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Firefest 2012 - The Review

FIREFEST 2012 – Nottingham, Rock City: 19th - 21st October


Review by
Phil Ashcroft (PA), Monica Castedo-Lopez (MC-L), Ant Heeks (AH), Ian Johnson (IJ), Gary Marshall (GM), Bruce Mee (BLM), Dave Scott (DS) and Paul Jerome Smith (PJS) ...

Photos by
Marty Moffatt


(Click here to read the full review for Firefest VI,  here for the Firefest 2010 review and here for Firefest 2011)


DAY 1: Friday 19th October


Another year, another Firefest (the ninth); but this was different. It was a complete sell out: a situation dreamed about and hoped for by the festival organisers but never seriously anticipated by them. Each day, the queue waiting patiently outside the venue were admitted at exactly the appointed time and so efficiently that even the opening bands each day had a large audience to see and hear them: something that those appearing at a Firefest for the first time seemed amazed to discover. There were only two technical hitches during the weekend, causing one of the bands to shorten their set (see later) apart from which everything ran very close to time, and demonstrating what a well-oiled process running the festival at Rock City has become.

LIONVILLE


A band making its Firefest debut AND also its live debut…Lionville made the most of their unique opportunity and despite only playing five songs in their half hour set that commenced on time at 5.40, gave the festival an opening at least on a par with any previous year, and probably better than any if the very positive comments that I overheard were anything to go by. Additionally, they have featured in many lists of the top 5 bands of the weekend, and I’ve not seen that happen before with the opening band!

Personally, I’m a sucker for any band that includes intro music, particularly when it is used effectively, and this was the case with Lionville but it also immediately demonstrated the crystal clear sound that would be enjoyed throughout the weekend, courtesy of Pontus Norgren, the front of house sound engineer. The black curtain dropped to reveal a very confident looking band that not only delivered their opening number with aplomb, but immediately had the crowd transfixed by the lead vocals of Lars Säfsund and the amazing harmonising with band founder/guitarist Stefano Lionetti, which came to the fore on the magnificent ‘Power Of My Dreams’ The band, also including Alessandro del Vecchio (keyboards), Alessandro Mori (drums), Anna Portalupi (bass) and Mario Percudani (guitars) didn’t falter for a moment as they confidently presented not only four of the songs from the band’s debut album, but also the wonderful ‘All We Need’ from the forthcoming second album. This very smooth song initially bemused the audience, but once the wonderful harmonies kicked in once again, all was well in Firefestland and the reaction was no less enthusiastic as had been the case for the preceding songs.


Lionville-FF-2012 

Lionville delivered an astonishing masterclass of keyboard-driven AOR and to round off their short set (that has surely whetted the appetite of the organisers – and definitely the band itself - for a return appearance in the not too distant future) launched into the emotional power ballad ‘With You’ that showcased not only the vocal talents present but also the abundant playing skill of all six musicians and a great roar (sorry!) greeted the band as they brought their consummate performance to a close. It not only set the bar very high for the following bands across the rest of the weekend, but also showed what could be achieved by a band showcasing high quality melodic rock songs perfectly fitting the original template of the festival, and doing it so effectively despite it being their first live appearance anywhere! Phenomenal! (PJS)

Set List: Here By My Side / Power Of My Dreams / The World Without Your Love / All We Need / With You

DANTE FOX


The unenviable task of following the excellent set from Lionville fell to Brits, Danté Fox, and despite a set full of top quality Melodic Rock songs that featured great hooks and catchy choruses they were unable to surpass or even match the excellence of the openers.

For me the reason for this is that vocalist Sue Willets appears uncomfortable on stage and therefore builds no rapport with the audience and she also has a tendency to sing in a register that borders on that only audible to dogs. This flies in the face of her superb performance on the band’s new release (‘Lost Man’s Ground’), which I commend to all of our readers. That’s not to say their performance was particularly poor, far from it, it was very enjoyable and entertaining because of the strength of the material they played.

Tim Manford is a superb guitarist and he produced one pleasing riff after another and his solos were never less than brilliant. Indeed, I’m not sure there was a guitarist across the entire weekend to beat him for the quality and melody of his solos; unlike others on the bill who felt that widdle and flash were more important, Manford went for the less is more approach and therefore remained tuneful and concise. He tried manfully to inject some visual spectacle into their performance but with Willets’ being rather static it was a tough job.

The set started in very fine fashion with the powerful ‘The Last Goodbye’, with Manford peeling off the magnificent riff; although the following song had Willets hitting the shrill level I mentioned earlier, a fate that would befall ‘I Can’t Feel the Love’ amongst others later in the set. They were not alone over the weekend of being a band that, on occasion, overdoes the repetition of a chorus to close out a song, a note I made several times. 


Dante-Fox-FF-2012

One of the band’s perennial live favourites, ‘Lost And Lonely Heart’, was greeted very positively by the sell-out crowd, who were enthusiastic throughout the set and the band responded with very a fine rendition. At this point two tracks from the new EP were introduced, the first ‘I Can’t Sleep’, was well received whilst the second ‘Who Stole The Innocence’ induced an impromptu sing-a-long by me and those around me on the balcony, the problem being that we were actually singing the lyrics from Dio’s ‘Rainbow In The Dark’ such was the similarity of the riff and verse to that august number. That said it’s still a great song. Unsurprisingly they closed the set with another of their classic songs, ‘Remember’ which received a rousing response from the audience and they can feel proud that they contributed to what turned out to be a splendid opening day of Firefest 2012. (GM)

Set list: The Last Goodbye / Firing My Heart / Under the City Lights / Lost and Lonely Heart / I Can’t Sleep / Who Stole the Innocence / Walking the Line / Remember

TEN


The comeback line-up of Ten that had debuted in Fleetwood in November 2011 was quite a revelation, giving a storming performance that negated most of the nay sayers. A brief UK tour earlier in 2012 with Serpentine and White Widdow honed their level of performance to an even higher level, so by the time of their inaugural appearance at Firefest, one could certainly say that anticipation was high.

With a new album, ‘Heresy And Creed’, to support a megre 50 minute slot at the festival, it was a big talking point as to what songs the band would perform; the classics or a set weighted heavily in favour of the new release. On reflection, I would say the band got their choices spot on. Opening up with ‘The Lights Go Down’ from the new album, the band were treated like conquering heroes from the packed audience, and the noise level jumped an audible level when the classic ‘Spellbound’ next came crashing through the speakers. The band were in fine fettle, the newly shorn Gary Hughes (showing support for his father, who is suffering from cancer and lost his own hair) commanded the stage with amicable aplomb, thrusting his mic stand in Coverdale approved fashion, while guitarist John Halliwell and bassist Steve McKenna covered every inch of the stage, long locks flowing, rock poses de riguer! Only new guitarist Dan Mitchell seemed rather stuck to the spot during the show, seemingly intent on concentrating on his flurrying fretwork than interacting with the crowd. It transpired that the poor guy couldn’t hear himself through the onstage monitors, and being his first gig in front of such a large audience this had thrown him to the point of almost concentrating immobility. However, that was not to say his blatantly apparent skill and dexterity were muted, and he continued to prove himself a truly valuable member of the band’s new line-up.

Next up was ‘Gunrunning’, the promotional video track from the new album, and a personal favourite, the throbbing bass beat overlaid by some incredibly tasteful Schenker-esque soloing and a chorus encapsulated everything that is classic Ten. ‘Ten Fathoms Deep’ from third release ‘The Robe’ showed just how epic and heavy Ten can be, before debut album fan favourite ‘After The Love Has Gone’ bowled everyone over with it’s wonderfully circular guitar riffs and infectious melodies and chorus. It was then time for the third track from the new album as ‘Unbelievable’ is giving an airing, and it really was quite unbelievable just how well that track fitted into a set-list of mainly classic Ten songs.


TEN-FF-2012

Speaking of ‘classic Ten songs’ they finished with two of the absolute best: the rousing Celtic fervour of ‘Red’ with it’s stirring, passionate lyrics and grandiose keyboard refrains, fans bouncing deliriously to the chorus, and finally the track that simply IS Ten, the song the crowd will never let them leave without playing, the title track from their second album, ‘The Name of the Rose’. Man, those cats can really be heavy when the mood takes them, and the only negative point, such as it is, I could make about their wonderful show was that hearing such beasts as ‘Spellbound’, ‘Ten Fathoms Deep’, ‘Red’ and ‘Name of the Rose’ makes one wonder why they aren’t writing songs of a similar stature today. Well, maybe next album?

All being said and done, this was a monumentally successful show for Ten, and hopefully one they can use to springboard onto further adventures, both at home and further a field. (BLM)

Set list: The Lights Go Down / Spellbound / Gun Running / Ten Fathoms Deep / After The Love Has Gone / Unbelievable / Red / The Name Of The Rose

TYKETTO

 
As this year’s Friday night headliners, Tyketto make a welcome return for their third Firefest appearance, but only their second with the full original line-up. These days the Tykes are augmented by a keyboard player, but Bobby Lynch was not available for this short series of shows, so former Ten man Ged Rylands stepped in and did a sterling job, and also contributing some fine backing vocals. Tyketto don’t get to do too many live shows these days, so the succession of European dates that had led up to this appearance had benefited them greatly, and they delivered one of the strongest and most vibrant sets I have seen from them in a long time. 

Danny Vaughn is a performer who always gives 110%, but tonight he seemed even more committed than usual, perhaps buoyed by the sell-out crowd, and his powerful voice just sounded stunning. Guitarist Brooke St. James seemed more confident than I’ve seen him for a while, and was also singing much more again, and his influence seemed to have rubbed off on the usually reserved bassist Jimi Kennedy, who is normally content to pretty much stay rooted to the spot, but tonight was often venturing forward to the front of the stage. And Michael Clayton Arbeeny did what he does best – hitting the drums very hard! When a cymbal stand crashed over during one song, Danny quipped “it wouldn’t be a Tyketto show unless Michael broke something!”

The show started in a somewhat laid-back fashion, the band appearing and cranking out a few power-chords, Danny running on and testing just how willing the crowd would be to sing along with him by letting loose with a few ‘whoa whoa whoa’s for them to respond to, and when they duly replied with fervour he bellowed out the “Lord give me strength tonight” opening line to ‘Strength In Numbers’ and the show proper commenced with an abundance of fists in the air during the anthemic chorus. Tyketto are finally promoting their first new album in many, many years, and tonight was the first chance the U.K. had to hear any new material performed live, and they wasted no time in getting down to business second song in: the hard-hitting ‘Faithless’ very well received by the eager crowd. Yet it was during the always awesome ‘Burning Down Inside’ that the audience really opened up by responding powerfully with the sing-along chorus. Another excellent newie ‘Here’s Hoping It Hurts’ was delivered with style, before we had a succession of old favourites from the first two albums, and it became apparent that even though there are only three Vaughn-fronted albums in the Tyketto catalogue, there are just so many fantastic songs, especially when you think that so many classics such as ‘Seasons’ and ‘Walk On Fire’ didn’t make tonight’s set! To name a few, ‘Sail Away’ is the Tyketto biography in a song, lyrically ‘Catch My Fall’ demonstrates the affectionate bond between band and audience, and the simply awesome ballad ‘Standing Alone’ never fails to bring a lump to the throat. 


Tyketto-FF-2012

‘The Fight Left In Me’ was the final new song of the evening, and while I initially thought that ‘Sound Off’ or ‘Dig In Deep’ would have been better choices, the positive nature of the lyrics (“If I’m gonna fall, I’ll fall on higher ground”) are so characteristic of much of Tyketto’s music that it fully deserved its place in the show. The set ended with the crowd-favourite ‘Wings’, which was lovingly dedicated by Danny to his wife Melissa “as it’s her favourite song”, and also because it was at Firefest where Danny and Melissa first met. By this time the Rock City roof must have been just about hanging on, but when the Tyketto choir responded to Danny’s “whoa-oh-oh’s” at the song’s conclusion it finally reached breaking point.

The encore was inevitable, and when Danny admitted that “you know what’s coming next don’t you?” the huge roar that greeted it finally sent that roof hurtling into the stratosphere! It was the perfect end to a perfect show. I may be biased (Tyketto are my favourite band), but as Friday night headliners they set a very high standard for the rest of the weekend’s acts to follow. (AH)

Set list: Strength In Numbers / Faithless / Burning Down Inside / Lay Your Body Down / Here’s Hoping It Hurts / Catch My Fall / Sail Away / Standing Alone / Rescue Me / Meet Me In The Night / The Fight Left In Me / Wings / Forever Young (encore)



DAY 2: Saturday, 20th October

JOHNNY LIMA

To get the first full day underway some California sunshine was injected into proceedings with American singer songwriter Johnny Lima. Some might remember the connection with yesterday’s penultimate act Ten in that Gary Hughes mixed Lima’s second record. He also appeared before Ten at The Gods that same year (1999).

Kicking things off on day two would have been a tough act at the best of times, but those with all weekend tickets had already seen a hell of a show from beginning to end the previous evening. Given the mid day start time the venue was fairly full and the stage was bathed in blue as a dramatic intro pumped out from the PA. Lima bounced onto stage to a large cheer and had a real rock n roll look with his flowing mane held up by a bandana, leather jacket, sunglasses and a long sash on his mic stand. He actually bore more than a passing resemblance to Axel Rose or Bret Michaels. Appropriately ‘Made In California’ was served up first with some nice deep guitar although the bass was a touch heavy. ‘Hate To Love You’ and ‘All I Wanna Do’ saw Lima prowling around asking for plenty of encouragement from the crowd which he got. The guitar work was good and lively and the upbeat presentation, including Lima having a little boogie mid stage, seemed to be warmly greeted. There was an acknowledgement when he raised his glass that this might be the last live performance as had been mentioned in the programme. Maybe it was the talk of this being the last show but the opening to ‘Wildflower’ didn’t seem to quite get the reaction expected from the crowd. But when asked to respond they did and in the bridge there was a good sing along. ‘My Revolution’ had Lima picking up his guitar and getting in on the fun with the other three guitarists as he cranked out a cracking riff.


Johnny-Lima-FF-2012

‘Blame It On Love’ was pure Bon Jovi and if you closed your eyes you could literally see Jon and the boys. Lima seemed to be having a fine time bounding from side to side and after an introduction to his German backing band he closed out his short set with ‘Caught In The Middle’. After a nice thanks to the crowd he leapt off stage and was down in the pit slapping hands with all those along the front barrier. There was a large cheer and Lima had a wide smile across his face showing if this was to be the last live performance, he’d certainly had a blast. (DS)

Set list: Made In California / Hate To Love You / All I Wanna Do / Wildflower / My Revolution / Blame It On Love / Caught In The Middle

WORK OF ART

There was a sense of heightened anticipation in the air as Sweden’s Work Of Art hit the Firefest stage for the first of what I’m sure will be many visits to Firefest. With two wonderful full blown AOR albums to their name, the crowd seemed to be wondering out loud if this outfit would be able to live up to all that was expected of them? The answer to this question was a resounding “yes”.

 Hitting the ground running with the superb ‘The Rain’ WOA immediately showed why the whole Firefest crowd had been drooling over the bands music for the past couple of years, tight as a duck’s behind, the band immediately took command of the Firefest audience and we all immediately knew that we were in for one heck of a ride, and by only the second song of their set, ‘Nature Of The Game’, the band had cemented their place as one of the acts who have both excelled and enhanced their standing at a Firefest concert. ‘Cover Me’ came next and WOA were by then firmly ensconced as Firefest fan favourites, the music they played showing a band with an unrivalled knowledge of how to write and perform AOR with ease and the Firefest faithful were lapping it up (me too)! ‘Camelia’ was ushered in by some amazing Toto-esque harmony vocals and as the band played this wonderful song I began to realize that WOA should have been much, much higher on this years bill than they were. The guitar, bass, keyboard and vocal work on this one song being worth the price of a Firefest ticket all on its own (imho)…


Work-Of-Art-FF-2012

At this point lead vocalist Lars Safsund took off his leather jacket, which seemed to signal to the band that as good as they had been thus far it was now time to really go for it and up the ante. And to do this we got a superb rendition of ‘Emelie’ where the keyboards and guitars rang out over the crowd, who joined in on the chorus in full joyous voice. From here on in the band had the audience in the palm of their hands, coaxing them into spontaneous sing-a-longs, hand clapping and from my vantage point lots of dancing. Following this with further superbly performed renditions of ‘Never Love Again’, ‘Why Do I? and the jaw dropping ‘The Great Fall’ which brought a massive roar from the crowd, made this performance from messers Säfsund, Sall, Furin, Gröning and Passmark one of the best I have seen at any of the Firefests’ over the years. In summing up all I can tell you is that Work Of Art were just amazing and with such a short set they were gone far too soon. I looked down at by notes as they left the stage to rapturous applause and wrote down – “What a band!” – ‘nuff said I think. (IJ)

Set list: The Rain / Nature Of The Game / Cover Me / Camelia / Emelie / Never Love Again / Where Do I? / The Great Fall

ROBIN BECK



Vindication! That’s the word that came to mind immediately after Robin Beck’s superlative set this afternoon. After several years of “discussions” with Kieran, I finally got my way, and the adorably cute Ms Beck did not disappoint. Not that there was ever any doubt, with a backing band consisting of Tommy Denander on guitar, husband James Christian on bass/backing vox, fellow House of Lords band-mate BJ Zampa on drums, Eric Ragno on keys and Spanish maestro Jorge Salan on second guitar. This was an ensemble made to make your mouth water, and really, the 3pm kick-off was rather an insult, in my opinion.

Opening up with the rambunctious ‘If You Were A Woman (And I Was A Man)’ from her superlative debut ‘Trouble Or Nothing’, Robin reeled off a further three ‘ToN’ songs in quick succession, the emotion-drenched ‘Hold Back the Night’ being arguably the pick of the bunch. One thing was immediately clear; it may have been twenty years since Robin last played a full live set (she played Rock Meets Classic last year in Germany, performing three songs) but this girl was born to be on stage, her humourous interaction with the audience endearing her to all present … the tight black leather trousers having a slightly different effect on the male quota! This woman has many years of experience, but still looked the business and still had the moves. Those moves and attitude were well exemplified on the next track ‘That All Depends’ from her latest release, ‘The Great Escape’. Originally a duet with Joe Lynn Turner, her husband James performed the duet as a sassy Beck strutted her stuff, the fun and joy apparent in their repartee and smiles. ‘Tears In The Rain’ is followed by ‘The One’, which Robin kindly dedicated to yours truly, much to James’ feigned chagrin (“I’ll kick your ass, Bruce!”) – a classic song from ‘TGE’, and is quickly followed by another ‘ToN’ standard, ‘Hide Your Heart’.


Robin-Beck-FF-2012

The capacity crowd went wild as the first refrains of ‘First Time’ filled the air: the Coca Cola theme song that launched Robin into the limelight, however briefly. The audience joined along in emotional symbiosis as Beck sang her heart out, the deep feelings of the moment clearly reflected in her affected visage. As when playing with Jimi Jamison previously, Tommy Denander made these songs his own, his emotional fretwork complementing Robin’s vocals to perfection. Of course, everyone thought this would be the last song, but Robin has a devilish sense of humour, and so hit us with the magnificently upbeat ‘Follow You’, a track she will be recording on her new album and which was originally recorded by Glen Burtnick. And then, it was over. 4pm on a Saturday, and arguably the highlight of the day…

This was one of those ‘I was there’ moments, and Ms Beck’s return to the live arena will be fondly remembered by all those present. The ‘first time’ ever in the UK, but it will surely not be the last…(BLM)

Set list: If You Were A Woman (And I Was A Man) / Don’t Lose Any Sleep / Hold Back The Night / Save Up All Your Tears / / That All Depends (On What You Do Tonight) / Tears In The Rain / The One / Hide Your Heart / First Time / Follow You 

SANTERS


Of all the bands at this year's Firefest it was perhaps Canadian trio Santers that were most people's unknown quantity. The twenty-nine years since they were last here supporting Magnum on the 'Eleventh Hour' tour has seen many changes in the rock world, but like last year's surprise package Coney Hatch, there's a lot to be said for their stripped-down, plug in and play attitude. Of course no amount of layers and laptops can make up for a lack of good songs, so whilst the basic guitar, bass, drums and two vocals may seem a little sparse to some, it came as a breath of fresh air to see three musicians with nothing to hide behind, play a set where if there had been any, mistakes would have been only too noticeable.

Kicking off with the riff-heavy 'Winter Freeze' the band hit the ground running, with Rick Santers throwing all the right guitar shapes between his vocal lines and accomplished drummer Mark Santers joining in on the harmonies, whilst bassist Rick Lazaroff mostly concentrated on his impressive jazz-influenced bass runs. The 'Racing Time' material continued with the tuneful AOR anthem 'Mistreatin' Heart', which still delivered the same melodic punch without the recorded layers of guitars and keyboards, and it was interesting to hear the dynamic changing when Rick Santers played a guitar solo and bassist Rick Lazaroff stepped up to fill the space behind it. It was back to their 1980 debut for the simpler 'Time After Time', on which Lazaroff got the chance to show off, before the familiar intro to 'Black Magic' from 'Guitar Alley' lifted things to another level.


Santers-FF-2012

Despite the fact that Santers' time slot seemed to have been a popular choice for many to take a meal break, the hundreds left made a lot of noise and the band were obviously taken aback by the reception. Proving what a looser and more organic feel they have, a section of alternate guitar, bass and drum flourishes were slipped into Donnie Iris' 'The Rapper' before a change of pace for the sublime power ballad 'Dreaming'. The mid-paced and hypnotic 'Shot Down In Flames' was followed by a reasonably short drum solo (not always a wise move in a shortened Festival set!), the basic rock and roll of 'You Turn Me On' and their cover of Free's 'Alright Now', which I don't think it's too unkind to suggest brought the energy level down a little too much. The set kicked back into life with what's become probably their best known song, 'Can't Shake You', and Santers ended with the punchy 'Road To Morocco'. A sometimes muted audience reaction and a mid-set lull apart, Santers offered something a little bit different to the rest of this year's bill and certainly made a lot of new friends. (PA)

Set list: Winter Freeze / Mistreatin' Heart / Time After Time / Black Magic / The Rapper / Dreaming / Shot Down In Flames / Drum solo / You Turn Me On / All Right Now / Can't Shake You / Road to Morocco

XYZ

 

Another band making their debut at Firefest this year was L.A.’s XYZ, and it was only their second ever visit to the U.K. Fronted by seasoned veteran Terry Ilous, of course now also currently lending his vocals to Great White, and founding member Pat Fontaine on bass, it’s the line-up that recorded sophomore release ‘Hungry,’ and the band was celebrating the twentieth anniversary of that album. However, it was that wonderful debut that was mostly plundered for tonight’s set. The sound was perfect, and Ilous’ voice sounded amazing as they kicked off with ‘Come On N’ Love Me’ which was well received, but it was second song ‘Maggy’ that really seemed to get the crowd warmed up, with guitarist Tony Marcus peeling off a stunning solo.

Next up was the mid-tempo bruiser ‘Off To The Sun’ from the ‘Hungry’ CD, then it was back to the debut for the hit ballad ‘What Keeps Me Loving You’ which was greeted like the classic it is. “You guys love the Blues here in the U.K. don’t you?” asks Terry, and Pat Fontaine and drummer Joey Shapiro left the stage for a while as Ilous and Marcus delivered the moody and mournful ‘Follow The Night’ together. The rhythm section returned at the song’s finale, but then left the stage again, and two stools were bought on, as Ilous and Marcus sit down and perform an acoustic trio of songs. Terry sat there with a guitar, but was hardly used. “I love to hear him play, we’ve been performing together for so long,” admits Terry to the crowd, gesturing at Tony when the guitarist questioned why the frontman was holding a guitar. To be honest, he’s not needed, as Marcus proved he’s just as adept with an acoustic as he is with electric. The delicate ‘After The Rain’ was first up, followed by ‘When I Find Love’, then after asking the audience what they would like to hear, ‘Souvenirs’ brought the acoustic mini-set to a close, with Terry finally proving his guitar was not just a prop. However it’s at this point that I started to think that though I’m enjoying hearing these songs, I feel there’s too many slow numbers being aired. I could understand that XYZ wanted to give the fans what they feel are their most popular songs, which would be great in a headlining show, but for a fifty-five minute Festival slot I just thought there were too many ballad-orientated tracks. As I was standing by the sound-desk I sneaked a look at the set-list, and I know that the anthemic ‘Don’t Say No’ was reserved for the possibility of an encore, but as that didn’t happen due to the time rest s surprise package Coney Hatch, therebr /rictions, I couldn’t help feel/b550r /br /br /sh1 style=trongbr //strongbr /ing /strongthat that song would have been better higher up in the set, with maybe just two acoustic numbers.


XYZ-FF-2012

However, I width=Set list: Made In California / Hate To Love You / All I Wanna Do / Wildflower / My Revolution / Blame It On Love / Caught In The Middle style=couldn’t complain about the two closing numbers in XYZ’s set. First of all Tony Marcus cranked out the riff to the awesome sleaze-rock anthem ‘Face Down In The G width=/p, which I donwidth width=br /=br /utter’ width=br /, which was the cue for a mass sing-along. Then birthday boy Pat Fontaine wandered over to the si?de of the stage to remove his t-shirt, and as he came back he was greeted by a trio of Firefest crew with a huge cake. Terry Ilous lead the audience in a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ as Pat blew the candles out, then it’s back to business as the classic ‘Inside Out’ brought the set to a rapturous close.

It was certainly an enjoyable Firefest debut by XYZ, but whether it was appreciated enough to see the guys asked to return remains to be seen. (AH)

Set list: Come On N’ Love Me / Maggy / Off To The Sun / What Keeps Me Loving You / Follow The Night / After The Rain / When I Find Love / Souvenirs / Face Down In The Gutter / Inside Out

MITCH MALLOY

Returning for his third Firefest appearance was Mitch Malloy, and like last year’s set he’s backed by his reliable Italian band, performing their second set of the weekend following their stint as five sixths of Lionville the previous day. Mitch’s brand of anthemic Melodic Rock was just perfect for the Firefest crowd, once again making his inclustrongs too unkind to suggest brought the energy level down a little too much. The set kicked back into life with whatsion a no-brainer. Dressed all in black, with that mane of blonde hair, and sporting a gleaming white Gibson Les Paul, Mitch looked every inch the Rock star, and while his voice was just as perfect as ever, he seemed to have grown in confidence with his guitar playing too, even firing off the occasional solo.

Mitch was content to keep his between-song chats to a minimum and let the music do the talking, and managed to squeebr /E /stronglevebr /br /nth Hourze an impres/spansive thirteen songs into his 70-minute set, which was mainly culled from the classic debut and the more recent ‘II’ CD, and there were also a couple of selections from the brand new re-working of the ‘Shine’ album, which was available exclusively at today’s show. The excellent ‘Mission Of Love’ kicks things off in style, and it was followed by ‘Falling To Pieces’, and it was obvious by the audience reaction that Mitch could sing a nursery rhyme and everybody would sing along, such was the bond between the singer and his crowd. The backing vocals from keyboard player Alessandro Del Vecchio and guitarist Mario Percudani were faultless too. After four songs Mitch slowed it down a little with the bluesy ‘Over The Water’, which he revealed as his “favourite song from the first album, though it’s probably not yours!” ‘It’s About Love’ was the first of the songs to be aired from ‘Shine On’, and it was great to hear it again. Other highlights included ‘Stranded In The Middle Of Nowhere’ and the Journey-esque ‘I’ll Love You Still’, and as we neared the end of the set we got his one true ballad of the evening, and it seems that EVERYBODY helped him out with the vocals to ‘Our Love Will Never Die.’ Then Mitch finally put his guitar down for the rousing ‘Forever’ which was the catalyst for some sections of the audience to leap around like maniacs, and the main set was brought to an energetic close.


Mitch-Malloy-FF-2012

“Look who I found backstage, it’s Mr. ‘Naughty Naughty’ himself,” beamed Mitch, as he returned for the encore and welcomed his old buddy, Danger Danger’s Bruno Ravel onstage to assist with the rocking new song ‘Shine’. Bruno then handed bass duties back to Anna Portalupi, somewhat reluctantly it seemed, for Mitch’s most popular song, the always excellent ‘Anything At All’, which encouraged the audience to do their best to take the roof off. It felt like a set-closer, and by rights it should have been, but like last year’s set that honour fell to the touching tribute to his fans, ‘All My Friends’, which really was the perfect way to end. As Mitch sang “you’ve been beside me all these years, you are the reason I’m standing here” and gestures to the audience, you know he genuinely means it. Mario Percudani peels off the amazing solo at the finale, and then stood aside to let the singer deliver the final words, “it’s just goodnight, not goodbye, it’s not the end, we’ll meet again”, and then looked distinctly overwhelmed by the huge roar that greeted those words. I think it’s fair to say that judging by the reaction to yet another amazing Firefest set, it won’t be too long before Mitch Malloy is invited back again. (AH)

Set list: Mission Of Love / Falling To Pieces / Stranded In The Middle Of Nowhere / I’ll Love You Still / Over The Water / It’s About Love / Love Song / On And On / Our Love Will Never Die / Forever - Encore: Shine / Anything At All / All My Friends

GOTTHARD


The anticipation was high for the debut of Gotthard with their new singer on a UK stage. After the passing two years ago of Steve Lee, the vocalist that started the band together with guitarist Leo Leoni back in 1992, opinions were divided whether the band should continue at all. Lee was such a tremendous frontman that hopes the group would find a suitable replacement were almost non-existent. Nic Maeder proved the Swiss combo has made the right decision by carrying on and inviting him to join their ranks.

Starting almost 15 minutes late due to some technical problems behind the curtained stage, the Saturday headliners kicked off their set in full force with one of their most famous hits, ‘Dream On’. From that moment on it was clear the extraordinary power of Gotthard had far from disappeared. Together with Leoni and Maeder, drummer Hena Habegger, bassist Marc Lynn and guitarist Freddy Scherer, as well as guest keyboardist Ernesto Ghezzi, they sounded supremely tight and appeared comfortable on stage. ‘Gone Too Far’ from their superb ‘Domino Effect’ album followed with the same energy. Right after that, they moved on to pastures new with a track from their debut album with Maeder, ‘Firebirth’, released earlier this year. ‘Starlight’ was amazingly (but deservedly) well received by collective clapping to the rhythm of its contagious beats and featured perfect backing vocals. Like the majority of the cuts from that release, it sounds fresh yet still carries the Gotthard stamp all over it. And if bands in general tend to play a few songs from their latest studio effort, Gotthard had a bigger motive to mark the new era for the band and consequently played a total of six tracks from ‘Firebirth’, including ‘Fight’, ‘Shine’, ‘The Story's Over’, ‘Gimme Real’ (when Leo brought on a double neck guitar) and the new anthem ‘Right On’. But before that, they made room for the beautiful ballad ‘Remember It's Me’, the first song the band wrote with Nic. For this number, the vocalist brought on his guitar too, and I couldn’t help but notice the song sounded much heavier live.


Gotthard-FF-2012

The classics from their back catalogue including, amongst others, their self-titled debut album, 94s ‘Dial Hard’, 05s ‘Lipservice’ but surprisingly leaving out 09s ‘Need To Believe’ ? also made it to the set list and the audience succumbed to their charms by singing along to ‘Top of the World’ (where Maeder’s voice seemed remarkably similar to Steve Lee’s), ‘Sister Moon’, the cover ‘Hush’, ‘Mountain Mama’ and the pounding ‘Fist in Your Face’. To spice things up there were some teasers, with the awesome guitarist Leo playing riffs by AC/DC and Deep Purple.

Undoubtedly, the most emotional moment of the evening took place half way through the set, when the band, bar Nic and Ernesto, left the stage to let the duo dedicate ‘One Life, One Soul’ to Steve. It was in fact a very moving and emotional tribute that some tears shed around the packed venue.
On a different note, ‘Lift U Up’, the gigantic party song, closed a fantastic set as the whole venue went absolutely nuts. It was time then for the encores ‘Master of Illusion’ and the hit ‘Anytime Anywhere’ and after this, the whole audience started chanting the chorus of ‘Lift U Up’ as the band gathered to salute at the end. The chanting carried on even after they bowed to the audience. It was a truly unique experience which proved Gotthard were very welcome back to live performance and to Firefest in particular. And, according to inside sources, tears of emotion followed backstage. No wonder, really: an astonishing performance for the end of Day 1 that gained a remarkable response. (MC-L)

Set list: Dream On / Gone Too Far / Starlight / Top Of The World / Remember It’s Me / Sister Moon / Fight / Hush / One Life, One Soul / Shine / The Story’s Over / Fist In Your Face / Give Me Real / Mountain Mama / Tight On / Lift U Up – Encore: Master Of Illusion / Anytime Anywhere


 DAY 3: Sunday 21st October
 

FAR CRY

 

And so the last day had arrived. This morning may have been a little nerve wracking for some of the bands in today’s line up. The general consensus going around seemed to be that the previous couple of days had been some of the best ever in the life of Firefest so how daunting it must have been for the bands to have to follow that. Responsibility for getting things under way on day three went to New Jersey based rockers Far Cry. The band should have appeared last year but travel issues prevented them from flying over. They were invited back over for 2012 and this year there were no issues with which to contend.

The rear of the audience was noticeably thinner than Saturday but it was still more than half full. ‘She’s Crazy’ was the set opener and with its lively bouncing bass and guitar work from Pete Fry it was a good starting track. Singer Mike Ledesma had a great stage persona which included making great use of the mic stand in a very Coverdale like fashion. This prompted a reasonable reaction from the festival goers and they gave even more during ‘Over And Over (Again)’. Ledesma had his foot up on the amp egging them on as a very animated Fry let loose. ‘Nothing You Can Do’ saw more marauding riff work riding along on a nice solid beat. Ledesma tried some crowd participation but didn’t get the strongest reaction but after a small drum solo the hands were in the air. Before ‘Better Than This’ Ledesma introduced a guest player in the shape of Eric Langaire. ‘Better…’ was a nice acoustic Jovi like ballad which should have come as no surprise given their home turf. The solo was an emotional affair from Fry who was back on the electric delivering massive held notes that just sailed. ‘Have It All’ and ‘Too Hot To Hold’ returned the pace to upbeat. ‘Have…’ was built around a deep churning progression and a harmonic chorus with Fry unleashing another screaming solo but it did get a bit messy mid way. ‘To Hot…’ showed a sleazier side with a down and dirty riff and more wailing lead guitar. There was a nice pace about the song giving a good opportunity for the people to get their hands in the air. ‘Fine Line’ was followed with a nice thank you to the crowd and crew and an apology for their missed appearance. It was a genuine gesture that was well received. Ledesma had the mic stand back out for the last of their set ‘Love Won’t Wait’. It was a solid choice to end with its thumping beat and rolling rhythm progression and the crowd repaid them with a good applause as they walked off.


Far-Cry-FF-2012

Like Lima and Lionville the previous days, Far Cry put on an entertaining display and did their best to get the crowd going from the off. They picked some solid tunes and played them well especially Fry on the guitar. Ledesma has a quality stage presence and tried to get the crowd involved at every opportunity. The one negative was that some of his higher pitched wails were almost ear splitting early on. Opening acts occasionally suffer with the odd issue and thankfully it had dissipated quickly. That one small niggle aside, this was an enthusiastic performance from the entire band and they certainly gave the audience a good show. (DS)

Set list: She’s Crazy / Over And Over (Again) / Nothing You Can Do / Better Than This / Have It All / Too Hot To Hold / Fine Line / Love Won’t Wait

FIONA

 

After the groove-laden tunes of Far Cry, it was time for an eagerly anticipated first at Firefest. Fiona is a highly regarded female melodic rock singer who first came to prominence in the 80’s. I have heard several testify that she stands as either their favourite or the best rock female vocalist of all. As a result of her return to the music scene after 20 years, Fiona was invited to perform this year which also marked her first ever performance in the UK.

There was a huge, expectant cheer as the curtain dropped revealing the somewhat packed stage. Fiona stood to the centre in sunglasses as the cascading riff of ‘Loved Along The Way’ got the set underway. She seemed a little nervous and self conscious but appeared to find herself as time passed. Her vocals were gravelly and strong and she received a good response from the crowd. It was off with the glasses and straight into ‘Broken’ where Fiona was really wailing and powerful especially by the end. There was time for a bit of banter before the band, inevitably led by Tommy Denander, launched into the classic ‘Ain’t That Just Like Love’. The funky guitar melody rang out and the rocking heads showed many were into the song. Fiona’s voice sounded throatier and she was certainly pushing herself as she shimmied around.

After ‘Treat Me Right’ and ‘Keeper Of The Flame’ it was time for the best song of her set in ‘Hang Your Heart On Me’. The keys of Eric Ragno and the rhythm guitar of Jorge Salan worked together to create a real classic rock sound. The crowd were really into it as was Fiona who was mid stage giving it her all. The progression powered the song along and everyone worked the stage well with even Fiona doing a bit of “mum dancing”! She introduced the next song ‘Hearts On Fire’ hoping those who had seen the film watched it drunk. This smouldering ballad started with the plodding bass very prominent before the axe men wound up their engines. Fiona was very expressive with lots of emotion showing on her face and plenty of hand gestures as well as giving the lyrics a nice growl like approach. ‘Talk To Me’ saw bassist James Christian grooving away before the main guitars entered the fray. Fiona performed some of the vocals kneeling down showing a more sultry side before another echoing solo rang out. Her time on stage was almost up but she ended with a cover of Pat Benatar’s ‘Shadows Of The Night’. As the song came to its conclusions there was a wide smile across Fiona’s face as she and the band took their applause.


Fiona-FF-2012

This was actually a fine set and a good show to mark Fiona’s first UK appearance. Whilst it still wasn’t a full house, there was a large crowd in and they seemed to have a fun time. Although Fiona appeared a bit awkward at the start, she relaxed into the gig and by the end seemed to be having a ball. Her voice still sounded good for the majority of the songs and she gave a good rendition of both old and new tracks. If there was one disappointment it was that the program noted that she would be joined by close friend Robin Beck. To see these two icons together would have been a treat but sadly it never materialized. Regardless of that Fiona certainly stamped her mark on the festival this year and the applause was well deserved. Those who came to see her now have to hope it’s not another 20 years before she plays the UK again. (DS)

Set list: Loved Along The Way / Broken / Ain’t That Just Like Love / Treat Me Right / Keeper Of The Flame / Hang Your Heart On Me / Hearts On Fire / Talk To Me / Shadows Of The Night

ROYAL HUNT


Mid afternoon on the third day produced the mouth-watering prospect of Royal Hunt celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release of their debut album ‘Land Of Broken Hearts’ and – in contrast to their appearance at The Gods’ festival in 2003 – now once again featuring the charismatic vocalist D C Cooper: the complete showman and a master of stage presence. This was a performance I had been looking forward to with great anticipation. But I, and the rest of the audience, had to wait nearly fifteen minutes longer than anticipated, as a technical difficulty caused only the second (and thankfully final) delayed appearance of the weekend.

As a symphonic metal band with progressive leanings, driven by the myriad keyboards (somewhat fewer than usual here, however) of Andre Anderson, Royal Hunt had on the face of it a very different musical focus from all the other bands at this year’s festival. However, they demonstrated their very melodic credentials right from the off with the energetic ‘One More Day’, one of just two tracks selected from their latest album, ‘Show Me How To Live’ and which was warmly received by the rather static crowd. However, for those initially unsure about the band and those who by contrast were very sure, ‘The Mission’ really started to raise the ante, egged on by the redoubtable DCC and by the time ‘Step By Step’ came to a temporary conclusion to allow him to talk about Firefest marking the end of their 20th Anniversary tour, not only was the band (and two female backing singers) completely pumped up, so was the audience which continued to swell throughout their set. The next selection came from the seminal album ‘Moving Target’, and gave new guitarist Jonas Larsen his time in the spotlight. A rockier number than the previous selections, ‘Last Goodbye’ was an inspired mid-set choice, while ‘Half Past Loneliness’ that followed was even more so, a fellow reviewer remarking to me that it was “just so marvellous” – and he was right, as DCC brought the crowd to a boil. Andre Anderson remarked afterwards that he had never before seen such an enthusiastic crowd reaction to that song!


Royal-Hunt-FF-2012 

As the set progressed, the effervescent DCC increasingly left the stage to venture into the crowd. He did so during the penultimate number ‘Stranded’, a wonderful song that took us right back to the band’s earliest days and then again during set closer, ‘Message To God’. Unfortunately, DCC misjudged his jump and might have been seriously injured, but for the quick reaction from one of the festival faithful down at the front! He had clearly hurt his leg, but hardly for a moment did he falter in his vocals – a real professional. This monumental song was a superb finale to a magnificent set that so, so many were heard to remark was far too short. The delay only cost one song (sorry, I’ve no idea which – but it must have been a long one!) but their performance of the seven songs they performed was outstanding, to many in the audience they were clearly a revelation, and they received a great reception.
Another band that I’m sure would be welcomed back, and for a longer set next time – and looking at the band’s forum Anderson has commented “let’s do it all again sometime”…(PJS)

Set list: One More Day / The Mission / Step by Step / Last Goodbye / Half Past Loneliness / Stranded / Message To God

BRIGHTON ROCK

 
The second Canadian band of the festival, Brighton Rock, were originally active just after Santers in the latter part of the eighties and early nineties, and given the demographic of the crowd it was obvious that those couple of years make all the difference in the public's consciousness. It's actually only been a decade since a slightly different line-up of the band played at the Z-Rock show in Manchester, but here they were back firing on all cylinders with their most recognisable quintet intact.

As the familiar riff to 'Unleash The Rage' came charging out of the speakers, the smiling faces of guitarist Greg Fraser, bassist Stevie Skreebs, drummer Mark Cavarzan and keyboard player/second guitarist Johnny Rogers soon turn to surprise at the roar that greeted singer Gerry McGhee's slightly later stage entrance. Any reservations I might have had about McGhee being able to hit those high notes soon dissipated as the band turned back the clock to those memorable UK shows of yesteryear. With Rogers leaving the keyboards in favour of guitar, raucous versions of 'Young, Wild & Free' and 'Barricade' showed just how much heavier Brighton Rock have always been live than on record, before the keyboards come back for the distinctive intro to the Canadian hit single 'Hangin' High & Dry'. McGhee and Skreebs covered every inch of the stage as the band alternated between hard rockers and more AOR-friendly material, each one with a powerful backbeat from Cavarzan and melodic, uncluttered solos from Fraser on his distinctive Lado guitar.


Brighton-Rock-FF-2012 

The upbeat 'Outlaw' gave McGhee plenty of excuses to thrust his microphone stand into the crowd and 'Rebel With A Cause' showcased his impressive range, but the obvious joy of being onstage again seeped from every pore of the rejuvenated band. The groovy 'Hollywood Shuffle' and anthemic 'We Came To Rock' gave way to the beautifully played ballad 'One More Try', another big hit back in their native land, but it was the closing trio of the moody 'Nightstalker' and rock-out ending of 'Power Overload' and 'Bulletproof' that showed the band at their most comfortable and powerful. I'm always a little nervous when personal favourites play to a Firefest crowd, but there were no worries with Brighton Rock, their beefed-up party rock was exactly what the doctor ordered and they looked like a band who were in their element, even slipping in some of the old choreographed moves. Even though 'Jack Is Back' had to be dropped from the set due to time restraints, infectious songs, solid musicianship and a powerful sound made them an ideal addition to the bill. (PA)

Set list: Unleash the Rage / Young, Wild and Free / Barricade / Hangin' High &? Dry / Outlaw / Rebel With A Cause / Hollywood Shuffle / We Came to Rock / One More Try / Nightstalker / Power Overload / Bulletproof
 

LILLIAN AXE

 

And so it was into the last three acts of Firefest 2012. After two and a half days and 15 previous acts the weekend was on the home stretch. Following on from Brighton Rock was New Orleans-based Lillian Axe. This presented the crowd with the chance to see another long time established act that formed back in 1983. The band has had a bumpy ride over the years with several line up changes and even a four year hiatus. Founder Steve Blaze was one of the first to be coined a guitar virtuoso and has been the only ever-present member.

The band’s trip to Europe was not without issues however, and current vocalist Brian C. Jones had to skip the tour. Fortunately former singer Derrick LeFevre agreed to step in. Oddly perhaps of the four albums not touched on today, three were the albums LeFevre sang on, though it’s possible the set was already rehearsed prior to the singer switch. Regardless he appeared both confident and well equipped to handle the set and it’s likely many present were unaware of his status.

It was late afternoon when the curtain dropped to a loud roar and LA charged off with ‘Misery Loves Company’. There was a whopping fat riff from Sam Poitevent and some screaming lead work from Blaze who really stood out on stage with his goatee beard, red jacket and uniquely shaped guitar. ‘Deep Freeze’ saw another thundering progression from Blaze but it left the LeFevre’s vocals a little overwhelmed in the opening but it was soon resolved. The booming bass poured round the venue whilst the raucous solo rang out. The bass and drum took the lead to open ‘All’s Fair In Love & War’ before Blaze hammered out more funky riffs to fuel the song. ‘Mercy’ had a real atmospheric intro of a picked note melody before the rhythm joined in. There was some guitar play and crowd encouragement in the bridge which ended with a finger bleeding display and a real cheer. They gave the audience time to breathe with the ballad ‘World Stopped Turning’. Blaze showed his versatility with a slower melody even though the chorus had a bit more in the way of guts to it. LE played ‘True Believer/Dream Of A Lifetime’ in one hit providing one of the better moments of the weekend. The driving riff rolled out the speakers and ripped through the auditorium. Despite the onslaught of guitar there was a melodic edge to the performance with Blaze whipping up the crowd with some frenzied guitar playing. They kept up the power and pace with the raucous ‘Crucified’ before another balled ‘Ghost Of Winter’. Although the song starts off calmly by the end all three guitarists had were front of stage with their feet up on the amps. There was an extended solo from Blaze letting fly on all fronts to quite a cheer from the house. Blaze and Poitevent unleashed a revolving progression during ‘Death Comes Tomorrow’ whilst Morris stood centre stage seriously contorting his body and bass. The melodic ‘Show A Little Love’ and the gutsy ‘No Matter What’ bought things to an end and with it a rousing cheer and applause. 


Lillian-Axe-FF-2012

 Lillian Axe was certainly one of the most bombastic bands of the weekend and probably the heaviest. This was an excellent performance by the Louisiana-based rockers whose progression infused set appeared to go down well with the majority. They got the crowd involved early and picked a mixed set list from across their career and seemed to have managed to please most of their fans old and new. They put together a good visual show as well with each member wandering from side to side and to the centre. LeFevre’s vocals were a revelation under the circumstances, and he gave each song his all. Poitevent provided a solid foundation working nicely with Morris who has to be one of the more visually expressive bassists out there. But the star of the set was long time ‘axe’ man Blaze. He seemed to be having a ball on stage often wearing a look of a man content and comfortable yet enjoying every moment. If there was a negative around their set it would be one that could also be levelled at Blaze. He is exceedingly talented and his frantic playing is a pleasure to watch, but in a slot that was a little over an hour there might have been a little too much of it. But it is something the band is known for so it’s likely to have disappointed just as many if he had reined it in. That small note aside, this fun and furious performance was one of the best of the weekend and one both this reviewer and lots of the crowd appreciated. (DS)

Set list: Misery Loves Company / Deep Freeze / All’s Fair In Love & War / Mercy / World Stopped Turning / True Believer / Dream Of A Lifetime / Crucified / Ghost Of Winter / Death Comes Tomorrow / Show A Little Love / No Matter What

STAGE DOLLS

 

After the bombast of Brighton Rock and Lillian Axe it was pleasing that next up was the more sophisticated material of the Stage Dolls and they didn’t disappoint; indeed for me they produced one of the best sets of the weekend. This was full of crowd-pleasing tunes which had the audience singing and clapping along from the outset and throughout; I detected a significant uplift in the crowd’s mood and enthusiasm.

It has to be said that the band are past masters in the live setting who make everything seems so easy; and aside from a brief glitch in their intro tape countdown their set was neigh on perfect, it was beautifully paced with excellent songs and no superfluous chat or extended solos sections. Much like Tim Manford (Danté Fox) on Friday, Torstein Flakne played delightful languid guitar throughout in a very effective but economical manner, confining himself to concise but extremely meaningful and tuneful solos.

The set opened wonderfully with the title track from their latest album, ‘Always’ which I have to say came across as being far more powerful live than it does on CD. It was a masterstroke to follow this with the magnificent ‘Love Lies’ which was greeted with a huge cheer from the crowd which had swelled in numbers again after diminishing slightly during the previous two bands. Flakne had a broad smile spread across his face as the crowd sung along with gusto. Many bands would have retained such an iconic song for the end of the set but injecting it this early ensured they had the crowd on their side from the outset. ‘Left Foot Boogie’ input a change of style before they delivered a superb rendition of the wonderful powe Starting almost 15 minutes late due to some technical problems behind the curtained stage, the Saturday headliners kicked off their set in full force with one of their most famous hits, ‘Dream On’. From that moment on it was clear the extraordinary power of Gotthard had far from disappeared. Together with Leoni and Maeder, drummer Hena Habegger, bassist Marc Lynn and guitarist Freddy Scherer, as well as guest keyboardist Ernesto Ghezzi, they sounded supremely tight and appeared comfortable on stage. ‘Gone Too Far’ from their superb ‘Domino Effect’ album followed with the same energy. Right after that, they moved on to pastures new with a track from their debut album with Maeder, ‘Firebirth’, released earlier this year. ‘Starlight’ was amazingly (but deservedly) well received by collective clapping to the rhythm of its contagious beats and featured perfect backing vocals. Like the majority of the cuts from that release, it sounds fresh yet still carries the Gotthard stamp all over it. And if bands in general tend to play a few songs from their latest studio effort, Gotthard had a bigger motive to mark the new era for the band and consequently played a total of six tracks from ‘Firebirth’, including ‘Fight’, ‘Shine’, ‘The Storyr ballad ‘Hard To Say Goodbye’ which again had the audience joining in enthusiastically. ‘24/7’ featured a great groove and then it was a return to power ballad territory with the quite exquisite ‘Sorry (Is All I Can Say)’.


Stage-Dolls-FF-2012

A fine keyboard intro ushered in ‘Taillights’ which prefaced what can only be described as a splendidly evocative closing section that featured a plethora of Stage Dolls classic tunes, every one of which was delivered superbly. I thought I’d pick out some highlights but when I read through my notes I realised I’d actually have to mention every one of them because they were universally superb.

I couldn’t believe how quickly the set passed, which is a good sign, yet they had delivered thirteen excellent songs. Their set was an absolute joy but I also took pleasure from the evident joy on the faces of the band members who were clearly having a great time too.
One of the VIPs on the balcony approached me after the set and said ‘if there was any justice in the world these guys would have been as big as Bryan Adams’ and I have to agree with him. (GM)

Set List: Always / Love Cries / Left Foot Boogie / Hard to Say Goodbye / You’re the One / 24/7 / Sorry (Is All I Can Say) / Taillights / Commandos / Love Don’t Bother Me / Wings of Steel / Still in Love / Soldier’s Gun

DANGER DANGER

 

There are certain bands tdisplay: block; margin-left: auto; ma/strongrgin/strong-right: auto;hat are perfect for a closing spot at Firefest, and just as Tyketto height= and Gemotthard had confidently nailed it on the previous two nights, there height=was never any dangetext-/strongal src=/strongign: center;r (sic) that Sunday night would be any different. The ultimate party band from New York/New Jersey are not exactly short of an iconic song images/ConcertReviews/Firefest2012/Mitch-Malloy-FF-2012.jpgimages/Cbr /oncertReviews/Firefest2012/Mitch-Malloy-FF-2012.jpgor two and have released some of the genres best-loved records, with drummer Steve West and bassist Bruno Ravel having written the perfect vehicles for singer Ted Poley to perform and long-time guitarist Rob Marcello to shred over.

Hitting the stage to a monumental roar, 'Rock America', although geographically inaccurate, was very much a statement of intent with instant crowd accompaniment and fists in the air from the first chorus. Bruno's cool onstage persona was juxtaposed by Ted's rabble rousing antics and Rob's flamboyant dress sense (tonight he was carrying a pink guitar and had raided Bruno's old wardrobe for a matching shirt!), but nothing could stop this band in full flow, not even a broken hand, which it turned out days later is exactly what Poley had Undoubtedly, the most emotional moment of the evening took place half way through the set, when the band, br /br /bar Nic and Ernesto, left the stage to let the duo dedicate ‘One Life, One Soul’ to Steve. It was in fact a very moving and emotional tribute that some tears shed around the packed venue.after striking Marcello's headstock mid-spin in the opening song. The similarly upbeat 'Beat The Bullet' was followed by the first surprises of the evening; 'Cockroach' cult classic 'Shot O' Love' immediately followed by 'Killin' Love', the first of two from the fairly recent 'Revoh3lve' opus.


Danger-Danger-FF-2012

During 'Don't Walk Away' Ted sang the whole song while walking through the crowd and up to the balcony and back, the band picking up the pace again with 'Don't Blame It On Love' and their newest classic, 'Hearts On The Highway', with Bruno doing most of the introductions and passing bottles of spirits around to his bandmates to take a shot between songs. A slight surprise was the debut album's 'Feels Like Love', but when it’s followed up with the closing trio of 'Bang, Bang', the mega-ballad 'I Still Think About You' and a frantic 'Crazy Nites', it showed just how many truly great songs they have and how technically precise both Poley and Marcello are in their respective roles. The Rock City roof had already been blown off but the band strolled back on with Bruno as the master of ceremonies to continue their promised evening of chat and music (perhaps too much of the former for some?), but after some fooling around and Rob started the band with impromptu versions of Kiss' 'God Of Thunder' and 'Black Sabbath' they're eventually joined by Mitch Malloy and two monkeys throwing bananas for 'Monkey Business'. Mitch looked decidedly underwhelmed when someone in the audience threw a banana back and hit him on the head, but Firefest ended triumphantly with 'Naughty Naughty' and a host of special guests including Robin Beck, Terry Ilous, James Christian and Tommy Denander. Danger Danger proved to be a worthy headliner with great songs, superb performances and a crystal clear sound, and as good as most o/pf the acts had been this year, no-one could match them for sheer fun. (PA)

Set list: Rock America / Beat the Bullet / Shot o' Love / Killin' Love / Don't Walk Away / Don't Blame It on Love / Hearts On The Highway / Feels Like Love / Bang Bang / I Still Think About You / Crazy Nites - Encore: Monkey Business / Naughty Naughty

 

IN CONCLUSION ...

 

Reading the foregoing, if you were not there over that wonderful weekend in October 2012, you should have gained a pretty good flavour of what you missed (and from what some of my fellow reviewers have said, that included seeing the roof of Rock City being lbr /ifted off on several occasions!) For those of you who were there, I hope that we have helped to re-kindle all those very happy memories of a sumptuous weekend of fabulous mel Love / Donodic rock music, and one that has also become an annual gathering of the clans, another big hit back in their native land, but it was the closing trio of the moody and a meeting of friends from all over the world.

And it’s all going to happen again this year, when the tenth Firefest will once again test the very foundations of Nottingham Rock City. It’s going to be very, very special. See you there…. (PJS)

 

FIREFEST 2012:
PROUDLY BROUGHT TO YOU BY ...

Firefest-2012-Crew
&

covers/p, although geographically inaccurate, was very much a statement of intent with instant crowd accompaniment and fists in the air from the first chorus. Bruno

 

FIREWORKS MAGAZINE


This review will be published in the full colour, glossy Fireworks Magazine Issue #55, on sale on Dec 16th 2012 and available at selected WHSmiths, McColl's and Martin stores (store locator) or direct from the Fireworks Magazine Mini Shop.

As well as this fully illustrated review, Fireworks #55 also features interviews with Jason Bonham, Steve Lukather, Chris Jericho, Paul Gilbert, DARE, Anberlin, W.E.T, Jimi Jamison.and many more. Fireworks also includes in depth reviews of all the latest releases, reissues, DVDs and live concerts.

Back issues are also available here in the Rocktopia shop, although some issues are completely sold out. To avoid missing out, why not subscribe? Guarantee yourself six issues of the finest melodic rock magazine on the planet by taking out a subscription, and you'll get one FREE!

Looking for the full Firefest VI review? Please click here!

Looking for the full Firefest 2010 review? Please click here!

Looking for the full Firefest 2011 review? Please click here!

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Comments (5)add comment

Hysteria said:

...
Great review! Cannot wait for Firefest X!
 
January 27, 2013
Votes: +2

KT said:

...
Lillian Axe's vocalist for Firefest was Derrick Lefevre...
 
January 29, 2013
Votes: +0

PJS said:

...
You are quite correct KT!

For some inexplicable reason, the version that was published in Fireworks Magazine is not the one that has been published here. I think you will find the correct version will be here very soon. Apologies for that...heads will roll!!

Paul smilies/shocked.gif
 
January 29, 2013
Votes: +0

Rocktopia Team said:

...
The review was updated!
 
January 29, 2013
Votes: +0

PJS said:

...
Thank you "team"!

And a big thank you to Berny for spotting a typo that four proof readers failed to spot before it was published in Fireworks (and probably also in Burrrn!)

Paul smilies/wink.gif
 
January 29, 2013
Votes: +1

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  • BLM : In Faith initial order sold out on Amazon UK .. new stock being shipped this week. The GREAT reviews just keep coming!!
  • Berny : Check out Carl's Firefest Final Fling thread in the FORUM!
  • Franco : hey Graham. Brad Sinsal (TKO/War Babies) is also in a supergroup of sorts called The McClellans, that also featured Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready and Sceaming Trees bassist Keith Lowe. I heard they released a CD back in 2013, but not much is known about it. I do know that Brad and Mike have done acoustic work together, doing a few shows. Brad also appeared on a CD called 'Thrasher: Super Sessions' from 1985 (I think) that also featured Billy Sheehan, Rhett Forrester, Kenny Aaronson, and s
  • Graham : HI GUYS ! QUESTION DOES ANYONE KNOW IF BRAD SINSAL OF TKO SUICIDE SQUAD WAR BABIES HAS RELEASED ANY THING SINCE BABIES I KNOW THE LAST I HEARD HE WAS IN A BAND CALLED AMERICAN STANDARD ?
  • Berny : @ BadAssBoots: All this effort (and complaints) for a promo text in the shoutbox? Why didn't you send us a press release?
  • BadAssBoots : Boogie On The Bayou ... co - written by Martin Samuel (lyric) when in New Orleans, LA and Lisa Nemzo (music) then in Marina del Rey, CA ... was recorded by Bad Ass Boots and released by Dream Wild Records. «link»
  • Berny : Check out Paul Jerome Smith's latest blog: Another Moment in Time & Space (15). Great read, as always!
  • Berny : Apologies for today's downtime due to some unexpected but essential maintenance work.
  • STARFIRE : R.I.P. Jimi Jamison... : - (
  • Berny : 3500+ reviews on Rocktopia!
  • Berny : Check out the Rocktopia Podcast presented by Steve Price. It rocks!!! :)
  • Franco : our music world has lost another great one. rest in forever peace, Jimi
  • KI2000 : Rest in peace.
  • LeChef : R.I.P. Jimi :. - (
  • Idiosyncrasy : Rest in peace Jimi Jamison.
  • Hysteria : Great stuff!
  • Berny : TEN return with 'ALBION' ... on ROCKTOPIA RECORDS!
  • Naroth316 : hell - o
  • Berny : Welcome Nelu! ;)
  • nelu.tand : Hello
  • Berny : Hi Axldobby, welcome back! :)
  • Axldobby : Hi from Brittany! Hope everybody is fine! :)
  • Berny : Fireworks 65 is out now!
  • KI2000 : Thanks for the videos!
  • Hysteria : @ oldfanoldfan: You are absolutely right!
  • LeChef : @oldfanoldfan: +1
  • oldfanoldfan : btw, I disagree, sad when someone passes, but the art lives on forever, and I think is an act of love to show his art, but just my opinion, not trying to create a debate.
  • oldfanoldfan : thanks for the videos!!!

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