Sunscreen, hats, folding chairs, beers and we are ready for the bea…. Eh for the Sweden Rock festival! To be honest, this year was fairly good, weather-wise, with quite warm days and a little bit chilly evenings. Let’s say that is the “expected” weather for south Sweden in June. On the other hand, with every stage having a quite significant number of people, the result of human gathering resulted in a nice warm atmosphere, heated up by all the great music that we had the opportunity to enjoy.
Starting quite early on Wednesday, the first band we saw was the Hazy/Dizzy. As the name implies (just say it loud if it doesn’t work), this is an AC/DC cover band, and being the closest to AC/DC you could get at the festival (well… actually Airbourne were also playing later on) they had attracted a good part of the people that had chosen to join the festival from its very first day. The Swedes were quite close to the originals, orally, so we had a good time with a few of the Aussies’ hits, and visually… well, they didn’t look like AC/DC but they were at least trying to put up a decent show. We had a good time.
Then we moved to the 4Sound stage where Hell were breaking loose. Ok, I’ll be honest, but their show brought me in mind the shows of U.D.O. (I’ll explain why). So, the show circulates around David Bower, who is wearing a crown with thorns at the beginning, then get half naked and whips himself until he bleeds (not for real) and eventually he comes out with a cloak that lacks practicality and obstructs his vision; and that’s where Udo came to my mind, with the uncomfortable dresses he’s coming on stage. Anyhow, to be fair, the show was very good, relying a lot on the very theatrical performance and the voice of Bower. We and the quite large crowd gathered there had a Hell of a time.
We returned back to the Sweden Stage to see the Quireboys coming back to Sweden after two years. Then, they had offered an acoustic show, now they were back with an electric one. I don’t know if it was the difference of the stage (they had played at the Festival stage) with people spread for… kilometers, now they were in the more condensed Sweden stage will people, relatively, more packed. So now it looked like there were more people overall. Nice atmosphere, great songs, “Hey you” and “Sex Party” and we had one of the most enjoyable hours in the festival. Spike was in the exact same condition as two years ago, proving that someone can maintain for years a constant concentration of alcohol in his blood, giving him the type of high he needs to deliver an entertaining show to his loving audience.
I had almost forgotten that Jon English played on the first day of the festival. I had stored him in my memory somewhere in the later days. Anyway, dusk had already fallen when Jon English hit the stage. Being a chilly windy night, going to watch him and his band served two purposes: To get some good music by the Australian musician and some warmth, as the Rokklassiker stage was the only stage that was covered this year (as compared to none before). Family atmosphere – the stage itself is pretty small but the tent quite huge – not too many people, so it was easy to find a nice spot and Jon English and the Spearfish as his backing band on stage playing like in front of friends. Everything apart from the orange shirt was perfect. And a nice warm-up before we go out to the wind again to see the band that closed the first day of the Sweden Rock Festival 2015.
We moved to the Sweden stage, where the Danes D-A-D would close the day. Stig Pedersen was absent, as he had broken his arm just a few days before. However the rest of the band, supported by Soren Andersen on bass, gave an awesome show, leading to the burning of Laust Sonne’s drumset. The band finished with Bad Craziness, Sleeping My Day Away and Laugh n’ a Half, sending us home charged up for the upcoming days.
Thursday begins where we finished the previous night at the Sweden stage. Delain gave us our shot of symphonic metal, which follows the trend and performance of all the other bands in the genre. Around 13:00, I moved towards the 4Sound stage, one of the “small” stages of the festival to see the Steve’n’Seagulls. Apart from having the most awesome name – I wonder if Chuck Norris has any equivalent – this band was actually the surprise of the whole festival. The fact that they were playing covers of well-known songs in hillbilly style, both musically and visually, seems to have attracted a large portion of the festival attendants, who cheered the kind of weird looks of the band throughout their show. Actually the band commented on that, mentioning that they didn’t have such a welcome in their previous show. I was planning to pass by Spike’s Free House, but what the hell… this band was awesome!
Taking a small break, I headed towards the Festival stage to see Slash together with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. Obviously, most of the festival attendants had the same idea, so the place was quite crowded. Slash was as meticulous and mysterious as expected and Myles Kennedy had taken over responsibility on the rest. Several songs from their “World On Fire”, but as you can imagine, the Guns n’Roses songs were the ones that put the whole “world on fire”.
Fifteen minutes left to move around. I decided to pass by the Sweden stage to see Carl Palmer and his talented band (Paul Bielatowicz on guitar and Simon Fitzpatrick on bass and… other instruments) remind us of the Emerson Lake and Palmer legacy. Carl Palmer was coming to the front to introduce each of the songs to the not so many, but dedicated crowd that preferred the ELP music instead of the youngsters Airbourne. I left in the middle of the show, to see what the Aussies were up to at the Rock stage. The band who started as an AC/DC copycat and then took off, evolved and moved away from their idols, had attracted the bulk of the Sweden Rockers and lived up to their mission to deliver good music and good live performance.
At 19:00, the great Toto took over the huge Festival stage and offer us a classic best of performance. It was a very enjoyable show, with the band riding with us through some of the best songs they have written through the years. I’ll Supply The Love, Pamela and of course the classics Hold the Line, Rosanna and Africa, made the 90 minutes feel like five… The whole band was exceptional, but the star of the night was David Paich who was playing with the audience and with the other band members, hiding behind the speakers and taking a leading role when he was not needed at the keyboards.
After the show, we headed to the press tent where Joe Elliott and Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard were giving a press conference. Probably the most interesting thing was when Elliott said, referring to a recent comment of Dee Snider of Twisted Sister that people don’t want to listen to new songs, that there is still room for new music and if some other bands think that’s not the case then that’s their decision. They also spoke about the important role of the producer in the old times and Campbell said that bands like Motley Crue’s legacy is mostly on the lifestyle and it will fade away. On the spicy side, the most interesting comment was when Campbell recalled a comment from Joe Elliott when he said that in Def Leppard they have been doing for 30 something years what Deep Purple couldn’t do for three, that is share a dressing room.
About an hour later, Def Leppard were on stage offering a very nice show, with lots of lights and background videos and graphics and the most amazingly clear sound you can get. Which reminds me the perfect sound the Leppards had when they opened for Whitesnake a few years ago in Athens. The songs were a collection of their greatest hits, which de facto means that we travelled quite a few years back. Coming back to their comment at the press conference and reflecting a little bit on this… do I want them to release and play new songs or I’d rather listen to the old stuff? Let’s see what’s in the new album. Nevertheless, we had a great time and we got ready for the after headliners’ show. I had to choose between Ghost and Michael Monroe. Hm…
Being a fan of Hanoi Rocks the decision was easy. Monroe on stage was very energetic, running around, climbing up, falling down, almost falling down, running towards the fans, but never missing the next line. His technician had to be on stage almost as long as Monroe himself to make sure his microphone cable was not stuck anywhere. The show was very entertaining, mostly due to the berserk way that Monroe was moving on stage, but the fans seem to enjoy every moment of it. I got my Hanoi Rocks taste with Malibu Beach Nightmare and Oriental Beat and I left to see what the hell were Ghost about in the last few minutes of their show.
Christian rock with melodic chords and cheerful performances; this is what Ghost had nothing to do with. Instead, it was a parody of a Satan-worshiping ceremony, with lots of make-up, slow movements and impressive costumes to add to the mystic, but quite interesting atmospheric music. I only saw the last few minutes (damn…) but we did the sign of the cross and left the venue to redeem ourselves… It was already 2 am…
Friday morning… well, noon… began with Dare, led by Thin Lizzy keyboardist Darren Wharton. Very nice voice, active stage performance and high quality melodic hard rock worked better than coffee to wake us up and make our early arrival at the festival worth it. Heading to the Festival Stage, it seemed a little bit too early to see a band like Molly Hatchet. Nevertheless, it would be daylight for a long time, so it actually didn’t matter. The whole band was great, but the spotlight of the show was at the guitar and the voice of the band; Bobby Ingram with his blond lion head and his awesome playing; Phil McCormack with his southern accent and the majestic appearance (or the short shirt if you prefer). Fall of the Peacemakers and Flirtin’ With Disaster were the goose bumping moments of the concert, while the most comical moment was when McCormack pointed ahead towards the crowd to someone (no one specific) and said something like “You, you were a brother twenty years ago, you are still a brother now”. I’m sure this line works better in America where most of the Molly Hatchet audience was probably brothers (with the band) twenty years ago (and even earlier). Anyhow, despite that and also the dedication to the military (I almost forgot that…) it was a very nice show by one of the greatest southern rock bands. The day had started exceptionally well.
Manfred Mann’s Earth Band was exactly as I remembered and expected them. Calm and melodic, a pleasant way to spend the afternoon tea (with beer). At 17:30 I faced a small dilemma. Dokken or Blackberry Smoke? With everyone else I knew going to see Dokken, I picked the lonely road towards the Sweden stage. Well, it wasn’t so lonely anyway, since a significant part of the audience made the same decision. Blackberry Smoke, a band from Atlanta, Georgia, took us to the heart of the south, with their powerful riffs, the groove, the piano and of course… the accent. Listening and seeing this band made me glad of my choice to skip Dokken, who everyone I discussed it with said that he’s joining the no-voice-any-more club, together with singers from several of our favourite bands.
That day was squeezed with many bands I would like to see, but unfortunately, they were overlapping in the schedule. After Blackberry Smoke, I slowly headed towards the Rokklassiker stage where Mad Max showed that this stage is too damn small for them. Michael Voss and the rest of the band were in very good form and didn’t seem to be unsettled by the awkward situation of playing in a tent. I left a few minutes before they finished, to be on time at the Rock stage to see the reunited Backyard Babies. I had seen them a few years ago in Athens, at a very small club in a very cozy environment. Being bigger than before, hot after the reunion, and also in their own country, they blew up the stage. Dregen was unstoppable, and I felt that Nicke Borg was more himself, compared to the show a couple years ago with Nicke Borg Homeland… Like Backyard Babies are his actual homeland… Amazing show overall and, if there is any point of making such comparisons, for me it was one of the most memorable bands from the whole festival. I did not regret missing Pat Travers and his band who were playing the exact same time, or Tony Carey who was playing in the Rokklassiker stage (to refer to the dilemmas that were quite frequent on that day).
The headliners for Friday were Mötley Crüe. Being cancelled in Greece a few years ago due to a thunderstorm (the official reason) and poor sales (what rumours say), I thought it was a good opportunity to miss Lucifer’s Friend and see them live before they disband forever. The overwhelming mass of the festival had gathered at the Festival stage probably thinking the same thing, just to get notified later on by Vince Neil that they would play one more show in Stockholm – in case you came to see their last show in Sweden, well, it wasn’t. I have to admit, show-wise, it was not among the most impressive shows I have seen. The band was there of course, Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee were energetic as teenagers, Vince Neil was, well, slower but performed adequately as a frontman and as always as singer, and Mick Mars proved that behind the veil, he is indeed a very good guitar player. Beyond the music, there were fires, Sixx’ flamethrower, and girls dancing, enough to keep us excited for 90 minutes, but not enough to put this concert in our memory forever.
Continuing with this innovative paradox, that there is actually a couple more bands playing after the headliner, I headed to the Sweden stage to watch H.E.A.T. This young band showed that they are world-class performers and entertainers, not only thanks to their catchy powerful songs, but also to their stage performance, their communication with the audience and the kind of star-like behavior (I think they got influenced by Europe on that). That was an awesome end to a long day.
Saturday set off with us missing Mustasch playing the national anthem as we arrived straight for Hardcore Superstar. Blame the day (i.e. the national day for Sweden) or the origin of the band, for the huge crowd that joined them for a setlist on their last album but also some of their best hits. Ace Frehley was one of the big names of that day, and despite being more mature, he hasn’t lost any of his flair. The show was based largely on KISS songs and the audience seemed to enjoy every minute of it.
Later that day, Judas Priest were the formal headliners of this year’s Sweden Rock festival. The band, despite the retirement of K.K. Downing, were adamant on stage. The Metal God proved one more time that he’s not damn ready to retire and delivered a best of setlist that could not leave anyone dissatisfied. That would be the optimum end for the Sweden Rock festival… only that there were a couple more bands playing before the official end titles.
I think I preferred Justin Hawkins hair style a couple years ago at Trädgår’n. The Dali style of hair and beard added a lot to the crazy ambience of The Darkness. It was a perfect match between the music, the flamboyance and the appearance of the band, which was once thought to be the new Queen. Nevertheless, that was the only part that didn’t fit that night. On the other hand, this was the fucking Darkness and it was impossible not to have a great time with their songs. Closing with “I believe in a Thing Called Love” and “Love on the Rocks with No Ice”, that was an awesome way to finish and leave with the spirits up.
Till next year!