Sweden Rock Festival
6-8 June 2003
Chrome Shift, Masterplan, Rob Tognoli, Talisman, Y&T, Wishbone Ash, Yes
Solvesborg, Sweden.

By Andy Read


Day One - Day Two - Day Three

CHROME SHIFT

New Progressive Metal hopefuls from Denmark, Chrome Shift had the thankless task of appearing on stage before midday but despite a blearly eyed audience managed to put on one of the most enjoyable musical sets of the weekend. A band with a sound of their own they mix fairly heavy dose of Rush, Dream Theater and Threshold. Their debut album Ripples In Time is a real grower that's getting better with every listen.

Very much a young band still finding their way, playing to a sparse but receptive crowd with only a handful of live dates behind them must have been very daunting. Opening up with probably the best track In My Own Dreams was a good move and getting a warm response seemed to calm a few nerves. Full Moon, Nightshift and Through followed in quick succession and it became clear that the band has plenty of power and melody that has been put together in some very finely crafted songs.

As with A.C.T the previous day, I was planning to only watch the first half of the set, as Masterplan were on the main stage. The biggest compliment I can make, is that Chrome Shift were so good that I decided Jorn Lande could wait!

If I can offer a bit of advice, I'd urge frontman Rasmus Bak to quickly loose his inhibitions and become far more animated. Take a look at Herman from A.C.T., to see how a bit of theatrics and a lot of self-confidence can win an audience and takes a live show to another level. The rest of the band needs to explore a bit more of the stage too! Rasmus does have a unique voice with clear potential, but it does need some fine tuning. Every so often, usually at the end of a section, he'd hit a note off key that did spoil the flow.

Anyway, looking around I was pleased to note that the crowd had built steadily and all of those who were there at the start had stayed. With increasing confidence they finished with their strongest performances in Ripples in Time and Le Temp Des Assassins - both of which came across much better live than on the album. A European tour is being planned and I'm looking forward to a longer set at the Progpower Europe Festival in October. On the basis of this show and the album, if you're into Prog Metal, this is a band with huge potential.

MASTERPLAN

Zipping the hundred metres or so to the Rock Stage and it quickly became clear that staying to watch Chrome Shift had been a good decision. Masterplan features the amazing vocals talents of ex-Ark, Ex-Malmsteen, ex-Millennium, ex-Snakes frontman Jorn Lande and former Helloween mainstays, guitarist Roland Grapow and drummer Ulli Kusch.
In their self-titled debut, they have produced a top-notch slab of progressive-tinged classic metal that has been doing very good business across Europe. However catching the last 40 minutes I found their live set very disappointing.

With killer songs like Spirit Never Dies, Enlighten me, Kindhearted Light, Heroes and When Love Comes Close to select from, I was expecting an aural and visual assault on the senses. Instead it was all a bit lame and flaccid.
The band looked like they were enjoying themselves and so did a fair chunk of the crowd but there was just no pace, no excitement, no intensity to it. Every song seemed to be drawn out as long as possible and it took more than 5 minutes to introduce the band - give us another song instead! They also threw in a Helloween medley but it just didn't work for me. Top marks though, for the guitar shaped like a fish!

ROB TOGNOLI / TALISMAN

After lying back with a beer to take in some cool, hard-rockin' blues from Australian Rob Tognoli, it was time to get back on my feet and down the front for a spot of melodic hard rock. Back together after a few years on separate projects, Talisman is out to reclaim its crown as leading Scandinavian hard rockers. The new album Cats and Dogs is up to the usual standard and with the amazing Jeff Scott Soto leading them onstage, they're never dull. The sound wasn't brilliant but the big crowd was happy singing its heart out to the likes of Mysterious and Skin on Skin. That day was also the birthday of Soto's son and halfway through the set he got out his mobile phone, rang him up and got the crowd to shout happy birthday. A nice moment, although as it must have been around six in the morning in the States, I'm not sure his son would have appreciated it at the time!

Y&T

I must admit two bands alone would have persuaded me to have made this trip to Sweden - Queensr˙che and Y&T! Queensr˙che was damn good yesterday, but Y&T made me cry!

For the best part of 20 years I've been playing their records - I've lost count how many times I've wished that one day - just once - I may still get to see them play live. And today here I was, with the band coming out on stage right before my eyes.

Never having played Sweden before, it was clear from the number of t-shirts gathering at the front, that a lot of other people had made the journey for them too. Indeed everything was perfect. The sun was shining, the sound was great, I had a cool beer in my hand and a very, very attractive Swedish lady decided to stand next to me for some mutual headbanging.

As opposed to the paltry 35-minute set they were allowed on the Whitesnake Monsters of Rock tour that had just gone through the UK, this was the (almost) full-blown set of 90 minutes. Just read this setlist: Meanstreak, Eyes of a Stranger, Dirty Girl, Rescue Me, Barroom Boogie, Winds of Change, Hurricane, 25 Hours A Day, Summertime Girls, Game Playing Woman, I Believe, Hell or High Water, Forever, (encore) Black Tiger.

When Meanstreak started the set, I was jumping up and down with joy, feeling like I was 12 years old again! Pretty much the genuine line-up, the band sounded fresh and Dave Meniketti's voice as good as it did on the live album 15 years ago! Dave shifted between his lovely Les Paul and a blue Stratocaster and with his unmissable, blues-soaked voice, proved that bands just don't make music this good anymore.

Winds of Change and Hurricane ensured there was no dip in tempo and then for an atheist, I got as close to a religious experience as I'm ever likely to get. It's been such a long wait and when the opening chords of I Believe oozed out from the amps I had to pinch myself to ensure I wasn't dreaming. Music simply isn't made any better than this and when Meniketti ripped into that amazing solo there were tears in my eyes. Then following just two songs we had its equal Forever. I'm afraid that was more than a man can take - if you looked up into the sky at around 5.30pm on June 8th and saw something unusual, then it was probably me floating up on a cloud to heaven!

I missed a couple of songs - there was nothing from In Rock We Trust, no Midnight In Tokyo and Eyes of a Stranger seemed a strange choice from Contagious, but now I'm sounding like the lottery winner, who complained that he had to wait a week for the cheque to clear!

Hearing the cheers for an encore, I'd say Y&T made a good impression on everybody and the festival organisers really should already have signed the cheque for a return visit next year (higher up the bill of course). With a smile reaching to the back of my head I was as happy as a Turkey on Boxing Day! Utterly utterly utterly brilliant.
(P.S The band is booked to play a gig in Holland on August 15th - not to be missed)

WISHBONE ASH / FALCONER

After that (and the three hours sleep last night) the only thing I could do was lie down - and in a perfect piece of scheduling, Wishbone Ash were just starting their set. I know absolutely nothing about this band but they proved the perfect accompaniment to a hazy, Swedish, summer evening with a veritable feast of 60's-style, light, blues-based rock.

On the other stage, Falconer were just messy. On record Falconer dish out an above average slice of Symphonic Power Metal Scandie-style - their last album Chapters From A Vale Forlorn was well above average. Since then, vocalist Mathias Blad has been replaced by Kristoffer Gobel. This guy sounded more like your standard Power Metal singer, with higher-pitched singing than Mathias and a few screams here and there. Dressed all in white and barging around the stage, he just didn't fit in at all. To be fair, this would have been one of his first live shows with Falconer but I could only really take a couple of tracks, delivered as they were, with little conviction, cohesion, or style. Compared to the Champions League class of Sonata Arctica yesterday, this really was minor league stuff.

YES

My knowledge of Yes extends to owning a copy of the 90125 album - a purchase prompted by the hit UK single Owner of a Lonely Heart. So I'll avoid any attempt at giving you a detailed break down of the show or performances. However, what I will say is that I enjoyed it far more than I expected to.

The best part, was that for the first three tracks I was in the photopit. Now for most acts, being allowed only the first three songs, means about 12 minutes or just long enough to get some decent pictures. But in the case of a band like Yes, the first three tracks can take half an hour! So after getting my snaps, I enjoyed the best 'seats' in the house and a very close-up view of some of rock's top musicians in action.

In a career spanning 30 plus years, Yes has managed to give the audience a glimpse of something from another level. They can play very powerfully and technically but there's an atmosphere and mood to their music that makes you stand still and listen. You can see why their legions of fans follow them with such enthusiasm and dedication. For some devotees, it was clear that coming to this gig was like a religious pilgrimage.

At the end I saw one chap, bedecked in his Yes t-shirt and cap, kissing the ground with gay abandon. Apparently he had seen them play dozens of times but this was the first time they had played his favourite track Awaken. I turned round and there were another two doing the same!

Having thoroughly enjoyed the experience, I'd heartily recommend Yes as a band that any lover of rock music should see at least once. And if you can get a photos pass - there's no need to rush!

And Finally….

Now if you've read my thoughts on the 20 bands that I managed to see, let me tell you that there were another 31 that I couldn't squeeze in, including Sepultura, Blind Guardian, Twisted Sister, Uriah Heep, Stormwind, Darkane, Anthrax, Krokus, Budgie (highly recommended by Chris) and Pagan's Mind.

In the course of two and a half days I saw 36 hours of literally non-stop music - in that time there was just 90 minutes (when Motorhead were on) that there was nothing that I wanted to see!

Like most things in Sweden, the festival is extremely well-organised and runs to a reliable timetable. One of the biggest plus points is in the way that the stages are arranged quite close together. You can walk between them all in a few minutes but rarely does the sound from one band interfere with another.

The other plus point, is the diverse range of music on offer - everything from Death Metal to Blues. No one style dominates and with two bands always on at the same time, there's usually something of interest available. There's also that very important platform, with a stage dedicated to new, upcoming bands - Chrome Shift and A.C.T. were very entertaining but there were at least another six that I'd have liked to have checked out.

The highlights for me had to be Y&T, with Queensryche, TadMorose and Jethro Tull not too far behind. The biggest disappointments? Masterplan, Khan's microphone cutting out for the whole of When Kingdom Comes, not being able to fit in Pagan's Mind or Platitude and the price of a beer (£6 a pint!!!).

My thanks to Tony Balogh for sorting out the photo pass. Next year's event will be held on June 10-12 with the first bands to be announced on November 28th. I'm sure they'll try to beat this year's line up - and please feel free to try - but I very much doubt that they ever will.


Setlists:

Chrome Shift

In My Own Dreams
Full Moon
Nightmachine
Through
Ripples In Time
Le Temp Des Assassins

Y&T

Mean Streak
Eyes Of A Stranger
Dirty Girl
Rescue Me
Barroom Boogie
Winds Of Change
Hurricane
25 Hours a Day
Summertime Girls
Game Playing Woman
I Believe In You
Hell Or High Water
Forever

Black Tiger

Yes

Firebird Suite
Siberian Khatru
Magnification
Don't Kill The Whale
We Have Heaven
South Side of the Sky
And You And I
The Clap (Steve Howe solo)
Heart of the Sunrise
Six Wives (excerpt - Rick Wakeman solo)
Long Distance Runaround
The Fish/Whitefish
Awaken

Roundabout
Starship Trooper


Day One - Day Two - Day Three

All photos by Andy Read for DPRP © 2003.

 

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