Firefest VII

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Firefest VII

Postby Rockingbear » Tue Feb 22, 2011 7:29 am

Firefest VII Review

To say that I was excited about the prospect of this year’s Firefest would be the understatement of the year. I got up on Saturday morning at 7.30am as I was unable to sleep with excitement! The last time I was this excited about a festival was the first year that I went to Donington and The Monsters Of Rock Festival way back in 1983! Carol, my wife, found it highly amusing but then was a little concerned that I would drive like a madman down the M1! No fear of the latter, as I was taking no chances that I would miss any of the weekends.

I arrived bang on midday and duly took my place in the queue to get in to Rock City. Erik and Dave from H.E.A.T tried to walk inconspicuously on the other side of the road; not a chance of not being recognised by the die-hard fans that attend Firefest every year.

In hindsight, I wished I had joined my friends Colin and Troy in the pub for a pre-festival drink, however, I was expecting to be inside Rock City within fifteen minutes. An hour later we finally got through the doors and I headed straight for the toilet!

The delay, it transpired, was from a faulty mixing desk and resulted in the first band, Grand Illusion, not taking the stage until 2.30pm, over two hours later than scheduled. Considering the early problems, the sound was remarkably good from the offset and just improved throughout the rest of the day. Grand Illusion got the day off to a great, if not late, start. Per Svennson has the ability to sing soft AOR one minute and then scream his lungs out the next perfectly highlighted in “157th Breakdown”. Strangely, my favourite track was taken from their excellent latest album “Brand New World” and was the ballad “Emily”.

Set-List: All Out Of Love / 157th Breakdown / Gone For Good / Emily / I Refuse / Brand New World / Never Find Her Alone / I’m Alive
Favourite Track: Emily

Next band up were Las Vegas band Beggars & Thieves who I have to confess I knew absolutely nothing about and if it had been later in the day I would have probably taken the opportunity to have a meal-break. With only a limited time slot and that having been reduced further due to the initial delays, I am sure that Beggars & Thieves could have dispensed with the incredibly long intro and outro to their set! When vocalist Louie Merlino finally hit the stage I could not work out if he was half cut or it was part of the act. My concerns were dispelled when he started to sing, fabulous voice, and he along with the rest of the band treated us all to a wonderful set. Highlights were the great cover of the Dylan classic “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” dedicated to the late, great, Steve Lee from Gotthard who sadly was tragically killed a few weeks ago. As the band started playing the track “Beggars & Thieves” my friend, Troy and I looked at each other as if we recognised the song. A few minutes later we concurred that it passed a very great similarity to Steel Dragon’s “We All Die Young” from the film Rock Star! This was great surprise and a real bonus of the weekend.

Set-List: No More Broken Dreams / Stone Alone / In Between / Kill Me / Shine A Light / Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door / Innocence / Beggars & Thieves / We Are The Broken Hearted
Favourite Track: Beggars & Thieves

Earlier in the year I got hold of a copy “On Target” and instantly it became a firm favourite. How on Earth I missed out on this band all these years? Bangalore Choir played a brilliant set comprising of mostly tracks from their brilliant debut and three from their equally as good, if not slightly heavier, recent album “Cadence”. Front man David Reece had an amazing powerful voice and was obviously a great favourite of the Firefest crowd. Kicking off with thumping “Power Trippin’” Bangalore Choir hit the ground running and never let up throughout their entire set. The “On Target” targets were obviously crowd favourites especially “Just One Night”, “Slippin’ Away” and “All Or Nothin’” but it was
“Angel In Black” the nearly took the roof off Rock City. This was the first of many hairs on the back of your neck standing on end moments throughout the weekend. Also a nice touch dedicating the very apt “If The Good Die Young (We’ll Live Forever)” to the late Ronnie James Dio and Steve Lee.

I later got my “Cadence” CD signed by the entire band and my photograph taken with David who was a true gent. The guy in front of me, for the meet and greet, had flown all the way from Brazil so I felt a bit humble having driven the mammoth forty miles down the M1 from Sheffield!

Set List: Power Trippin’ / Just One Night / Martyr / Doin’ The Dance / Loaded Gun / If The Good Die Young (We’ll Live Forever)/ Living Your Dreams / Slippin’ Away / Freight Train Rollin’ / Angel In Black / All Or Nothin’
Favourite Track: Angel In Black

Shotgun Symphony were a late replacement for Saraya whom I had been looking forward to seeing since their announcement at this year’s festival. I missed the beginning of Shotgun Symphony’s set but did manage to catch the majority; and what a fine set. The majority of songs played were taken from their 1993 self-titled debut, the one album of theirs that I not familiar with! The one disappointment was that they did not play the classic “Generation Clash” from “On The Line Of Fire”. This year’s Firefest certainly featured some great vocalists and Tracy White was up there with the best of them. I certainly will have to check out their self-titled album. The sound was very good throughout their set.

Set List: Highway To Tomorrow / What Happens To Love / Way Back Home / Turn Around / Broken Promises / Lost Child / She’s In Love / Running / Bittersweet Poison / Goodbye To The Night / Believe In Me
Favourite Track: Believe In Me

Bonfire were always going to have one of the strongest sets of the weekend taking all their songs from classic 1987 “Fireworks” album. The latter is legendary melodic rock and it was performed to near perfection this evening. I thought that the sound was the best of the weekend especially Claus Lessmann’s vocals. Claus was obviously having a real blast and who says that Germans don’t have a sense of humour! My favourite tracks from this seminal album were all played in a row, mid-set, “Don’t Get Me Wrong”, “Sleeping All Alone”, “Give It A Try” and my all-time favourite Bonfire song “Fantasy”. Bonfire returned to the stage for a fitting tribute to Steve Lee with a cover of Gotthard’s “I’m On My Way”. The latter was much appreciated by all in attendance on the Saturday.

Set List: Ready For Reaction / Never Mind / Don’t Get Me Wrong / Sleeping All Alone / Give It A Try / Fantasy / American Nights / Sweet Obsession / Champion / I’m On My Way (Gotthard cover)
Favourite Track: Fantasy

The major draw for me on the Saturday was the appearance of Dare whom I have been a massive fan of from the beginning. The last time I saw time was at the first Firefest in Bradford and their they were plagued by a poor sound and a weak set-list. I was a little concerned that they would suffer having to follow the great performance by Bonfire but my reservations were laid to rest immediately with the opening salvo of “Abandon”, “Into The Fire” “Runaway” and “The Raindance” from the arguably, greatest debut AOR album by a British band “Out Of The Silence” (some might argue FM’s “Indiscreet” takes that title). Even the opening track from their latest studio album “Arc Of the Dawn” “Dublin” took on a whole new dynamic. Darren Wharton’s vocals were lush and soulful as ever and it was great to see Vinny Burns back in the band and obviously enjoying himself. The brilliant “Silent Thunder” from “Belief” and “Sea Of Roses” from “Beneath The Shining Water” were also included. Personally, I would have loved them to have played the title track from that latter album. The perennial Phil Lynott dedicated “King Of Spades” was followed by one of the standout cuts from the new album “Shelter In The Storm”. The brilliant set was closed with “I Will Return” that features on both the debut and the latest album.

Set List: Abandon / Into The Fire / Runaway / The Raindance / Silent Thunder / Dreams On Fire / Sea Of Roses /Dublin / Shelter In The Storm / King Of Spades / I Will Return
Favourite Track: Abandon

I have to admit that I raised my eyebrows when I read that Lynch Mob were to headline the Saturday at Firefest VII. I am a great fan of George Lynch and have had the great fortune to see him four times in previous years: three with Dokken and once with Lynch Mob supporting Queensryche on the Empire Tour. Unfortunately, Lynch Mob do not have the same back catalogue as the mighty Dokken, however, George assembled an impressive line-up including new Whitesnake thumper Brian Tichy on drums. Man, does this boy belt the living crap out of his kit! Mr Lynch, however, was the real star shredding his way through both Lynch Mob and Dokken classics. It was the latter that really got the crowd in a frenzy: the instrumental “Mr. Scary”; I was expecting the rifftastic “Kiss Of Death” but was even more thrilled when they launched into my all-time favourite Dokken track “Into The Fire”. I would have preferred another Dokken track instead of the elongated “Wicked Sensation”, however, the set closer was pure inspiration: “Tooth & Nail”.

Set List: She’s So Evil / River Of Love / Hell Child / Revolution Hero / Let The Music Be Your Master / 21st Century Man / Mr. Scary / Into The Fire / Wicked Sensation / Tooth & Nail
Favourite Track: Into The Fire

Friends Colin and Troy thought that this set was worth the admission price alone, however, for me Dare took the award for Band of the Day.

That was an incredible day and seven great performances but for me it was just the appetiser for Day Two. I took my friends Colin and Troy back to Lincoln and then on to Mark & Lauren’s for a few beers before retiring to bed. I was so wired it took me nearly half an hour to get to sleep and I was up again early on the Sunday morning in search of a cup of coffee!

Fortunately Day Two started on time. After paying £3.50 for a can of Guinness the day before I thought I would go for a pint of San Miguel, only to be charged £3.80! Fortunately, for me Firefest is all about the music and not about the boozing!

Grand Design probably had the weakest performance of the weekend, however, I still thoroughly enjoyed their set taken totally from their brilliant debut album “Time Elevation”. To say that this band are influenced by Def Leppard would be the understatement of the year. I was little disappointed that many of the harmony vocals on the huge choruses were sampled and not sung live but that was only a minor criticism. Throughout the set there was guy the back who kept shouting for “Hero To Zero” obviously blissfully unaware he was watching a different band! Just goes to prove that not all fans at Firefest are complete anoraks!

Set List: No Time For Love / Air it Out / Piece Of The Action / Sad Sound Of Goodbye / Everybody Changes / Love Sensation
Favourite Track: Sad Sound Of Goodbye

If being talented, hard working and a thoroughly all round nice guy then Newman would have several multi-platinum albums and be playing sold-out arenas. Unfortunately, I found Newman live similar to on album: very good but just lacking that “je ne sais quoi”! Their performance was not helped by arguably the worst sound of the weekend but it was apparent that both the band and majority of the audience were enjoying themselves.

Set List: Hero To Zero / Endless / Every Moment / Primitive Soul / Stay With Me / Tumble Down / If It’s Love / Coming Home Tonight / Heaven Knows / One Step Closer
Favourite Track: Tumble Down

Stage Dolls took this year’s Firefest into overdrive with a truly awesome set with tracks spanning their full career. Their brand of Bryan Adams-esque melodic rock is certainly infectious and much appreciated by the Firefest audience. Half way through the set I think most people realised we were witnessing the performance of the Festival to date. This band first came to my attention way back in 1988 when they released their self-titled album of which “Love Cries”, “Still In Love” and “Wings Of Steel” all featured in their set. Even earlier material “Commandos”, personal favourite “Heart To Heart” and “Soldier’s Gun” also featured complete with “Always” and “Rollin’” from their underrated recent album “Always”. Set opener “24/7” and “Hard To Say Goodbye” completed the wonderful set-list and the band left to a standing ovation. Well all bands did due to the lack of seating in Rock City!

Set List: 24/7 / Love Cries / Always / Rollin’ / Hard To Say Goodbye / Commandos / Love Don’t Bother Me / Heart To Heart / Wings Of Steel / Still In Love / Soldier’s Gun
Favourite Track: Heart To Heart

Unfortunately, I missed the closing of Stage Dolls but I had a very good reason. I won a competition to meet Strangeways. The competition was to pick their set-list and therefore I was very surprised when they only played four of the ten tracks that I had selected! Terry Brock did explain that we would not have known about the new album and that they would be playing a couple of tracks from it. I told him that my personal favourites from “Perfect World” were the title track and “Time” both of which were to be included and came across very well. Judging by the attendance I would suggest that most people had come to see this band and they did not disappoint, well not quite. Terry Brock’s voice was brilliant and the crowd went wild when the old favourites were aired. Set opener was curiously laid back in the form of “Love Lies Dying” and followed by the surprise inclusion of “Breaking Down The Barriers” from the 1994 debut. The band interspersed four new tracks from the new album. First up was the excellent title track “Perfect World” and my personal favourite “Time”. Many would probably agree that we could have dispensed with “Borderlines” and “Bushfire” for a couple of classics from “Native Sons” and “Walk In The Fire”. “Only A Fool” was requested personally by event organiser Kieran Dargan and duly played; “After The Hurt Is Gone” and the much requested “Where Do We Go From Here” went down well and “Never Going To Lose It” almost brought me to tears! Unfortunately, they broke a cardinal “unwritten” law of Firefest and finished their set with a new song “Bushfire” and not one of their classics. That said it was still a terrific return and I look forward to a full tour next year.

Set List: Love Lies Dying / Breaking Down The Barriers / Perfect World / Only A Fool / Empty Streets / / Time / After The Hurt Is Gone / Borderlines / Where Do We Go From Here / Never Going To Lose It / Bushfire
Favourite Track: Never Going To Lose It

Jimi Jamison produced not only the set of the day but arguably the best set of any Firefest. Jimi assembled himself a great backing band including “Mr. AOR Guitarist” Tommy Denander and Jimmy Jay (bass), Jona Tee (keyboards), unknown but phenomenal drummer and Dave Dalone from H.E.A.T. Now Dave did look like a spare part on backing vocals just stood on the side of the stage drinking beer, but, hey which one of us would not have exchanged places with him?
Jimi hit the stage in a black suit and sunglasses and look like melodic rock’s equivalent to Sir Cliff Richard! Then he started to, what a voice! With such a huge impressive back catalogue it was difficult to predict exactly what Mr. Jamison would play this evening. The set he did produce for the time slot was as near perfect as one could have expected; it just kept building and building with classic songs following more classic songs. I kept getting chills down my spine with the likes of “It’s The Singer Not The Song”, “I See You In Everyone” and probably my all time favourite Survivor song “Rebel Son”. “Crossroads Moment” was taken from Jimi’s latest excellent solo album as was “Dream To Far” from “Empires”. The set could have ended there it would still probably ranked as the performance of the weekend, however, the closing three soundtrack songs elevated the performance to legendary status. First was “Burning Heart” from Rocky IV; Rock City was going ballistic at this stage; next up was “I’m Always Here” which Jimi thanked David Hasselhoff for the royalties and the final show stopper, the classic “Eye Of The Tiger” by which time the place was in almost complete meltdown!

Set-List: Caught In The Game / It’s The Singer Not The Song / High On You / Is This Love / I See You In Everyone / Didn’t Know It Was Love / A Dream Too Far / Crossroads Moment / Rebel Son / Burning Heart / Always There For You / Eye Of The Tiger
Favourite Track: Rebel Son

Pretty Maids had the unenviable task of following one of the greatest Firefest sets of all time and fare play to the great Danes they pulled it off. Strangely, their flight delay and subsequent movement up the bill only improved the running order of the day. I suppose it was their juxtaposed sound to the previous bands and headliners Nelson that made it so great. It was a little disappointing that a large proportion of the crowd decided to have break after Jimi Jamison’s set; many probably thinking that the Maids were just too heavy for their tastes. There were obviously some hardcore fans that remained and a few others and we were treated to probably the most varied set of the weekend. Pretty Maids would not be out of place at a Heavy Metal Festival never mind a Melodic Rock Festival. Their varying styles were exemplified by the three tracks taken off their latest release “Pandemonium”, one of the surprise Albums Of the Year: the crunching metal of the title track; one of the best hard melodic rock tracks of the year and my personal favourite “INVU”; and one of the AOR tracks of the year “Little Drops Of Heaven”. Vocalist Ronnie Atkins has a unique style being ultra-melodic one minute to sounding like he has swallowed a bucket load of razor blades the next! It was hard to believe that this was their first sojourn to these shores since 1985. Let’s hope that they return for a full UK tour.

Set List: Pandemonium / INVU / Back To Back / Savage Heart / Rodeo / Love Games / Little Drops Of Heaven / Walk Away / Please Don’t Leave Me / Future World / Red Hot & Heavy
Favourite Track: INVU

The weekend had just disappeared in a flash and it was left to Nelson to close proceedings. Unbelievably, this was the first ever performance in the UK and the Nelson twins, Gunnar and Matthew, were not about to disappoint. The majority of their well paced set was naturally taken from their multi-platinum debut album “After The Rain” plus a couple of tracks from their other albums. Despite having a new album out there were no new tracks aired this evening. Now most people associate Nelson with fluffy laid-back AOR, however, they took to the stage with no less than three guitarists, Gunnar Nelson, Mark Slaughter and new guitar-hero Neil Zazza. One minor criticism is that there were too many solos during this short set; I thought that we had managed to go the whole weekend without a drum solo and I was not in need of the toilet when xx began his solo. My friend Mark leaned over to me and said, “It’s just like watching Neil Peart!” then to our great surprise Gunnar Nelson took over on the drums allowing Brian Burwell to take centre stage for a bit of break dancing! I have to admit that the latter did bring a huge smile to my face! A nice touch also was the band playing “Up All Night” with Mark Slaughter on lead vocals. I cannot say that I am great fan of Slaughter, however, judging by the crowd reaction I was certainly in the minority. It is also worth noting that Mark must have a photograph in this attic a la “The Picture Dorian Gray” as he looks no different now to when I saw him last supporting Cinderella back in the early nineties!

Set List: Let Me Fill You Up / Evermore / More Than Ever / Ghostsdance / Only Time Will Tell / Girl Like That / After The Rain / Up All Night / Invisible Man / Everywhere I Go / (Can’t Live Without Your) Love & Affection
Favourite Track: Everywhere I Go

Best Firefest ever? Well I would have to say a definite yes as all bands put on great performances. In previous years there have always been the odd poor performances coupled with sound issues, however, this year the sound was consistently good and every artist stepped up to the plate and hit a home run. Jimi Jamison, on the other hand, hit the ball clear out of the stadium!

Simply: awesome!
Ol' 78
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