Sweden Rock Festival 2010, Sölvesborg, Sweden June 9-12

From Aural Innovations #41 (October 2010)

Day 1

Sue and I took the train to Malmö to pick up the rental car. My nephew Scott, he took the train up the day before with Big Al, Tommy, and Karma from the Sweden Rock English message board. We will meet him at the rock classic tent. It was raining the whole drive up and we listened to Widespread Panic and Led Zeppelin from Earls Court 1975, a show that Sue was actually at! There were not very many people at the hotel so we had a relaxing lunch, arriving at 11:45 and caught the bus to the festival site at 14:45 to meet up with Scott as I had to bring the rain cover for his tent, which he forgot. Luckily it did not rain that much on Wednesday night. We all met up and went to see Sator, a Swedish high energy melodic rock and roll band. They had a pretty good crowd and the weather is clearing up a bit. I did not find them very interesting so we went to check out F.K.Ü (Freddy Kreuger's Underwear). This is a Swedish band that plays old school thrash without any guitar solos. Perhaps as they are a three piece they can't be bothered. The singer reminds me of the guy from Kreator. They had a lot of cool songs and people were really enjoying them. We saw all the rest of their set and then back to the Sweden Stage for Alestorm. We saw them in Vienna last year and they were great fun. Pirate metal!

The crowd was really up for Alestorm, people with small swords and parrots on their shoulders.. A very fun band and great performance. Lots of drinking songs. He said this next song is about drinking, fucking girls and slaying seamonsters! Can't go wrong there. The sound was louder, clearer and so much better than last year. It was pretty clear that the 100db limit was not an issue this year. Next, we headed over to the Dio stage (used to be called the Zeppelin Stage) to see the Swedish band, Steelwing. They play total 80's new wave of British heavy metal style music. They were very Iron Maiden inspired. Tight riffing, powerful vocals, etc. The weather was nicer now.

Michael Monroe from Hanoi Rocks was on the Sweden Stage and we were able to get a great spot in front of the soundboard and it was not too crowded. Damn. This guy rocks! He has a lot of energy and a great band. He ended his set with a Stooges and a Dead Boys covers. This was a big surprise and the best band-act of the day so far.

Now it was time to see Warrior Soul acoustic. I was pretty sceptical about having all acoustic bands in the rock classic tent for all 4 days. Warrior Soul is one of my favourite US bands from the 90s but I had never seen them play live. It is only Kory Clarke from the original line up and unfortunately he has destroyed his voice and can't sing anymore. Also, these old hard rocking songs just did not sound right totally acoustic. He played a great selection and after the first few songs I actually enjoyed the set a lot but his voice is shot to hell and he sounds like he has lost his voice permanently, which he has. Very sad.

Set list: ?, Superpower Dreamland, Punk and Belligerent, Fuck the Police, Opium Hotel, Love is your Drug, ?, Scenes, Love Destruction, Downtown, Let's get high, get wasted, A lullaby, Charlie's out of Prison

The closing act for the half day was UDO, the singer from Accept. The crowd was massive but again we found a great spot in the center in front of the soundboard and the sound was massive. UDO rocked the place for sure and played mostly his own material of good old school style power metal. The Accept songs like Princess of the Damn, Flash Rocking Man, etc. went over very well. The crowd really liked it and he sounded great. Powerful act. Not as good as Accept but a tight rocking act. Good first day.

Day 2

Stone Sour was on the main stage at 12 but we did not get there until it was time to see Nazereth, and damn, they played a killer set. The new song they played called The Gathering was one of the best of the concert. They were all in a great mood and played a lot of the classics of course and were in great shape. I had not expected them to be so good. I was not very impressed the last time that I saw them. Great way to start the day with some classic ROCK. Next we headed over the Rock stage to check out Mothers Finest. This totally took me by surprise. This band was totally killer. Hard edged 70's funk rock with a bit of blues as well. They just had so many really cool songs and played a sound that I really love. Great concert and band. They ended their set with Train kept a Rollin'. We caught a couple of songs of Pretty Maids but it was not really my thing so we went back to the Dio stage.

Now it was time for old school SF bay area thrash with Death Angel. I never saw this band when I lived in the SF bay area and I met up with the Danish metal heads at this one! A really great set of cool tracks. The singer has amazing, long dreadlocks. They sounded excellent and true to the art.

We just hung out now and waited for Blackberry Smoke, a southern rock band from Atlanta, GA. I had never heard them. They started off with a very country inspired track but they had a lot of character and a very good singer. He had the words, "Smoke One" on the back of his SG! They had excellent songs and great lyrics. We highly enjoyed their concert. Pendragon had started now on the Sweden Stage so we went to see them. They did not have that large a crowd but damn, they were a huge surprise as well. I always thought they were much more mainstream and pop prog stuff but this was more spacey and the guitar player was great. He was very David Gilmour inspired. He really played some amazing guitar solos and was the best guitar player on this day.

Now it was time for SLAYER on the main stage. They had 18 Marshall cabinets on each side of the drum kit and it was going to be massive. We only planned to see a few tracks and go over and see Amon Düül II. We only lasted two songs as the sound was dreadful. It was nearly all drums and there was no guitar. I think the sound guy was slowly adjusting it but it just sounded bad so we left after 1½ songs. The crowd was not as massive as I thought it would be. I heard they were great though and the sound got much better.

I saw Amon Düül II last year at the Roadburn Festival and Renate had a cold so her voice was not that good but she was in great shape today and the band was in a good mood. They had an additional member on percussion and who also did some vocals that they did not have at Roadburn that I can recall. They more or less played a classic set plus a very cool track from Amon Düül, Festival of the Orient, I think they said it was called. They also had a long space out jam at the end of the show. The crowd was small but responsive and all seem to have a good time.

We now hurried off to try to get a good place in the center for Danzig. I had never seen Danzig before but I have really liked most of his records a lot. I had big expectations and he did not upset. His voice was pretty strong and he had a great stage presence. He played Mother of course and they played it a bit fast and quite a few classics but the two new songs were very good. It was a great and powerful set of music.

Now it was time for Aerosmith, who played here 3 years ago. I did not really know what to expect but they had a very cool stage set up. They opened up with Love In An Elevator like they did 3 years ago but they did not jam it out like last time. Then into Back in the Saddle and Tyler sounded great. I don't know if Brad Whitford was sick or what but he was all bundled up in a jacket that surrounded his neck, a hat and silver sunglasses. His playing was really off to start the show as well. He was just not really very active or into it much. Besides changing out some of the old songs, they played the same 90's hits as last time and they looked really bored as they played along to their MTV videos. It was only when they played their old songs did the band really seem happy and into it and they had some nice jamming in Lord of the Thighs and it was amazing to hear Walkin' the Dog from the first record. Kings and Queens was pretty cool but the keyboards were a bit dominant in the sound. I really enjoyed the concert a lot except for the 90s shit. A very good band and still rocking hard!

Day 3

Today was going to be a long day as I wanted to see this Swedish band called The Itch at 11:30, so I caught the bus at 10:45. Sue would come a bit later. The weather is about the same as yesterday, still no sign of the sun in 3 days and it is cool and gray with the threat of rain surrounding us. Anyway, the Itch were pretty cool. A good groove to their songs and plenty of lead guitar! The bass player was a real buff dude with massive muscles and tattoos and long blonde hair. He looked a bit of place in this band. Cool band. Met up with both Sue and my nephew and we all walked over to catch some of Gravedigger. I really like their first record and the first 3 were all pretty good but I had not followed this band at all. No idea how many of the members are original but the singer was. Anyway, they did not grab us at all and we left after 3 songs. We heard some of the Big Elf soundcheck and they played Mob Rules and it sounded great.

The last time I saw Big elf was here at Sweden Rock in 2000! They had a new guitar player since then since the other one passed away from a diabetic coma. Big Elf delivered the goods big time and were really great. The new songs were pretty good as well but sadly, they did not play Mob Rules. S no one has played any DIO songs at all for Sweden Rock. Next up was the nearly original line up of the Michael Schenker Group. I was lucky enough to see and meet the band in 1984 when they were opening for Ted Nugent. I even got Michael's autograph! MSG played at Sweden Rock like 3-4 years ago and they were not good at all but the reviews have said that Michael was in top form. They played a great great set list but also very predictable including some old UFO songs... the same and only ones they ever play. It was still fun to see and hear and those songs from the first two MSG records are still great songs.

Next we went back to the Sweden Stage to see High on Fire. I like Sleep, they were a pretty cool band but I have never liked the High on Fire records I have heard and I have never seen them live. It was damn heavy stuff and even though the third song featured some really cool longer guitar parts and was more doomy, we were not really into it and split over to catch some of the Danish band, DAD - Disneyland after Dark. The crowd was huge and it took us a while to find a decent place but they were damn entertaining and played really high energy party rock and the crowd was totally into it. I have to say I have never really paid much attention to this Danish band always more or less writing them off as a Danish pop rock act but this was really good stuff.

We had a bit of a break now and headed out of the festival site as we did not want to see Praying mantis or Rick Springfield. Next up for us would be Chicken Shack, some old UK white man blues. We did catch a few songs of Praying Mantis from on the hill and it was better than I thought, not as polished. We met and chatted with some Finnish people while having a beer at the restaurant. Nice people but they really were talking a lot and I was just a bit tired and wanted a rest. Sue agreed.

Stan Webb, he can still really rip it up and also has a very good voice still. He did some good covers including a Johnny Cash number, and The Thrill is Gone. The sun even came out for 20 minutes while he played and the ground was dry enough you could sit down, which was nice. Next up was Steel Panther from Hollywood and this was a riot. We had such a great laugh and time at this concert. What show people they are. This is like a glam rock version of the Mentors! The lyrics to most of their songs are very sleazy and x-rated. They know how to work a crowd and dress and play the part well. Musically, they play 80's style melodic metal stuff like Motley Crue and Ratt and they do it well. Fun stuff..

I was not really interested in Cinderella but we have 20 minutes before Suicidal Tendencies would start so we went to check them out. A pretty decent crowd and my nephew, he was right up in the front row! Anyway, it was more like bluesy hard rock stuff and I was quite surprised. The lead singer and guitar player he was annoyed though and seem to think the crowd should be larger and louder.. He really seem to have an attitude. We watched about 30 minutes and then went to see Suicidal. I had not seen these guys since 1986 when I did an interview with them on their bus after a show at Sound Seaz in El Paso, Texas. They totally kicked ass and I really dug their funky metal rock thing. The singer had such a positive energy about him the band was great. Killer bass and lead guitar players. These black guys can rock! It was a fun show as well. Only 4 bands left for the day: Billy Idol, Mustasch, Gary Moore and Behemoth.

We chose to try to go to the center and check out Billy Idol and see what he was all about. The crowd was pretty damn big and dark clouds were covering the sky and sure enough for about 20 minutes of his concert it was pouring down rain. He did not care at all and stood out on the platform in the rain and sang away. Musically, it was a real hit and miss though. The guitar player was great and the same guy who played with him in the 80s. Crowd was most into his big hits like White Wedding and Rebel Yell. He closed the show with a really cool version of the Doors, LA Woman. Pretty cool concert.

It was very easy to get close for Gary Moore. The crowd was not that big. I think the young people are not interested in him at all. It was also pretty cold out and now a lot of people were wet from the rain during Billy Idol. He opened with some really good rock numbers and he can still totally rip it up on the guitar. He seemed totally not into it at all. Very much just going through the motions and it was perhaps also a bit cold up there. After about 45 minutes we were getting bored. Empty Rooms was the last song we heard before heading off to see a bit of Behemoth and then take the bus back to the hotel. Behemoth was massive! Wow... huge crowd, very intense stage presence and music. This is heavy brutal stuff.

Day 4

There were some good bands on early on this day (Dream Evil, Cathedral) as well but we needed a bit more time to relax so we did not show up until 13:00 or so to catch Fates Warning. I last saw this band on the Parallels tour in 1992 in San Francisco and now that they are playing this whole album live in their set. I still like their material from the first 3 records the best and they don't play any of that material these days. They were pretty good but I mostly wanted to see Skyclad, a band that I have most of their CDs but have never seen. Skyclad was awesome! The sound was being blown around a lot as it was very windy today but the sky was clearer and the treat of rain less. The new Skyclad songs were also really good. They have a great sense of humor as well. Cool band.

Next we caught a few songs by Epica, a progressive metal band with a female opera style singer. The crowd was huge. These types of bands are so big. They are ok but it does not move me that much. Too few solos. Point Blank were back this year and now the sun was shinning and they were in a great mood! They totally rocked the house and played some killer blues and rock stuff. Their cover of Highway Star by Deep Purple closed their short set. The new stuff was also really good. A very solid Texas blues rock outfit. Funny that I used to see these guys in 1980-1982 and now I see them in Sweden!

It was hard to believe for me that I was going to see Raven again. The last time I saw Raven, Metallica was the opening band! Yes... the opening band in 1983! The two brothers looked the same but not as skinny and they still had that crazy energy. They had some guitar problems so the show was delayed a bit and the guitar player just wanted to rock so he just took off and started without even bothering to tune his guitar until the third song. Funny…. I was standing with Marcus from Darxtar and we really enjoyed the concert a lot. It was fun to hear some of their classics like All for One, Rock Until You Drop, and Break the Chain, which included a cool medley of stuff like Symptom of the Universe, My Generation, etc. I really enjoyed it a lot.

Next up was Opeth on the Rock stage and they also had a huge crowd and are a very popular band. I think they were very good but I still don't get or understand the death metal parts of their music. I like the more instrumental, dark, spacey stuff and this is where they really excel. Anyway, pretty enjoyable considering I can't listen to their records. Now, we had to make a hard choice as Bachman Turner (no Overdrive) were on the mainstage at 20 and Anvil on at 20:15. I thought we should give BT a chance and the crowd was not big at all so we could get very close. They opened with one of their classic tracks, Let it Ride, and they were in a good mood. We watched the first 15 minutes and then ran over to see Anvil. I figured since they had that movie out they would have a massive crowd but it was probably smaller than the last time they played here, where I also saw them. I was very happy to hear them play a very different set list than last time including Hanging Thumb! They were also a three piece band and the rhythm guitar player who married that manager who arranged their disaster tour, was missing now. It worked pretty well as a three piece but it was not quite as powerful as all the songs have been written for two guitars. Anyway, I really got sucked into the Anvil vibe and they had a cool jam in Mothra as well. This was one of my favourite concerts this year at Sweden Rock. Anvil still rocks!

WASP was up next and again my nephew went for the front row. WASP are hugely popular in Sweden so the crowd was huge. We were up in the center as I had hoped the sound and vibe would be great here but boy was I wrong. The sound was the worst and also the loudest of any band that I heard at this festival, where the sound and volume had been very good this year unlike the disaster of last year. Despite the shitty sound person, they totally rocked and opened with a medley of stuff from the first record and then played some rare tracks from The Last Command as well but they did not play their best tracks from that record like Ballcrusher, Fistful of Diamonds and Jack Action. They did play most of the first record and two tracks from The Crimson Idol and one new song as well.

We went and waited for Guns and Roses in a great spot on the left but after he did not show up for 25 minutes we split to go see Stratovarius on the DIO stage. We were not going to wait for Axel forever. Stratovarius were excellent and totally rocked. What a cool guitar player also. He did not just rip it up but just played super cool stuff and they had a great singer and tight band as well. We watched nearly their whole concert and Guns and Roses had started about 50 minutes late and we could see them on the big screen but we could not be bothered to go check them out as we were pretty tired after 4 days. I was told that Axel sounded terrible to start with but by 4-5 songs he sounded great and that they actually rocked out… Oh well..

Besides the shit weather it was an excellent Sweden Rock festival. I hope they bring back the rock and more underground bands in the tent stage next year as all this acoustic stuff is not my thing at all. The new design was good though.

My favourite bands for 2010 were:

Mothers Finest
Michael Monroe
Steel Panther

Reviewed by Scott Heller

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