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FIREFEST
Rock City, Nottingham – 26th November 2005
With the turnout for the inaugural Firefest back in
May somewhat on the disappointing side, a second festival within six months was either very brave, or very
fool hardy on the part of the organizers. Fortunately,
this time around a change of venue was deemed in
order, Bradford’s seemingly in terminal decline Town &
Country Club knocked on the head in favour of the far
more established rock Mecca of the Rock City in
Nottingham. And, with a streamlined bill looking even
stronger than last time, hopes were high that the losses
from the first show would not be repeated.
As with the first show, the preceding evening was
given over to a limited ticket pre show gig, featuring
sets from Crimes of Passion, Nexx and Blue Tears.
Once again I couldn’t make the pre show (this is getting to be a habit!), although this time it was nothing
to do with work, and more to do with the fact that
Uriah Heep and Asia were playing over in Manchester.
(Great show by the way, although it’s the first gig I’ve
ever been to where the headliner’s stopped mid set so
the drummer could go take a dump… way to go Mr
Kerslake!). However, according to Messrs Ashcroft,
Dargan, Mee and Smith, it seems that a good time was
had by all, with all three bands giving a good account
of themselves. Consensus seemed to award Blue Tears
top honours for the night, with Nexx running a close
second.
So on to the Saturday, and the main event itself.
Fortunately, the doom and gloom weather forecaster’s
had it all wrong again – at least within any reasonable
travelling distance of Nottingham – so there was nothing to stop the melodic rock faithful turning out in substantial numbers. And turn out they did, with a healthy
early crowd getting steadily stronger and more vociferous throughout the day. Guess it might well have been
the beer talking in some cases, but there was a general
bonhomie and air of anticipation that kept the mood
buoyant throughout.
First band to take to the famous Rock City stage
were UK power metaller’s Power Quest. Quite a brave
move on their part actually to sign on for Firefest as, on
paper at least, their riff driven, melodic power metal
bombast was very different from anything else the day
had to offer. That said, they took to the challenge with
relish, unleashing a ferocious aural assault on the early
crowd. Technically speaking, their set was pretty much
flawless, although I’m sure that some of their more
frantic numbers went above the heads of many. Still,
when they slowed it down a bit, particularly on some of
the newer stuff from latest (and best) album ‘Magic
Never Dies’, they definitely turned more than a few
heads, and I’m sure by the end of their set, had won
quite a few converts.
After the manic intensity of Power Quest’s set, the
Firefest crowd needed something a little more focussed,
and that duly arrived when Balance Of Power took to
the stage. Their first gig with new singer Corey Brown
(Magnitude 9) out front, the Balance Of Power guys put
on one of the best shows I’ve ever seen them perform.
Precise and technical, yet overflowing with passion and
melody, their set was dominated by swaggering keyboards and rampaging guitar licks. For a debut gig,
Brown’s performance was totally mesmerising, and even
though I have the utmost respect for both his predecessors (Lance King and John K), I’d have to say that his
presence has finally made the band complete.
Showcasing just some of the better moments from their
last three studio releases, their set was all too brief, but
they left the stage proud conquerors with the faithful
clamouring for more.
And with the crowd now fully warmed up, it was
time to take Firefest II to the next level, which is exactly
what West Midlands based Shy did. Led by the charismatic Tony Mills, the band took to the stage like homecoming heroes, and proceeded to blow the Rock City
roof off! Far from the spent force many feared they
might prove to be, Shy were absolutely awesome, silencing any lingering doubts with a truly scorching set
which hit the stratosphere from the word go with marvellous versions of ‘Breakaway’ and the utterly fantastic
‘Skydiving’. By the time they launched into a fistful of
classic’s from 87’s ‘Excess All Areas’ magnum opus, they
could do no wrong, vast sections of the crowd punching
the air in unison. The ever impressive Mills aside, the
whole band played a blinder, although I should perhaps
make special mention of guitarist Steve Harris who put
on a blistering show. Tough choice, but for my money,
Shy were band of the day.
Like Casanova back in May, who had the unenviable
task of following a magical Legs Diamond set, Blue
Tears had drawn the short straw. Much as I loved their
self titled debut back in the day, and much as I was looking forward to seeing them in the flesh, the simple truth
is that they were no match for Shy. Their set seemed
leaden and lacklustre in comparison, the Def Leppard
meets Bon Jovi like sheen of most of their songs largely
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Page 16
lost in a performance which, for me at least, never got
above workmanlike. Personally speaking, I felt they
lacked any real stage presence, and looked woefully
under rehearsed. Everyone who saw them the previous
evening said how much better that performance had
been, and I can only hope that was true, as their lumbering set did absolutely nothing for me … so much so that
two thirds of the way through I wondered out into the
Nottingham metropolis to find something to eat.
I’ve never been overly impressed with Danny
Vaughn when he has performed at these kind of events
in the past, so from my point of view, there was very lit-
Danny Vaughn
tering, razor sharp intensity you’d expect from a players
of this calibre.
Poley aside who probably took top honours as front
man of the day, Bruno Ravel and Steve West gave everyone a lesson in how to make bass and drums look easy;
their laid back, nonchalant approach to their craft the
stuff to inspire a whole new generation. However, I was
particularly impressed with guitarist Rob Marcello, his
explosive, firebrand fretboard pyrotechnics amongst
some of the most impressive I’ve ever witnessed live.
Rightfully treated as homecoming heroes by a hugely
partisan crowd, Danger Danger gave a thrilling performance which had the whole place on its feet… showmanship par excellence! Granted, there was a touch of
confusion around the encore, which given the fact that
none of the earlier acts had been granted one, you
could understand the crowd starting to disperse once
the main set was over. However, as soon as the band
ripped into ‘Naughty Naughty’, the whole place erupted again. Marvellous.
I’ve always had a bit of a love hate relationship with
Harem Scarem. Didn’t rate their Gods performance in
Harem Scarem
tle urgency to get back for the start of the Vaughn set.
Consequently, the band had already taken to the stage
when I sauntered back into Rock City half way through
the first number, but even at that stage it was clear
something was afoot. The place seemed to be heaving
with bodies, all swaying in unison to the strangely hypnotic sounds emanating from the main stage.
Immediately I sensed that this performance would be
somehow different to those I’d witnessed in the past,
more intense, more focussed.
Credit where it’s due, Danny and the boys put on an
awesome performance, by far and away the best I’ve
witnessed since his Tyketto days. The sound was crystal
clear, the audience were eating out of his hands from
the word go, and the set list – culled from the aforementioned Tyketto, Waysted (brilliant version of
‘Heaven Tonight’), Vaughn and the recently released
From The Inside – hit the spot perfectly. Everybody on
stage gave the impression they were having the time of
their lives, and that vibrant energy transferred itself into
a performance that kicked some serious ass! Sadly their
set seemed to be over almost as soon as it had begun, a
rousing ‘Forever Young’ bringing to a close one of the
best performances of the day.
Danger Danger
Like Danny Vaughn, I’ve always thought of Ted
Poley as more a middle order batsman than one of the
key players, his previous outings at this kind of event
only really preaching to the converted. However, Ted
Poley fronting a rejuvenated Danger Danger was
another prospect entirely. Kicking off with a truly blistering ‘Rock America’ – you could feel the place shake
with the welcome the band got when they took the
stage – they were the perfect act to continue the party
atmosphere Vaughn had created earlier. Classic followed classic… ‘Monkey Business’, ‘Slipped Her The Big
One’, ‘Bang Bang’ … all delivered with the kind of blis-
APRIL - MAY 2006
Photo: Steve Smith
4:06 pm
Photo: Jeff Price
28/2/06
Photo: Jeff Price
16-21 Firing On All Six
Bradford a couple of years back, and I’ve never been a
fan of the jangly power pop/rock which epitomised
much of their late 90’s work. That said, they are great
performers to a man, and for those who enjoy the
whole Harem Scarem experience (the majority of those
present, including our own editor who got a mention
from the stage), their set was tight and well delivered,
if a little sterile from my point of view.
As I said, I can’t fault the performance, but the
abrasive guitars and modern sounding melodies just
didn’t do it for me at all. I’ll fully accept that I’m probably in the minority here, but nothing they’ve done
since ‘Mood Swings’ has been of much interest, and
their set merely confirmed that. By the time they left
the stage, I’d had more than enough, although again,
those out front just lapped it up. However, then something quite strange and unexpected happened. Harry
Hess and company took to the stage for an encore, and
literally blew me away! Both ‘Hard To Love’ and ‘No
Justice’ sounded absolutely awesome, and had the rest
of the set featured material of such a calibre all the way
through, then Harem Scarem really could have been
band of the day.
Finally, after what had been a very well organised
day all round, it was time for headliners House Of
Lords to make their first UK appearance in nearly two
decades – I still recall their support slot with the Scorps
in the late 80’s with much fondness. Thankfully, the
show scheduling was much better than that at Bradford
earlier in the year (i.e. no near two hour wait), and
come the allotted hour, the house lights dimmed on
cue. Before the band arrived, organiser Kieran Dargan
took to the stage to explain that a few days earlier, he’d
received a phone call to say that House Of Lords front
man James Christian had cracked three ribs falling off a
ladder at home in the States. The whole show looked in
jeopardy, but testament to his professionalism, James
and the rest of the band decided to go ahead, despite
the obvious pain he was in pretty much throughout
their set.
That said, House Of Lords put on a true headliners
performance, which had me hooked from the opening
strains of ‘Chains’. Winger aside, House Of Lords were
always the most technically gifted of all the late 80’s
arena rock bands in my opinion, that class shining
through a hypnotic performance littered with a series of
emotional highs… even to this day, ‘Love Don’t Lie’
sends shivers down my spine, and tonight it sounded all
the more poignant. ‘Pleasure Palace’, ‘Talkin’ Bout
Love’, ‘Edge Of Your Life’, and ‘Chains Of Love’ had the
vast majority of the crowd totally enthralled – even
newer numbers such as ‘Mind Trip’ and ‘The Rapture’
managed to capture the essence of the House Of Lords
so much better than they did on the last studio album.
As I said earlier, James Christian was clearly in considerable pain throughout – indeed, he had to leave the
stage on a number of occasions, but it just didn’t matter. Vocally he’s still got it, and as for the rest of the
band, considering they hadn’t played together in more
ISSUE 23
FIREWORKS
16-21 Firing On All Six
28/2/06
4:06 pm
Photo: Fred Monster
House Of Lords
years than they care to remember, they were as tight as
any of the bands on the day. Lanny Cordola especially
was on fine form, pirouetting solo’s and incisive riffs the
backbone of each and every song – shame there was no
Greg Giuffria, but hey, maybe next time?! Their slightly
shortened set closed with a rousing ‘Slip Of The
Tongue’, and given James’ obvious discomfort, they didn’t return for an encore – shame really, but understandable in the circumstances.
And so Firefest 2 drew to a close after a fantastic
day’s entertainment. If anything, it was even better than
the inaugural event back in May, a real day to remember in every single respect! Here’s to Firefest 3!!
Page 17
crowd reaction and do a comparison. Tony fixed it for
me and off I went, meeting up with the band in the very
picturesque town of Kristiansand. I was well looked
after by the band and staff, and had the treat of two
shows in three days, including the Rjukan Rock Festival,
which also featured prog rockers Pagan’s Mind and WE,
who are huge in Norway and sound like Sabbath meets
Zeppelin. And the result of my experiment? Well, I knew
I’d been right all along – TNT are still, and forever shall
be, rock gods in Norway, and I had just spent one of the
best weekends in my life.
I got a heads up in advance about the Christmas
show in the Rockefeller, and as I’d been told in the summer “You haven’t seen TNT until you’ve seen them at
the Rockefeller” I knew I’d be making the trip.
I walked in to the venue with five minutes to go to
showtime and the sense of anticipation was palpable.
Hey, it’s nearly Christmas, TNT’s playing the Rockefeller,
and it’s sold out, what more can you ask for? The place
was rammed with an expectant and excited (and by
now quite inebriated) crowd.
By the time I get myself into the photo put it’s
already half way through Invisible Noise and I settle
down to the job in hand. Tony spots me and obliges
with a few poses (thanks, buddy) and I begin a little
close-quarter observation. Diesel has a new drum kit –
bright red and.. er.. melting, like something out of a Dali
masterpiece. He’s focussed but looks like he’s thoroughly enjoying himself, laying down those familiar, rock
solid, straight down the gullet rhythms like he means
business. He’s twirling the sticks like there’s no tomorrow – been practising a bit, then, Diesel, me old mate?
I check out the newest addition – Victor Borge on
bass, previously with Jack In The Box. He looks young,
sports a nice trendy blond haircut, and his glasses just
round off that innocent, fresh-faced look. He throws
great shapes in the style of Phil Lynott, and get this, the
boy can sing! And as if this wasn’t enough, he’s a kick-
Dave Cockett
TNT
HELLOWEEN & POWER QUEST
Koko, London, 13th January 2005
Monday the 13th and punters showed up early to
catch power metallers Power Quest opening for
Helloween, the undeniable kings and creators of this
genre. Although the sound mix could have been
improved, the Anglo-Kiwi-Italian quintet proved they
deserve their increasing popularity and showed great
confidence and an excellent stage presence, with stints
of a worked choreography included. With three studio
albums under their belt, the band covered tracks from
all of them, highlights being the rocking ‘Temple Of
Fire’ and the pounding ‘Neverworld’ from their second
‘Neverworld’ album, as well as the catchy yet powerful
‘Hold On To Love’, extracted from their most recent
release ‘Magic Never Dies’, from which they also played
the title track, highly acclaimed by the crowd. In fact,
Power Quest have demonstrated great improvement
over the years and are on the right path to achieve new
highs, backed by the amazing guitar work of Mr Andrea
Martonguelli and the superbly crafted and gifted voice
of Mr Alessio Garavello.
The mythical Helloween stepped on stage to the
ovation of the expectant multitude and broke their
silence with the track ‘King For 1000 Years’ from their
new album, ‘Keeper Of The Seven Keys: The Legacy’.
During their set, the Germans travelled back in time as
far as 1987 delivering songs from most of their extensive
discography, including the lengthy yet memorable
‘Keeper Of The Seven Keys’. Unfortunately, the sound
came out as dull and messy, and the set list selection
seemed somehow unfitting, with slower tracks and a
never ending drum solo -that only encouraged people
to go to the bar and chat to their mates-, from the sticks
of Dani Loeble, who is nevertheless a suited musician.
Having said that, the energy of my favourite classics
‘Eagle Fly Free’, ‘Future World’, ‘I Want Out’ and ‘Dr
Stein’, which closed the night, could be felt with all their
force. The song ‘Mrs God’ from the new album, which
successfully captures the essence of those marvellous
beginnings of Helloween that I so much adore, was also
a memorable time of the night. Although I didn’t find
the show as entertaining as the last time I saw them
back in late 2003 at the MeanFiddler, overall guitarist
Michael Weikath, vocalist Andi Deris and the rest of the
band made it a worthy night out.
Mónica Castedo-López
TNT
Rockfeller, Oslo, 23rd December 2005
For me, the absolute highlight at Firefest 1 was TNT.
I’d never had the opportunity to see them, so as the
time for their set approached, I was practically salivating
like a vampire needing a blood fix. I was a little disappointed in the overall reaction of the crowd, which I had
thought would have been as ecstatic as mine, and Tony
had a bit of difficulty engaging everyone during “singa-long with TNT”, but hey, my day was made so bollocks
to everyone.
A month later I embarked on a little road trip, well
more of a social experiment, really. I wanted to see a
TNT performance “on their own turf”, to gauge the
FIREWORKS
new tracks that we will hear live tonight, with the latter
including an extended jam in the middle while the band
adopt roles as percussionists. Victor’s on bongos, Dag’s
on the cowbell, Ronnie’s on tambourine, Tony’s on
handclapping and Diesel is, well, being Diesel, standing
on his drum stool, balancing precariously (later, the
crowd demanded that he stand on it once again, and
this time, suffice to say there was a full moon in Oslo).
‘Black Butterfly’ more than tips its hat in the direction of
‘Immigrant Song’, but is, without doubt, a TNT original
with the added bonus of an absolutely blistering solo
from Ronni. The band returns to some classics, backed
up by Ronni yelling “we’re only half way there … brace
yourselves” (another reliably obtained translation).
‘Seven Sea’s is up first, and the crowd reacts in predictably Pavlovian style – well, this is the Viking anthem
after all - and I move swiftly to the wall as the whole
downstairs area becomes a mosh pit. They continue on
a roll with ‘Forever Shine On’, but then it’s all over. The
crowd, now in a complete frenzy, starts baying for more.
Thankfully in Norway the eleventh commandment is
“Thou shalt not have the imposition of a curfew” and
sure enough, they return quickly with a supreme selection of encore tracks beginning with another personal
favourite, the title track from ‘My Religion’. The
inevitable ‘10,000 Lovers’ has a twist tonight, as Tony
introduces Marianne from Surferosa to sing it as a duet
with him – Surferosa have been making a name for
themselves both in Norway and further afield, including
the UK, where they have been well received on the club
circuit. The first verse is delivered in ballad style, but
then it’s pedal to the metal and full on TNT. The crowd
has reached fever pitch, but there is still more, as ‘Break
the Ice’ sends them over the edge. They end with encore
favourite ‘Everyone’s a Star’, the lights go up and the
thoroughly satisfied crowd begins to dance to ‘Always
Look on the Bright Side of Life’.
The Rockefeller is to TNT what Don Valley Stadium is
to Def Leppard. You simply can’t beat playing to the
home crowd. I thought I’d seen TNT on their own turf,
but this turned out to be the Holy Grail. It certainly was
a Merry Christmas …. for me at least!
Dawn Irwin
BUTCH WALKER
Unplugged, Camden Barfly, London,
31st January 2005
ass bass player to boot! He fits in so well with the rest of
the band and he looks relaxed and happy on the stage.
He’s just what TNT needs - to be honest, I was concerned
when Morty left and I do miss his playing on ‘…Sun’. Sid
Ringsby stepped into the breach, playing on the album
and doing some touring, and I’d got to know him during the summer, but at the risk of causing offence, he’s
a great guy, but I didn’t feel he was right for the band
(sorry, Sid). But Victor is a different story. I got chatting
to him after the show and he is a modest, friendly, talented and enthusiastic guy who is just over the moon
about being with TNT. Methinks this relationship will be
a long and happy one.
On keys is the ever-smiling head-banging Dag
Stokke who’s been with the band for aeons, and finally,
over to my right is the “gitarrentroll” himself, Ronnie Le
Tekro, just doing what he does best, conjuring the usual
blend of magic from his guitar in a bewildering flurry of
fingers, whilst pulling the best guitar faces in the world!
I know seasoned professionals who say that they
haven’t a clue how he’s getting that sound, much less
which notes he’s playing! His genius is all the more
remarkable given that he is completely self taught.
Next up is opening track and my personal favourite
from the new album – ‘A Fix’, which in my opinion has
one of the most feral, addictive guitar riffs I’ve heard in
years - as heavy as anything they’ve ever done. Live, it
is delivered with energy and ferocity, just as I had
expected.
The usually quiet Ronni then ignites the crowd some
more by barking “Come on you mother f*ckers” (reliably informed translation). He is normally given to
drinking loads of water during a show, but tonight is
obviously beer night, as he raises a full pint glass to the
audience, shouts “Skol” and downs half of it in one. He
is on top form and his impish good mood is highly infectious. Three songs later he steps up to the plate for his
solo which, if you’ve never been fortunate enough to
witness this phenomenon, is not only a display of dazzling guitar virtuosity, but includes plenty of audience
participation, shrieking, singing and talking into his
pickups.
‘Ready to Fly’ and ‘Black Butterfly’ are the only other
ISSUE 23
This will not be a difficult gig for Butch Walker.
He’s the man who spent the bulk of 2005 as an
unknown supporting Avril Lavigne. Playing a headline
slot to devoted fans will be like running a lap of honour.
Especially when this crowd have been clamouring for
Butch’s UK debut for a long time – some since his stint
in early 90s rockers Southgang, judging by the looks of
them. The show is attended mostly by alternative kids,
though, who presumably know and/or care less about
his big-haired past.
Walker hits the stage with a bottle of wine and a
cocksure strut, and immediately proves how diehard his
audience is. He opens with 'Song Without a Chorus', an
unreleased track that was available on Butch’s myspace
page last year. And the crowd sings along!
With an audience this rabid, it’s easy to assume that
the show will be carried by fans’ enthusiasm rather
than musical merit. But Butch immediately dispels this
idea with a total reworking of 'Diary of a San Fernando
Sexx Star', turning a chipper pop-punk tune into a lonely ballad. It didn’t take much to win the crowd over, but
it’s still difficult to think of many singer-songwriters
who can appear so successfully on stage with just an
acoustic guitar and some witty banter. Considering he’s
got to appeal to hard rock fans, devotees of his late-90s
power pop act the Marvelous 3, and fans of the
Radiohead-meets-Elvis Costello indie of his current output, it’s a feat.
It’s this supreme confidence that allows Walker to
pull off a loose and unrehearsed vibe. He describes his
set as “open ended” before playing songs more or less
as the crowd calls them out. He makes no attempt to
hide his mistakes, punctuating them with exclamations
of “Shit!” or “Let me try that again”, and this only
brings him closer to the audience. Even though it’s an
acoustic show, it’s the raucous stomp-alongs that go
down best. Piano ballads like 'Joan' are poignant and
beautiful, but the choruses of 'Suburbia' and 'Lights
Out' make the Barfly feel like a much bigger venue. For
his final encore, Walker steps off the stage. He sings
'Take Tomorrow' in the middle of the floor, and it shows
the connection he has with his followers.
Judging from the new songs previewed, Walker’s
songwriting ability is still on the rise. With production
work on the new Pink album boosting his reputation,
this should be the year he comes to greater critical and
public attention. You’d be wise to catch him if he
returns as planned for full-band shows this summer.
Jonny Scaramanga
MATT MITCHELL
Polar Central, Brighton, 1st February 2006
Pride were seen by some as leading lights of the UK
melodic rock scene. It was generally taken as bad news
APRIL - MAY 2006
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for the scene when they announced they were calling it
quits late last year. Fans of the band, then, will take
comfort knowing that former Pride frontman Matt
Mitchell is still gigging around as a solo performer, and
what’s more has songs in the works for a full album.
Mitchell took the stage at Polar Central in front of a
small but supportive audience. The opening with a
cover of Dylan’s 'All Along the Watchtower' seemed a
bit laboured, but his own material faired better. Playing
solo acoustic, his own material is not as rocking or as
immediately obvious as Pride’s anthemic stylings, but it
does benefit from being more emotional and a fair bit
more current. Other choices of covers faired better, with
Matt’s passionate delivery making for an inspired version of 'With or Without You'.
Ultimately, Matt’s ear for melody and great voice are
a strong 1-2 punch. With shows like this the end of Pride
will not mean the end of Matt Mitchell.
Jonny Scaramanga
IQ
Classic Rock Society Awards
Rotherham, 1rd December 2005
Page 18
Billy Idol
Photo: Sue Ashcroft
16-21 Firing On All Six
Night,
Unbelievably another year has nipped past us while
we weren’t looking, and we find ourselves at the latest
Awards Night at the C.R.S. in Rotherham. Always a good
night, not only because it’s a prog fans heaven where
many members of numerous bands can be seen nonchalantly staggering around throughout the evening, but
also because you are guaranteed to see one of the top
prog bands playing at the end. Last year it was a rare
appearance of IQ, and this year it was a rare appearance
of... IQ. Which was good because twice a year, (or
maybe once as last years awards may have been earlier,
I can’t remember), is still not enough.
So, after all the awards were presented, surprisingly
by Fish of all people, (who was great value, highly amusing and, as he told us, had just been seen on TV on
celebrity Weakest Link where he ‘stuffed Rick
Wakeman.’ His words not mine), the band came on
stage and promised us a couple of hours of old and new
stuff, kicking off with Failsafe, Fading Senses and Born
Brilliant. It certainly looked like it was going to be a
good night. And this was also the first time I had experienced IQ with new drummer Andy Edwards, who I
have to say I think will do OK in Paul Cook’s old spot. He
didn’t do a drum solo, (which isn’t a bad thing), but he
came fairly close at one point doing an extended drum
‘outro.’ So carrying on with Sacred Sound, Intelligence
Quotient, No Love Lost, 7th House, Wrong Side Of
Weird, Guiding Light and Harvest Of Souls, my thoughts
were that the band seemed to be taking their performance quite seriously tonight. John Jowitt, who had once
again won the best bass player award, (and I want to
know who he keeps slipping the fivers to), played bass
with no tomfoolery, and I wondered if he wasn’t well.
Maybe fatherhood has bequeathed him a serious head.
But I needn’t have worried as, after they came back for
the encore, (It All Stops Here and Awake And Nervous),
he was bouncing around like a kangaroo with burnt
feet, and Mike Holmes graced us with a wonderful section of lead guitar Les Dawson would have been proud
of, alongside an unforgettable snippet of vocals. They
finished the night off with a version of Status Quo’s
Caroline which you wouldn’t expect a prog band to do,
but if you know IQ you can expect them to do absolutely anything.
Another good awards night, and another good performance from IQ. Merry Christmas.
Andy B.
hands, and every twirl of Tichy’s sticks. Like I said, I’ve
never been an Idol fan, but even I was taken aback by
the strength of his voice, and as he sidestepped into
‘Dancing With Myself’ he could have put most fortysomething AOR crooners to shame.
Motoring on through ‘Flesh For Fantasy’ and ‘Body
Snatcher’ the sound was absolutely perfect, the sublime
Steve Stevens seemed to pull off the impossible without
effort, and as the band moved onto ‘White Wedding’
the atmosphere was beginning to take on magical proportions. Then about halfway through the second chorus the electrics went dead. For most acts this would
have been disastrous and embarrassing, but accompanied by Tichy whose drums were still clearly audible, Idol
conducted a crowd singalong like nothing I’ve ever
heard as the audience sang the chorus repeatedly for a
full five minutes, before the two of them left the stage
to let the roadies get on with sorting it out.
It was a full fifteen minutes before the PA crackled
back into life and the band restarted the song like nothing had happened, and followed up with the recent single ‘Scream’, which is exactly what the girls (and probably some of the boys) did quite deafeningly as he peeled
off his shirt. The band did a cool instrumental as a prelude to ‘Eyes Without A Face’, and Billy’s incredible
stagecraft kept the momentum going through ‘Sweet
Sixteen’, ‘To Be A Lover’ and the excellent new song
‘Cherie’.
The only serious part of the night came as Idol
changed the words to Randy Newman’s ‘Louisiana’ as a
tribute to the victims of hurricane’s Katrina and Rita,
which was followed by a lengthy and quite brilliant flamenco solo by Stevens.
It was back to rock’n’roll for the upbeat ‘Rat Race’
and ‘L.A. Woman’ and the two-hour mark was passed in
the company of another ‘Devil’s Playground’ song
‘World Coming Down’.
For those of us with long memories he finished the
set with ‘Rebel Yell’ and ‘Hot In The City’ being sandwiched between two gems from his “sadly misunderstood” 70’s punk band Generation X, and listening to
‘Ready, Steady Go’ and the quite mature ‘Kiss Me
Deadly’ he was probably right. Sherinian finally gets a
chance to shine in ‘Rebel Yell’, and Idol, who obviously
appreciates the talents of his band, introduces them
again for the third time. A lengthy ‘Mony, Mony’ is the
encore amidst more scenes of hysteria, but due to the
length of the set, the technical problems, and the fact
that it’s a Sunday, we’re on our way back to catch the
last train before it ended. Great band, great gig, and a
seasoned frontman who impressed the hell out of me.
BILLY IDOL
Manchester Apollo, 13th November 2005
Phil Ashcroft
To be honest I’ve never been a big fan of Billy Idol
but I am a big admirer of his guitarist Steve Stevens, and
when it was announced that Billy’s touring band also
included Derek Sherinian on keyboards and Brian Tichy
on drums (completed by bassist Stephen McGrath) it
began to look a bit interesting. Obviously quite a lot of
people in the Greater Manchester area thought so too
because the Apollo, with the seats removed downstairs,
was the most full I’ve ever seen it. With an 8pm start and
no support the band have been doing a two and a half
hour set, although nobody could have predicted that
tonight would be finishing even later than usual.
The scenes greeting the man’s arrival were mass hysteria, and it has to be said that despite his serious bike
crash of a few years ago, Idol looks fit and well and at
least 15 years younger than his real age. Being his first
UK tour for quite a few years it was somewhat surprising and to his credit that he didn’t simply roll out a
Greatest Hits show, but showcased his recent ‘Devil’s
Playground’ album interspersed with the songs that he
wouldn’t be allowed to leave the building without playing. The band are beyond tight, and as Stevens grinds
out the riff to ‘Super Overdrive’ it becomes obvious that
the crowd is divided into two halves. The ladies, of
which there are many, have their eyes glued to Idol’s
muscular torso and snake hips, whilst the substantial
male muso contingent stand on tiptoes looking over
each other to see every move of Stevens’ and Sherinian’s
18
MAGNUM
Garage, Munich, 3rd December 2005
Magnum or Gotthard, this was the question going
around on this icy Saturday evening at the Kultfabrik
Ost, a big entertainment area in Eastern Munich which
in former days was an industrial zone, now giving place
to several bars and nightclubs and music-halls.
German Metal by Axxis followed by Swiss Party Rock
from Gotthard versus classic Melodic Rock presented by
Magnum, who were headlining tours through Germany
years ago, but due to the split of the band in 1995
haven’t played this area for a long time. And comparing
the commercial success of this evening and counting
spectators, Gotthard & Axxis were the definite winners
of this rock night, with approximately 3,000 visitors of
all ages in an almost sold out Tonhalle watching Alpine
Rock Power whereas in the Garage, a small rock club
next door, only 300 loyal melodic rockers, mainly aged
over 30, were expecting the revival of a British Rock
Legend celebrating the 20th anniversary of their hit
record ‘On A Storyteller’s Night’, an album which was
also a megaseller in Germany in the mid 80s.
The Garage was packed and the heat was definitely
on when the band hit the stage at 8.30pm, starting their
first set with a classic into and ‘Brand New Morning’, the
title track from their latest record. From the very first
APRIL - MAY 2006
song the audience was held by fantastic melodies and
memorable choruses from a band who never really
made it to the top despite a lot of ear-catching songs
and rock hits all over the world, especially songs form
their more commercial records’On A Storyteller’s Night’,
‘Vigilante’ and ‘Wings of Heaven’. You could see that
people were not familiar with the songs from the new
record, so the audience only joined the little man with
the big voice, Bob Catley, mainly on songs like ‘Back
Street Kid’, ‘Need a Lot of Love’ and ‘Vigilante’. The
solid rhythm section of Al Barrow on bass and drummer
Jimmy Copley (who has been playing with Jeff Beck)
were symphonically rounded off by the multi-paced,
staccato punches of keyboardist Mark Stanway and the
hard but very melodic guitar lines of Tony Clarkin. Alas,
something was missing during the first set, which lasted
fifty minutes. The audience wasn’t as boisterous as it
could have been, and it definitely wasn’t the fault of the
band’s performance or the lack of sound quality.
After a break of 25 minutes Magnum came back to
the stage and presented their most successful record,
‘On a Storyteller’s Night’, playing all songs of this album
in chronological order. Now people sang along with
these melodic epics they knew much better than the
songs from the new album in the first set of the show.
From the bombastic intro of ‘How Far Jerusalem’ to the
stirring and memorable melodies of ‘Endless Love’, ‘Two
Hearts’ and ‘All England’s Eyes’ and last, not least the
melancholic rhythms of ‘Les Morts Dansant’ to the final
‘Last Dance’, the audience was now alive and kicking,
singing along with the British rock legends on stage,
who after years of absence now have to maintain hard
efforts to win back all their old fans, and even harder
efforts to gain new ones in a very fast moving and
Magnum
changing music market.
After another hour of perfect performance the band
has demonstrated that regarding the musical part,
nothing has changed since the days when Magnum
were headlining tours all over Europe. Now it’s a question of proper marketing and reasonable tour planning
to bring back these rock legends to a bigger audience
and even larger stages!
Roland Maurer
ALTER BRIDGE
Manchester Academy, 13st November 2005
First of all let's get one thing straight. This is NOT
Creed with a different singer!! Sure Alter Bridge contains three former members of Creed but, for me , that's
were the similarity ends. To emphasise the fact, tonights
set list (as with every other show they play) contains no
Creed songs and even though the band has only
released one album (which is covered in its entirety) the
set is padded with a couple of covers .
Another sold out night at The Academy proves that
after 5 visits to these shores in just over 12 months Alter
Bridge's star (in this country anyway) is definitely on the
rise - why they aren't huge in the States by now is
beyond me! Having caught another gig earlier in the
year in Manchester I knew what to expect and wasn't
disappointed . Taking nothing away from Scott Phillips ,
Brian Marshall and Mark Tremonti , the star of the show
is vocalist (and part time guitarist) Myles Kennedy.
Though comparisons are inevitable it's my opinion that
Myles Kennedy's vocals are in a whole different league
to those of Scott Strapp , whose range was rather limited. Kennedy's energy is incredible and in the live environment he takes the songs to a whole different level
(apparently he's good looking as well ) .
The musicianship on show is powerful and addictive
and sometimes it's hard to believe there are only 4 guys
on stage . The rhythm section of Phillips (drums) and
Marshall (bass) provides an unbelievably solid foundation and notes and riffs scream from Tremonti's guitar in
machine gun like rapidity. If you're familiar with the
One Day Remains album then you'll be familiar with
everything performed tonight which also includes a trip
ISSUE 23
FIREWORKS
4:06 pm
to Led Zeppelin and a hugely entertaining romp
through AC/DC's Whole Lotta Rosie .
Album and tonight's highlights are On Broken
Wings and an acoustic version of my own personal
favourite, the emotional In Loving Memory. The night
draws to a close with the anthemic Open Your Eyes and
the performance is over far too soon. Musical comparisons would do Alter Bridge an injustice, just take the
band on its own merits. Another album under their
belts should see the set length stretched to incorporate
new songs but , hopefully , not at the expense of any of
the old ones - the material really is that strong. No frills,
no stage show, just CLASSIC rock music and a CLASSIC
rock band. Awesome !
Dave Bott
STREAM OF PASSION
London Borderline, 29th January 2006
Absolutely sensational! Not only was this one of the
best gigs I have witnessed in recent times it is without a
doubt one the greatest of my concert going life. Yes, they
really were that good.
It’s amazing when you consider how this band were
brought together from across the globe and created their
debut album (‘Embrace the Storm’), about which I waxed
lyrical in issue 22, by swapping files by e-mail and their
rehearsal time must have been limited. Yet they were so
tight and the set so slick that you would have thought they
were veterans with hundreds of gigs under their belt. I can
think of many name bands I have seen who would hang
their heads in shame if compared to these guys. There
were no horrible pauses between numbers, and hardly any
breaks in the flow of a superbly structured set.
Before the event I wondered how on earth they would
manage to squeeze six people onto the tiny stage only to
learn that the band would be augmented by a backing
vocalist and Damian Wilson on certain songs. I needn’t
have worried, despite the extremely cramped conditions
they overcame and managed to inject their performance
with immense energy and no little showmanship.
To open they adapted the first track from the album,
“Spellbound” so that each member took to the stage separately and built the song up until guitarists Lori Linsruth
and Arjen Lucassen ran on as the track exploded into its
mid section, and we were off on a magical musical journey.
Anyone familiar with the album will know that in
Marcela Bovio they have a wonderful and beautiful vocalist (she also plays violin) but in an inspired move they have
brought in her equally talented (and beautiful) sister,
Diana, on backing vocals. I say backing vocals but more
than once she was afforded centre stage space as she traded lines with her sister. Between them they managed to
replicate the sensational vocal treatments of the SOP
material and that of Lucassen’s other projects. Two examples being “Valley of the Queens” and “Computer Eye”
from the Ayreon CDs “Into the Electric Castle” and “Actual
Fantasy” respectively. They were spine-tingling moments
from a show made up almost entirely of highs. The only
thing that didn’t really work, for me, was the encore cover
of “When the Levee Breaks”, a small quibble only, so back
to the good stuff.
It was only after I checked the set list that I realised
that they hadn’t played everything from the album, but
what they did play was outstanding, with the brilliant
“Deceiver” standing out for extra special praise, this is a
classic, and no mistake. I also have to mention “Nostalgia”,
the rendition of which was absolutely beautiful. Sung in
Spanish by Marcela and Diana with just Alejandro Millan’s
plaintive piano for accompaniment it was truly divine. It
would be wrong of me to omit mention of the excellent
rhythm section of Johan van Stratum (bass) and Davy
Mickers (drums) who were rock solid throughout, and anyone who thinks girls can’t play guitar better check out
Linsruth, she shreds.
The crowd response was one of the most enthusiastic I
have heard from a London audience in years and what is
more they were the best behaved, actually listening rather
than talking throughout the set (give yourselves a pat on
the back from me, thank you).
My notes are strewn with superlatives with every track
being marked as special or very special, so I shall refrain
from going into detail about every track.
Damian Wilson joined them for a couple of the
encores, namely “Castle Hall” and “Black Hole” and these
worked well. Damian is a smashing guy but I have not
always enjoyed his vocal style but tonight he was on fire.
Earlier in the evening he had opened the show with an
acoustic set alongside his brother Paul (Julian) and keyboard player Andy Holdsworth and I have to say that it
was a great performance and in my opinion demonstrated
Damian at his best.
In a nutshell Stream of Passion were brilliant, no one
who was there could doubt that, unless they are tone deaf
of course, and if there is any justice in this world they will
prove to be huge. I for one am delighted to have been
there when they started out.
Gary Marshall
Page 19
was at the same venue to see Dio play to a much larger
crowd just a few weeks earlier yet that wasn't considered 'sold out'. Whilst the crowd was not inconsiderable, I wonder if the attendance was diminished by the
£30 ticket price.
Musically, the evening started off well enough with
The Answer producing a more than passable homage to
Led Zeppelin, with Free also being a significant reference point. It would be a shock if the purple ones produced anything less than a quality performance given
their experience and innate talent. The musicianship
was first class, Steve Morse is without a doubt a superb
guitarist and the grin, that was ever-present, showed
how much he was enjoying himself. Ian Paice and Roger
Glover locked down the rhythm, which was tight as a
drum (ha ha) with Paice accentuating magnificently in
all the right places but without undue bombast, and
without a tiresome solo. Don Airey has made the keyboard spot his own, playing the Hammond Organ to
perfection.
That leaves Ian Gillan. His performance left me
somewhat bemused. A man of his experience reading
the lyrics from an A4 binder? Oh, please! I know thatmany bands/artists now use autocue, which stretches
credulity somewhat but DP and a ring binder? It’s not
that I haven’t seen this before, but previous sightings
have tended to be of bands with new singers on the
books.
Make no mistake he's a showman and he can still
sing. The top end may have diminished with age but he
still performs with gusto and a passion, it was just so disconcerting to see him overtly reading the lyrics, which
was strangely at odds with the tightness of the rest of
the band.
The set list saw plenty of their latest album, 'Rapture
of the Deep' being aired and for the most part this came
across well, although one got the impression that the
audience were willing the band to get to the old
favourites. Needless to say those old songs, when they
came, were greeted with fervour by the cognoscenti
who promptly began singing along (very well indeed).
Despite several microphone problems at the outset,
the opening pairing of ‘Pictures of Home’ and ‘Things I
Never Said’ got matters off to a fine start. The newer
material certainly showed DP as a band that has moved
into a fresh aspect of their sound. Morse was mesmerizing throughout and his solos really hit the mark and
with his moving instrumental, ‘Contact Lost’ he showed
himself as a virtuoso.
There was a noticeable lift in the crowd as Airey and
Morse moved into the distinctive opening riff to ‘Lazy’.
Airey’s solo then gave forth to ‘Perfect Strangers’ and
one thought that they were building up to the big finish, and indeed they were. ‘Space Truckin’’, ‘Highway
Star’ and ‘Smoke on the Water’ closed the main set in
exemplary fashion before they returned for an encore
of ‘Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye’ and ‘Black Night’. As a first
night of a tour this gig bodes well for those to come
over the next two years that the band will be on the
road.
Gary Marshall
NWOBHM 25TH ANNIVERSARY FESTIVAL
DIAMOND HEAD / WITCHFYNDE / PRAYING
MANTIS / BRONZ / JAGUAR
London Astoria, 4th November 2005
“This is bollocks!” shouted the bloke next to me.
“This is bollocks! Isn’t this bollocks?” By this time he’s
turned to me; why do I always get the nutters? “Isn’t
this bollocks?” he repeated. Well actually, no, it wasn’t.
But it wasn’t NWOBHM either. It was Bronz – a stripped
down three-piece Bronz playing virtuoso guitar instrumentals about as far removed from their (heavily
panned by ‘Sounds’) 1984 ‘Taken By Storm’ album as you
can get. It was clever, and it was talented, and they
would have made a great support to someone like
Dream Theater, but on the night Bronz appeared as out
of place as King Kong at Bristol zoo. More Steve Vai
than Steve Zodiac, if you know what I mean, and a
DEEP PURPLE
London Astoria, 17th January 2006
When is a sold out gig, not a sold out gig?
Apparently when it's Deep Purple playing the Astoria. I
FIREWORKS
ISSUE 23
Jaguar
bizarre way to follow the mighty Jaguar who’d had the
unenviable task of opening proceedings at 5pm on a
Friday night. Yep, it was the thirty-punters-and-a-dog
scenario, but the band didn’t seem to care and gave it
their best shot and then some. Guitar star and sole representative of the Eighties days Garry Pepperd led
Darren Furze, Jamie Manton and Nathan Cox through a
no-frills thirty-minute six-song set which kicked off with
the title track of the 2003 album ‘Run Ragged’ and
wrapped up with a double-whammy of ‘Axe Crazy’ and
‘Back Street Woman.’ The set fair bounced along – as
did Manton on his pogo-stick mikestand: you didn’t get
Praying Mantis
Photo: John Tucker
28/2/06
Photo: John Tucker
16-21 Firing On All Six
them back in 1982!
Praying Mantis got their split and reformation out
of the way fairly early on, and went on to become rock
gods in Japan, but blimey, is it really five years since they
last played the UK, supporting Glenn Hughes at the
Astoria 2? That made me feel older than the recollection that I first saw them in 1980 supporting Triumph.
Still, no time for a lie-down. Sickness had ruled Dennis
Stratton out of the equation and with ten days to go
the band were set to pull out when uber-vocalist
Damian Wilson and drummer Benji Reid were drafted in
to fill the gaps (marvellously, it has to be said), meaning
that Praying Mantis were able to perform as a five-piece
for the first time since the mid-Eighties. They always
seemed to be the NWOBHM’ s poor relations back in
daze gone by, which is a shame as in Tino and Chris Troy
– both of whom seem to have smiles superglued to their
faces at all times – the band have a powerhouse guitar
and bass combination. Kicking off with ‘Can’t See The
Angels’, their set regrettably nodded more to their later,
more AOR material, although ‘Lovers To The Grave’ was
greeted as an old friend and you can’t help but tap your
toes to ‘Turn The Tables’.
Witchfynde opened their set with the procession of
the candelabra, but bizarrely weren’t allowed to light
their trademark stage prop because of fire regulations!
The coffin-lid-scraping riff of ‘Stage Fright’ set things
underway, although problems with the drum kit
brought things to a halt as soon as the song finished.
Vocalist Harry kept things moving while roadies scurried
this way and that, and when things re-commenced the
band sped through a ‘something-for-everyone-best-of’
set with the minimum of fuss and the maximum of
Metal. ‘Ready To Roll’, ‘The Other Side’, ‘Leaving Nadir’,
‘Moon Magic’, ‘Cloak And Dagger’, ‘Stab in The Back’
and ‘Give ‘Em Hell’ – read ‘em and weep. Throughout
the set I found my attention pretty much riveted to guitarist Montalo, who leapt around and like a teenager
on heat, and who is actually a stunningly clever and
much underrated master of his craft. What this country
needs is more Witchfynde gigs – with lighted candles –
asap.
Headliners Diamond Head came, saw, and conquered, of course, and although it’s no longer Sean
Harris strutting his stuff behind the mikestand, Nick Tart
has already carved out a place for himself within this
legendary band. A couple of people at the back were
booing needlessly and pointlessly; I’ve loved this band
for twenty-five years and couldn’t see them without
Harris, but in the here and now even the most die-hard
would be forced to admit that Diamond Head have produced one fine album in ‘All Will Be Revealed’ and on
the night played a great set to an appreciative audience. There was a nice mix of new and old in the chosed
material too, from ‘The Prince’ through ‘I Can’t Help
Myself’ to ‘Mine All Mine’; b-side ‘Streets Of Gold’ was a
particularly good spin on things. Brian Tatler seemed as
happy as a pig in the proverbial by the way things were
going and although a full house would have been nice,
in the UK that was never likely to happen. Downsides?
Well, did we need the ‘Mars’ intro played both to open
the gig (giving way to ‘It’s Electric’) and then again to
kick off set closer ‘Am I Evil’? And although some of the
songs had undergone slight reworkings, ‘To The Devil
His Due’ appeared to have suffered a full-frontal lobotomy by a drunk doctor in a coal cellar. But there’s no
doubt that Diamond Head 2005 has got a lot to offer,
and the whole thing was filmed for a DVD release, so if
APRIL - MAY 2006
19
4:06 pm
you don’t believe me, buy it and judge for yourself.
A good night; you should have been there.
Technically, of course, a twenty-fifth anniversary of the
NWOBHM in 2005 is a year too late, but then, nostalgia
ain’t what it used to be.
John Tucker
ALICE COOPER / TWISTED SISTER
Manchester M.E.N. Arena, 10th February 2005
After the frankly hopeless Viking Skull pulled out of
this tour, it enabled Twisted Sister to extend their set to
a full ninety minutes, and to be honest that gave better
value for money. Playing in Manchester for the first time
in over twenty years, although they did visit the UK for
a sold-out show at the London Astoria in 2003, the band
are impossible not to like. If it came to actually sitting at
home with one of their CD’s I’d probably give it a miss with the exception of ‘Under The Blade’ their albums
are patchy at best - but as a live act they’ve always been
exceptional. Dee Snider has always been a terrific frontman, with a knack for winning over even the most hardened sceptic with a combination of rabble-rousing
intensity and self-deprecating wit, and if that fails
there’s always foul-mouthed insults to fall back on.
Thankfully he’s still got it despite constantly rushing off
the stage for a breather, but to be honest time hasn’t
been kind to this band so wigs and carefully placed support belts are the order of the day – with the exception
of bassist Mark ‘The Animal’ Mendoza who prefers to
be ‘au naturel’. The denim and spandex are still in evidence as Snider leads his troops through a collection of
their most popular songs, from the early days of the
heavier ‘Destroyer’, ‘What You Don’t Know’ and ‘Shoot
‘Em Down’, to the more bubblegum moments of
‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ and ‘I Wanna Rock’.
Mendoza and drummer A.J Pero remain the most talented members with a thundering rhythm section that
holds up other anthems like ‘I Am (I’m Me)’ and ‘You
Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll’, whilst Eddie Ojeda plays simple melodic solos and Jay Jay French provides the backup guitar raunch. All the old stage raps are still there
and for an hour and a half you can almost believe it’s
still 1984 and escape from the hum-drum of everyday
life, the way it used to be.
Unlike Twisted Sister, their mentor and original
make-up wearing shock-rocker Alice Cooper is a regular
visitor to these shores, and the ‘Dirty Diamonds Review’
is Cooper’s third full-length tour of the new millennium.
Having made a couple of changes to the band since the
last time I saw him the set isn’t a significantly different
one, with many classics and a couple of new songs
slipped in for good measure.
The first half of the set is a basic rock’n’roll show
based on standards like ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy’, ‘Billion
Dollar Babies’, ‘Be My Lover’ and ‘Eighteen’ but with the
new but unimpressive ‘Dirty Diamonds’ and ‘Woman Of
Mass Distraction’ as well as the relatively recent ‘Lost In
America’ and ‘Between High School And Old School’
mixed in amongst the classics. In fact little has changed
since the last time he played the M.E.N. and as the band
run through abridged versions of ‘Go To Hell’ and the
‘Black Widow’ medley it’s beginning to get a bit predictable. Don’t get me wrong, I do love most of these
songs but I love them played with passion and verve.
Alice seems to be going through the motions, and
despite great performances by the awesome Eric Singer
on drums and the reliable Ryan Roxie on guitar, the new
members don’t seem to be cutting it. Damon Johnson
looks uncomfortable, not to mention ridiculously taller
than anyone else on stage, and the immobile Chuck
Garric just looks like he’d rather be somewhere else.
Doing a photo-shoot for ‘Tattoo’ magazine perhaps?
The old Frankenstein and guillotine props are
brought out along with Alice’s daughter Calico, but as
the band go through the ‘Feed My Frankenstein /
Welcome To My Nightmare / Steven / Only Women Bleed
/ Ballad Of Dwight Fry’ section of the show it all seems a
bit static and hollow compared to past shows – almost
like watching a Cooper covers band. Things do pick up
towards the end with ‘School’s Out’ and ‘Poison’ getting
the crowd moving, but the momentum is lost with the
average ‘Wish I Was Born In Beverly Hills’ and it’s left to
a spirited ‘Under My Wheels’ to end things on an even
keel. I don’t know if something was wrong behind the
scenes but it all seemed a bit subdued tonight, and
while the sometimes muddy sound could have been part
of the fault, the performance itself was below Cooper’s
high standard.
Phil Ashcroft
DRAGONFORCE / EDGUY / SABATON
Academy 2, Manchester, 27th January 2006
A sell-out crowd greeted this triumvirate of power
metal bands, and Sue & Phil Ashcroft joined me to
ensure a good turnout from the Fireworks staff to witness the first night of a tour that had Dragonforce headlining in the UK and Edguy headlining everywhere else
in Europe over the subsequent couple of months.
It was absolutely ages since I had been in this particular venue, sometimes known as MDH – and only ever
known by that name in the past when I had studied at
Manchester University. To think I had seen such bands as
20
Page 20
The Who and Emerson, Lake & Palmer in the same hall;
ah - memories came flooding back! Acoustically it is
not bad at all and even though we were planted at the
back of the room next to the lighting and sound people,
the view was perfectly adequate too.
To open proceedings, Swedish band Sabaton were
allowed just twenty minutes, but this was sufficient for
them to feature four of the most memorable tracks
from their 2005 debut album ‘Primo Victoria’. These
built up to a crescendo with the title track and ‘Metal
Machine’, and despite a very sparse crowd when they
kicked off proceedings, it was clear they had quickly
won over many of those present (me included!) and
much interest was shown in their album in the foyer
after the show. If you have not encountered them
before their brand of quite heavy but melodic power
metal (and I thought absolutely spot on for an opening
band on this tour) focuses on the horrors of war, but not
gratuitously so. Slim evidence, I know, but I feel this is a
band that is primed to climb the ladder of success.
Of course, after seven studio albums, plus live
release ‘Burning Down The Opera’ and countless EPs,
Edguy are already pretty close to the top of that very
ladder of European power metallers, and tonight they
did not disappoint, except insofar as the three of us
would have much preferred to have seen the European
leg of their tour and consequently a set lasting for more
than the 45 minutes and comprising only seven full
songs! Tobi Sammet is one of those front men who
always gives a full 100% - whether it is his singing or his
endearing engagement with the audience. He may not
be a giant in stature, but what he lacks in height he
more than makes up for in stage presence: “You know
three ways to help the band? Buy our CDs, buy our tshirts and sleep with one of us – oh, that’s only for the
women!!” He also berates the “asshole” who suggested
that there are no heavy metal fans in England – only
tourists from Iceland (something that I notice he has
subsequently repeated on the band’s web site). Most of
the audience may have been there for Dragonforce, but
TS and cohorts certainly won over many new fans on the
strength of their superb performance tonight, with a
high octane but perfectly controlled show. I don’t know
whether he was looking at Sue, Phil and I when Tobi
remonstrated “the old people at the back don’t seem to
be enjoying the show” but along with the other ‘oldsters’ towards the back we roared back that this was not
the case at all, although the warm fabric-conditioned
boys (thanks for this description, Sue!) at the front were
having one helluva lot of fun during a set that featured
‘Catch Of The Century’, ‘Mysteria’, ‘Vain Glory Opera’,
‘The Asylum’, ‘Superheroes’, ‘Babylon’ and ‘King Of
Fools’. A definite focus on more recently recorded stuff,
though for me the highlight of the set was the oldest
song featured. ‘Vain Glory Opera’ is a melodic feast with
a huge chorus: the sound generated by the band – espe-
Edguy
nise the value of not always needing to play at bullettrain speed!
The complete set majored in upon tracks from ‘Sonic
Firestorm’ and latest release ‘Inhuman Rampage’ and
comprised: ‘Storming The Burning Fields’, ‘Fury Of The
Storm’, ‘Once In a Lifetime’, ‘Operation Ground And
Pound’, ‘Fields Of Despair’, ‘Trail…’, ‘Keyboard Solo’,
‘Soldiers Of The Wasteland’. ‘Black Fire’, ‘Through The
Fire And Flames’, plus encores ‘My Sprit Will Go On’ and
‘Valley Of The Damned’. Unfortunately, Academy 2 has
a strict 2300 curfew (they did in my day, too..and I
remember a performance by the original incarnation of
Renaissance being cruelly cut short) and because the
band were tardy at getting onto the stage, they did not
have time for both encores and so the audience were
given a choice; they went for ‘Valley…’. You may be
wondering about the so-called ‘Keyboard Solo’…rest
assured that the three of us wondered about it too! It is
a contrivance to allow all the band off-stage for (whatever!) and at one stage the pre-programmed keyboards
do continue with nary a body on stage! Vadim P was the
first to return and implored us to “check out this synth
shit…” We did, and were in truth not overly impressed.
The scores on the doors? Well the winners of the
night were clearly Edguy, and from the reaction they
(unexpectedly?) received, it will not be long before they
return to these shores in a headlining capacity. It was
just a shame they had to defer headlining status to
Dragonforce…
Paul Jerome Smith (with Sue & Phil Ashcroft)
METAL FEMALE VOICES FESTIVAL 3
Wieze, Belgium, 22nd October 2005
And so the faithful gathered in a glorified aircraft
hanger in the middle of a residential area for the third
annual Metal Female Voices Festival: twelve bands alternating over two side-by-side stages (the main stage
being bigger and having a kick-ass lighting rig) backed
up with an intricate timetable of interviews and photoshoots. Unfortunately a last-minute technical hitch
meant the doors opened over one-and-a-half hours late,
well after the first band was due on and the first photoshoot scheduled, and someone’s well-planned day went
well and truly to cock. And two further bits of background for you to consider. Firstly, five Euros bought
three drink tickets, and one such ticket bought a beaker
of water the size doled out by a workplace water cooler: think how many of those you can get through in
eleven hours. Secondly, the on-site facilities provided
the full range of catering from hotdogs to beefburgers
– not much good to a couple of English vegetarians.
But to business: first band out of the dressing room
was ANACHRONIA, a last-minute addition to the bill to
replace Diluvium. A traditional Metal Female Voices sixpiece (vocals, two guitars, bass, keys and drums), their
set was enlived by the near-traditional additional male
vocalist who slipped on for the set opener and last number ‘Insanity’ and did the usual shouty bit – a nod to the
genre’s black metal roots. I couldn’t work out if they
were nervous or a bit lacking in experience or both, but
once they got into their groove they opened things up
with a bang and had quite a healthy sound. ‘Across the
Universe’ with its jazzy twists and turns really made the
cut for me. Opening the main stage, up next came
Dutch band AUTUMN. I liked this band a lot, despite
the fact that the singer seemed to have learned English
from watching Courtney Cox on ‘Friends’. Autumn have
some great songs and play some great guitar solos too
– the standout song of their forty-minutes being ‘The
Green Angel’.
I sacrificed the next band on the side stage, Mexican
six-piece THE LEGION OF HETHERIA in order to attend
the Midnattsol interview/photoshoot session. From
what could hear, they did a pretty good job, but by the
time I got back out front ELIS had just come on to the
main stage. I quite like Liechtenstein’s finest (only?),
but my partner-in-crime had already damned Sabine
Duenser’s “white suit and girly voice” in the notebook
and scribbled “Eurovision!!!” underneath. I guess live
cially the thunderous drums - being captured perfectly.
Would that the same could be said of Dragonforce.
The three of us had high expectations, only to have
them dashed by being unable to hear hardly any bass
drumming at all! Melodic speed metal in the live setting
demands a finely-tuned and crystal clear sound for it to
be totally effective, and too often I found myself noting
that the performance was “indistinct”. Whilst the
band’s young fans at the front simply lapped up the
stage theatrics and the furious lead guitar interplay of
messrs Li and Totman, us ‘oldsters’ towards the back
were running more carefully considered eyes and ears
over the proceedings. It certainly wasn’t a bad show all
things considered, though the sound did them no
favours at all. Vadim Pruzhanov often hovered near the
front of the stage with his key-tar whilst besides
indulging in speedy riff exchanges with Sam Totman,
one couldn’t help but marvel at some of the magical
solo bits that emanated from Herman Li. He is the star
(read: “metal god”) of the band – and he knows it!! Z P
Theart’s vocals were, thankfully, not entirely lost in the
poor sound though clarity was improved somewhat
when the pace slowed down for the ballad ‘Trail Of
Broken Hearts’. Would that Dragonforce might recog-
APRIL - MAY 2006
ISSUE 23
Autumn
Photo: John Tucker
28/2/06
Photo: Sue Ashcroft
16-21 Firing On All Six
FIREWORKS
28/2/06
4:06 pm
they didn’t seem to have the power that manager and
producer extraordinaire Alexander Krull invested in
their ‘Dark Clouds In A Perfect Sky’ album, and did veer
towards the pop end of the spectrum at times. But
“Eurovision” was a tad harsh!
Back on the side stage, SKEPTICAL MINDS kept both
the lighting and the mood harsh and indulged in the
White Zombie approach with a vaguely industrial spin
on the MFV scene. Maybe this is what Shirley Manson
and the boys in Garbage had in mind when they first
started out. Lots of samples, lots of fx, lots of fun.
Vocalist Kristell kept the Belgian quartet bouncing
along, and despite some down time between songs,
they are definitely a band to watch for the future.
MIDNATTSOL were the first band of the day I’d real-
Photo: John Tucker
Midnattsol
AFTER FOREVER. If you saw them at Bloodstock, you
won’t need me to tell you they are tight and exciting to
watch, and have an extremely stylish and charismatic
singer in Floor Jansen; but what sets them apart is that
despite being professional in the extreme, they are not
afraid to have fun. So snippets of Kiss’s ‘I Was Made For
Loving You’ cropped up in one song, and this was followed by a lively rendition of Europe’s ultimate cheeseanthem ‘The Final Countdown’. Besides, this is the band
who recorded ‘Remagine’, one of the greatest albums
of all time.
LEAVES’ EYES rounded off proceedings on the side
stage. They managed to impress in just thirty minutes
on the UK tour with Paradise Lost, so with another
twenty minutes to play with they were able to really
showcase both albums ‘Lovelorn‘ and ‘Vinland Saga’.
Drummer Moritz Neuner was sick as a parrot after the
set, reckoning that a technical problem had ruined the
opening couple of numbers, but out front they sounded
OK and aside from some down time while the samples
were sorted out their set was a pure gem. Alexander
Krull spent a lot more time onstage alongside singer
and squeeze Liv Kristine Espenaes Krull than in the UK,
and boy, does he keep the energy levels up. Highlights
of the set were ‘Leaves’ Eyes’ itself and ‘Temptation’,
and of course the closer ‘Elegy’ which may well become
the anthem of a generation.
LACUNA COIL rounded off the event, and although
what I heard of their set was pretty stunning, by this
time I have to admit to being very tired, very, very hungry and running close to dehydrated. Sorry guys, but it
was time to cut and run. See you all next year.
always wished I could have seen the band. They’ve carried on in various forms in the last decade, and again,
I’ve always missed them. I was so thrilled to be at the
show in Manchester – even though it was in the smallest of the Academy halls. I had been a bit dubious about
hearing new singer Max perform. I was worried that he
would be trying too hard to be Alex and that the band
would turn into a parody of themselves. This was totally unfounded. Max is a great frontman, a total showman, and a joy to watch. Like Alex, he sings/ speaks in
the broad Glaswegian accent, but he has a talent all his
own. Wearing a gold jacket, a pair of white jeans with
all sorts of references to SAHB songs on (the coolest
pants I’ve ever seen and I WANT them!), and a shirt that
said “F***” - just about all over it, he wasn’t trying to be
Alex, just interpret the songs in the way they should be
sung. The rest of the band are of course the original line
up of Ted McKenna on drums, Chris Glenn on bass, Hugh
McKenna on keyboards, and the genius that is Zal
Cleminson on guitar. Even before the band came onto
the stage I knew it was going to be a bit of a different
Sensational Alex
Harvey Band
John Tucker
SIMPLE MINDS
Manchester Academy, 11th February 2006
ly come to see, and they didn’t disappoint. I had high
expectations, and the band met ‘em and them some.
They are a stunning live act and ran through eight of
the eleven songs from their Fireworks-approved debut
album ‘Where Twilight Dwells’, the opening pairing of
‘Dancing With The Midnight Sun’ and ‘Another Return’
being particularly effective. Carmen Elise Espanaes sang
her heart out while Leaves Eyes’ frontwoman Liv stood
side stage and clapped, cheered and generally looked
quite proud of her kid sister. OK, maybe I’m biased, but
Midnattsol were the highlight of the day for me.
MERCURY RAIN had the privilege of being the first
UK band to be invited to play the event and were next
up on the side stage. I like this band a lot, and this was
probably the best show I’d seen them do. Making full
use of their stage space they literally tore through a
seven-song set which opened, as ever, with Sonia
Porzier’s solo piece ‘Tales From Beyond’ and climaxed
with ‘The Messenger’ with shouty male vocals supplied
by David Larzul from In Memoriam. Unfortunately,
Mercury Rain performed only one more gig after this,
and have now split up.
Back on the main stage, EPICA whipped up a storm.
One of the fastest rising stars of the genre, the Dutch
band fronted by Simone Simons have class, character
and an armoury of well-crafted songs, as their latest
album ‘Consign To Oblivion’ expertly illustrates. They
also have the most stirring intro of all time, although
the ten-minute closer and album title track is just too
much for me. ASRAI are another Dutch band (must be
something in the water) but they come from the fetish
side of the scene, all pig-tails and PVC, guitars and gasmasks. Imagine Marilyn Manson’s younger sister and
her mates, and you wouldn’t be far wrong. Their set
was an extravaganza of beats and noise, and although
it wasn’t my thing, everyone else loved them.
Incidentally, trivia fans, I think they are the only MFV
band to feature twins, with Margriet on vocals and
Karin on drums
Completing three in a row from Holland came
Epica
Photo: John Tucker
Page 21
Simple Minds were one of those bands in the ‘80’s
that I absolutely hated. Not because of the music, but
because every where I went at that time, it was nothing
else but Simple Minds. There were always the odd songs
that grabbed me, but I think it was just overload that
turned me off. Over the years however, I’ve begun to
have a new fondness for SM, and have started to appreciate them far more than I used to. Given the last
minute chance to go and see them live, I jumped at it,
and I’m very glad I did. All the shows on the tour had
sold out, so I wasn’t surprised when we got there to find
the venue rammed to the door. We grabbed a drink,
and made our way as far forward as we could, to about
a third of the way from the stage, which was as close as
we could without being crushed by sweaty forty somethings! Even before they came on the crowd were
shouting “Simple Minds”, and when they did arrive,
they went wild. Jim Kerr was his usual charismatic self
and commanded the crowd from the outset.
“Jeeeeemmaaaaay, Jeeeemmmaaaaay” was the roar,
and he just stood there grinning like a Cheshire cat! The
set was a real mixed bag of old and new material. Some
favourites of mine – ‘Up On The Catwalk’ - full of energy and plenty for the crowd to sing along to (although
they did a lot of that all night!), ‘All The Things She
Said’, ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’, and ‘Waterfront’.
They went right back to their roots with ‘East At Easter’
and ‘Love Song’. I was a little surprised that they didn’t
play ‘Promised You A Miracle’, but I suppose they had to
leave enough space for the new songs from their most
recent album ‘Black & White 050505’. There were 7 in all
between the set and the 2 encores. I have to admit that
although they seemed to go down well, and I did notice
people around me singing all the words, I didn’t feel
that they were perhaps as groove - led as previous material. I fully admit, I’m a rock chick through and through,
so it was all a little light for me, but they are very good
at what they do and it was great to finally see a band
that I have followed in some way, for so many years.
Musically, they were top notch, especially the rhythm
section of Mel Gaynor and Eddie Duffy. I’m glad we had
chosen to stand at the side of the stage where we got
the best view of them, as they would have been enough
to keep me entertained on their own! Charlie Burchill
was proficient on the guitar, but his style is far too laid
back for me - as I said, I’m a rock chick and I kept wishing he would do a really over the top solo! Andy
Gillespie’s keyboards were swamped in the mix a lot of
the time, but when it was clear enough to hear him, he
was more than capable of playing the material. Kerr’s
voice was not always spot on key, but the audience didn’t seem to care. Everyone had a great time - dancing,
singing, and reminiscing about the ‘80’s.
I was very glad I made the effort to go. Apathy is the
enemy of music - I wish more people would follow my
example, maybe then they would have sold out the
Apollo!
Sue Ashcroft
SENSATIONAL ALEX HARVEY BAND
Manchester Academy, 14th December 2005
I remember when I was 10, first being introduced to
SAHB at the local youth club (‘Giddy Up A Ding Dong’
was a firm favourite!). I became a huge fan over the
years and even after Alex’s sad demise, 20 years ago, I
Photo: Sue Ashcroft
16-21 Firing On All Six
experience as there was a huge screen which flipped
down from the ceiling and was filled with psychedelic
images. The music that was playing was like a heavy
dance track. When the band arrived and started playing,
it turned out to be ‘Faith Healer’, given a complete
makeover! I’m usually something of a purist when it
comes to things like this, but it was very well done and
gave a whole new dimension to the song. During the
show, the images changed between the psychedelic, to
old footage from TOTP, Whistle Test and various live
shows, to what was actually happening on stage - a veritable feast for the eyes as well as the ears. The band rattled through a lot of the classics: ‘Give My Compliments
To The Chef’, ‘Tomahawk Kid’ (again, a bit updated),
‘Isobel Goudie’, ‘Midnight Moses’, ‘Swampsnake’, and
one of the songs that I listened to more than was probably healthy as a teenager – ‘Next’. As a big fan of the
Tubes, I think SAHB fall into the same category for the
most part, in that they have a ‘total entertainment’
approach to the shows – not costumes as such, but definite stage clothing and make up, interplay between
band members – as if they are all characters in a story,
almost like it were a modern musical, rather than a
band playing their hits. Having seen them in Dudley a
couple of nights before though, I was a bit upset to
realise that what I thought were really clever, off the
cuff ad-libs, were in fact well rehearsed and used at
every show. Still, I suppose there’s only so much you can
say between songs on a tour that lasts 28 dates without
repeating yourself, or sounding naff!
Anyway, that’s the only negative thing I can possibly
say. This is the good stuff – Chris Glenn in his Terminator
specs was absolutely faultless, Zal Cleminson is a true
genius and it was refreshing after the show to hear a
young guy of 17 say how inspired he had been by Zal’s
playing. Ted McKenna is a classic, old school drummer
and is world class, as has been proven on his many
album appearances. Hugh McKenna – the quiet one – is
unmistakable on keyboards, and that’s one of the things
that attracted me to the band in the first place, as I was
playing keyboards myself all those years ago. It wouldn’t be a SAHB gig without ‘Delilah’ of course, and
tonight’s was a little different. Apparently during a play
fight before the show, Chris had twisted his ankle, and
wasn’t up to the dance section! So, Max had to take
over from him and do the trademark steps, known so
well to all of us who stayed up late to watch them on
Whistle Test! He and Zal did a good job too, and had the
audience – and Chris, for that matter – in stitches! All
too soon it was over. They’ve been announced for
Sweden Rock in June, so let’s hope we get another few
dates in the UK before long.
Sue Ashcroft

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