Concert overload, hard rocking music, intense alcohol consumption, partying with like minded people, making new friends and general silliness; It's all part of the Sweden Rock Festival spirit and it's highly recommended to visit this festival on a regular basis, even if it's quite unhealthy. This year I started out a couple of days early when I took the train to Copenhagen on Monday to hang out at Nina and Mads' place. Fellow writer Stuart and friends (Craig, Barry and Nicola) were flying in from Scotland on Sunday so I took the train there on Monday for a little warm up before we all headed out for Sweden. This turned out to be a great pork-fest (the meat, just in case there's any dirty minded people reading this) with chicken wings on the side and several big jugs! (Beer, yer dirty bastards). Sorry, the Scottish influence seems to have taken over.
Sweden Rock is the only festival I will visit this summer since I am in the middle of moving into a new house and await the birth of my first child in August, so I wanted to make the most of everything. This resulted in some fuzzy memories, especially of the first few days are hazy but I have racked my memory the best I could below to describe all the details below. This report will be more of a diary of my joyous journey through the Sweden Rock experience rather than a than a serious concert review. Although there is a bit in here where I'm quite serious.
I love live music and I tend to just have fun in the crowd, sing along, headbang, jump madly and sometimes I end up with just an overall impression instead of a show instead of a song by song memory of the show. There are several ways to experience live music and I am one of those who usually do it in an all-out-giving-something-back-to-the-stage kind of way. It's not pretty but it sure is fun. Concert-wise there is nothing better than standing in the crowd, singing along to songs of one of my favorite bands, looking some singing stranger in the eyes and seeing the recognition that here is someone who shares the same passion for something as simple but beautiful as music.
Anyway... Bit of a rant. Back on track......
The train ride on Tuesday went smoothly and suddenly we found ourselves in sunny Sweden with about a ton of luggage. A few trips back and forth to the camping grounds later we had the tents set up and were ready for anything. We had made it just in time to check out Mads' latest recommendation, the all girl band Vision!
Vision was playing at the Restaurant scene and the mood was high. Vision made a pretty good impression, they certainly have the charisma and energy to take it somewhere. Especially their young lead guitarist had skill and was literally on fire. All in all Vision was a great way to blow off the festival.
We headed back to the camping grounds and partied all night. At some point it began to rain so some of us moved the party into my tent where my quite small 4-watt speakers managed to fill up the room. Unfortunately I passed out (with my head in my speakers I was later told) and when I woke up in the middle of the night the party was over and I was lying on the floor of the tent cuddling my small speakers and being very cold since I had apparently fallen asleep near the opening of the tent where the rain had come in.
The next morning I was surprisingly fresh. Nina, Mads, Thomas and I went for some rather healthy breakfast and later in the day Michal and Borg arrived to set up camp. Later in the day Nina and I met up with Lunah and Tobias who run the site Metal Moments near the entrance to the camping site and we started feasting on all their beers. It was around this time I started getting a seriously bad case of hiccups.
Nothing helped to cure them so in the end I decided to do some push-ups which usually helps me. 25 push-ups in front of the camping ground entrance later they were cured. Unfortunately the hiccups returned two times later the same day, so if you saw a guy wearing a cow cowboy hat lying somewhere on the ground doing pushups then there's a pretty good chance this was me. It really seems to me that this is the perfect way to combine alcohol and exercise.
The rest of the day was spent CD shopping and looking for good food. Later on I went to get pictures of Blaze Bayley and caught about half his show. He did a very good job and seemed to be in great shape. My favorite moment of what I saw was definitely "Tenth Dimension" which came off very well. The band had a good energy and great interaction with the crowd.
I went to get pictures of Uriah Heep but they were not able to keep my attention at this moment and instead I headed for the backstage bar and finally the camp for lots of metal and partying with the other guys. I managed to get my MP3 player put on the great big stereo some other Danish guys had brought along and from then on it gets even hazier.
When I woke up on Thursday I was feeling very bad. Breakfast didn't help, water didn't help, cider didn't help, beer didn't help, Grand Magus helped! Grand Magus played a great and powerful show. They were an awesome three piece and I decided to check out their albums as soon as possible.
Volbeat was another nice surprise. I have been unable to get into their music but today helped a little as the band won me over with their charm. Volbeat were in a great mood and played with much energy. Halfway through the show I wandered off as the songs started blend together.
I caught a bit of Tyketto who sounded excellent, especially the Don't Come Easy songs made an impression. Danny Vaughn had a strong voice and sounded like he enjoyed the show alot.
Seventh Wonder was another great concert but I'm hard pressed to remember any details from the show except that I enjoyed it. Not so with Hammerfall...
I hooked up with Nina for the Hammerfall show and I was not impressed. The synchronized headbanging just didn't cut it. The band lacked stage presence and the fact that Joakim's voice was unfortunately very low in the mix didn't help much either. The band seemed a bit hopeless and their newer songs left a bad impression.
I missed a lot of classics from their first album which was pretty much ignored.
"A total suck-fest" as I later summed up to Nina may have been a bit too harsh but I was very disappointed. I believe it was for the ballad when Joakim asked everyone to hold up their mobile phones. It was about at that point I couldn't take anymore.
Parts of the show were great, especially the few older songs that were played but overall the band came off as kind of hopeless. They really need to pull themselves together.
It was about midnight when I headed for the backstage bar where I had a talk with Joakim from Sabaton who at once recognized the human Manowar jukebox from 2005. I ended up on the Sabaton tour bus for a drink and the Manowar Earthshaker show on TV. It was all clear outside when I got out of the tour bus. My brain was pretty toasted at this point and on the way back I called Tommy back in Denmark and Nina just to sing a bit for them because I thought that was just an excellent idea at 4 in the morning. When I made it back to the camp 2 miles later I looked around for a party in the nearby camps but everything was quiet. Instead I decided to hold my own party in the comfort of my tent where I blasted the new Cage songs as loud as my small speakers could while making the sounds of a surprised cow.
I got some comments on that the next day.
I was still drunk when I woke up a bit past eleven. After another quick but very silly call to Tommy I grabbed a couple of biscuits and made my way down to the backstage bar for the breakfast. I made it to the stage just in time to get pictures of Neal Morse at twelve. This was one of the concerts I had been looking most forward to and in hindsight it is quite annoying that was not in a state to remember the little detail.
One thing was for sure though. Neal Morse played a brilliant concert.
Bassist Pete Trewavas of Marillion and drummer Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater joined the show for, I think it was the Transatlantic songs "We all need some light" and "Stranger in your soul". At one point the band pulled an Iron Maiden with a twist as both Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy and the regular drummer were playing the drumkit at the same time. It was quite a sight and very fun to watch.
At one point Neal called his son on stage and they sang a beautiful duet to "From the cradle to the grave". I remember it sounding absolutely fantastic.
From the latest Neal Morse album we got the title track Lifeline as well as Leviathan. Both came off great live and especially Lifeline was a big experience. After the 16 minute epic Neal acted as if he fell down on the stage from exhaustion but quickly got up again. Leviathan had a strong groove and worked excellent live.
Neal was singing and playing either guitar or keyboard through the show and he handled this is with flair and total control.
The Neal Morse show was an exhibition in musical wonders and it got me in a high state of mind, completely fired up for......
Jon Oliva's Pain
The show Jon Oliva's Pain pulled off was heaven for an old Savatage fan like myself. They played a dream setlist and I was singing along, headbanging and jumping high in the air through the entire show.
From the photo pit I watched through the camera lens as the band blew off the show Savatage-style with City Beneath the Surface and Sirens. It was obvious the band was tight and well played together. Only two Jon Oliva's Pain songs were aired. Eyes of the King and Maniacal Renderings. Both worked well, especially Maniacal Renderings came off much better live compared to the album version. Eyes of the King was a cool pre-taste of what was to come.
A fantastic mix of songs from Gutter Ballet and Streets were next as Jon introduced a song that his brother Criss oliva (R.I.P.) had written back in the day, which they hadn't played live often. That was Of Rage and War which was also dedicated to Criss.
As the opening piano notes of Tonight He Grins Again were played we all roared happily. It is a genius song and it works splendid live. Jon's vocals hold up amazingly. Wow!
The highlights kept coming as first Gutter Ballet and then Hounds were delivered with much enthusiasm. Especially Hounds was an unforgettable experience. Guitarist Matt LaPorte nailed the genius solos to perfection.
Jesus Saves had everyone jumping around down front and Believe had me holding my hands high in the air and looking up at the blue sky through the whole last section of the song. Kinda like The Shawshank Redemption, but the sun was out. It was a very special feeling.
The intro of Power of the night was played and then it changed into Hall of the mountain king which ended a unique and powerful show in every way. I lack words. It was oh my god it was good!
The audience was great throughout the show. I had gotten a good spot near the front where like minded fans were singing along just as loud as me.
One word review: Classic, Two word review: Completely brilliant, Three word review: Oh My God, Four word review: Out of this world, Five....Cut........And now for something completely different!
Jon Oliva's Pain
The show Jon Oliva's Pain pulled off was heaven for an old Savatage fan like myself. They played a dream setlist and......Cut.......Terribly sorry, got carried away a bit.
And now.... The Larch! Sorry! Setlist:
City Beneath The Surface
Through Eyes of The Larch
Of Rage And War
Tonight He Grins Again
Hall Of The Mountain King
After the Oliva show I met some guys who were quite amazed by my 1993 Criss Oliva T-shirt so they got a couple of pictures taken before I moved on to catch Marillion. (Guys: If you read this please email me the pictures. Thanks!)
I was exhausted from the Jon Oliva's Pain show so I had to sit down to catch my breath. Marrilion sounded absolutely excellent too and I enjoyed some of the concert sitting in the grass.
Halfway through the Marillion concert I was getting really cold and I was not exactly feeling in top shape so I decided to head back to my tent for an afternoon nap. The lack of sleep and non-lacking alcohol intake finally got to me and I slept for 4 hours straight before I woke up and much to my dismay discovered that I had missed the Kamelot show. Damn!
Instead I headed down to the stage and walked in on Foreigner in the middle of Dirty White Boy. The band sounded surprisingly excellent. They continued the show with a song from their debut and you can count on me for not remembering the name of that one. I got something to eat and enjoyed the show for a while.
Motörhead were back in Sweden and I caught the first half of their show. They were happily playing louder than last year and they seemed to pull off a rock solid show.
With the rain and coldness I wasn't able to keep my mood up so I decided to head back to my sleeping bag to be ready for the final day which had 8 bands I wanted to see.
The weather in Sweden was really weird this year. Much of the time it was raining and freezing cold and other times when the sun was out it was nice and hot. In the night however it was freezing and there was actual frost on the tents in the camping ground. Brrrr.
The final day had arrived and I wanted to take in as much music as possible as I suddenly realized that the festival was soon over.
I got up early and managed to be very serious for two hours as I headed down to the press tent to write down my memories of the past days. With that done I headed for the camp to hook up with the others.
We arrived at Tim Ripper Owens just as he began singing the Judas Priest classic "The Ripper" which was just splendid. His voice was in pretty good shape and he let out some massive screams in this and the continuing Beyond Fear song which I would guess was called Scream Machine. I was very impressed with his voice. A few Judas Priest songs were also aired, including Burn in Hell and One on One, the latter which came off incredibly heavy.
I was sitting down eating breakfast in the middle part of the show so I didn't get the details as the band suddenly began playing the wrong song and Ripper said "Hey, we already did this one already".
With Criss Caffery on guitar, Dave Ellefson on bass and Simon Wright on drums it was time for an extended band introduction with solos all around.
The Green Manalishi ended a good show
Sabaton sing the Swedish National Anthem followed by explosion
I ran for the Zeppelin stage where it had been announced that Sabaton would be singing the Swedish national anthem. I was secretly hoping that they would have time to play one or two of their own songs as well. As I entered the photo pit I was told to stay back from the stage because of the pyrotechnics that were going to go off before their second song. "Uhh" I thought "If they play Primo Victoria that would be brilliant". The whole hill in front of the stage was packed with people and there was loud chanting of Sabaton everywhere.
Three announcers came on stage and introduced the band and as the Sabaton guys came running onto the stage there was a massive roar from the crowd. The band looked completely overwhelmed with the response and very very happy. The national anthem was sung Sabaton style with much power and gleam in the eye. The three announcers were included in a duet halfway through.
When the song had finished Joakim teased the crowd a bit before a huge explosion went off and the band went into the magnificent Primo Victoria. People in the front rows went completely bananas now. Massive headbanging and jumping ensued all round and I was feeling rather left out in the photo pit. It was quite a sight from there though. The band went with the crowd and blew off completely on stage as everyone ran and jumped around while playing, except the drummer of course. This was a blast!
Next it was a split decision between Stormzone and Impelliteri. I decided to go for the beginning of Stormzone since I was already at the stage and then check out the last part of Impelliteri. I met up with Nina at the front row. Stormzone made a good impression with especially their lead singer showing off his impressive voice. The band plays power metal.
Next to me was this little girl about 8 years old who was totally into the show, jumping up and down with her hand in the air. When the lead singer gave her a sign of appreciation she looked around at her dad, eyes wide with wonder and looking extremely happy before turning around again and jumping even higher. There is a future for heavy metal, no doubt.
Half way through Nina convinced me to head back to the camp for a beer and I missed out on Impelliteri.
After a quick beer and checking out the pictures I had taken it was time to see if Riot would live up to my expectations. The short answer is Yes! Of all their albums I have only listened to Thundersteel which I discovered recently and think is brilliant. The Thundersteel line up recently reunited and amazingly lead singer Tony Moore's voice held up extremely well.
The band opened with a long instrumental before going into Fight or Fall. A song later I was out of the photo pit and I got a good spot in the audience as Tony asked the audience if they had any requests. I was too far away to be heard but amazingly the band heard my thoughts and went into Johnny's Back! They did a superb performance of this song and amazingly Tony's voice managed to hit the high notes.
After the band played Sign of the Crimson Storm they announced that they have a new album on the way and proceeded to play a new song, "Wings are for angels", which sounded finely in tune with the powerful core of the band. After this they announced that they had 17 more new songs. Definitely an album to look out for.
After the band played the title track of Thundersteel they went off the stage and came back for one encore. Great show and definitely a band I have to check out more.
I ran off to get pictures of Journey and that was also worth it. Their AOR was a hit with the crowd and new frontman Arnel Pineda is definitely an energized kick for the band. He ran around juggling the microphone, kicking in the air and edging the crowd on at every chance he got. He also managed to sing extremely well. After taking pictures I stayed and watched most of their show. Separate Ways got a great crowd response and the song worked excellent live. From what I saw I got the impression of a great show.
During the Journey show I headed for the backstage bar for a Jack Daniels and Coke and this really managed to wake me up.
The highlight of the day was Forbidden. With Twisted Into Form being my Forbidden favorite I was soo happy when the played it in live in its entirety!
Standing in the photo pit as the opening chords of "Parting of the ways" began I felt a strong urge to leave the photo pit and head into the crowd for a massive headbanging session. I managed to stay there though and got some pictures as the band played Infinite, Out of Body and Step By Step. It was fantastic to hear these songs live. The band played with much power and their lead singer held up well.
I headed into the crowd as the band began playing Twisted Into Form title track. On the far right side of the stage I found a headbanging Nina and we proceeded to sing and party along for the rest of the show. R.I.P., Tossed Away and One foot in Hell were all highlights. Chalice of Blood ended a brilliant show and I was now in the mood for a party.
Right after Forbidden the highly expected Dream Theater was about to play the main stage so I once again ran for the photo pit.
Metropolis Part 1 opened an instrumental intro where themes from many major DT songs featured.
The band opened with, but certainly not In The Presence of Enemies, a song which I faintly recognized, followed by the brilliant Beyond this life. This was the first show on their European Tour and already the band was tight and seemed in great shape. James Labrie's voice held up very well through the show.
James Labrie announced their new album and from that one they played A Rite of Passage which sounded highly promising. I was out of the photo pit and found a good spot in the crowd when this song had finished.
Hollow Years followed. It's never been my favorite DT ballad but there was something about it today and it finally struck me how brilliant the song is. The band had extended the song with several passages in the bridge section leading to the chorus and the song grew and became complete with this. John Petrucci played a completely fantastic guitar solo for this song, filled with emotion.
Caught in a Web was next and much headbanging ensued. I had found a couple of guys to sing along with so everything became even more enjoyable.
The perfect combination of Erotomania and Voices was another highlight along with Solitary Shell. If only they had followed it by Losing Time and I would have been in heaven again. Weirdly an acoustic guitar appeared in the solo section of Solitary Shell which seemed odd.
The technical skill was very high but the band also had fun. At one point Jordan even pulled out his iPhone, hooked it up and proceeded to play a keyboard solo on the actual phone! Amazingly it sounded pretty tight.
The band finished off a great concert with Metropolis Part 1 and that was a perfect ending.
In The Presence of Enemies Pt. 1
Beyond This Life
A Rite of Passage
Caught In A Web
Metropolis Part 1
The last bands of the night I saw were Europe and Heaven and Hell. Europe were in excellent shape and played a great concert.
Heaven and Hell were good as well but didn't manage to hold my attention for more than half their show. The coldness finally got to me and I headed to the backstage bar to say a final farewell.
It was a tough trip back to Denmark but I would do it all again, no doubt in my mind. Sweden Rock Festival has always been a great experience and this year was no different.
|Click pictures for a bigger version
En route for Sweden
Having a beer and a hiccup
Jon Oliva's Pain
Jon Oliva's Pain
Jon Oliva's Pain
A mental Savatage fan
Jon Oliva's Pain
Jon Oliva's Pain
Heaven And Hell
Heaven And Hell
Heaven And Hell
All pictures taken by Steen
Written By Steen
Online: Friday, June 12, 2009
Updated: Saturday, December 12, 2014 - Added the old article to the site
Saturday, June 20, 2009 - Alanna
Another awesome festival report!! I love your concert reports (as always) and REALLY appreciated the Europe pictures. Joey Tempest is incredibly hot! Did they play anything from Wings of Tomorrow? I loved the bit about Jordan (DT) playing the bit on his iphone. That's just awesome. Another great report, thanks for sharing!
Saturday, June 20, 2009 - Brian
Couldn't agree more. Great review of the gig/s. Great photos . . . worth the admission price on their own (there's a lot of fat guys in metal bands). Interesting, humorous, thoughtful. Nice one Steen.
Sunday, June 21, 2009 - Nina
Hey Steen! Like the others said, great report, very entertaining and captivating! Hopefully I'll have mine up in a few days as well. Alanna: Europe only played Scream of Anger from the Wings...album. Ohh, and totally agree on Joey Tempest, hehe!
Monday, June 22, 2009 - Steen
Thanks! It sure was a great time.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - Alanna
Thanks for the Europe info Nina! Always loved Scream of Anger but man... no Stormwind? :D Looking forward to your festival article too. More Tempest pictures!? Hothothot. *grin*
Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - Stuart
Still a bit gutted I missed Europe but I got a grim, frostbitten Immortal performance to make up for it. Plus I get to see Europe at Bloodstock in August so its not all bad news! My report should be finished soon too, as usual its a bit of a beast so it's a case of cutting it down a little. I think the 3 pages I wrote on the mighty Thor might be a little excessive :)