Fireworks

Fireworks Magazine

Fireworks Magazine Online 43 - Status Quo

“Yes, that’s because that’s incredible bullshit, all that. It’s gone down in autobiographies, interviews, perceived as the main reason of us falling out - it was nothing to do with it!”
(ALAN LANCASTER on ‘Marguerita Time’)


Fireworks Issue #43 has an epic four page feature interview with original Status Quo members Alan Lancaster and John Coghlan, discussing their time in the band to celebrate the excellent 'Live at The BBC' box set with writer James Gaden. We present an extract of the in depth interview here:

STATUS QUO

As long standing British institutions go, you aren’t going to be able to top Status Quo. For forty years their brand of boogie rock have made heavy impacts on the charts, embedded themselves into everybody’s subconscious and woven a spell over all who has heard them - resulting in the unwitting listener having no choice but to tap their feet to the Quo’s trademark shuffle. With 28 studio albums to their credit, thousands upon thousands of live shows and countless hit singles, the band in conjunction with the BBC have released a set documenting their various appearances on the British Broadcasting Corporation over the years, both on radio and TV. Available as a two disk, four disk or deluxe eight disk set, the amazing set spans 1966 - 2005 and includes recordings of the band as The Spectres and Traffic Jam, before they became the Quo we all know and love. To celebrate this set and talk about the old days, I phoned up original members Alan Lancaster and John Coghlan. Both were more than happy to talk about the band and I found out plenty I didn’t know as Alan in particular was keen to dispel some Quo “facts”.


‘Piledriver’ was the first Quo album that really captured the true Quo sound (although there were hints of what was to come with tracks like ‘Mean Girl’). With ‘Piledriver’ being the first full on heavy rock album, was that a result of you guys being frustrated with pop material and taking matters into your own hands?

AL: We’d been going in a direction for years, but Roy Lynes left in 1970 because his organ playing, keyboards, it was redundant. We didn’t throw him out, he just left because it wasn’t necessary for him to be there. The band had evolved into a four piece. We were nervous the first time we had to play as a four piece, but it was wild and the crowd loved it. The organ masked our sound. When it was removed, it really showed off the band dynamic much better as a four piece.

JC: It was more fun. We were playing every pub that had bands on and we really enjoyed playing that stuff. But with Roy... I remember to this day, we were on a train going to a gig. It was unusual, I think that Bob Young was driving our gear there and we were going by train. We got to I think it was Stoke, and Roy just said ‘Look, I’m getting off.’ We thought he was joking but he did. We see him walking down the platform and then realized there was no chance of him getting back on and he was serious! So we went ‘Oh well, four piece then!’ (laughs) It was really weird, I’ve never heard of anyone doing that. You’d think he’d say ‘I’ll do the gig but tomorrow I’m off’ but not Roy!

AL: Yeah, the band were different on stage like I said. When we had a couple of hits, people were dressing us up for Top Of The Pops and stuff - giving us an image of an out and out pop band. We were getting photographed like that too. We never wore that stuff before we had a hit! (laughs) Our records were the same, gave us an image that were were a pop band. By the time ‘Piledriver’ came along... ‘In My Chair’ was basically a hit with no radio play, we were pulling in big crowds playing that type of music. Once we’d decided we weren’t going to wear any of the silly free clothes and that, we started to try and record what we did on stage. ‘Ma Kelly’s Greasy Spoon’ wasn’t great although there was some decent stuff on there. ‘Dog Of Two Head’ was better, much better. That direction took us to ‘Piledriver’ and we were there, we knew what we were doing. And of course, we produced that ourselves, we didn’t have an outsider in there. It worked wonderfully.

JC: I think Francis, Rick, Alan and Bob all found that writing in that vein, that four on the floor shuffle, we all knew it worked. It’s a shuffle that I enjoyed playing and can play it well. It worked a treat and I thought that was a great album, it’s gone down in history, that one.

Once you’d found that sound on ‘Piledriver’, you made a string of records in the same vein, but ultimately Andy Bown would be recruited to add keyboards.

JC: I can’t remember who actually said that we needed keyboards. A lot of people didn’t like it - the older fans certainly preferred it without them and I did too. We were a raunchy rock ‘n’ roll band with raunchy guitars, so I didn’t think we needed them. That’s a bit unfair to Andy who does a really good job and does play guitar and harmonica onstage too, but I don’t think we needed them. Maybe Francis or Rick wanted them, I can’t remember how it happened. But there again, without a keyboard player, we wouldn’t have had that intro to ‘Rocking All Over The World’ so who knows?

That’s the thing - Andy plays with his keyboards now to sound like piano rather than some of the synth sounds he used in the seventies and even more so in the eighties. It’s a much better fit for the style of music.

JC: Yeah. I play ‘Rocking All Over The World’ with my band but we don’t have a keyboard player. I do a drum intro instead and it comes out okay. Fans like the sound we get - we can recreate the sound Parfitt got on ‘Whatever You Want’ too, you know with that famous intro? So we do plenty of that stuff without keyboards and it sounds great.

With your decision to leave, was there some major point of contention that caused your departure?

JC: I think it was our manager at the time, Colin Johnson, who said basically I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. What it was, it was too much work, too much partying, too much of everything. If we’d have said ‘look, let’s have three months off’ so we could have chilled out, it might have been alright. But I just had to get off the merry-go-round if you know what I mean. I went home and I didn’t touch a drum kit for a year. I didn’t do a thing, just recuperated and felt so much better for it. Life is much better now. I play now with my bands, but at a rate I can settle with. I did a tour of Sweden last year, maybe the year before, spent ten days with a Swedish blues player in a three piece and it was awesome. We did a little tour and I really enjoyed it, it was great fun. As you know, you look at Quo’s schedule - it’s packed. And they still do it now. So they must enjoy it, but it’s extremely hectic.

AL: Yes, the keyboards and then the departure of John, that changed the sound. John didn’t write much but his sound was integral to the arrangements. It’s not just about playing something, it’s about passion and feeling. John had that mindset. That’s what makes you a great band rather than a group playing something. You need that feel, or you sound like any backing band - and John gave us that. When he left, on a recording level it fell apart. Pete Kircher came in, a great drummer no doubt... and he worked really hard to not replace, but to substitute John. You couldn’t replace John. Pete studied what John did and he tried to match the style and dynamic. He did a great job - like that gig at the NEC for Prince Charles, that was really good. He played in the style of John, but was probably a bit neater because he was fresh to the music.

Alan, round about the time you and Francis starting disagreeing about the direction of the band, ‘Marguerita Time’ is cited as one of the main points of contention. There’s a oft-mentioned performance on Top Of The Pops where you didn’t appear because according to what I read, you elected to stay at home with your pregnant wife rather than promote the single so Jim Lea from Slade filled in. However, on the box set there is a performance from the Little And Large show of it, and you’re there...

AL: Yes, that’s because that’s incredible bullshit, all that. It’s gone down in autobiographies, interviews, perceived as the main reason of us falling out - it was nothing to do with it!

Really? I watched some old Quo stuff on YouTube and there the one with Jim Lea, where Rick does his pratfall into the drum kit, but I found another one which looks to me to be Top Of the Pops and you’re there, performing the song you supposedly despise.

AL: Of course I’ve done ‘Marguerita Time’ on Top Of The Pops. I’ve never missed anything with Quo. What really happened was, you’ve heard about all the drug scene and everything, how Rick and Francis were out of it and can’t remember a thing? The management were doing it, the record people, everyone was into it, except really for John, when he was there, and me. I lived in Australia so I was away from it a lot. If I’d lived in England maybe I’d have been into it, but I had reason to get away from it. The band had disintegrated on a social level and because we were big and constantly busy, we saw each other all the time so we didn’t socialize away from the band. Rick and I would get together sometimes but the social thing we had during the early albums had gone. You mentioned the early stuff was more raw and we had the change when Andy came in, that also happened when we stopped producing ourselves. We had all this success, loads of number ones and big hits... And what happens? The record label say ‘Cor, look at the success these guys are having. Let’s get them a really good producer!’ (laughs) It’s madness. Why fix something that isn’t broken? So in comes Pip Williams. I think he’s a very good producer, but he was totally, totally wrong for Status Quo. I didn’t know at the time, nobody did, but we already had what we needed! By bringing in a producer it fragmented the band. Instead of us all working together, you bring an outside producer in and one guy goes into the studio for hours doing parts on their own, one will be playing darts, another one playing table tennis, one watching movies... no longer were we being like a band. At the time, we thought it was great, but looking back it took away what we had. I’m not knocking Pip, but he was wrong for us. We needed to do it ourselves. By having an outsider produce us, any one member of the band could go to him with a song and maybe the rest of us wouldn’t like it, but if the producer did... We’d end up working on stuff that wasn’t really Quo. Rick I think was the first to spot it and say we were going in the wrong direction. I hadn’t seen it, I thought it was easy, I could spend more time in Australia and leave the responsibility with Pip. Live we stayed the same, but on record we changed.

We did ‘Whatever You Want’ ourselves... well, that was the plan, but even then Pip was brought in about halfway through to help and co-produced the record. After that we had ‘Just Supposin’’ and ‘Never Too Late’ and did those ourselves, but some of Pip’s mentality had sunk in and affected us. Our engineer John Eden, he got a credit in there I think - he worked with Pip a lot, but in reality the band did it - although we’d done it with Pip’s mindset. Things weren’t going that well, songs that weren’t right for the band starting coming in. By the time we did the ‘1+9+8+2’ album, without John of course, the whole thing was just atrocious. Hit and miss - we’d try to write songs that weren’t right for the band. We’d had a thing put in our heads about cracking America, that they wanted something different. Rossi was writing more pop stuff, so I started trying to and we lost our way. We were all over the place and didn’t know it.
By the time ‘Back To Back’ came out... that load of tripe! We spent all our time laying in the sun.

I was intrigued about how you divided up the vocal duties with you, Francis and Rick all singing. One of the examples on ‘Back To Back’ was ‘Ol’ Rag Blues’ which you wrote and sang, but there was another version with Francis singing it which according to the sleeve notes was another nail in the relationship’s coffin.

AL: We never really argued too much, most stuff suited one of us more than the others. If I wrote a song with a bluesy, hard edge to it, usually I would sing it. Maybe Rick. If it had more of a classical scale to it, if it was more melodic, I’d ask Francis to sing it. I’ve asked Francis to sing a lot of my songs. With ‘Ol’ Rag Blues’ I’d already put the vocals down. When it was chosen as a single, Francis went in and put his vocal on it. People think ‘Oh, the record company chose’ - more bullshit. The version with Francis on was sent to the record company and they thought that was the one. I was annoyed because I’d put hard work in and effort to lay down what I felt was a good vocal and somebody takes it off and puts theirs on instead, you’d get angry. And that’s what happened. That was a decision made during the big drug scene I mentioned so you have to take it in that light, but that’s what happened.
With ‘Marguerita Time’, I didn’t think it was right for the band at all, but I didn’t mind recording it. Francis was making a solo thing at the time, none of us wanted to do it. Francis asked if the band would work it up because it was due for a solo thing. I thought it would be a great song for his solo thing too, I liked him working on that because I thought that stuff he was writing was against the grain of Quo’s image. But I had no problem putting down a great track for him, he liked it and it suited him. What I didn’t want was it to go on a Quo album and I had no idea it would be a single. That was the thing, the single. But as regards to me not being at Top Of The Pops for it, the truth is I wasn’t there because my son was born. Everybody knew I couldn’t come over for it. Usually they’d reschedule for me to be there, but at that point, again the drug induced decisions, they went ahead without me. Yeah, I’m glad I wasn’t on that bloody video because that song was completely against the grain of what we did - a silly little Butlins Holiday Camp piece. We’re a rock band! Whatever were they thinking? But I didn’t miss the shoot for that reason, as you saw, I appeared for it elsewhere.

I agree with you - I like the song in honestly, it’s okay, but I saw Francis perform a solo show not long back in support of his new album and he played it then. It fitted in great with what he was doing because he hardly played any Quo stuff, but I can see why it stuck in the craw of someone like yourself and the hardcore Quo fans.

AL: Yeah, if you went out to go and see AC/DC and they came out and started off with ‘Marguerita Time’, there’d be some complaints! (laughs) It was wrong business wise, image wise, everything. ‘Lies’ wasn’t right either, it was more pop rock, not hard rock with a boogie slant. I like stuff like ‘Accident Prone’ to be honest, that was a decent direction to follow, but it wasn’t a big hit compared to other stuff which is why we didn’t go that route. ‘Marguerita Time’ though sold loads of copies, twice as many as some of our hits, so everyone thought ‘Hey, this is the way to go!’ All the success that we’d had with our fans, we started trading that to try and impress Joe Public, who is sat in his armchair going ‘Oh yeah, I like that one, I sing that down the pub’. If a song catches on, like ‘Shaddup You Face’ it catches on and sells a lot of copies... for one go. But then you’ll be dropped like a bucket of cement and they’ve forgotten you. Meanwhile, your hardcore fans will drop you because you’ve sold out. But despite my feelings on the song, that’s not why I missed the Top Of The Pops show. I was told about it while my son was being born in Australia - and I’m not saying this was Rick and Francis’ fault, I think it was more the management wanting to oust me from the band.

I’m enjoying shattering so many Quo myths in one go, this is fantastic!

AL: I know - there’s biographies and interviews from TV and radio, magazines, the general perception, even from my ex-manager Pat Barlow, one time he said we were The Scorpions on TV, before we became Quo. No we weren’t, that was a suggested name. I think sometimes when you’re asked a question and put on the spot, people get nervous and don’t want to look like the can’t remember or need to think hard about it. They want to look like they’re with it and give you a quick, decisive answer. What with that and misquotes, things get out of control.

So when you both left the band at your respective times, did you keep following their progress, or completely wash your hands of it?

JC: I took a complete break. I always go and see them now when they play Oxford which is near me though. It’s great, I go and see the lads, we all still get on great, we have a drink and a chat, life goes on, you know?

AL: I didn’t follow them too closely, but I know they had a couple of flops after that, low chart positions to what they were used to. When John was gone, Pete came in and the ‘1+9+8+2’ album, which I think is a load of rubbish, went into the charts at number one and stayed in the charts for twenty five weeks, one of Quo’s bigger albums! Crazy. When I left, ‘In The Army Now’ went to number two I think and was one of their bigger albums. So much hype and press surrounded people leaving, people flock out to buy it because they’ve been hearing all about the band in the newspapers. I don’t think the long term fans liked the direction of the band when John left, or when I left, but Joe Public bought a lot of copies. It’s confusing! (laughs)

The mid-eighties stuff wasn’t so good. Even Francis admits things like ‘Ain’t Complainin’’ were dire. It wasn’t until ‘Rock Till You Drop’ that they really thought about maybe going back to their old sound. That did okay and they sort of built it back up from there. But a lot of the eighties releases are not well liked.

AL: There’s some good tracks in the eighties, it was a good band too, but it was the wrong direction. In the latter stage of my time there, we weren’t writing together which was when all the best stuff came out. Everyone was writing away from one another, people were writing pretty songs, people were submitting songs nobody else liked... I wrote some back then I thought were good, I hear them now and think no they weren’t... in fact, a lot of that stuff then, mine, Rick’s, Francis’, it was decent stuff, just no good for Quo. None of it matched, we were never a band who had loads of great songs to choose from to make an album. We played the stuff in the studio but the passion was lacking because a lot of it we weren’t that into. The drug thing affected things quite badly too.

I think it’s great the band is still going and still filling venues and making good records. Obviously the box set features stuff from after you guys left the group and there’s still some great material there. When you look at it as a retrospective though, spanning from the late sixties to 2005, you realize what a tremendous legacy the band has.

JC: Oh yeah! Also, if I meet someone and they don’t know what I used to do, if somebody says to them ‘Oh John was in Status Quo’ suddenly they become your friend. I don’t think there is anybody about who doesn’t know who Status Quo are, it’s a big household name with a current crop of fans and still some of the older fans from the first time around. I think it’s great they’re still going in all honesty.

John said he still sees the guys... Alan, I heard that you met up with Francis earlier this year when the band came over to Australia. Is that true, or is that more bullshit? (laughs)

AL: Oh yeah, Francis and I get on great. Recently we’ve been talking on the phone, texting jokes, we hear from one another in some form nearly every night. We talk about the old times, talk about this stuff I’ve been telling you a lot, he and I chat quite a lot. I went to see them - it’s more of a Status Quo show now than a Status Quo concert, it’s not what it used to be like, but it does feel more like a show and I had a great time. It’s not a tribute band, it’s like watching a show documenting all the great songs we did. Rick and I have chats, I signed some stuff, we all went back to the hotel and Andy came down, we talked about anything and everything. It was great. There was mutterings about a reunion because of nostalgia, but you’d have to think of the logistics of it and more importantly, would it be as good, if not better than it was? If not, it’s pointless. It doesn’t matter if I’ve become a better bass player than I was or Francis is a better guitarist or whatever, if the mindset isn’t there it won’t be right. It needs the passion and you can’t fake that. We’re all older now as well. It’s probably easier for them to do what they are doing.
Francis maybe is tiring of it and needs a break which is why he did a solo album and tour that you saw. When I was there I never thought of doing a solo album because I was devoted to Quo. I think Rick was too. But Francis has that other side - he writes good stuff and it suits him but not Quo. When you specialize in something, stick with it. We specialized in hard rock boogie, there was nobody bloody better. The only band I can think of that managed to follow us was Bob Seger’s Bullet Band. None of the others did for me. When you start trying country songs or stuff like that, there will always be people who do it better. If you want great country guitar playing and vocals, look no further than John Denver. That was his speciality. Francis does hard rock boogie the best, but I think he feels he has to try to be something else from time to time. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard his solo album and there’s some good stuff on there, but Quo is his speciality.

Read the full four page feature interview with Alan and John, including them discussing the band's beginnings as The Spectres to their huge success as Status Quo, in Fireworks #43.

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Status-Quo-Interview



Fireworks Magazine Online 43 - Mr. Big

Fireworks Issue #43 features Mr. Big on the cover, and a three page feature interview with members Eric Martin and Billy Sheehan, written by Monica Castedo Lopez. The duo talk about their brand new album 'What If...' Below is an extract of the interview.

MR. BIG

Musicians, drop your instruments, music fans hold your jaws tight, for here comes, piping hot from the oven, the first Mr Big album since 1996 with the monstrous original line-up of Eric Martin on vocals, Billy Sheehan on bass, Pat Torpey on drums and Paul Gilbert on guitar.

When Gilbert decided to leave the band in 1997 and then the group disbanded altogether in 2002, no one would ever thought Mr Big would get back together, given the constant heated comments between the singer and the bassist. Fortunately, the deities up there heard the millions of voices of their faithful fans and in 2009 they re-united to our most exuberant joy. At the time, it was uncertain they would make an album after their successful reunion tour last year, however, this is now a welcome reality and the new release ‘What If…’, due out in January, is unbelievably awesome.
To dispel rumours that the foursome got back together because of the money and that there is still tension in the band, I can testify that nothing is further from the truth and Billy and Eric get along brilliantly well and laughed cheerfully with each other. I hung out with the pair, who I had known separately for years, for almost two hours at their five-star hotel in Hyde Park the evening of this one-hour long and full of laughs interview. I also saw them perform an incredible intimate acoustic set organised by Planet Rock in front of an audience of prize winners and industry folks the next afternoon at the famous jazz club Ronnie Scott’s, then had drinks and dinner with them that evening. As you can imagine, I was thrilled to see them get along. That resulted in one of my favourite bands of all time return with an awesome album that, produced by Kevin Shirley, was pretty much recorded live in the studio in a matter of weeks. Let’s hear from the super talented singer and bass player who also make an entertaining comedy duo:



My first question is obviously about the album and how magnificent it is: mind-blowing guitar and bass playing, amazing drumming and Eric, your voice is as great as ever even after so many years. What’s your secret, guys?

Billy: We can’t give it away, or it won’t be a secret anymore! No, the secret is that we love what we do. We have a passion for music.

Eric: Also, we never really believed in all those bells and whistles and all the effects and the crazy stuff going on. We’re a foot-on-the-floor, straight-ahead rock band, instead of the golden curtains other people put on their records. Especially on this one.

B: Yeah, there wasn’t much in the way of any help other than our hands and our voices, and our hearts and minds, of course. We did multiple takes of songs rather than going in and overdubbing and fixing parts. I overdubbed a grand total of about 45 seconds of bass. Eric sang along with every song, full on, and didn’t go back two weeks later and re-sing everything.

E: That’s because he wouldn’t let me! In the end he was a godsend, but in the beginning I looked at Kevin Shirley, our producer, as a slave-master. He wouldn’t let me do any overdubs, which I was so used to: like the band goes in and they do it all live like in all the rest of the records and, in the past, I did a guide vocal, kind of like a pace car for the big race, and then I’d come back in a week and overdub my lead vocals. On this one all four of us were in the same room, very close together. Billy’s hands were bleeding, pieces of wood were flying everywhere, Paul Gilbert picks are flying, I’m spitting on a glass. Even when I listen to one of the first mixes you can actually hear drums come in out of my mic. We were so close. It was probably like Led Zeppelin when they first made a record, you can hear bleeding.

B: The band actually really played and they actually played this actual song and the job of the studio was too record them playing, as opposed to using the studio as an instrument and stack up parts and parts to build this monster. That’s why a lot of bands, I think, lost their credibility when they went to play live and they couldn’t do it. Mr Big has always been the real thing. I remember we where rehearsing years ago, we would rehearse a lot on our own without Eric because he lives in San Francisco, and we were getting ready for a tour back in the early 90s and me, Pat and Paul were singing all the background vocals so you wouldn’t hear any lead vocals at all. These people outside our rehearsal room were listening and after we were done they asked: ‘What sample are you guys using? How did you get those vocals in?’ And we’re like ‘We’re singing it!’ And then a similar thing happened when we went on tour for the reunion, our sound person, Michelle, before we were getting ready, goes: ‘How are we going to do the tracks?’ ‘What tracks?’ ‘Tracks for vocals’ ‘No, we sing it!’ And it’s so commonplace now for almost every band to play to tracks and we don’t, we didn’t and we never will. I’m proud of that and I’m glad the situation arose, we got shoved into a room and: ‘Let’s do it. Let‘s do it right, if we don‘t get it right, let‘s do another take.‘

E: There wasn’t a lot of pre-production. We kind of did it right there on the floor, writing our charts, and changing some lyrics right there. We didn’t really jam, we kind of just cut it.
We wrote songs prior to that in the studio and we kind of got together for about a month but not consistently, it was three days in the studio, these guys wrote some songs together, then we’d split and come back at different times. But when we all got together that song I sent you the other day, I changed a couple of pieces of it and it’s called ‘Once Upon A Time’ and Kevin Shirley is going: ‘Okay guys, you’re ready?’ And I’m like ‘No, I’m not ready yet’. Pat Torpey was singing the song to me, singing the melody.

B: So he’s learning it, in the room whilst Kevin is getting ready to hit the start button!

E: Yeah, and then I went in there and he’s like ‘Just do what you do, man’ and boom! So we didn’t hardly do any overdubs and the only overdubs that we did was for me was sing background vocals and when we sing background vocals I could sneak a little lead vocal lick in there and Shirley would be looking at me going: ‘Don’t try to trick me, man! I’d been hearing about you guys for years, talking about your influences, British blues rock and Humble Pie, Free, Spooky Tooth and all this stuff. Here’s your chance to prove it, instead of talking about it. This is your chance, so go for it’. And we went: ‘Okay’. Years ago when we did ‘Bump Ahead’ we cut the song ‘Mr Big’ by Free, where we got our name, and we did that completely live, just like we did this record. That’s what it reminds me of.

B: We cut that, we finished it and at the time our producer, Kevin Elson, stood up and said: ‘That’s the way you make a record.’ ‘Exactly!’

E: I know we should have followed that lead.

B: And that is the way we wrote this record.

Well, I don’t think there are any copies available yet, I only have it on my computer as a stream.

E: Yes, I got the same as you.

It’s due for release in January, so it’s still two months to go.

B: I remember the record by Steve Vai ‘The Real Illusions’ they sent copies off for review and the reviewers were selling it the next day on eBay and that wasn’t fair to Steve Vai, but it wasn’t released to the public. I don’t download anything that is available for commercial purpose. I pay for everything, but I understand some people don’t agree with it and don’t like that and think music should be free. I disagree with it and I think they are copyright anarchists, basically they don’t believe in any copyrights.

E: I write a song for you to hear and when I play live you pay me to play live…

B: …you do something in return for your money.

E: and in my head I’m trying to give you more bank for your buck

B: Well, you know, it’s an unfortunate situation now with the way it is, but the good thing is Mr Big always specialises in a live band. Being there live in a room with your friends in front of a band that is actually playing, you can’t download that.

Read the full three page interview with Eric and Billy, including them discussing the brand new album track by track, in Fireworks #43

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Mr-Big-Interview



Fireworks Magazine Online 42 - Joey Summer

During the last couple of months there have been released quite a few Melodic Rock and AOR albums through European labels from bands like Auras, N.O.W. and Highest Dream, all hailing from the musically very active South American country of Brazil. Joey Summer is another artist based in sunny Rio de Janeiro who got signed by the German Avenue Of Allies label. Being a veteran in the Brazilian music scene Joey has managed to gather an interesting cats of musicians and song writers for his international debut “Written On The Horizon” including the Swedes Kee Marcello (Europe, Easy Action), Göran Edman (Street Talk, Yngwie Malmsteen, Glory) and Fredrik Bergh (Street Talk, Bloodbound) aa well as the Germans Michael Bormann and Michael Müller (Jaded Heart). The result is a record in the classic Melodic Rock and AOR style of the 80s and in our little talk Joey shares some interesting facts about his past, his musical guest and his love for Sepultura.

How did you start your musical career and how did you especially get to Melodic Rock/AOR?
I started in music at a very young age, in fact I started singing in my very early years, when I was about 8 years old. My mother was an opera singer (soprano) and an amazing pianist. It was very natural for me to get into music and the interest for music was always around me. So I owe this "musical adventure" in my life to my beloved mother (R.I.P.).
But when I was only a 8 years old child, a friend of mine, Almir, introduced a song to me that changed my life in a minute. The song "Breaking All The Rules" by Peter Frampton, dropped like a bomb and exploded my head. I was hypnotized by that "vibe".
Despite I love the sound of SEPULTURA and their music (my favorite album of them is Death Embryonic Cells ), my first "fascination" of harder Rock music was in fact a Queen album, that I got from a friend, "Hot Space". As a matter of fact, this album is not so heavy compared to the beginning of Queen's career, but all the elements of opera music are there mixed with a brilliant pop rock. So, I was captured by that incredible sound. In 1979, I bought the Kiss album "Destroyer" and from that moment on I just knew exactly what I would do for the rest of my life, Rock and Roll !! Of course it would still take some time before I formed my first band. But in 1986 me and my brother, Geremias who now lives in Barcelona, formed the Phenix, my first Rock and Roll band. After one year together the band broke up and everybody went their separate ways, but I never stopped playing in bands and other musical projects. I think it’s basically always the same story how every rocker started his career, many dreams and almost no money to make them come true.

What other musical projects are you involved in, past and present?
For a long time I played in many bands and projects in the brazilian rock scene. The project that made me most happy was the band „Arena“ that I formed with my keyboardist, Daniel Lamas, who also played on my two solo albums, "Nascer" and now on "WOTH". We release only one album in 1997, "O Tempo Vai Mostrar" (recorded in Portuguese). This was kind of a Prog Hard'n Heavy project. After two years playing all over the country, we stopped playing as a band and I started playing for many artists as a session musician. I recorded many albums as a guest musician, live albums, live DVDs and many video clips, but then I decided to do something on my own, something truly mine, with my heart and soul. So, at the end of 2009 I stopped all the projects with the other Brazilian artists and dedicated myself to my work, as a solo artist. I called my former "partner in crime", Daniel Lamas, who is also playing in the official Brazilian cover band for Led Zeppelin named Blackdog and I said to him: "Hey, let's go back in time and make a good AOR album?" And he said: "Of course, I am in !". That's how "Written On The Horizon“ started.

What are your biggest influences as a singer, songwriter and guitarist?
I always loved the old school of hard rock. As a vocalist Paul Stanley has always been a great inspiration to me. As a guitarist, I'm a big admirer of the melodies created by Brian May of Queen and Neal Schon of Journey. As a songwriter it's a little bit more complicated, but I always tried to learn with the master Desmond Child. It may sound pretentious but I try to drink from the same fountain as him. He's a one of a kind hitmaker!

The songs on your album “Written On The Horizon” remind the listener of AOR’s heyday back in the eighties. What is it that you like about this kind of music?
Thanks for your kind words regarding my album! I love this kind of music. I was sad when in the middle of 90s this magic sound seemed to be lost forever in the middle of the "grunge" movement (turbulence). But bands like Whitesnake, Uriah Heep, Eagles, Chicago, Journey, seemed to defy the test of time and the musical trends. This inspired me to keep writing songs and waiting for the right time to release them. I think that we are living in a great time for Hard Rock/Metal and good vibrations comes from Europe to the world! I'm glad, because I couldn't be happy doing a different kind of music, I really love what I'm doing now.

You’ve got a number of big name guests on the record. How did you get them involved and what was it like working with them?
What can I say? All the names on the list are great names and with a special position in the melodic scene worldwide! I was blessed working closely with them. My first contact was with Michael Müller (Jaded Heart) regarding the song “Anymore”. I needed the copyright infos for my record. My album was planned to be released only in Brazil and we have lot of papers to fill out regarding copyrights here. So I contacted Michael Bormann, who wrote “Anymore” and he said "Okay, sure you can use it". Also, Michael (Muelli) asked me if I would like him to play bass on the track "Anymore" and I was very pleased about it, it was a huge honour for me! So this what happened first! A couple of days later, I found Fredrik Bergh via myspace and I asked him about a song of Street Talk that I would love to add to my album. He kindly sent me 15 more great songs to chose from. Also, I asked him if he would like to play the keyboards on one of his songs. He readily said yes! I sent him the first results of one of the two songs that I decided to record. He listened to "Don't Believe" and really loved it. So, he asked me if I had sent demos or if I had tried to contact any European label? I said “No, not at all”. He told me about "Avenue Of Allies Music" and sent me the label’s internet address. I first got in contact with Gregor Klee od Avenue in November 2009 and he asked me to send him some of my songs. I sent him "Tables Turning", "Anymore" and "It's Only Your Love" and he loved the material and we finally signed the contract in January 2010. I am very proud to be part of the label. And I thank God for this and also the guiding light of Fredrik Bergh too!

There are a number of good AOR sounding artists coming out of Brazil at the moment such as you, Aura and N.O.W. Is it coincidence or do you think there’s a reason behind why great AOR is being made in Brazil now?
I think we have learned to love AOR/Hard Rock and other kinds of Rock music with all the people that have been visiting Brazil over the years. Artists like: Queen, Peter Frampton, Kiss, Genesis, Bon Jovi, Marillion, Whitesnake, AC/DC, Iron Maiden, and many more. They have been coming and loving the Brazilian audience and this is a kind of an energy exchange that we have been experiencing along these years. It's been a normal process in which they have influenced us to write and to sing and today we can try to show that Brazil can export not only samba, bossa nova or soccer but we can write and produce good Rock and Roll/AOR songs. Even if it’s not the musical style prevalent over here, unfortunately! But I'm glad that you included me in the list of these great Brazilian bands which all have a promising future.

What is most important thing to you? The live performances or the studio recordings ?
I love being on stage. I did this all my life for small and large audiences. But I must confess that the most important is the studio. The studio is where you define what thousands of people will hear exactly the same way for the rest of their lives what you envisioned in the creation process. It is wonderful to read good reviews of your work, it's your brain child but with all modesty I have to say: No review will make me happy in the end, if the results of the recordings are not as expected. That's why I really care about the studio.

What other plans do you have after the release of “WOTH”? Will there be a chance that you present the album and your music in some gigs maybe even in Europe?
I would be honoured and extremely happy to introduce the new album with my band to the European audience, there seem to be a lot of lovers for Melodic Rock / AOR and other really good bands are playing there and are doing a great job! We would really to play there! Definitely!
Regarding the plans, we already started the rehearsals for our live shows over here in Brazil during the last weeksand soon we will be "getting the road." The plan is to work this album for some time and then, in the next year, to start a new studio project. I have written a lot of songs and already recorded some demo songs in my studio.
Thank you for the opportunity to do this interview and to be in the Fireworks magazine.

joey_summer


Firefest 2010 - The Review


FIREFEST 2010 – Nottingham, October 29th, 30th and 31st


Review by Phil Ashcroft (PA), Bruce Mee (BM), Gary Marshall (GM), Paul Jerome Smith (PJS), Monica Castedo-Lopez (MCL), Steven Reid (SR) and Mark Warburton (MW).

Photos by Sue Ashcroft & Marty Moffatt

(Click here to read the full review for Firefest VI)


Friday 29th October – Trent University Student Union, Nottingham

Like last years Firefest, the Friday night bill had a decidedly Scandinavian slant to it, comprising three bands formed fairly recently. Initially the show was meant to be staged in The Rig (Rock City’s claustrophobic basement), but after selling out quickly it was moved to it’s regular home, the Trent University Students Union building, which despite being double the capacity of The Rig, also sold out pretty quickly. By the time the show started the venue was packed to the rafters, including a healthy number of younger fans, which is surely a good sign for the future of the UK’s foremost melodic rock festival.  (PA)


Reckless Love


In the time since the start of the year, when Finnish glam rockers Reckless Love were confirmed as the festival openers, a lot has happened to the band, including a slot at the prestigious Download Festival and their own headline UK tour. It’s probably true that their current status is higher than the two bands above them on this bill, but nevertheless they were booked as openers so that’s exactly what they did. A fun band in the best traditions of Poison, Motley Crue and fellow countrymen Hanoi Rocks, Reckless Love definitely won’t win any awards for originality or musicianship, but give them seventy-five minutes and a decent sound mix and they’ll certainly put on a show.


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The simple riff to ‘Feel My Heat’ gets things under way with singer Olli Herman high-kicking his way across the stage, one of several similarities to David Lee Roth in the frontman’s act, although his cool entrance is almost ruined when he tries to stand on the monitor, tips it over and almost ends up in the front row. Undaunted he climbs onto the P.A. during ‘Wild Side’ to peel off his denim jacket to reveal the first of a series of ripped t-shirts to screams from the young girls at the front. Vocally he’s a bit hit and miss, putting so much into the performance that he doesn’t always hit the notes, but luckily he has a lot of help from his bandmates, the audience and a few recorded samples to make the songs closer to the album versions. One thing you can say about Reckless Love is that they certainly look like a cohesive unit, with guitarist Pepe and spiky-haired bassist Jalle Verne throwing shapes whilst providing solid, if unspectacular, instrumentation, whilst the striking Hessu Maxx twirls his drumsticks and grins manically from behind his drumkit.

Olli leads the band through the inanely catchy ‘So Yeah’ and ‘Romance’ before the momentum is broken by a clichéd guitar solo showcase from Pepe. Things get back on track with ‘Love Machine’ and the well delivered ballad ‘Sex’ before Olli drives the girls wild by ripping off his t-shirt during the crowd sing-along ‘Born To Rock’. A short drum solo by Maxx is largely ineffective but the band end the best received set by any Firefest opener with arguably their best two pop-rock anthems, ‘Back To Paradise’ and ‘Beautiful Bomb’, despite an awkwardly untogether ending to the former and Herman not making it back to the stage in time for the last verse of the latter after going walkabout in the crowd.


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They re-emerged to deliver a three song encore that sandwiched a messy version of Def Leppard’s ‘Hysteria’ between the only two songs from their self-titled album that hadn’t already been played; the punky ‘Badass’ and the catchy ‘One More Time’. Reckless Love undoubtedly have more style than substance, but the reaction of the crowd and the fact that they’re bringing younger fans into the genre shouldn’t be overlooked. (PA)

Setlist : Feel My Heat / Wild Side / So Yeah / Romance / Guitar Solo / Love Machine / Sex / Born To Rock / Drum Solo / Back To Paradise / Beautiful Bomb. Encore : Badass / Hysteria / One More Time


Crazy Lixx


On paper Sweden’s Crazy Lixx are the least well known of the nights bands as only the true UK glam aficionados will have seen them before, as support to Hardcore Superstar on their 2007 mini-tour. Those dates resulted in the band eventually losing guitarist Vic Zine to the headliners, but since then singer Danny Rexon and co. have gone from strength to strength with young replacement guitarist and songwriter Andy Dawson.


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Despite the amount of eyeliner on stage Crazy Lixx have actually gotten far less glam of late, preferring a grittier melodic hard rock sound that blends elements of Kiss, Def Leppard and Tesla, with Rexon sounding like a mixture of the main singers in those bands. Resplendent in his Union Jack shirt, Rexon and his band’s entrance seems a little muted after the O.T.T. reception given to Reckless Love, but it soon becomes apparent as they get to the melodic chorus of ‘Rock And A Hard Place’ that Crazy Lixx are a class act indeed, with superb backing vocals, a skilled rhythm section (Loke Rivano – bass, and Joel Cirera – drums) and slick twin guitar action from Dawson and additional rhythm guitarist Christian Edvardsson. As the set continues with the big rocker ‘Lock Up Your Daughter’ and the Kiss-like ‘Dr. Hollywood’ it becomes apparent just what a find guitarist Dawson is with a series of catchy riffs and fine melodic solos, whilst Rexon himself easily recreates his recorded vocals of ‘Want It’, ‘Make Ends Meet’ and the riff-heavy ‘Voodoo Woman’.


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Having succeeded in winning over a large portion of a crowd who previously didn’t know who they were, Crazy Lixx continue to dish out classy hard rock for the remainder of their set, the Danger Danger-esque ‘Blame It On Love’ giving way to the song that all the rock radio stations have been playing, and with good reason as ’21 ‘Til I Die’ has a chorus that stays in your head for weeks. Dawson again stars on ‘Road To Babylon’, whilst ‘My Medicine (R.O.C.K.)’ has a funky Aerosmith riff and a chorus Def Leppard would have been proud of. Going back to their debut album ‘Loud Minority’, the upbeat ‘Heroes Are Forever’ brings the set to a satisfying climax. If I have one criticism it’s that the Crazy Lixx set came across like a series of well rehearsed individual songs rather than a smoothly run show, but if they continue with the current two guitar line-up then I’m sure that’s something that will come in time. I have a feeling that the best is yet to come from Crazy Lixx, but all the pieces are in place and they certainly have the talent to become a force to be reckoned with. (PA)

Setlist : Rock And A Hard Place / Lock Up Your Daughter / Dr. Hollywood / Want It / Make Ends Meet / Voodoo Woman / Blame It On Love / 21 ‘Til I Die / Road To Babylon / My Medicine (R.O.C.K.) / Heroes Are Forever 


H.E.A.T.


There was a genuine heart-felt sense of remorse within the melodic rock community when it was announced lead vocalist Kenny Leckremo was leaving the band only a matter of months after the release of their second CD ‘Freedom Rock’. I guess he wanted his freedom, but the question on everyone’s lips was ‘How will they follow that?’ and more than a few lamented that this was the death of the band that many had anointed the saviours of melodic rock. Well, it seemed the boys had pulled a master-stroke by selecting Swedish Pop Idol winner Erik Grönwall, whose many performances on Youtube of classics by the likes of Queen, Skid Row and Iron Maiden were certainly encouraging. However, having seen the band 2 weeks prior to Firefest at the Heat Festival in Stuttgart, I was rather less than encouraged, Erik’s vocals being lost in a rather muddy mix, leaving me impressed by his stage presence but missing the power and rich passion of their previous vocalist.
But fast forward to Firefest, and just as with Bangalore Choir it’s amazing what a difference 2 weeks can make. With a superior sound mix and an almost fanatical audience, H.E.A.T. and Erik Grönwall come alive. The guy never stops; from the opening chords of ‘Beg Beg Beg’ to the last notes of ‘Keep On Dreaming’ he is just a non-stop whirlwind of energy and talent, bringing the final link to the H.E.A.T. puzzle, and hopefully opening doors that had previously, almost certainly remained firmly closed.


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It still has to be said that the songs have a different feel to them with Erik fronting the band, but this is not to diminish the sheer vitality and catchiness of the material. Many detractors have dismissed them as doing nothing new, which is true, but when it’s as much fun as this with songs like ‘Nobody Loves You Like I Do’, ‘Danger Road’, ‘Straight For Your Heart’ or the superlative ‘Who Will Stop the Rain’ when Erik straps on an acoustic guitar to add that final touch of class, then who really cares?


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The cover of Skid Row’s ’18 And Life’ paid homage to Erik’s past endeavours, but really, it’s the future direction of the band now that is of paramount interest and I, for one, am very interested to see which road they will take. The king is dead. Long live the king! (BM)

Setlist : Beg Beg Beg / Late Night Lady / Nobody Loves You Like I Do / Everybody Wants To Be Someone / Danger Road/ Straight For Your Heart / Never Let Go / 1,000 Miles / High On Love / Who Will Stop The Rain / There For You / 18 And Life / We’re Gonna Make It In The End / Keep On Dreaming


Saturday 30th October – Rock City, Nottingham


Grand Illusion


On the first of the two main days in the familiar setting of Nottingham’s Rock City, it’s Halloween tonight so the venue has a strict 10pm curfew before the main hall turns into the annual Halloween party. With seven bands playing on the day and no room for error, the old Dr. Pepper catchphrase of “What’s the worst that can happen?” springs to mind as the sound desk dies after a lengthy Lynch Mob soundcheck. The venue was packed and openers Grand Illusion were left standing on the stage behind the curtain for an hour while a suitable replacement was found.


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It’s not really surprising then that the sound at the beginning didn’t do the Swedes any favours with both ‘All Out Of Love’ and ‘157th Breakdown’ suffering from low guitar, keyboards and backing vocals. The lack of instrumental backing made the vocals of Peter Sundell sound very raw, especially in his higher register which grated on the nerves. Sound man Pontus Norgren (Talisman/The Poodles/Hammerfall) started to get to grips with the new desk and the smattering of applause that greeted oldie ‘Gone For Good’ soon became more widespread for the great ballad ‘Emily’.


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For this performance long-time co-singer Per Svensson sang his parts from behind keyboards and as the sound improved the band visibly relaxed, with beaming smiles spreading across the faces of bassist Anders Rydholm and Peter Sundell, who up to that time had looked like a deer caught in the headlights. The band began to interact more with each other and with the crowd and it soon became obvious that the new album ‘Brand New World’ was the one that most people were familiar with as the polite applause for their second oldie ‘I Refuse’ turned to widespread recognition for the title track from the latest record. Guitarist Ola af Trampe added some fiery lead work to the upbeat ‘Never Find Her Alone’, and as all the bands had agreed to drop a song to make back the time lost by the earlier technical problems, their set ended far too soon with a killer version of perhaps their rockiest tune, ‘I’m Alive’. Grand Illusion displayed their talent and professionalism by dragging victory from the jaws of defeat, and under such circumstances what more could you ask? (PA)

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


Beggars & Thieves


I’m not sure what it is about my luck in the reviewing stakes for Firefest down the years but it feels that I always seem to get to cover the bands that fail to deliver the goods and the same was the case this year with the Saturday accolade going to Beggars & Thieves. After Grand Illusion had played a particularly impressive set of lush, hook laden and very well received melodic rock it was a shame that B&T were unable to maintain the momentum that had been established. From my perspective this was down to the lack of enough great memorable tunes with hooks and choruses that would engage the crowd.


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The set started well enough with ‘No More Broken Dreams’ and new song ‘Stone Alone’, both with their lovely riffs and strong choruses. However, the following ‘In Between’ was too dark and trippy for this event and from the balcony one could see that the crowd started to drift away as interest waned. ‘Kill Me’ turned into a guitar workout by Ronnie Mancuso whilst ‘Shine A Light’ was rather too repetitive. Although it was a nice touch to dedicate ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’ to Gotthard’s Steve Lee (RIP), who was killed in a road accident just outside Beggars & Thieves’ home city of Las Vegas recently, it says something about their available tunes that they played a cover in a short set. Another new song, ‘Innocence’ began to redress the balance somewhat as it sounded like a strong rock number. Next up was the band’s eponymous song, which is clearly their best track by some distance and it was noticeable that the crowd were suddenly energised and singing along with great gusto.


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The set was wrapped up with another new song, ‘We Are the Broken Hearted’ and I was left with the same feeling as I had after Tall Stories at Firefest V, wrong band for the audience that this festival attracts. (GM)

Setlist : No More Broken Dreams / Stone Alone / In Between / Kill Me / Shine a Light / Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door / Innocence / Beggars & Thieves / We Are the Broken Hearted


Bangalore Choir


The loud cheer that greeted the barefoot David Reece and his chums plus a great choice of opening song from the new album immediately raised the momentum of FireFest 2010 onto another level. The charismatic Mr Reece certainly knew how to animate the audience and was clearly genuinely honoured to be in our “backyard” for Bangalore Choir’s debut gig in the UK. The sound quality and balance was excellent from where I was standing and the vocal harmonies were totally nailed throughout, but especially on the next two songs. ‘Martyr’ is a great, great song and my favourite from new album ‘Cadence’, and I’m sure this song by itself will have caused a scurrying to the merch desk after the set.


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The sequencing of the songs kept a nice balance and the rocking ‘Doin’ The Dance’ was supplanted by the mid-tempo power ballad ‘Loaded Gun’ to continue the good mix between the (mainly) older and newer material. The next song was dedicated to the great singers that we’ve lost this year and was specifically dedicated to Ronnie James Dio and Steve Lee: and was certainly the emotional high point of the set. By the end, the band had totally won the audience over, and I have seen them mentioned as one of the top five bands of the weekend in many people’s lists, and the best band of all in some. The “wow factor” was put firmly in place by concluding their set with ‘Angel In Black’ and ‘All Or Nothin’ and the audience reaction raised the Rock City roof more than a few inches! This was a quite amazing UK debut from the band and I’m sure we’ll be seeing them again sometime soon! (PJS)


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


Shotgun Symphony


As much as I was looking forward to seeing Saraya at Firefest 2010, I was nonetheless delighted when it was announced that Shotgun Symphony would be replacing them because they have been firm favourites of mine since their debut album and subsequent appearance at the very first Gods Of AOR event in 1993. I’ll admit that of all the bands on the bill my greatest anticipation was of seeing Shotgun Symphony once again and they certainly didn’t disappoint. I am sure I spent the entire set grinning like a fool as they delivered a set list I could barely have improved on had they asked me to choose it for them. The band actually called it a day eight years ago and had to be persuaded to reform for this event, but unless you had been told this fact there is no way you would have guessed based on this performance, which was brilliantly presented and absolutely perfect for this event. There was absolutely no messing from the band as one sure fire melodic rock gem was quickly followed by another which kept both the energy and entertainment levels at their highest.


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The opening moments of first track, ‘Highway To Tomorrow’ quickly established that they were as tight a unit as they ever were and in Chris O’Hara they have found themselves a drummer who drives the band to even greater heights. In Tracy White they have a superb vocalist who didn’t miss a note and whose power and range are undiminished by time. That said it has to be acknowledged that every member of the band was in absolutely splendid form with several people mentioning to me that they felt guitarist Mike Maino was playing better than ever. I have always been impressed with the band’s vocal arrangements and both Maino and bassist, Ed Avila gave sterling performances in the backing vocal department which goes to make the songs stand out as classics of the genre.


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In a set this good it’s hard to pick out highlights but I have to mention the spine-tingling renditions of ‘What Happens To Love?’, ‘Broken Promises’ and ‘Goodbye To The Night’, each of which was utterly wonderful. There was not a weak track in sight and the only disappointment being that they had to drop ‘On The Line Of Fire’ from the set to help overcome the technical issues earlier in the day. The crowd were singing along and clearly loved what they heard, but I’d expected nothing less. Let’s hope that this is the re-birth of the band and that a new album is on the horizon. (GM)

Setlist : Highway To Tomorrow / What Happens To Love / Way Back Home / Turn Around / Broken Promises / Lost Child / She’s In Love / Running / Bitter Sweet Poison / Goodbye To The Night / Believe In Me


Bonfire


Well, it’s a bit of a no-brainer that I was going to review this band, having talked the guys into performing my favourite ever album in its entirety, ‘Fireworks’, as a kind of birthday present to myself. Due to the one hour delay all bands had to cut one song from their set, and I happened to be passing Bonfire in the hotel while they were discussing whether to drop ‘Fantasy’ or ‘Rock Me Now’ - luckily my vote was decisive and the terminally dull ‘Rock Me Now’ didn’t see the light of day. What may surprise people is that Claus was really nervous about performing many of these songs, which hadn’t been played live in almost 20 years. A secret gig in Germany two weeks prior to Firefest eased some of those worries, and in fact got the band quite animated. “This really works,” they told me, excitedly before the show. And yes, it really did!
From the opening frenetic riff of ‘Ready For Reaction’ to the cheers that greeted the last chord of ‘Champion’, this was like being transported back in time to 1988 and witnessing Bonfire in all their youth-enfused glory. On stage, the guys were having a blast, and they had the crowd eating out of their hands – and when the opening chords of dance-floor favourite ‘Sweet Obsession’ blasted out of the speakers, the roar was deafening as the audience acclaimed the Ingolstadt boys like home-coming heroes.


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As said at the start, ‘Fireworks’ is my all-time favourite album, which each track – with the one obvious exception – a true classic, but it was with their unanticipated encore that Bonfire really scaled the heights this night, as Claus told us of their profound shock at the loss of Gotthard’s Steve Lee, a band they had toured with together and found so incredibly friendly and accommodating. The band then finished with an amazing version of Gotthard’s ‘I’m On My Way’, and it’s safe to say there was hardly a dry eye in the venue - the perfect conclusion to the most perfect set from Germany’s finest. Later that night Claus and I discussed the possibility of a ‘Point Blank’ show in the future – fingers crossed! (BM)

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


Dare


It had been 19 years since guitarist Vinny Burns had last graced a UK stage with Dare, so the anticipation for the Firefest set – based around a celebration of their acclaimed debut ‘Out Of The Silence’ – was palpable. As the band entered on stage, a cheer rose from the audience, an appreciation which intensified as the keyboard intro to ‘Abandon’ filled the venue. A strange choice for opening track as it is their most well known song, but certainly the perfect way to get the audience excitement levels raised, and the following triumvirate of ‘Into The Fire’, ‘Runaway’ and ‘Raindance’, with Vinny caressing his guitar and peeling off the riffs as if he had never been away, led many to believe we were witnessing what could well be the highlight of the weekend. However, after that initial, delightful, delicious delve into ‘Out Of The Silence’, the band took a detour through more recent releases with ‘Silent Thunder’, ‘Dreams Of Fire’, ‘Dublin’ and ‘Shelter In The Storm’ before returning once again to the debut for the Phil Lynott dedicated ‘King Of Spades’.


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It’s not that latter day Dare are unworthy of exploration, but after such a brilliant opening it represented something of a disconcerting lull for those who weren’t so familiar with the new songs, and finishing with ‘I Will Return’ from latest release ‘Arc Of The Dawn’ then ‘Sea Of Roses’ from 2004’s ‘Beneath the Shining Water’ was perhaps not the wisest decision of the day.


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Darren Wharton’s voice is still as velvety sumptuous as ever, and with Vinny adding the crunch to Richie Dews colour, this was still a sublime performance by a band back on the top of their game, but with a little more thought in the set-list order, this could have been a show the fans would still be speaking of in hushed, revered tones rather than one of missed opportunities. (BM)

Setlist : Abandon / Into The Fire / Runaway / Raindance / Silent Thunder / Dreams Of Fire / Dublin / Shelter In The Storm / King Of Spades / I Will Return / Sea Of Roses


Lynch Mob


Breaking the Firefest curse of the last few years when bands lower on the bill have outdone the headliners, this time around, in my eyes, the best results of the day were scored by the band headlining the proceedings, the monstrous Lynch Mob who are back to their successful beginnings. Whilst Bonfire gathered the most fan reaction and offered the most touching interaction with the audience, Lynch Mob showcased the most outstanding musicianship and technical ability by far. In fact, it was so jaw-dropping that this for me was the best act on the programme of the entire Firefest 2010 weekend. The truly fantastic and exhilarating four-piece featured two original members: the amazing and soulful Oni Logan on vocals and of course the 80s innovative and inspirational icon George Lynch on guitar, accompanied by two major names in rock: the super phenomenal and extraordinary Brian Tichy (Whitesnake, Billy Idol, Foreigner, Ozzy, etc, etc) on drums and the ever energetic and solid Robbie Crane (Ratt, Vince Neil, Addler’s Appetite) on bass.


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I must confess I was slightly hesitant of what George Lynch would present us with after his last appearance in London in March 2008 when he was booked to do a clinic that the promoters falsely advertised as a show without George’s awareness, resulting in a sadly catastrophic evening. Another issue that was disconcerting when Lynch Mob set foot on the stage at the late time of 9.30pm was a fear of a set slaughtered short due to the announced 10pm curfew of the venue and the earlier technical problems that affected the day’s start time. Fortunately, Lynch Mob were allowed to play until 10.40pm, and the only aspect to be afraid of on this 2010 one-off UK appearance was the scary brilliance of their performance.
Hitting it off with ‘She’s Evil But She’s Mine’ from the highly acclaimed Lynch Mob debut album ‘Wicked Sensation’, the band set the tone to the splendour that was right there in front of us after an absence of almost 20 years on a British stage: a terrifically tight four piece and an overall great selection of ten killer songs . Two classics from that first album, ‘River Of Love’ and ‘Hell Child’, were next on the set to the delights of the audience reminding us all, including my brother Vic Rivera of Crunch, who was my companion watching this band, of that feeling on first listening to that 1990 masterpiece.
Next up Oni addressed the audience and gave way to three tracks from the newest Lynch Mob album, 2009‘s ‘Smoke And Mirrors’, which is a perfectly fresh and punchy follow-up to the debut. Thus, the in-your-face ‘Revolution Heroes’, the slower ‘Let The Music Be Your Master’ and the powerful ‘21st Century Man’ were played with full passion and chemistry. George Lynch gained the nickname of Mr Scary from the instrumental killer Dokken song that earned this band a Grammy nomination, hence it was only fair and natural that ‘Mr Scary’ formed part of the night’s repertoire, and what a mighty performance this was. Set in the Dokken mood, the band carried on to play ‘Into The Fire’ before closing the set with the Lynch Mob supreme trademark ‘Wicked Sensation’ that everyone was eagerly expecting, and during which Oni encouraged the audience to sing. Not knowing they were graced with time for an encore, George, who had been throwing guitar picks at the audience, had to ask for one of them back as they were called to perform the last track of the night, surprisingly another Dokken hit, the ever mighty ‘Tooth And Nail’.


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At all times, the four celebrated musicians appeared to enjoy their delivery. Oni proved he still has the voice and took ownership of the stage while Robbie danced confidently and unstoppably whilst strumming the four strings. For some Brian stole the show by masterfully hitting every piece of his massive drum kit and adding visual entertainment with his constant stick flips, but as he later explained to yours truly at the bar, this kind of performance is what his boss expects of him, as it quite rightly should be. George, who was ever more static on stage than the rest of his band mates, did nevertheless an exceptionally fantastic job on the six strings, silencing those who may have doubts on his present abilities. A perfect end to a fantastic day. (MCL)

Setlist : She’s Evil But She’s Mine / River Of Love / Hell Child / Revolution Heroes / Let The Music Be Your Master / 21st Century Man / Mr Scary (Dokken) / Into The Fire (Dokken) / Wicked Sensation / Encore : Tooth And Nail (Dokken)

 
Sunday, 31st October – Rock City, Nottingham

 

Grand Design


The opening slot on the final day of a three day festival is never the easiest position on the bill. The venue is at its emptiest (although to be fair, there was a healthy turnout even at midday) and those people who have turned out are still the worse for wear after the previous day’s exuberances. So with that in mind a band really needs to come out with all guns blazing to make a lasting impression, and while they were nowhere near as impressive as yesterday’s openers Grand Illusion, the other “Grand” on the bill made for an entertaining start to the day. That said, kicking off with the mid-paced ‘No Time For Love’ wasn’t the smartest move and the lukewarm reception it received showed that a more uptempo track would have shaken off those hangovers much more effectively, however following that up with the harder hitting ‘Slugged Out’ did get things going.


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Prowling round the stage in a vintage military jacket, frontman (and the band’s main songwriter) Pelle Saether looked every bit the rock and roll ringmaster and as he and his charges gained momentum with the more Def Leppard like ‘Piece Of The Action’, the crowd really began to get into the suave, melodic brand of rock that Grand Design do so well. The closing duo of ‘Air It Out’ and ‘Love Sensation’ showed the five piece at their classy best, although it was a little bit of a shame that it was quite so obvious that they were using backing tracks to boost the vocals. This was Grand Design’s first visit to these shores and while there is time for the band to become a sharper, more focused live force, hopefully it won’t be their last. (SR)

Setlist : No Time For Love / Slugged Out / Piece Of The Action / Sad Sound Of Goodbye / Air It Out / Love Sensation


Newman


This was an emotional appearance at FireFest for Steve Newman for reasons that I think are now well understood. Right from the outset of the band’s performance (videoed for posterity) a full Rock City was grabbed by the scruff of the neck as songs from right across the Newman catalogue had an impressive airing that benefited from a resonant, dynamic and clear sound and a band performance that was really “up there” – not least from new lead guitarist Shaun Bessant whose showmanship and playing were a complete revelation! Despite fighting a cold, Steve Newman still managed to harness his lungs to full capacity. He belted out songs that can be regarded as “quite polite” as recorded over the years but were now beefed up and energised considerably. I think the audience were initially quite stunned by what they were hearing and seeing and it was not until fourth song ‘Primitive Soul’ that they opened up when asked “what do you think of our new guitar player?” This song also featured a bizarre action freeze that really flummoxed the crowd but helped to ensure great acclaim when the song really finished!


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The rest of the set also drew a great response from a packed Rock City, and the choice of songs demonstrated the depth of material from the keyboards-drenched AOR of ‘If It’s Love’ to the iconic ‘One Step Closer’. The fan favourite brought proceedings to a climactic close with the crowd encouraged to sing along with the chorus – and which they did enthusiastically!


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This was the gig where Newman the band and Steve Newman the musician came of age, as will be revealed for all to see on the forthcoming DVD. (PJS)

Setlist : Hero To Zero / Endless / Every Moment / Primitive Soul / Stay With Me / Tumbledown / If It’s Love / Coming Home Tonight / Heaven Knows / One Step Closer


Stage Dolls


There were certainly less thrills, spills and showmanship in Stage Dolls set than some of the other bands at this year’s Firefest, but even though they were clad in plain old jeans and shirts, this was a band more than happy (and capable) of letting their music do the talking. Bursting out of the blocks with ‘24/7’ bassist Terje Storli and guitarist/singer Torstein Flakne were obviously intent on having a ball and judging by the loudest sing-a-long of the weekend so far that met ‘Love Cries’, so was everyone in the crowd. Even when they changed the focus with the piano and vocal intro to slower song ‘Hard To Say Goodbye’, Stage Dolls never lost any momentum, but the huge burst of energy that is ‘Commandos’, which really let drummer Morten Skogstad show his chops, and ‘Love Don’t Bother Me’, got such a huge reception that all four band members (keyboard player Ronny Wikmark augments the band’s sound on stage) looked genuinely touched.


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Having hit such a peak, there was a slight worry that it could have been all downhill from there, but with the melody infused groove of ‘Heart To Heart’ being quickly followed by ‘Wings Of Steel’, ‘Still In Love’ and ‘Soldier’s Gun’, the latter of which was dedicated to the late great Phil Lynott, Stage Dolls had managed to keep the best for last. In a weekend filled with great performances, Stage Dolls proved that they’ve still got the energy, passion and most importantly the songs to please their fans and I would guess they also gained some new admirers with this fantastic performance. (SR)

Setlist : 24/7 / Love Cries / Always / Rollin' / Hard To Say Goodbye / Commandos / Love Don't Bother Me / Heart To Heart / Wings Of Steel / Still in Love / Soldier's Gun


Strangeways

 
I was over the moon when I heard the news of the Strangeways reunion with American singer Terry Brock when the Firefest 2010 line-up was announced. This was a major surprise to me and many other people and even more with the band recording a brand new Strangeways album with guitarist Ian J Stewart, drummer Jim Drummond, new bassist Warren Jolly and keyboard player Dave "Munch " Moore.  So it had been 22 years since the band had performed together in the live arena and although I had seen Terry Brock live quite a few times over the past few years, I had never witnessed Strangeways play together. The band take the stage to tumultuous applause and its clear that so many people in this packed Rock City audience are here for Strangeways.


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Without delay the band launch straight into the mesmerising 'Love Lies Dying' from the magnificent 1988 opus 'Walk In The Fire', Terry's vocals are outstanding as ever and band certainly don't look like they haven’t played together for such a long time. Next track on offer is the up-tempo rocker 'Breakin Down The Barriers' from the bands self-titled debut release, which showcases how good of a guitarist Ian J Stewart really is. Again the sound quality in the venue is excellent with both vocals and guitars as clear as a bell. The title track from the bands new release 'Perfect World' is aired next, and although there has been some unfair criticism regarding the quality of the production on the album, it’s live where these new songs really come to life, as Terry is such a consummate vocalist he has the crowd transfixed on the stage to appreciate his soaring performance. The new material goes down really well before the song they have to play, according to Mr Dargan, the excellent  'Only A Fool' from ‘Native Sons’, kicks into life. With the track being a real fan favourite it goes down a storm with the very appreciative crowd.


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The atmosphere is electric and Strangeways don't disappoint us as they strike up the chords of the unforgettable classic 'Empty Streets', its a truly awe inspiring performance and my only question is why has it taken them so long to get back together when they can perform as effortlessly as this. The band take a small breather before airing another track from their excellent new album, the future classic 'Time' with Terry stating this one was written for the fans. Its an instant hit with the crowd before the band merge the track into a personal favourite of mine, 'After The Hurt Is Gone' from ‘Walk In The Fire’, which takes me back to my youth when I purchased the album from the now defunct Shades record shop in London. We are then treated to another track from the new album, 'Borderlines' with its upbeat country rock feel and again the song really comes alive in the arena. The audience is blown away by the next two tracks, both from ‘Native Sons’, first up is the storming rocker 'Where Do We Go From Here' with Terry's voice as strong as the first track he delivered in this amazing set, and the appreciative crowd lap it up. Then without pause for breath we move into the final song in the set, the awe-inspiring 'Never Gonna Lose It' which features a truly magnificent guitar solo from the very impressive Ian J Stewart. The band briefly leave the stage before they are quickly ushered back on by a very excitable Mr Dargan for a much deserved encore of 'Say What You Want' from the excellent ‘Perfect World’ release before finally bringing this inspired set to a close. An excellent and well received performance, just don't leave it another 22 years to come back please boys. (MW)

Setlist : Love Lies Dying / Breaking Down The Barriers / Perfect World / Only A Fool / Empty Streets / Time / After The Hurt Is Gone / Borderlines / Where Do We Go From Here / Never Gonna Lose It / Say What You Want

 

Jimi Jamison

 
To say i was excited at the prospect of seeing Jimi Jamison perform on British soil for the very first time would be the understatement of the year. The set kicked off with a surprising choice, the classic Bickler-era 'Caught In The Game', and from the very first bar the sound quality was the best i have ever heard at a Firefest, courtesy of Mr Pontus Norgren. Jimi's vocals were silky smooth and the crowd instantly lapped it up as the band moved into 'It’s The Singer, Not The Song' from the 80s classic 'Vital Signs'. You could tell Jimi was loving every minute of his first British live performance, as he was prowling the stage like he owned it. Without a pause for breath we hear the unmistakable keyboard intro to 'High On You', with the crowd in awe of Jimi's consummate singing quality and stage presence, it’s like being back in 1984 all over again. Next track on offer is a personal favourite of mine, 'Didn't Know It Was Love' from the 1988 Survivor opus 'Too Hot To Sleep'. By this point Jimi had totally captivated the whole audience and had them eating out of the palm of his hand. The atmosphere was truly electric as Jimi and his very talented backing band, which included three of the young guys from H.E.A.T. who must have been in their element playing these Survivor classics, together with guitar virtuoso Tommy Denander, who complimented Jimi's wonderful vocal performance with his outstanding licks. Next up and another hit from Vital Signs was the truly mesmerising 'I See You In Everyone', and at this point of the show my good friend and Fireworks reviews editor, Mr Phil Ashcroft tapped me on the shoulder and said “I wish he would play something we know - ha ha”. Jimi then showcases the excellent 'A Dream Too Far' from his 1999 solo release 'Empires', with the title track from Jimi's sublime 'Crossroads Moment' following on swiftly, which for me fits in so well with the set that it would not have been out of place on the 'Too Hot To Sleep' release.


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The following salvo of four songs that close the set take my breath away, starting with the killer track 'Rebel Son' from the 1986 release 'When Seconds Count' with Jimi's vocals sounding as strong as they have ever been together with some awesome guitar work from Mr Denander. Without delay the intro to the Rocky IV anthem 'Burning Heart' is belted out and the whole of the Rock City crowd goes wild, with the bands young keyboard player sporting a rather nifty Rocky IV t shirt to boot. Again the vocals are spot on with the backing band looking like they had been playing with Jimi for years. At this point I turn to Mr Ashcroft and he looks as moved as I am witnessing this truly outstanding performance from the former Survivor vocalist. Jimi then turns to the crowd  and asks “Is David Hasselhoff in the house?” and we all know what is coming next, the unforgettable Baywatch theme tune 'I’m Always Here'.


jimi_jamison_firefest_2


Everyone around me goes completely nuts and sings every verse with Jimi, it was mind-blowing. This brings the set to a rousing close, before Jimi and his band return to the stage for a much deserved encore. You could tell that Mr Jamison was truly overwhelmed by the response and love from the crowd, he gives his thankyou's before the Survivor song that everyone knows and loves is cranked out, 'Eye Of The Tiger' from Rocky III. This gets the very appreciative crowd bouncing before bringing this magnificent spectacle to a close. This was a truly magical performance from one of the ultimate Gods of AOR. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely! Put in simple terms, Jimi Jamison's performance was truly phenomenal and in my humble opinion the best ever live performance I have witnessed in seven Firefests. (MW)
 
Setlist : Caught In The Game / It’s The Singer, Not The Song / High On You / Is This Love / Didn’t Know It Was Love / I See You In Everyone / A Dream Too Far / Reach / Crossroads Moment / Rebel Son / Burning Heart / I’m Always Here (Baywatch Theme) / Eye Of The Tiger


Pretty Maids  


There were some missed heartbeats behind the scenes when firstly a rescheduling of the band’s flight from Paris caused their appearance to be elevated to the penultimate slot of the day, and then again once they were en route from the airport when their transport became ensnarled in a motorway queue for many hours following a serious accident! Consequently, the band arrived at Rock City less than 30 minutes before they went on stage and had even changed clothes in the van – not that you would have known it from the way they ripped into the first two songs from their latest album ‘Pandemonium’. They did this to a half-full auditorium, but as their set progressed so the audience returned.


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From my position in Rock City, the vocals were initially rather indistinct - in stark contrast with those of Jimi Jamison, although clarity improved markedly during the set.  Also in stark contrast from all who had preceded them was the bombastic, high energy hard rock for which Pretty Maids are renowned, and as Ronnie Atkins promised, it was clear that they intended to “kick ass”: and this they surely did. Apart from the opening two songs and also ‘Little Drops Of Heaven’ later on, it was a set that focused firmly upon earlier, well-known and popular songs from the band’s first four albums, plus the up-tempo ballad ‘Walk Away’ from ‘Scream’. It was also the usual scenario for Pretty Maids in trying to get a balance between their bombastic rockers, mid-tempo songs and emotional ballads, and I felt that the choice of songs – although largely shaped by the sets for their previous few gigs – was appropriately tweaked for a tremendously memorable Firefest debut, although having to follow Jimi Jamison was always going to be an unenviable task.


prettymaids_firefest_2


Nevertheless, this was a helluva crowd-pleasing set, and their participation on the band’s chosen cover song for the day, Phil Lynott’s ‘Please Don’t Leave Me’ (from the band’s ‘Sin-Decade’ album) showed this to be a tremendously shrewd choice.
As the show was running to time, Pretty Maids gave us a very popular two song encore, comprising the title tracks from their first couple of albums and it was drawn to my attention that drummer Alan Tschicaja appeared as a man possessed during the first of these! Well, in fact the whole band “rawked” and seemed genuinely pleased to be back in the UK after a 25-year absence, and to have finally graced the Firefest stage after the palaver earlier in the day. Taking a bow to the sounds of Monty Python’s ‘Sit On My Face’ was an amusing if somewhat bizarre conclusion to their well-received set. (PJS)

Setlist :  Pandemonium / I.N.V.U / Walk Away / Savage Heart / Back To Back / Rodeo / Little Drops Of Heaven / Please Don’t Leave Me / Love Games / Encore : Future World / Red Hot & Heavy


Nelson


It seems painfully hard to believe that, for reasons beyond their control, the melodic rock maestros Nelson had never graced a UK stage in their over 20-year-spanning career. However, thank you to Firefest, another curse was broken when the American twin sensation, who came into the spotlight on the release of their massively successful debut album ‘After The Rain’ back in 1990, were finally baptised on this side of the pond.

Your señorita truly, like many of the fans of that first record, from which the contagious hit ‘(I Can’t Live Without Your) Love And Affection’ reached number one in the charts of their homeland, was very much looking forward to seeing the twins in action. After the energetic and in-your-face performance of Pretty Maids, perhaps one of the heavier bands on the bill this year, I was dubious the show would get any better than that and thought perhaps Nelson would sound too mellow after this. I am extremely delighted to admit my initial thought had no justification whatsoever as Nelson rocked the house to the bone. The six-piece band comprised of Matthew Nelson on bass, Gunnar Nelson on guitar, Neil Zaza (what an amazing discovery - highly recommended to check his solo discography for he is a phenomenal six stringer) also on guitar, Brian Burwell on drums and a very special guest: none other than Mark Slaughter of Slaughter as a third guitarist and backing vocalist, sounded majestic.


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As it couldn’t have been otherwise, quite a few tracks (six, to be precise) from their celebrated debut album resonated radiantly on the PA system at Nottingham Rock City to general audience acclaim, kicking off with the infectious ‘Fill You Up’ and closing with an expanded version of ‘Everywhere I Go’. Throughout the set the brothers shared those sweet vocals they are renowned for, although Gunnar sang in a lower register than the album on the adorable hits ‘Only Time Will Tell’ and ‘After The Rain’, yet kept the same key in the strong ‘More Than Ever’. Surprisingly, there weren’t any tracks from their magnificent new album, ‘Lightning Strikes Twice’ that was due for release the week after Firefest and would have been a perfect opportunity to showcase some of those splendid new tracks. Instead, they chose to play songs from lesser known albums, such as ‘Ghostdance’ from 1997‘s ‘The Silence Is Broken’, ‘A Girl Like That’ from 1999‘s ‘Life’ and ‘Invisible Man from 2004‘s ‘Unreleased Transcontinental’ and left out what I considered would be an obvious choice,  ‘Bits And Pieces’, also from the debut.

When a drum solo started I thought they could use the time to play another song, nonetheless, when Brian got off the kit to be replaced by Matthew and walked to the front of the stage to do some fashionable break dancing, I changed my mind as it was a very original touch. After this, Neil Zaza became the centre of attention as he started a guitar solo that developed into an exquisite instrumental song with the band playing his absolutely mind-blowing ‘I’m All Right’. Generous as they are, the Nelson brothers had another surprise in store and conceded time in the spotlight to their very special guest, playing the Slaughter hit ‘Up All Night’ with Mark taking the mic duties to the delight of the fans, despite the low volume of his mic (it seems the sound technician, the adorable Pontus Norgren of HammerFall and ex-The Poodles fame, had not been informed Mark‘s mic would be use for lead vocals too).


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For the encore, their number one hit ‘(Can’t Live Without Your) Love And Affection’ sent the crowd wild and put a massive smile on my happy face, as it was an impeccable ending to a sublime weekend. Yes, unfortunately a small number of things went wrong, including two guitar amps blowing up during their show, one after the other, quickly replaced by Tony Marshall and his team so that the show didn’t have to stop. Notwithstanding, it was overall an incredible debut for Nelson on a UK stage. The long blonde manes are long gone, but the joy they transmit with their music and the passion they perform it with clearly remains intact, and I can’t wait for their comeback in 2011. (MCL)

Setlist : Fill You Up / Evermore / More Than Ever / Ghostdance / Only Time Will Tell’ / A Girl Like That / Drum solo / I’m All Right (Neil Zaza) / After The Rain / Up All Night’ (Slaughter) / Invisible Man / Everywhere I Go / Encore : (Can’t Live Without Your) Love And Affection


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FIREWORKS MAGAZINE


This review will be published in the full colour, glossy Fireworks Magazine Issue #43, on sale on Dec 9th and available at selected WHSmiths (Rocktopia WHSmith store locator) or direct from the Rocktopia shop.

As well as this fully illustrated review, Fireworks #43 also features interviews with Mr Big, Huey Lewis And The News, Nelson, Paul Gilbert, Status Quo, Yngwie Malmsteen and many more. Fireworks also includes in depth reviews of all the latest releases, reissues, DVDs and live concerts.

Downloadable PDF versions can be bought from MelodicRock.com

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!


 

from the 1988 Survivor opus

Fireworks Magazine Online 42 - Skill In Veins

Skill in Veins is the band of the young Italian guitarist Andrea Lanza. The recordings of the self-titled debut album of the band, which was just released through Avenue Of Allies, were helmed by Alessandro Del Vecchio, who recently enjoyed great success as the producer for the all-star project Shining Line. In the studio Lanza was joined by the seasoned rhythm section of Francesco Jovino (U.D.O., Edge Of Forever) on drums and Nik Mazzucconi (Edge Of Forever, Moonstone Project) on bass. Gabriele Gozzi (Markonee, Killer Klown), another Italian talent, is the vocalist for this newcomer, which surprises with classic Heavy Rock with a bluesy touch in the vein of Badlands, Lynch Mob, Skid Row, Little Caesar, Cry Of Love and Slash’s Snakepit, while developing their own unmistakable identity. In our interview Andrea talks about his inspirations, the recording sessions and the bands first video for the song “Youth Times”.

This is your first release and you are new on the scene. So how did you start your musical career? What is your personal background and what bands did have the most impact on you?
Actually it all started with the record collection of my older brother Alfredo. There I discovered great bands like Guns n’ Roses, Skid Row, Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith. Later I also got into AC/DC, Mötley Crüe, Deep Purple, Slash’s Snakepit, Badlands, Cry Of Love, Lynch Mob, Megadeth and Metallica.
Slash as well as Joe Perry, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix and a lot of other guitarists, were a big inspiration for me. I started to play guitar playing along to their songs and still today I admire their sound, music and style.
At the beginning I started to play at home while listening to my favourite bands. I’m not quite sure but I believe the first song I learned was “Night Train” by Guns N’ Roses. I played it on a classical guitar and I practiced until that guitar was broken ! Then I visited a guitar class at a little music school, before I started to attend a renowned guitar institute. I always wanted to play my guitar and I always wanted to play Rock n’ Roll !

The sound of the album is top notch, the production, engineering and mastering was in hands of the very well known producer Alessandro Del Vecchio, whom we know from his work with Glenn Hughes, Ian Paice and Bernie Marsden and from playing in bands like Edge Of Forever, Moonstone Project, Axe and Eden’s Curse? How did you get in contact with him and how was the cooperation with him?
I saw a lot of Alessandro’s gigs in my area so I had met him a couple of times before we actually started to work on my album. One day he was in the audience when I played a concert with one of my cover band on a summer rock festival in 2008. Then I started to visit him in his studio every now and then and so we started to talk about my project. Over the years I wrote many songs and I had the desire to have my band to play my own music.
One day Alessandro listened to some of my demo songs and based on them he decided to produce me. I was very very happy about his decision because I always regarded Alessandro as a great musician and producer. I had a vision in my mind of the sound that I wanted for my music. Alessandro immediately understood my ideas and he did an amazing job.
He believed in this project from the start and has greatly contributed to its realization. His experience and his professionalism were fundamental for the recording sessions. He was also very instrumental in getting in the deal with our label Avenue Of Allies. Gregor Klee, the label manager, is doing an incredible job with so much passion and love for the music. So I can say that I’m very satisfied with Alessandro’s work!

The line-up of your debut album consists of some very good musicians. Whose idea was it to put the band together and how did you approach each of the guys who perform on the album?
The basic idea of this band came to my head when I wanted to play the songs I had written. I had a clear idea of the rhythm section (drums and bass) and I already knew the right musicians. I had the chance to meet Francesco Jovino (U.D.O.) a long time ago, he was the drummer I admired the most ! Then he told me about this great bassist: Nik Mazzucconi. The two play together in Edge Of Forever and Moonstone Project and it was the best rhythm section I could imagine ! Fortunately, they accepted my request to play on my album.
Regarding the voice, Alessandro helped me to find the right singer: Gabriele Gozzi. After listening to one verse sung by him I knew that was the voice I was looking for ! I had the band of my dreams.

The bass player on the album is Nik Mazzucconi. In the official video to the song “Youth Times” there is a lady on bass guitar and a second guitar player is also in the line-up. Can you please tell us who they are?
Nik has many commitments and he can not be present every time. So I had to find a replacement. The lovely Anna Portalupi is a versatile bass player as well, with a great technique and a lot of experience. She accepted my offer, and she joined the band as you can see in the video for “Youth Times”.
The rhythm guitar player in the line-up you can see in the video is Nicola Colombo and he is an old friend of mine and a great guitarist! To make the sound of my music come alive in concert we need a second guitar in the band. And it’s also more fun!!

The famous musicians most people know from Italy are Pop musicians. What are the perspectives for Hard Rock Bands like Skill in Veins in Italy and what is the scene like? Do you have any contacts to other Italian Rock bands?
Unfortunately there is not a lot of space for Hard Rock music in Italy, particularly not for new bands. But I strongly believe in what I do and I’ll do everything possible to get my music heard and to play live in my beautiful country. I think that you can reach your goals when you pursue them with passion.
And yes, we are in contact with other Italian bands including „Wheel Of Fire“ and “Shining Line” ! We are from the same greater area and I know the guys personally and I think they are great bands and I really like their albums ! There are a lot of great musicians coming from the north of Italy.
Just recently we did a radio interview, conducted by “Zorro” Monti of Shining Line, together with Davide from “Wheels Of Fire” and I hope that we can also play some gigs together in the coming months.

Talking about gigs, what comes next for Skill in Veins ?
Right now we are planning to go out on tour, in line with the commitments of each band member. I love to play live and we are doing our best to put together a series of gigs all over Europe, starting with some gigs in Italy. I really hope we get the chance to present our songs to as many people as possible, so we can offer a show that the audience will never forget !
And of course I’m constantly writing new songs for the next album! These exiting experiences like having recorded an album with some amazing musicians and the CD getting released worldwidet, reading good reviews about the record on the net and in the magazines and doing interviews give me a lot of inspiration and there are already lots of ideas for new songs.
Bruce, I want to thank you for the opportunity to talk to Fireworks and I also want to thank the fans that have bought our album so far, hopefully many more will follow. Keep on rockin’ and SEE YOU SOON on the road!!

skillinveins


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  • Berny : Interviews with SLEEPING ROMANCE & VISIONS OF ATLANTIS ... «link» Enloy! :)
  • Rocktopia Te : There are now 6000 album reviews on Rocktopia!
  • Berny : Saxon, Gizmodrome, Skid Row, Night Ranger, Magnum, Joe Bonamassa & many more! Check out the latest LIVE reviews on Rocktopia! «link»
  • Rocktopia Te : Two news interviews in the Rocktopia Interviews Section: LITTLE CAESAR & GEISHAS IN VITRO. Enjoy! :) «link»
  • Berny : Fireworks #82 is our now! Check out the free interviews with Royal Hunt, Stryper, Kamelot, James Christian, Signal Red & Animal Drive!
  • Berny : @Johns Band: Many thanks for your purchase! Your copy will be sent to your registered address this week.
  • Johns Band : I paid for Fireworks 82 Magazine, when will it be sent. Best Regards - John
  • Berny : @Rob: Done! :)
  • robmckenzie : Hi Bernie, urgent change please. In the Moonkings concert review - please replace "the original John Syke's one" with "obviously his sublime '1987' album version"
  • Berny : Anyway, we posted 90+ album & live reviews in February. Please enjoy & share!
  • Rocktopia Te : Don't trigger CEB, you know what will happen ....
  • Berny : None that I am aware of ... BRUCE??? :D ;)
  • Hysteria : @ Berny: So no adult toys in the Rocktopis shop?? :D
  • Berny : Apologies for the "Shout Here" spammers. We'll take care of this issue asap.
  • Hysteria : Very cool video Berny!!
  • Berny : Check out our brand new lyric video for Royal Hunt's 'A Million Ways To Die'. \m/
  • Berny : We posted 242 reviews (225 albums & 17 live reviews) in January. Enjoy :)
  • Rocktopia Te : TENGGER CAVALRY UK music video premiere on Rocktopia! Check out the news section!
  • Berny : @impellitteri: Can you please contact me at «email» ? MAny thanks in advance!
  • impellitteri : Why?
  • impellitteri : I'm triyng to buy in the shop but I can't, a message say "user registration is disabled, it must be enabled in order to proceed"

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Quote of the day

“The old Van Halen, when I was in it, makes you wanna drink, dance and screw. The new Van Halen encourages you to drink milk, drive a Nissan and have a relationship.” (David Lee Roth) - Quotes collected by Dave Ling (www.daveling.co.uk)

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