Rock Stage, Sweden Rock Festival, Saturday June 6th
Riot was a band that I listened to continuously throughout the 1990´s having missed out on them in the 1980´s. Nightbreaker (1994) was the album that got me into the band and after that I discovered the 80´s “power metal” albums which led me to the start in 1977 and the Guy Speranza (RIP) fronted version of the band. Guy sadly passed away in 2003. They played Sweden Rock Festival in 2009 but unfortunately I was not attending that year. That was also an almost completely different band and featured the late and great band leader Mark Reale. Remaining from that line up is long-time guitarist Mike Flyntz and bass player Don Van Stavern (also the bass player on the two classic 80´s album that dominate the setlist). It´s a pity I never got to see them with Mark (RIP) in the band. Riot have been given a place on the second biggest stage, the Rock Stage, and play in the early afternoon. The new album released under the moniker Riot V (Japan only Riot) was a mandatory buy and I really enjoy that new disc which I think carries the Riot tradition, style and sound with respect. So when I place myself in front of the stage it is with great expectations and anticipation.
The band has a virtual treasure chest to choose songs from. Riot enter the stage to the sound of “Narita” which I think is an odd track to start off with being an instrumental track and all that. “Narita” would in my opinion probably have fitted better later in the setlist. This song leads into the new song “Metal Warrior” and Todd Michael Hall finally makes his entrance on stage and right away you get really impressed by his vocals. Hall seems to hit all the high notes perfectly and that is no easy task! The major part of the setlist is taken from the two 80´s power metal albums Thundersteel (1988) and The Privilege of Power (1990) and of course the new album Unleash The Fire (2014). “Metal Warrior” is a relevant pick from the new album being a fast track with a great chorus. They then fire off what might be my favourite track of all times with the third song in the setlist. “Sign Of The Crimson Storm” is a heavier track with a fantastic groove and a melody and chorus that gives you goosebumps. Todd Michael Hall nails all the vocals and even the high pitched screams that come with this song in it´s original form. Very impressing indeed! The fist moves up in the air automatically and your feet start stomping right away.
After this song that slowed the tempo down a little bit, we are back on the fast track with “Black Leather and Glittering Steel” off The Privilege of Power again. The sound is really good for being one of the bigger stages and not being too crowded you are actually able to get really close to the stage without fighting your way forward. Flyntz and newcomer Nick Lee trade solos and riffs like they have never done anything else. The bottom is made up of the grooving bass from Don Van Stavern and veteran drummer Frank Gilchriest (Virgin Steele). We move back to Thundersteel again for “Johnny´s Back” which sounds excellent and another great vocal performance by Hall. After that, Todd Michael Hall explains why the band is called Riot V which is a reference to him being the 5th singer in the band and of course that Mark Reale is no longer with them. Later on in the show he brings out Mark‘s guitar case (just before they do “Swords & Tequila”) and explain that they are here to honour his memory. A nice little gesture to a great man and musician. When you look back, being a singer in Riot does not mean you will be successful and live long and happily ever after as two of the five singers are no longer with us (Rhett Forrester and Guy Speranza, RIP).
Todd Michael Hall then explains that they are going to do a song by the Mike DiMeo fronted version of the band from the 1990´s. According to Hall, DiMeo did a great deal of good singing for Riot and the band plunge head on into “Angel Eyes” from Inishmore (1998). This is a really great track and the band really do it justice with their version of the song. It´s great that the band revisits their 1990´s – kudos! There are a lot of great tracks on the 1990´s albums as well that are not played too often. After that little detour to the 1990´s it is straight back to the late 1980´s once again and the Thundersteel album for one of the standout tracks. “Bloodstreets” blasts out of the speakers and by now I have surrendered since long ago and bang my head with fist high in the air. Time to take the time machine forward to 2015 and “Take Me Back” from the new album Unleash The Fire and the band really seem to enjoy themselves playing this song. They put the pedal to the metal again and belt out “Flight Of The Warrior” in furious metal attack while they are at it. After that song we travel way back in time to the 1970´s and we are treated with “Road Racin´” from the second album Narita (1979). By this time we are all waiting for when they are going to play “Thundersteel” or “Warrior”, being classic songs, they cannot leave the stage without playing. The answer you get right away as they plunge into “Warrior” as soon as “Road Racin´” finishes. Todd Michael Hall then brings out the Mark Reale guitar case which seems to travel around the world with the band. He says Mark‘s 60th birthday would have been tomorrow and gives him a shot of tequila pouring it on the case in celebration of that birthday. He also want´s the crowd to sing along so Mark can hear it up in heaven. Of course we answer this call and shout our lungs out. Time for “Swords & Tequila”, the classic cut from Fire Down Under (1981).
Don Van Stavern then explains they have time for one more and immediately they start playing “Thundersteel” and the crowd goes nuts. Hall throws his garnet and Flyntz fires off a blistering guitar solo. A great way to finish a fantastic gig. My high expectations are exceeded and this was a true classic performance from a tight band made up of talented musicians. They leave the Rhett Forrester era completely untouched and I cannot help wondering what it would have sounded like to get classic cuts like “Running From The Law” or “Where Soldiers Rule”. Still there is, of course, a limited time and choices had to be made. This was a truly great performance. Rating 8.5/10 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