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Firefest 6 - The Review
19 February 2010
FIREFEST VI – NOTTINGHAM – 23rd & 24th October
DAY ONE: TRENT UNIVERSITY, NOTTINGHAM – 23rd October 2009
A large and appreciative crowd had already assembled in the auditorium at Nottingham Trent University when Lost Weekend took to the stage to start the sixth melodic rock festival with the words “Hello FireFest, let’s have some fun”. Lost Weekend has been described as “one of the hardest working and most consistent bands in the UK” and with five albums released over the past 12 years from which to select six songs to get proceedings underway, it was no surprise that the original recording quadrumvirate of Paul Uttley (vocals), Dave Thompson (lead guitar), Robin Patchett (bass) and Jack Himsworth (Drums) plus newish guitarist Paul “Squizz” Surrell plus Gary Ives (keyboards), would focus their attention on most recent album ‘Fear & Innocence’, although they started their set with the title track from their previous album ‘Forever Moving On’.
This was a bright start to the festival and the band moved immediately into ‘Another Lonely Night In Tears’ from the latest album, which is a surprisingly up-tempo number given the downbeat lyrical content. ‘Only The Strong Survive’ from the same album quickly followed and included a particularly fine (though brief) solo from “Squizz”. Heartened by the good reaction from the crowd, which continued to grow steadily throughout their set, ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Mind’ came next. This is featured on the band’s second album, ‘New Religion’ and not as announced by Paul Uttley from ‘Presence Of Mind’…!! This is a great song (a personal favourite of mine) and brought a very warm response from the burgeoning crowd.
As their penultimate number, Lost Weekend played the title song from the album that they wrote for Bob Catley: ‘Spirit Of Man’. There is no denying the pedigree of this number, and we saw and heard a solid performance, although for me Paul Uttley didn’t quite hit all the high notes. Nevertheless, it evoked strong acclaim from the crowd. Thus to the final song: ‘Stone Hearted Woman’, again from ‘Fear & Innocence’ (where it is also the closing number). This is a very solid song, and a great ensemble performance (that became something of a jam at the end) brought the set to an excellent and well-received climax, and one that laid a wonderful foundation for the Scandinavian invasion that would follow for the rest of the evening…
Paul Jerome Smith
After an accomplished set from Britain’s Lost Weekend the Swedish onslaught began with the excellent Eclipse, whose third album ‘Are You Ready To Rock’ raised their profile considerably at the end of 2008. The longtime duo of singer Erik Martensson and guitarist Magnus Henriksson have finally been swelled to a full five-piece band by the arrival drummer Robban Back, bassist Johannes Kagelind and keyboard player Johan Berlin, and considering this was the biggest show they’ve yet played their confidence really shone through.
Kicking off with the stuttering high-speed riff of ‘Breaking My Heart Again’ their general rustiness and initial sound problems couldn’t spoil the fact that they were obviously glad to be there and have songs that can stop you in your tracks. Martensson has a smooth and powerful voice and a calm confidence in his ability, so he doesn’t have to jump around to get your attention, but the whole band looked cool and natural without any excessive posing, letting the music do the talking. The set was almost entirely taken from their latest album, with only ‘Always Standing’ from the second album ‘Second To None’ to represent the back catalogue. Their sound balance and confidence levels continued to improve through the energetic ‘Hometown Calling’ and melodic ‘Unbreakable’, although I do think they played the incredible ‘To Mend A Broken Heart’ a little too early in the set. Henriksson proved what a fine guitar player he is on the frantic ‘Wylde One’ and the superb one-two punch of ‘Under The Gun’ and ‘Young Guns’ kept the hooks and catchy riffs flowing, with keyboardist Berlin getting in on the act with a couple of solos of his own and Back getting a brief solo spot during ‘Hard Time Loving You’.
The band ended an almost faultless set with a short snippet of ‘Million Miles Away’ and the band left the stage with quite a few new fans demanding an encore that sadly wasn’t possible due to the tight schedule. Most of the band have contributed to the excellent new W.E.T. project, so hopefully they can build on the momentum and continue to spread the word about what a great band they are.
The last time Bad Habit played at Firefest in 2006 they were unlucky enough to lose their drummer a few days before flying over and ended up playing an acoustic set, and sadly it doesn’t seem like their luck has improved. Despite the band being all present and plugged in I’m personally becoming a bit disillusioned with the growing number of bands relying on technology and backing tracks to beef up their sound. Bad Habit used no less than three laptops in their live show, with keyboards, backing vocals and other bits and bobs not only adding to the sound, but occasionally drowning out what the live musicians were doing. At times it sounded fine, but at others it didn’t work so well, which is a shame because they’re obviously a talented band with a fine catalogue of songs.
They were late setting up and sadly only had time for seven songs, but despite some superb lead guitar from the impressive Sven Cirnski and singer Bax Fehling having a clear voice that could cut through the muddy sound, I was left with the feeling that something was missing. ‘To Love You’, ‘Sad But True’ and ‘I Swear’ were all ruined by an unclear mix and it was only when the riff to ‘Walk Of Life’ cut through that things started to improve. Cirnski really is a star and his fluid runs on the old favourites ‘Rowena’ and the set closer ‘Another Night’ raised things another notch, but it was just a shame that the taped keyboards sounded like they didn’t belong. Fehling sang pretty well but always seemed to be holding back, and with Jamie Salazar’s drums drifting in and out of the mix the crowd just didn’t seem to get into it. Also, a lot of people only seemed to be familiar with the latest ‘Above And Beyond’ disc, from which they only played one song (‘I Don’t Want You’), and although the setlist leant a bit heavily on my least favourite Bad Habit album (‘Hear-say’), there was enough there to make me want to see them again. Hopefully without the problems they had at Firefest.
Twelve months ago H.E.A.T. came to the rescue by replacing Pretty Maids at short notice only to have their world turned upside down when vocalist, Kenny Leckremo, was admitted to hospital on the eve of Firefest V for a long awaited operation. With the addition of guest vocalists Erik Martensson (Eclipse) and Pekka Ansio Heino (Brother Firetribe) and with a set dominated by cover versions, they still put on a good show. Come 2009 and they’re back and this time with the full line up, albeit Leckremo was this time suffering with illness and the medication was taking it’s toll before he hit the stage to such an extent that I had to guide him there. However, you’d never have guessed he wasn’t on top form as the band was on fire and took the Friday night honours by a considerable distance.
Every song they played was an absolute cracker and the crowd reaction was tumultuous, which tells you everything you need to know about how good these guys were. From the opening chords of ‘There For You’ through to the closing of ‘Keep On Dreaming’ it was obvious that something special was in the air and this feeling was cemented with each passing song. The energy was immense, the melodies were utterly superb and the band’s performance compelling throughout.
My notes show that every track has a tick against it, my shorthand for brilliant, although ‘Straight From Your Heart’, ‘Cry’ and ‘Never Let Go’ each have two ticks. It was therefore no surprise when they were called back by an insistent crowd for a well deserved encore, which was new track, ‘Stay’. It bodes extremely well for album number two, which to my mind can’t get here soon enough.
My colleague, Paul Jerome Smith, pretty much summed it up when he turned to me and said “wow!” I wouldn’t want to be Treat having to follow this performance.
Having witnessed Treat rip it up at Firefest III back in 2006, to say I was anticipating their return to these shores was an understatement. Ok, they were treading the boards at Trent University rather than Rock City, but hey, at least they were where their talents deserved ... top of the bill! I’d missed openers Lost Weekend and Eclipse, and Bad Habit were well underway when I fought my way through the semi darkness into the main hall, and to be honest, what I heard didn’t bode well for Treat. It was pretty obvious that the sound gremlins had decided tonight was party night, and that Bad Habit weren’t gonna get any slack. Swedish hotshots H.E.A.T fared little better – the guitars were barely audible, and I caught maybe one word in twelve from the vocalist – but at least large sections of the crowd were more than a little partisan to their cause. I was told later on that the sound at balcony level was much better ... just a pity that none of the paying public were up there to hear it!
Anyway, back to Treat. By the time they took to the stage, the show was a little behind schedule, a strict curfew meaning that ultimately they were left with little choice but to cut their set short (by no less than four songs in fact) – don’t even get me started on the cliché ridden marriage proposal which wasted far too much time during H.E.A.T’s set! Fortunately, the crew seemed to have sorted a lot of the sound problems out for the headliners (including running new wiring under the stage), so when the house lights dimmed and the intro kicked in, Trent University were at least guaranteed some sort of coherent sound for the first time that evening.
Starting off on a high note with ‘Changes’, their classic packed set broadly mirrored the one they played last time out. A tad safe maybe, but no real surprise given that as yet, they don’t really have anything new to promote – then again, you couldn’t really argue with the quality of the songs. Whilst still a bit rough and ready at times (was it just me, or did singer Robert Ernlund look like a startled rabbit half the time?), their performance was slicker than last time round, and when they did get it right – the breathtakingly brilliant ‘Sole Survivor’ being a prime example – it was like watching poetry in motion.
Freed from the shackles of the nonexistent guitar sound which had dogged earlier bands, Anders Wikström helped put the band through their paces nicely, he and keyboard player Patrick Appelgren whipping up a maelstrom of melody in the process. ‘Gimme One More Night’, ‘Ready For The Taking’, ‘Take Me On Your Wings’, ‘Get You On The Run’ ... all recognised Treat classics, all delivered with gusto to a hugely appreciative audience. On first listen I have to admit that I wasn’t as taken with new track ‘No Way Without You’ as I’d hoped I would be, but it’s early days yet and at least it bore all those patented Treat hallmarks.
All too quickly it came around to final encore time, but what better way to end the night than with a rousing, if flawed, ‘Conspiracy’ – my favourite Treat song period. Then, after brief but heartfelt thanks to the audience, like thieves in the night they were gone. Perhaps not quite the best all-round headline performance I’ve ever witnessed at Firefest, but if you look at it from a song quality point of view, Treat delivered in spades – come back soon guys!
DAY TWO: ROCK CITY, NOTTINGHAM – 24th October 2009
I first saw Airrace some twenty-five years ago when they were the support act for Ted Nugent at the Hammersmith Odeon on part of his ‘Penetrator’ world tour (shows how old I am doesn’t it?), and even then, for a relatively unknown band they had something special going on. So to be able to have the pleasure of reviewing the band who would be opening up the main day of Firefest VI, was going to be a real honour and pleasure, and boy was it?
Kicking proceedings off with ’Caught In The Game’, the band show that their music has easily stood the test of time, with the packed Rock City crowd happily lapping up the wonderful performance that they are putting on. Keith Murrell is in fine voice, as are the rest of the band, and when they join their vocal harmonies together on track two ’Open Your Eyes’, the hairs on the back of your neck stand up on end. ’Not Really Me’ is next and the band are now in full flow, looking like they are enjoying every single minute that they’re having on the Rock City stage. ‘Promised To Call’ follows and showcases the sheer professionalism and skill that for a band back together for only a few short months is breathtaking to witness.
Next, and I might be a little biased here, is ’First One Over The Line’ (a song I have always considered a melodic rock classic), which sees Airrace pull out all the stops and nail the song to the floor, Keith singing as if his life depended on it and the band tighter than the proverbial duck’s behind. ‘Didn’t Wanna Lose Ya’ is up next and the already very (VERY) enthusiastic crowd goes absolutely nuts, jumping up and down singing and dancing along with the song. The band then slip in a brand new song called, I believe, ‘One Step Ahead’, which fits into the Airrace song cannon with ease and it’s such a great track that it bodes well for the new album due next year sometime. Ending the set with ‘Brief Encounter’ Airrace have the audience right where they want them and as the song finishes the response is amazing to see/hear, to a man/woman the Firefest crowd roar their approval, and the cheer that they give the band is almost deafening.
Talking to people in the crowd as Airrace leave the stage I hear the words “Brilliant”, “Fantastic”, “F**king amazing” etc and I would have to agree with these comments. After the great night had by one and all at Nottingham Uni, Airrace had a lot to do, which let me tell you they did (with bells on). The best opening band that we’ve had at a Firefest? Could Be!
With Airrace having set the bar really high from the outset it was up to The Poodles to try and take it up a notch. As it happens they didn’t raise it but they didn’t let it drop either. In hindsight they probably made a couple of tactical errors such as using ‘Too Much’ as their opening track, which was far from compelling as an introduction and taking up precious time with a guitar solo (albeit a good one) so that vocalist Jakob Samuel could disappear and change his outfit meant that they had to drop one of their best songs from the set in ‘I Rule The Night’.
An interesting factor from their set was the fact that the vocals, which were crystal clear during Airrace’s set, suddenly became somewhat indistinct. A phenomenon that reared its head from time to time during the day along with the disappearing guitar solos. These appeared to afflict those on the balcony as trips to the floor offered up a more pristine sound. After the lacklustre opener things took a distinct lift with ‘Caroline’, which would have made a much better launch pad. Wonderfully bombastic and with a great riff and chorus it was just what the punters wanted. ‘Seven Seas’ was outstanding and garnered a massive crowd reaction as did the following ‘Metal Will Stand Tall’ where the crowd did an excellent job. The band were on a roll now and took matters to even greater heights with the excellent ballad ‘One Out Of Ten’ before we got the guitar solo. Upon his return in a red outfit Jakob took the band into a fine rendition of ‘Thunderball’. Already over their allotted time they had to drop one number and rounded matters off with another very strong number in ‘Night Of Passion’. This was a fine performance that was much appreciated by the considerable throng.
DRIVE, SHE SAID
I was looking forward to this set but also had a slight feeling of trepidation with this being the band’s first time on stage together for eons, and they were following two bands that had performed admirably and got the crowd revved up. I needn’t have worried as DSS delivered a great set and had the fans cheering to the rooftops.
It was a masterstroke to open the set with Touch’s ‘Don’t You Know What Love Is?’, which they confided in me beforehand they’d dare not omit, although for my taste following it with the Hard Rock workout that is ‘Drivin’ Wheel’ was probably not the best move, but I seemed to be in the minority in that assessment. ‘Maybe It’s Love’ got matters back on track and ‘Hard Way Home’ maintained the momentum. ‘If This is Love’ was truly wonderful and it drives home that Al Fritsch still has that superlative voice.
‘So Hard To Love’ was another prime slice of AOR magic but the following number was to take the plaudits. Fritsch mentioned the song writing pedigree of Mark Mangold and that the precursor to the Cher classic ‘I Found Someone’, which they executed to perfection. Michael Bolton’s ‘Fools Game’ followed to more tumultuous applause.
Once again, the band was in danger of over-running so the set had to be truncated so they closed with a fine rendition of ‘Look At What You Got’ and the heavy ‘Overdrive’. With that they left the stage to a huge crowd response.
As I looked down onto the packed floor of Rock City from the balcony, I could almost feel the excitement and anticipation in the air as the Firefest crowd waited for Romeo’s Daughter to hit the stage. Sixteen years is a long time for any band to be away, and with only a few rehearsals and only one warm up gig under their belts, would Romeo’s Daughter be able to live up to everything the audience expected of them? The simple answer is yes, the band were as good and as sharp as they were back in the day, Romeo’s Daughter, it seems, were here at Firefest to take no prisoners. Yet again though it’s the crowd that are the real stars of the show, singing, cheering, dancing and clapping along with every note that Romeo’s Daughter play, welcoming the band back with an outpouring of love that I’m sure the band found very pleasing, but at the same time also very emotional.
After the cheers die down for the first song, which was ’Wild Child’, the band launch into a set of classy, dare I say smooth AOR songs, that get better and more enjoyable as Romeo’s Daughter play them. Concentrating mostly on the debut album, Romeo’s Daughter have the crowd spellbound as they work their way through a greatest hits package that any other act would kill to have. ‘Wild Child’, ‘Velvet Tongue’, ‘Stay With Me Tonight’, ‘I Cry Myself To Sleep At Night’ and ‘Don’t Break My Heart’ are all here, but it’s the big three where the band and especially Leigh Matty really show us what we have been missing over the years, that are the stars of the show. ‘Attracted To The Animal’, Heaven In The Backseat’ and ‘Hymn (Look Through Golden Eyes)’, are all in their own way showstoppers and have the crowd singing themselves hoarse as they play them. Romeo’s Daughter leave the stage in triumph, their faces beaming with smiles, the crowd baying for more, and I’m sure they will be back to rock Firefest once again.
If any more proof was needed that Romeo’s put in a high quality and very enjoyable set, then here it is. A few feet in front of me was the legend that is Dave Ling (Classic Rock, Metal Hammer), who danced and sang his way through the entire Romeo’s Daughter set, only stopping once in a while to jot the occasional word down in his notepad, which was probably the word “brilliant”, each time. And if Dave, myself and many others of our generation can dance along to the music of Romeo’s Daughter (what a sight to see!) and feel no shame when doing so, then you know that this band must be something special indeed.
Last year’s Firefest sensations White Sister would have to really pull out the stops to be as good as they were in 2008, when everything seemed to come together for an emotional return after over 20 years away. Original members Dennis Churchill-Dries (vocals, bass), Gary Brandon (vocals, keys) and Rick Chadock (guitars) were again joined by powerhouse drummer Jason Montgomery, but with keyboardist Kyle Frost being too ill to travel it was left to the excellent Eric Ragno (China Blue/From The Inside etc.) to fill his shoes.
From the first note of ‘Don’t Say That You’re Mine’ it was obvious that White Sister could do no wrong, and if the element of surprise that made last year’s set so special was missing, it was made up for by an even more polished performance with no equipment problems this time. The guitar was a little low in the mix at first but the keyboard-heavy pomp sound was as majestic as ever, along with the rich vocal tones of Churchill-Dries. Gary Brandon takes over for an equally spirited ‘Straight From The Heart’ before the atmosphere reaches fever pitch for the band’s two biggest songs, the sublime ‘Promises’ and the powerful ‘Can’t Say No’, the former with it’s killer keyboard solo from Brandon and the latter with Dennis swapping chorus lines with the audience and Chadock’s memorable guitar solo.
The first surprise is a great new song called ‘All In One Night’, a mid-paced stomper that could have come straight out of 1984, and they followed it up with the memorable ‘Doublecrossed’ with it’s intricate keyboard parts and punchy chorus. Churchill-Dries takes centre stage on the power ballad ‘Save Me Tonight’, backed for the first half by just Brandon’s keyboard before the rest of the band come crashing in. After a brief pause while the band present DJ/compere Steve Price with a plaque for the fifth anniversary of his ARFM station, Brandon again comes off the stage and into the crowd to lead the singalong for ‘Love Don’t Make It Right’, which eventually sees some of the Firefest team (including me - yikes!) joining the band onstage on backing vocals. The set finishes with ‘Whips’ and is another memorable performance that was one of the highlights of the day, even if it didn’t quite have the emotional impact of their 2008 set.
CROWN OF THORNS
For me, the performance given by the Crown Of Thorns guys (the effervescent showman Jean Beauvoir, charismatic lead guitarist Tommy Lafferty, driving bassist Michael Paige and phenomenal drummer Hawk Lopez) was a highlight of the entire weekend, and whilst there may not have been many present for whom CoT was their primary reason for attending Firefest VI, the fantastic reaction that was garnered by their performance was suitably summed up by Tommy Lafferty when I spoke with him later (“We came, we played, we conquered”) whilst Mr B’s comment (“What a helluva night – it felt like home”) was a clear reflection of a successful set that was heavily laced with songs from the lauded self-titled debut album: a decision that met with clear approval and audience participation.
The sound levels appeared to be cranked up somewhat for their set, the powerful opening song and ‘Faith’ both rocking hard, and marking a distinct change of tempo and style from all that had gone before. The first two songs from the debut album produced a defining reaction from the audience as lungs and voices were tested by the choruses and led to a clearly surprised and delighted JB asking “are you having a rock ‘n roll party or what?” during a false ending to ‘Are You Ready?’ Even greater acclaim by and participation from the audience was evident with the one song featured from the ‘Lost Cathedral’ album: ‘Motorcycle Loretta’ and even yours truly found himself singing along with the rest during this one! The band was clearly having fun, and this vibe had clearly very successfully transferred to the audience…
The set list had ‘Crown of Thorns’ up next, but Tommy Lafferty cranked out the first chords of ‘Standing On the Corner…’ and that was that, so the eponymous song followed instead. ‘Standing…’ is a great rock ballad from the debut album and I know I am not the only one to feel that this was possibly the best heard all day, and the excellence of the rhythm section was really notable here, too. As for the gold Les Paul that Tommy Lafferty donned at this point – well it is a stunner – and arguably “guitar of the day”!
‘Rock Ready’ from ‘Faith’ was another enthusiastically received steaming rocker and to round off a hugely enjoyable set we were treated to a further two songs from the debut album: the emotional and powerful ‘Dying For Love’ and finally the great melodic hard rock anthem ‘The Healer’. Had time permitted, ‘Hang On Sugar’ from the ‘Raw Thorns’ album would have been added as an encore. Nevertheless, Crown Of Thorns successfully conquered Firefest VI with a set that will have left some without a copy of the eponymous debut album trying to find one!
Paul Jerome Smith
The last band to be confirmed for Firefest seemed, surprisingly – to me at least, to be not as well known in the UK as maybe they should be. A different line-up of Honeymoon Suite had last played here back in 2002, but despite the band touring their native Canada for the last couple of years with their original line-up, keyboard player Ray Coburn decided to leave the band for the umpteenth time just before this show. His place alongside Johnnie Dee (vocals/guitar), Derry Grehan (lead guitar), Dave Betts (drums) and Gary Lalonde (bass) was taken by Peter Nunn, who himself has had several stints in the band and has probably spent even more time being in this band than Coburn has.
They seemed genuinely surprised when the opening riff from ‘Other Side Of Midnight’ was greeted with a roar of recognition from the crowd. Unlike other bands on the bill like Crown Of Thorns and The Poodles, Honeymoon Suite don’t place a lot of emphasis on image and the plain t-shirts and jeans clearly works well for them, the lack of eye-catching apparel more than made up for by excellent musicianship and well-written songs. With Johnnie Dee in fine voice and a perfectly balanced sound that shows up every one of the inventive keyboard and guitar flurries, the band continue with ‘She Ain’t Alright’ and ‘Tired O’ Waiting On You’ from their recent ‘Clifton Hill’ record, with the Canadian hit single ‘Burning In Love’ sandwiched inbetween. Things grow in intensity with the sublime atmospherics of the more familiar ‘Feel It Again’, on which Derry Grehan peels off another fine guitar solo, and the great ballad ‘What Does It Take’ showcases Nunn’s subtle piano skills.
The energy levels pick up again for the rockers ‘Looking Out For #1’ and the obvious crowd favourite ‘Bad Attitude’, at which point the band can do no wrong so they slip in the lesser known ‘Still Loving You’ from ‘Lemon Tongue’/’Dreamland’ and finish the set with the song that started it all, ‘New Girl Now’. It seems that no-one is as surprised as Johnnie Dee when they’re called back for the first encore of the day. A great extended intro to ‘Love Changes Everything’ shows just why the original rhythm section of Dave Betts and Gary Lalonde are still the best this band have ever had, and as Betts pummels the kit to bits the triumphant end to the memorable set gets an earth-shattering roar from the crowd. In terms of song quality and musicianship Honeymoon Suite definitely stole the show for me.
Firefest Saturday is usually one hell of a day, but for some reason this seemed more memorable than most. Openers Airrace had set an impressive pace with a truly great set, and the disappointing showing from Drive, She Said aside, a packed Rock City had played host to some excellent music. Among the highlights for yours truly were White Sister (once again), a truly fired up Crown Of Thorns with easily the heaviest set of the day, and a rejuvenated Honeymoon Suite – nice to see them back to the band I remember from the 80’s after their rather forgettable showing in Bradford a few years back. Sadly I missed most of Romeo’s Daughter - hey, a guy’s gotta eat! - but by all accounts they were excellent, and the crowd reaction at the end seemed to confirm as much. But then there was FM....
When Steve Overland and the boys were finally tempted out of retirement two years ago, the reception they got at Firefest IV took everyone by surprise, not least of all the band. Treated like homecoming heroes, the look on their faces said it all; a supposed one off show eventually turning into the catalyst that would convince them something more permanent was in order. And so, with a brand new album pretty much done and dusted and set for release early next year, they were once again invited to headline the UK’s only serious melodic rock festival.
As the houselights dimmed and the band took to the stage, they were once again greeted with rapturous applause from the crowd. Boldly launching their set with hot new single ‘Wildside’ their on stage performance was noticeably much slicker than last time out, the addition of new guitarist Jim Kirkpatrick obviously injecting a renewed sense of purpose into the rest of the band. The master of ceremonies that he is, Steve Overland immediately took control; those poignant, velvety tones soon having an ever more boisterous crowd eating out of his hand.
With such a wealth of great material to choose from, it was good to see them mixing it up a little, less obvious tracks like ‘Don’t Stop’ and ‘Hard Day In Hell’ rubbing along quite nicely in the company of old favourites ‘Face To Face’, ‘Blood And Gasoline’, ‘That Girl’ and ‘Burning My Heart Down’. Good also to see the return of a rousing ‘Dangerous’ – always a guaranteed crowd pleaser, and tonight was no exception. By this time the band were really starting to feed off the enthusiasm from the crowd, and Jim Kirkpatrick was beginning to come into his own. Initially quite reserved, as his confidence grew his performance just got better and better, and by the time it came to main set closer ‘Heard it Through The Grapevine’, it felt like he’d always been an integral part of the band.
After a brief hiatus to catch their breath, a chanting crowd tempted them back on stage once more and were duly rewarded with thumping versions of both ‘Frozen Heart’ and ‘Bad Luck’. Finally, they launched into a spirited run through of the old Prince hit ‘Purple Rain’ and were joined onstage by an assembled throng culled from the Firefest crew and some of those who had performed earlier in the day – scary thought, but I swear that the guy in the blonde wig stage left was in one of the early Steel Panther videos!
Once again, it was all over for another year, but as always the crowd went home happy. As for FM ... well, they seem to be playing as well as ever, and on that showing I’m pretty sure we’ll be hearing a hell of a lot more from the band once the new album hits the streets! Roll on 2010!