Saturday 30 October 2010
Nottingham Rock City
Firefest itself could not have got off to a worse start, as a problem
with the sound board at Rock City meant that a whole new mixing desk had
to be brought in, and as a result proceedings kicked off 90 minutes
late. The delay was met with patience and good humour, and some time was
restored with swift changeovers and bands dropping the odd song.
Thankfully Rock City were more flexible than usual and allowed the show
to run 45 minutes over curfew.
Illusion opened proceedings, having the air of a group of Swedish
schoolteachers with a musical sideline, and with a pomp-tastic TWO
recently reformed, the likes of opener 'All out of Love' and the more
mainstream 'Emily' from the new album 'Brand New World' impressed and
Peter Sandell was a great singer, combining the classic AOR voice with
some Glenn Hughes-type screams. They got the day off to a very enjoyable
start although to be frank later bands easily eclipsed them, beginning
with the first surprise of the day in Beggars and Thieves.
Fronted by original vocalist Louie Merlino and guitarist Ronnie Mancuso
whose controlled bluesy tones impressed me, their sound was relatively
laid back, reminding me at times of Tall Stories, but the band were
tight and seemed to be enjoying themselves.
ranged across their albums, including the slow burning opener 'No More
Broken Dreams' and equally finely crafted 'Kill Me' and 'Beggars and
Thieves', all from their 1990 major label debut, shaming me for not
playing it for so long - and also included a trio of songs from a
forthcoming first album in over a decade.
Firefest took place in the shadow of the recent death of one of the
genre's greats, Gotthard singer Steve Lee, which was marked by many of
the audience sporting Gotthard shirts.
Thieves are from Nevada where Steve suffered his tragic accident and
they paid fitting tribute in their set with a moving cover of 'Knockin
on Heaven's Door', with Ronnie's guitar competing with Louie's
Choir were another band who had the misfortune to release a classic
debut 'On Target' just as grunge kicked away the hair metal traces, but
are now back together.
singer David Reece was a fantastic old-school rock frontman, covering
every inch of the stage, working the crowd and giving 100% effort. For
me, his voice sounded a little rougher around the edges than on that
album and was sometimes submerged by the sheer wall of noise from his
band, but he did a superb job of whipping Rock City into a frenzy.
all nostalgia as three songs from the reunion CD 'Cadence' were played
including heavy opener 'Power Trippin', and 'Martyr' with some twin
guitars from the excellent Curt Mitchell and Mick Jones-lookalike Andy
was the 'On Target' stuff people wanted to hear, with 'The Good Die
Young' a stirring ballad dedicated to Steve Lee and Ronnie James Dio,
and storming versions of 'Loaded Gun', 'Angel in Black' and encore 'All
or Nothing' seeing the crowd roaring along to their strong choruses. For
those wanting straight ahead, uncompromising hard rock they were the
band of the day.
void left by Saraya pulling out of the festival, Shotgun Symphony
reformed to play in its entirety their self-titled debut, which was a
rare shaft of light in a then moribund scene when it appeared in 1993.
pomp was sheer musical quality, the now short-haired Tracy White not
missing a note and Mike Maino effortlessly fluent on guitar, especially
on the ballads, although they also felt somewhat clinical and did not
really engage with the crowd as much as some of the other bands.
familiar likes of 'Highway to Tomorrow' and 'Lost Child', it was great
to hear some of the lesser played tracks such as 'Turn Around' and
'Goodbye to the Night' , with Tracy adding acoustic guitar to the
latter. An added bonus was an encore of 'Believe in Me', the standout
song from their subsequent releases.
the one album theme, Bonfire performed nearly all of Fireworks,
their 1987 album so beloved that it spawned the long-running magazine of
the same name, and indirectly, the name of the Festival itself.
Germans' crunchy yet melodic sound and Claus Lessman's raspy vocals was
also a reminder that countless European bands have trod a similar
musical path since, and the simple yet effective choruses of the likes
of 'Ready 4 Reaction', 'Never Mind', 'Don't get me wrong', and 'Sleeping
all Alone' were perfect fodder for a hungry crowd, many from the
'Give it a Try' was a rare mellow moment before 'American Nights' and
'Sweet Obsession' had the crowd going crazy. Claus was as usual a
hyperactive and genial frontman, with ‘this next one's off an album
called Fireworks' becoming a running gag. However in a marvellous touch,
they encored instead with a cover of Gotthard's ballad 'I'm On My Way'.
For me the
highlight of the day was Dare. In their original incarnation
between 1988 and 1991 they were one of my favourite bands and I was
convinced they would break into the big time (keyboardist Brian Cox did
of course, but in an entirely different field!)
mainman Darren Wharton took them in a laid back, celtic-influenced
direction but with the return of original guitarist Vinny Burns I hoped
some of the old fire would return . Oddly though the band are still
without a bass player though acoustic guitarist Richard Dews and a
keyboard player filled out the sound.
The atmosphere down the front ranked with recent classic Firefest
performances from the likes of FM and Gotthard, as they opened with a
quartet of classics from their 'Out of the Silence' debut - 'Abandon',
'Into the Fire', an anthemic 'The Raindance' and the less frequently
played 'Running Away' with a great solo from Vinny.
There was a
hefty chunk of the more recent material in the middle but the likes of
'Silent Thunder' and newie 'Shelter from the Storm' seemed to carry
through with more conviction in a live setting.
They ended a
set that had flown by in an hour with the questionably titled 'King of
Spades', where Darren's heartfelt vocal tribute to Philip Lynott never
fails to move me, and the celtic-inspired anthem 'Return the Heart'.
We then went
from the mellower to the heavier end of the broad church that makes up
melodic rock with headliners Lynch Mob, featuring George Lynch,
ex-Dokken guitarist and one of the godfathers of the shred style of
a double from their 1990 debut - 'She's Evil but She's Mine' and 'River
of Love', my sense was that die hard fans were loving it, but they were
not holding the attention of the more casual fans who started to drift
As one of
the latter, I was admiring George's supreme technical prowess and the
hyperactive drumming of Brian Tichy, while Oni Logan had a strong voice
but there was a lack of interaction with the crowd while the songs
lacked the hooks to satisfy my more mainstream tastes. However '21st
Century Man' from reformation album 'Smoke and Mirrors' was impressive.
It was then notable that the crowd erupted when they took a trip into
George's Dokken back catalogue, with his guitar tour de force 'Mr.
Scary' and, more surprisingly, 'Into the Fire' with Oni doing a fine job
and the momentum was maintained with an extended version of their best
known song, 'Wicked Sensation'. Despite the overrun, they still slipped
in an encore of another Dokken number, a rapid fire 'Tooth and Nail,'
with a short but fast-fingered solo from George in the middle.
I enjoyed the set far more than I expected to, which is how it should
be. But after seeing out the night with socialising over a few beers and
some great tunes old and new from the DJ's in the Rig Room at Rock City,
even better was to come in Day 2....