Survivor track “Burning Heart”, before playing an hour worth of pearls from records like ‘Vital Signs’ and ‘Too Hot To Sleep’ along with new songs like “Chasing Euphoria” from the Kimball/Jamison CD and the classic “Blood On Your Money” from his early band Cobra (does anybody remember that cool album?). Later, with the encore “Eye Of The Tiger”, Jimi Jamison proved that it’s not necessary to have a massive over-the-top stage presence if you have memorable music.
Jamison‘s appearance made the first day a great start for the Firefest Festival. Two thumbs up for Terry Brock and Jimi Jamison who both made this Friday night a spectacular beginning to the three day rollercoaster… one that had just begun!