RUNNING WILD Live at Sweden Rock Festival 2017 (Spotlight Review)

Running Wild Sweden Rock 2017One of the reasons for me traveling to Sweden Rock Festival another year in 2017 is that this would be the first time I would see my old childhood heroes Running Wild play live. This is only the second or third time these German pirates play my native country. That is during a career that has spanned almost 40 years and the visits have been few and far between. In recent decades the band rarely leaves Germany to play live or at least the central European continent. Gigs are overall rare and only select festivals are graced with the Running Wild name in the lineup. So this will provide unique opportunity to catch one of the classic European power metal bands live. Along with Helloween, they set the world on fire in the mid to late 1980s. I am, of course, aware of that Running Wild hardly can be called a band effort anymore and that the captain of the pirate ship “Rock n’ Rolf” (a.k.a. Rolf Kasparek) is the central figure and he is in many ways the band. When the band slowly turned into really a solo project the albums also lost some of their shine and genius. By his side, he currently has guitarist Peter Jordan who also is a writing partner.

Although I don’t think any release on this side of the turn of the century can measure up to the classic releases of albums like Port Royal (1987), Death or Glory (1989), Pile of Skulls (1992) or Black Hand Inn (1994) of the late 80s and the first part of the 1990s. I consider that being the best period in the band’s prolific history. Still, this is the anticipated highlight of the whole festival in my mind! – headliners counted. After a terrible Scorpions gig, it’s time to get our asses kicked.  So on this warm Friday in June there is a large crowd that has gathered in front of the Rock Stage just waiting for the Scorpions to finish on the Festival Stage on the opposite side. On the stage, there is a wall of amps full of “Adrian” with his skull and bones. It’s the band’s classic logo and I try to force my way as close as I can to the stage.

Rock n’ Rolf sailing his pirate ship at Sweden Rock Festival. Photo by Mikael Svensson

When the intro of “Chamber of Lies” (Pile of skulls) start playing you can almost touch the anticipation in the air. Rock n’ Rolf rushes onto the stage with his signature Pirate clothes on and the bandana is steadily in place when the riffs of “Fistful of Dynamite” sound out the alarm. The pirates are here and they are ready for boarding. This song from Pile of Skulls is a surprise opener to me and the fire starts pouring out from the stage in huge flames. Luckily they haven’t saved money on the smoke and fire!  Rock n’ Rolf seems to be in a great mood and it sounds well rehearsed and the sound quality is really good. Due to the band’s rare live appearances, this is nothing to take for granted during these twilight times of the band. Things start really heating up with the surprise sophomore song “Bad to the Bone” from Death or Glory. Then it’s time for a string of newer songs which makes the choice of songs for this festival rather questionable and debatable. Songs like “Rapid Foray”, “Locomotive”, “By the Blood in Your Heart” and “Warmongers” are later compositions which in no way stand up to the glorious past. Added to the trouble when the Rapid Foray (2017) song “Stick to Your Guns” are being chosen as the first encore. Five songs from the later albums in a rather short set is at least one or two too many. It can really be discussed in what way these songs have a right to a place in the setlist compared to classic songs like “Port Royal”, “Battle of Waterloo”, “Tortuga Bay” or “Billy the Kid”. The crowd around me screams for “Prisoners of our Time” which of course should have been played. The classic track “Riding the Storm” is played in a shortened version with the cool heavy parts being omitted.

On a positive note is Rock n’ Rolf‘s voice that sounds familiar and in great shape. It is only in the classic cut “Running Blood” (from Death or Glory) is it evident that the voice-range has lost some of its widths and he struggles to hit the higher notes. A very long and sort of unnecessary drum solo takes the pace out of the gig just as it is gaining momentum midway through. Michael Wolpers is a great drummer but he doesn’t need a drum solo to prove that. It only slows things down and takes a while to get back into the gig. They close the gig with an excellent version of “Conquistadores” from Port Royal. My fist is in the air shouting the infectious gang vocals on the chorus. This is what has made all the wait all worthwhile.

In summary, Running Wild has another day at the office with a couple of highlights. Those being especially “Bad to the Bone”, “Running Blood”, “Under Jolly Roger” and the concluding “Conquistadores”. The band seems motivated, enjoying themselves and a tight-knit unit despite rarely performing live. The biggest disappointments is the setlist which leaves out too many of the classic songs, a long and rather boring drum solo and the cut off version of “Riding the Storm”. Some kind of punishment should be administrated for bad song choice. Maybe “Hung, drawn and Quartered” or even better;  a keelhaul?

I can rest easy now that I can cross of the band from my bucket list and I admit my expectations were high.

Mikael Svensson 

e-mail: [email protected]

Running Wild setlist at Sweden Rock Festival 2017:

  1. Fistful of Dynamite
  2. Bad to the Bone
  3. Rapid Foray
  4. Soulless
  5. Riding the Storm
  6. Lead or Gold
  7. Drum Solo
  8. By the Blood in Your Heart
  9. Locomotive
  10. Warmongers
  11. Running Blood
  12. Under Jolly Roger

    Encore:

  13. Stick to Your Guns

    Encore 2:

  14. Conquistadores

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Decibel Geek‘s Rapid Foray (Album Review)

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