With all that late night gigs it was a bit hard to get up around 9 am in the morning to get a shower and head over to the breakfast at the hotel in time. I started the day at Rockweekend AOR by having a coffee with a friend at a coffee shop in the nearby mall. It was great talking about old gigs and favorite bands over a cup of coffee and that brought my life spirits back! We head back to the hotel to see if we can catch Ted Poley for a chat and to get a few CD booklets signed but he is nowhere to be found. Time flies and it is soon time for me to head back to the Rockweekend Festival area to see the two acoustic shows that are for Rockweekend VIP´s and Press kit holders only. I enter the arena right on time for Ted Poley to take the stage backed by the guys in Swedish hard rockers Dynazty. There are about 50-100 VIP’s and press people assembled and enough to make the mood rise and allow some crowd singing. Ted seems to be in a great mood and plays a very short best of Danger Danger set. He starts off informing us he will have a solo CD coming out in May and jokingly says he will play a couple of songs off that album right now. The acoustic set starts off with “Shot of Love” and we get classic songs like “Turn it Up”, “Bang bang”, “Monkey Business” and the acoustic set ends with “Walk Away”. Ted also takes his time, as he always does, walking around the audience singing. It is a perfect chance to get a selfie with Ted while singing “Bang Bang“.
After this short acoustic set it is time for Swedish veteran AOR-sters Alien to play their acoustic set. This is the all original line-up from the now cult classic debut album released in 1988. They start off with “Go Easy” and singer Jim Jidhed seems to be in an extremely good mood and his voice is in great shape. He puts on one of the best vocal performances of the entire festival. They continue with another cut from the debut album called “I´ve Been Waiting” before they throw themselves into more recent material from their excellent comeback album Eternity released last year. “In Truth” is a great pick and they move on with “What Goes Up”. The last song of this short acoustic set can be no other than the classic cover of “Only One Woman” by The Marbles. “Acoustic” is not entirely true as guitarist Tony Borg is sporting his electric guitar and the acoustic guitar parts are being played by lead vocalist Jim Jidhed. After Alien finish, I team up with Kaj and Magnus again and we decide to get something to eat. One of the big downsides of the festival is that you had to pay $4 every time you leave your jacket in the wardrobe so I head out in the snowstorm sporting only a t-shirt and jeans. Fortunately, it is not far to the mall and soon we find a good restaurant where we have a couple of beers and a homemade burger. The food is excellent and we have a long chat about the possibility of Swedish sleaze band Swedish Erotica ever reuniting and playing a reunion concert. It seems my friends from Gothenburg live close to one of the band members in it that band. Things do not look good but you never stop hoping for miracles to happen, do you?
A fast walk back through the blistering snow takes us back to the arena just in time to catch the last couple of songs by Swedish hard rockers Grand Design. I am not familiar with the band in detail and only know they have got Sweden Rock Magazine staff writer and classic guitar slinger Janne Stark on guitar. The two songs I catch sound really fresh and heavy so I have to check them out a little closer in the future. Stylewise they remind me a lot of Def Leppard. Now it is time for Coastland Ride which is a completely unknown act to me. When Johan Nylén introduces the band I am informed they have been a “studio band” for almost 20 years and this is their first ever live show. Wow! That took a little time, to say the least. Coastland Ride plays typical Scandi-AOR. At first, I am very annoyed with Markus Nordenberg‘s vocals and he seems very strained when singing the first couple of songs. He is really struggling to hit the high notes early on. Things get better the longer the set lasts and I find them to be a nice acquaintance. I catch song titles like “Second Chance”, “Made Up My Mind”, “Hearts to the Flame”. The heaviest and easily best track is the closer “Nail Me to the Cross” that lets loose the headbanging devil in me.
It is time to catch my breath before Alien enters the Rockweekend stage for the second time to play their regular set and head off to the bar for a beer. I notice that there will be signing sessions that I did not know of! Great that I brought a lot of CD booklets then! I am in particular happy to see that there will be a Ted Poley signing session because getting any Danger Danger CD signed has eluded me on several occasions. What I do not know is that it will do so again on this evening…
Alien enter the stage and kick things off with “In Love We Trust” from their latest outing Eternity. Things heat up a little bit when they continue with “Brave New Love” off their debut album. They continue to switch songs between the debut album and the newest entry leaving all other material aside. That is too bad because especially the second album Shiftin’ Gear holds a real treasure of great songs. Still it is understandable as Jim does not sing on that album. From the debut album, we get great songs like “Go Easy”, “Touch My Fire”, “Dying By the Golden Rule” and the classic “Tears Don´t Put Out the Fire”. It has not been long since I saw Alien rock Firefest in Nottingham and they keep a very high profile and play a tight set on this evening as well. Eternity is represented by songs like “Summer of Love”, “What Goes Up” and “Wildheart”. Again they end the set with their biggest hit single and power ballad “Only One Woman”. Alien may be veterans of the scene but they sure know how to put on a great performance and especially lead vocalist Jim Jidhed impresses with his fantastic voice that does no seem to have grown old one little bit.
Alien finish their set on a high note and now it is time for one of the most anticipated gigs this year. I am talking about the reunion gig by Swedish melodic hard rockers Snakes In Paradise. These guys ruled the Stockholm club scene through the 1990´s and put out three great albums in that decade when flannel and shoegazers ruled the airwaves. This didn´t stop these guys who kept true to their melodic hard rock roots. Lead vocalist Stefan Berggren (Razorback, Berggren/Kerslake Band) possesses one of Sweden’s most powerful voices and this would mark their first gig since 1999. Before they enter the stage, however, I head off to the merch table to say hello to the Alien guys and also to get my CD´s signed by all members of the band. They are really friendly guys and it is a great thing from the organisers of the festival to arrange signing sessions “Firefest style!”. Unfortunately, the sessions will crash land a bit but more on that later.
Snakes in Paradise enter the Rockweekend stage and start up the set with “Seventh Wonder” from the second album Garden of Eden. They head all the way back to the debut album for song number two which is “The Night Goes On”. The Snakes play a very solid set picking the best songs from primarily the first two albums but the third album Dangerous Love is left untouched. They continue with “Don´t Let Your Love Turn to Hate” which is followed by “Voice Inside”. They look a little older, have significantly less hair but they are still a tight rock n’ roll unit. From their first outing, they also play “Rather Stand the Rain”, “Take Me to the River” and “Deep in Your Heart“. Stefan says that in the mid-1990´s they headed off to Greece to play as a bar band instead of releasing a new single and working their ass off trying to make it. Still, there were a lot of girls and booze in Greece so they had a lot of fun. He announces they will do their first single “Love Got Wings” for the first time in a live setting and the crowd response to the song is great. A couple more tunes from the second album Garden of Eden are played as well including “Vagabond” and “Gypsy in Your Blood“. Stefan‘s voice is in great shape and the guitar players Tomas Jakobsson and Stefan Jonsson trade solos like they´ve done nothing but just that. It is hard to imagine it is 17 years since they played live together. When they finish I am quite sure this was the best experience of the whole Rockweekend AOR Festival but I will be proven wrong on that point.
After another short break during which the guys from FM arrive at the signings sessions at the merch table. I am, of course, ready with my CD booklets. I talk a little bit to Steve Overland when I put forward the second Wild Life album (pre-FM) from 1983 and he says “This was a long time ago!” I am very curious to know if the first Wild Life album will ever be out on CD to which he just plainly responds that he does not know and that Chrysalis Records own the right for that one. I also stop a little longer at keyboard player Jem Davies to get the second Tobruk album Pleasure + Pain signed. Jem points out that two of the members of that classic band (including lead vocalist Stuart “Snake” Neil, RIP) are no longer with us, unfortunately. While I am getting my CDs signed, the Rockweekend All Stars (RWAS) start a 75 minute set of covers, special guests, and obscure songs. The Rockweekend All Stars are made up by the rhythm section from Degreed with drummer Mats Ericsson and bass player/lead vocalist Robin Ericsson. On guitar, we have Eclipse´s own Magnus Henriksson. They change lead vocalists all the time. They start off with Dynazty shouter Nils Molin singing the classic Talisman track “I´ll be Waiting”. Nils shows what a great singer he is on “Out in the Fields” and the surprising cover of the old John Farnham hit “You are the Voice”. They welcome Alien singer Jim Jidhed onstage and they play two songs off his solo albums. Another surprise is Michele Luppi of Whitesnake who enters the stage and belts out a great version of the classic Whitesnake track “Still of the Night”. I did not think he possessed such a great voice! Another prominent guest is Alessandro Del Vecchio where he shows he can sing as well performing the Hardline track “Fever Dreams” from the latest Hardline album. It was a nice gig by this all-star band but the guy who stole the show was Dynazty shouter Nils Molin coupled with the fantastic version of “Still of the Night” sung by Michele Luppi.
After the Rockweekend All Stars gig, there was supposed to be a signing session by Snakes in Paradise. I was there in time and there was another guy from Germany also waiting but there is no band there. No info is given and after about ten minutes of dull waiting, I spot guitarist Thomas Jakobsson coming out from the toilettes. I ask him if there is going to be a signing session and he says “I hope so” and leaves. After a while drummer Peter Peterson turns up and he turns out to be a really friendly guy and helpful. He drags out three more guys from the band and they start signing the posters on sale and the CD´s brought by visitors. Unfortunately, there is no sign of Stefan Berggren or keyboard player Thomas Jansson, A bit of a disappointment that the band does not turn up for the announced signing session and no explanation is given why there is no signing session. It is the same with Ted Poley‘s announced signing session – it just doesn´t happen and no explanation is given. Signing sessions are really great and gives the fan a chance to say hello to their heroes and also to get stuff signed but they need to be better organised for a second festival. A bit angry I start listening to the Ted Poley show from a far where he starts off with more obscure Danger Danger songs like “Horny Son of a Bitch” and “Monkey Business”. He plays all the acoustic songs previously played and of course, all the hits like “Bang Bang”, “Nasty Nasty” and during “Walk Away“ he takes his compulsory walk around in the crowd. Ted is a great singer and he knows how to get the crowd on their feet. Still, it is not the same when the other guys are not here and I can´t shake the feeling of a cover band with the original singer.
British AOR veterans FM will close the Rockweekend festival and by the time they enter the stage my feet hurt like hell and take away some of the pleasure of seeing this great gig. The crowd is slowly becoming smaller but that does not seem to bother these British gentlemen. This is easily the best set I have ever seen them play – and that is the classic Firefest gigs taken into account. With a setlist containing the complete Indiscreet album (unfortunately missing the 7″ b-sides on the reissue) but also many songs from Tough it Out there is not a single thing to complain about. We even get “Someday (You´ll Come Running)” which according to Steve Overland, is being played only for the second time live. That is mainly credited to the song being very hard to sing but Steve pulls it off in a great fashion.
I have seen FM with a huge crowd behind them at Firefest but this night they are on fire and Steve Overland‘s voice has never sounded better. With a lot of new albums under their belt, you could think they would be tempted to throw in a lot of new songs after playing the entire Indiscreet album but they stick to their more AOR oriented early material that is a good idea on this night. Pete Jupp and Merv Goldsworthy provide a steady beat and Steve and guitarist Jim Kirkpatrick throw riffs around them that glow in the dark. The only slightly more modern material is “Closer to Heaven”. It is great to hear songs like “American Girls”, “Tough it Out”, “Bad Luck” and “Burning My Heart Down” that you don´t get every night at an FM gig.
FM was a worthy finale of this new Rockweekend AOR Festival in Stockholm, Sweden. With so many young Swedish bands that are up and coming in the genre, this festival should definitely be an annual event. With a decent turnout for being a completely new festival, the future should look bright. I know I will be back given the chance and hopefully there will be a line-up that would feature one or two of those unlikely reunions that would make me wanna come back. This year it was Snakes in Paradise.