Vanden Plas, Saturday 29th June 2002
Bang Your Head Festival, Messegelände,
By Charlie Farrell
German Progressive Metal Kings play on the big stage
The Bang Your Head festival is a well organised annual event which takes place in Balingen, just a little south of Stuttgart, in Germany. While most of the bands chosen suit the Festival name to a tee, the event, like most Festivals, also features some bands whose style is a little more sophisticated than the standard fare.
One such band which featured at this years event was Vanden Plas, who had to overcome the obstacles of a midday slot and a place on the bill which had them taking to the stage right after the German Alcoholic Thrash band - Tankard. A band who were so frightningly awful as to scare a good number of fans away to pass their time looking at the stalls and visiting the Metalboerse. Nevertheless when Tankard had finished assualting our eardrums, a healthy crowd assembled in front of the single main stage to see one of the first gigs at which the band have played material from their latest disk - Beyond Daylight.
Some nice intro music announced the arrival of the German 5-piece and one by one they entered the enormous stage. Firstly drummer Andreas Lill, then keyboards player Gunter Werno, guitarist Stephan Lill, bassist Torsten Reichert and finally frontman Andy Kuntz. It was quite a surprise, but a welcome one when they kicked off the set with Push from their debut album Colour Temple, which of all their albums is more Hard Rock than Progressive Metal, but given the audience they were playing to, it was a wise and very effective choice.
The response was warm and appreciative as was the crowd reaction to the following tune, Ionic Rain from 1999's album Far Off Grace, whose heaviness was again well suited to the event. Then, having softened up the crowd, they then played a couple of mellower tunes, Cold Wind and Healing Tree from Beyond Daylight which contrasted nicely with the heaviness of the opening numbers and displayed the band's progressive credentials very effectively.
Then, so as to not lull the crowd into thinking that the band had gone soft, they played a further tune from Beyond Daylight, the intensly energetic Free The Fire which energized the crowd once more. One could see quite clearly that the band members were thoroughly enjoying the occasion. Stephan Lill wore a huge grin and having seen the band perform 6 or 7 times before, I can honestly say that I've never seen the bassist Torsten so animated. Just like Stephan and singer Andy Kuntz, he was moving around all over and really enjoying playing on the huge stage and to possibly the band's biggest single audience yet.
However, with only a 40 minute slot available, the clock had already moved on towards 20 past 12 and it was time for the band to play the final number, which as Andy Kuntz explained, was a tune from their 1997 album The God Thing. Fortunately, though the clouds above darkened for a while, the heavens did not pour forth and the crowd only felt a few spots of rain on their heads. Since it was the only rain which fell all day, it was entirely approprite that the song played was the old crowd favourite Rainmaker.
Vanden Plas finished their set to very warm applause and waved to the crowd. Literally seconds later, the stage technicians moved in and wasted no time at all in removing their equipment. As Andreas's drumkit was mounted on a platform with wheels, it was the first to disappear and as the technicians prepared to move a new kit into place, some lucky (or not so lucky) members of the audience were greeted by the sight of Andreas showing his bare ass to the crowd. I guess that indicates that he also had a good time.
Though the crowd wasn't as big as that for some of the larger acts at the festival, it was still a very respectible number and the band can feel very happy with the way they played. The new material came over very well and the band seem to thoroughly enjoy the huge stage and the big crowd. A very encouraging performance indeed
Feed The Fire