Rock Stage, Sweden Rock Festival, Friday June 5th.
Dokken has been one of those bands that were on my bucket list – a band you really need to see. Sadly they hardly play on the European continent but this was an opportunity not to be missed. I can´t believe The Meister chose to finish his beer instead of heading out with me to the rock stage in time, but I guess he has just seen the gig at M3 so I can understand it. Having read all the shit Don has gotten thrown at him for his voice and not singing like he used to, my expectations were not up in the blue. With only “Wild” Mick Brown remaining from the line-up that tore my boy´s room upside down with those nasty guitar licks and extraordinary vocals I really did not know what to think of the up and coming Dokken show. I know Don many times had said Jon Levin is a better guitarist than George Lynch but it is still down to the songs – it´s all about the songs in fact. And the songs have not been as good lately as they were in the 1980´s. Personally I got into Dokken when they released Back For The Attack in 1987 and that album made me discover all the great previous ones. That album, however, has remained my favourite CD all way through and still, I know many fans hold Under Lock and Key as their best. I lost track of Dokken when I bought their comeback album Dysfunctional which I found too grungy and trying to adjust to current trends and things got even worse with the horrible Shadowlife in 1997. With fellow countryman John Norum (Europe) back with Dokken (he played on Don´s solo album from 1991) things got a little better again and every CD is a must buy of course. What makes this gig even more interesting is the recent announcement that the great Mark Boals will be playing bass with Dokken. Mark is an excellent lead vocalist in his own right playing with artists like Yngwie Malmsteen, Royal Hunt and Ring of Fire besides releasing his own solo albums. Still a bit of waste of resources having such a prominent lead singer playing only bass guitar.
Anyway, Dokken entered the stage with “Kiss of Death” which is an excellent opening track and I think Don sings really well. He has taken the vocals down an octave or two but it still sounds good and you can clearly hear it´s Don‘s voice. They´ve decided to focus on the 80´s albums which I find to be an absolutely perfect decision. They belt out 12 classic cuts from the four albums that put them where they are today. Things get even better as they continue with “The Hunter” off Under Lock and Key and the audience gives a big welcome and a great response when they finish the song. Before they continue Don says it´s been too long since they visited Sweden, maybe 4-5 years and it wasn´t more than in place that they play this year. He says they are now going to do a song they haven´t done in a long time (which is not true according to The Meister because they played it at M3) but it is a song I had only faint hopes they would play. I will upgrade the rating of this gig by one notch solely based on playing this particular song. We are talking about one of my favourite Dokken songs of all time and the movie soundtrack to Nightmare on Elm street III; “Dream Warriors”. It gets me in the right mood and the fist is in the air again. I think Don´s vocals works perfectly fine on this cut. Well, time to take the time machine back to 1982 and the title track of the Breaking the Chains album and the crowd seems to really enjoy this song as the people around me shout along to the chorus.
When they finish it is time to slow things down again with Dokken‘s biggest commercial “hit single” “Alone Again”. It´s quite early in the afternoon so lighters and phones are of no use unfortunately. Still, a great pick and it adds variation to the mix and blends perfectly with the rest of the material – did you read that Meister? ( also known as “ballad hater”). Don then announces the first and only 90´s song which has got a great riff according to Don. “Too High to Fly” (off Dysfunctional) starts off and it drifts into what seems to be and endless guitar solo by Levin. I lose focus for a while and start meddling with my phone to write down the setlist and check when the next band will be on.
When the song finally finishes Don says it´s time to head all the way back in time to 1981 before Dokken even became Dokken and they kick off the classic cut “Paris is Burning”. This song is very rare to get a hold of in it´s original studio version. I was really disappointed that Rock Candy Records did not put the 7″ single with “Paris is Burning” b/w “We´re Illegal” on their recent remasters. That would have made me buy ém but as it now is there is no bonus audio material on the reissue of Breaking the Chains whatsoever. Anyway – this fast paced song gets the crowd on their feet again and Don seems to genuinely enjoy playing in front of this capacity crowd. We then turn our attention to the Tooth and Nail album for “Just Got Lucky” and by now I´m all back into the headbanging and the fist is in the air again. To me, it sounds really good and the flaws everybody has been talking about are not present. So why not stay with this album a little longer – “Into the Fire” is up next and it keeps the crowd on their feet and works well.
Time again to slow things down just a little for “In My Dreams” and as they finish this song Don says they have time for one more and asks if the crowd wants a fast or a slow song. The answer is, of course, a fast one and they belt out the fast paced rocker “Tooth and Nail”. I leave the rock stage with the very strong impression that this exceeded my expectations. The setlist was much better than I could ever have hoped for (let alone that I would have loved a couple of more songs off Back For the Attack like “Will the Sun Rise?“) but hey, you can’t get everything you want! My friends had told me Don can be a bit grumpy and never does signing sessions for an example. On this day he was excused and I would glady see Dokken again. I hope it doesn´t take another five years for them to return. Rating 7/10 geeks.
You can find all of Decibel Geek‘s coverage of the Sweden Rock Festival 2015 by both The Lionsheart & The Meister here: Sweden Rock 2015