Following yet another stormy night, we prepared ourselves for the last day of the Rock on the Range music festival. Forecasters had predicted all week that this would be the day with the highest chance of storms sticking around all day. After all the frustrating weather delays we had already endured, we crossed our fingers and said a little prayer for good weather as we headed to Mapfre Stadium. This was the day that had been hotly anticipated by most festival-goers as it was the day when Metallica would close out the entire event. Looking around as we walked the grounds, Metallica gear could be seen on a high percentage of the crowd. As excited as I was for this grand finale, I also had a few other bands I was anxious to see.
Although this band had been at other festivals I had attended over the past few years, I somehow had overlooked them. After I had the opportunity to do a review on their most recent album, ROCKISDEAD, for the Decibel Geek website (check out that review here ), I could not wait for our paths to cross again. We made our way over to the Zippo Stage and claimed a good spot where we could watch the show. Since their set time was early in the day and many people had not yet made their way to the stadium, the audience wasn’t as large as it might have been later in the day. That’s a shame because Dorothy put on a terrific show. The band sounded tight but everyone knows the real attraction is the vocalist herself, Dorothy Martin. She strutted onto the stage wearing her signature red lipstick and ready to rock. The band began their eight song performance with the raucous “Kiss It”. Between songs, Martin told stories and conversed with the audience quite comfortably. She encouraged people to work hard because their dreams are within reach. Her bluesy, husky vocals were on point and accentuated by the talented musicians in the group. Toward the end of the show, Martin requested a moment silence for Chris Cornell – a man she stated had a profound influence on her music since she was 16. “Pass his music on to your children. Pass rock music on to your children. Let’s keep this fucking music alive!” she exclaimed before “Whiskey Fever” finished their show. I am so glad I made time to finally see them play. It was a great, fun show. I will definitely catch them again whenever I can and look forward to new music from them in the future!
Rival Sons opened the Monster Main Stage for day three. Their bluesy hard rock sound hearkens back to the earliest days of this genre. The first time I had seen them perform at Rock on the Range was in 2015 when they were on the second stage. I was curious to see if there had been any changes or growth in their show since then. For the most part, the performance went smoothly with just a couple of clunky pauses. Singer Jay Buchanan is not what I would call a dynamic frontman, but that voice is phenomenal. It seems he has made some progress in his stage presence since last I saw them live. At that time, he said nothing at all between songs and hardly moved. This year, he did engage in a bit of awkward stage patter and did allow his passion for the music to be seen as they moved through their set. The rest of the band sounded terrific as well. It was good to see that the band continues to evolve and grow as they become more comfortable. I enjoyed this performance much more than the previous and expect they will continue on an upward projection as long as they are able to produce such excellent music.
I am mostly unfamiliar with this band but have friends who love them, so we decided to have a seat in the stands just to see why Nothing More is garnering so much buzz in the festival scene. Vocalist Jonny Hawkins has a commanding stage presence with tons of energy. As I did a bit of research on the band, I found that they are well known for creating unique musical instruments to play on stage. That bit of knowledge better helped me to understand the weird turn in the show when Hawkins climbed atop what appeared to be a drum kit and uses some sort of synthesizer with a lever for a prolonged solo. The large crowd ate it up and I found it quite entertaining as well. The creativity added an element that set them apart from most of the other bands performing this weekend. I’m still not sure if their music is for me, but they sounded really good and the show was a lot of fun. They have a new album set to drop in September so I might have to check that out.
BUY: Nothing More
At festivals, I never pass up an opportunity to see Zakk Wylde in whatever project he is doing at that time. And to hear him do the classics of Black Sabbath? Total no-brainer. For the most part, the promoters have a pretty good sense of what bands should be on which stage but I think they got this one completely wrong. The area surrounding the Zippo Stage was overflowing. We were positioned in an area where we can in general have a good view of the act on stage, but everyone was jammed so tightly in the space that all I saw of Wylde was his blonde hair. My view was for the most part that of the back of the head of several men in front of me. The whole area was packed back into the vendor’s tents on that side of the stadium. I don’t know if this flood of humanity had anything to do with it or if it was a technical issue, but the audio was just awful for the show. The actual performance, as best I could tell, can be summed up this way: Zakk sings like Zakk sings (which can be considered a plus or minus, depending on your personal taste), but Zakk plays guitar like only Zakk can.
BUY: Live in Detroit (vinyl only)
THE PRETTY RECKLESS
Although I am not a huge fan of this band, their popularity continues to grow so I thought I would give them a listen to see how their show had changed since the last time I saw them at this festival about three years ago. It hadn’t – not even a little. Vocalist Taylor Momsen even wore the exact same outfit as the last time I saw her. There were a few new songs from their latest album but, otherwise, it was the same. I found the performance to be low energy with lots of unnecessary canoodling and delays between songs. I understand that my opinion is in the minority here as a huge crowd filled the stadium to see the band. We left after a couple of songs. I just wasn’t feeling their particular pop-ish hard rock that day, although most seemed to love it. I saw that they ended their set with a tribute to Chris Cornell by performing a cover of Audioslave‘s “Like A Stone”. Many proclaimed it to be a touching moment. Perhaps exhaustion and the heat were making me grouchy, because I did not have the patience to wait through all the pauses between songs. It could be another story on a different day.
Buy: Who You Selling For
I’m late to the party on Volbeat but learning more about them daily. You have to admit that singer Michael Poulsen‘s unusual vocals take some getting used to. Their show started just a few minutes early which made me wonder if the promoters were once again concerned about the weather. Even though I did not know many of their songs, the performance was well done and entertaining. The musicianship was great and the crowd interaction was terrific. We were all having a good time and were able to forget about the weather until Volbeat‘s set was interrupted due to the threat of lightning. We were not evacuated but we were told the show had been paused until the lightning threat was over then the band would come out to do their encore and Metallica would still play their full show. So, we waited. Those in the stadium seats began to entertain themselves with a wave that went all the way around the stadium several times. The crowd began to grow increasingly restless as we waited with no idea how long the delay would be. We felt the first few drops of rain and once more retreated to the concourse beneath the bleachers. We were not told that it was mandatory to leave the interior of the stadium so many people popped on rain ponchos and prepared to hunker down for the storm. We stayed somewhat dry on the concourse as we discussed the situation with others as we waited it out. One man told us his buddy had made it to the rail for Metallica and would drown before he gave up that position. We later learned that the large amount of people who remained on the field during the storm had connected all their ponchos together to form a sort of tent city in an attempt to keep each other as dry as possible. If there was lightning associated with this storm cell, I wondered why the promoters did not force everyone in the metal bleachers to move somewhere safer. I had a growing fear of what might happen if Metallica were unable to play. People were grumpy and restless after enduring many such delays all weekend. Finally, after an hour and twenty minutes, we were given the word that the show would go on as planned. Volbeat finished strong with their final two songs and we were assured again that Metallica would play their full set in spite of the delay.
After all the weather delays, it was finally time for the act everyone wanted to see. And Metallica did not disappoint with a show full of videos, fire and pyrotechnics. The set list was well balanced with songs from all across their discography. The foundation of their career is based on their live shows so they know how to captivate an audience. For me, the theatrics culminated with “One” where the sounds of war were accompanied by visual representations of mortar fire. Immediately prior to the song, evacuation notices went up throughout the scoreboards throughout the stadium. Considering the weekend we’d been through, I momentarily worried they were putting the show on pause once more. Luckily, the band launched into the song and I forgot all about that notion. The crowd threw themselves into the songs without reservation, channeling all our frustration into the music. Metallica sounded fantastic and the show was tremendous. As we headed into the three song encore, we began to feel rain drops. No way am I leaving this field until the show is over! We moved a bit further back to watch from under an overhang that provided a bit of protection. Following a 2 hour and 15 minute performance, the sky lit up with fireworks for several minutes in defiance of the Mother Nature we had battled all weekend. To see this close to the festival made everything else totally worthwhile. Metallica rarely tours in my area of the United States so they had been on my bucket list for quite some time. I’m so pleased that I was able to cross them off that list at my favorite festival. Lars Ulrich asked the crowd how this festival had been in existence for 11 years and they were just now performing there. He vowed they would not wait another 11 years to return. Now, how do I see them again in the meantime?
As the rain fell in earnest, we made our way back to our vehicle, tired but satisfied. Due to weather and some traffic issues, it took us awhile to get back to our hotel. Time to get some shut eye before we made the journey back to the real world. Until next time, Rock on the Range, until next time….