Sweden Rock Festival 2012

Norje Havsbad, Sölvesborg - June 6-9
event website | venue website | full line-up

In 2010 Sweden Rock booked the highest profile top-end line-up in their history. In 2011 they booked a line-up below the headliners which was so strong that best-selling international acts had to play in the middle of the afternoon just to fit everyone in. Following those two was always going to be impossible.

Somehow though, although perhaps not so strong at the top, the 2012 line-up had a very similar strength in depth to 2011. That said, depending on who's asked, depends on the view received. There were just as many people ecstatic to see Mötley Crüe return to Sweden Rock as there were believed their performance would be ruined by vocalist Vince Neil, as there were disappointed a band as unconnected to the '80s as Soundgarden were booked at the top of the first full day, as felt they were the best choice for headliner of the year. Such is the varied nature of Sweden Rock and the varied fans it attracts.

The truth is the Sweden Rock 2012 line-up was classic Sweden Rock. Bands pulled from all corners of both the world and the rock music genre to form an eclectic line-up with something for everyone. It might not be the '80s nostalgia festival many want it to be, but it never was, so they should probably stop hoping. It's better than that.

Some criticisms though are legitimate. For instance the number of acts who have appeared at the festival before being invited back was quite high with some regulars questioning the worth of going to a festival to see a line-up of bands they've already seen in the same setting, but at the same time major coups like Bad Company, King Diamond, Slaughter and Night Ranger, alongside other SRF debuts like Saint Vitus, Pentagram and Adrenaline Mob were all indicators that there was plenty of new blood too.

A harder complaint to explain away is the price. It's no secret that Sweden Rock is, by necessity, an expensive festival to attend. The reason is simple, they book a major festival line-up, and put it in front of a minor festival audience. Lower numbers means higher ticket prices to reach the same level of income; it's basic maths. Almost everyone who attends Sweden Rock comments on what a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere it has, and this is due in no small part to the 33,000 daily capacity cap the organisers placed on the event. In order to maintain the viability of that, costs have to be higher. But that's always been the case, and they've only been rising. In all likelihood it's a simple case of bands charging more for their services now, but all the consumers see are the most expensive festival tickets in the world, and that needs to be justified in terms they can relate to.

All that can be said is, for the right people (i.e. the kind of fans the festival is aimed at), it's worth it. Every year brings with it unique performances, and there aren't many comparable festivals who can claim the same. And that increased cost to the fans is being invested, not just pocketed. This year the festival area itself was expanded to allow for the fifth stage to become a full-fledged stage in its own area, instead of previous years where it was either a tent, or sandwiched between other things. It didn't attract many people (getting bands booked for other stages to play additional unplugged sets on the fifth stage is still probably the best thing they could do with it) but it should be a step towards providing some serious extra value, because as with most concerts, the cost is forgotten when the performances are great.


Axel Rudi Pell

Festival Stage
Friday, June 8
13:25 - 14:40

Last time German guitar hero Axel Rudi Pell appeared at Sweden Rock he was on the Rock Stage in the middle of the afternoon. Promoted to the main Festival Stage for his third appearance he seemed kind of lost in the larger space.

Much like Chris Impellitteri a couple of years ago Pell himself barely ventured any further forward than his semi-circle of monitors, leaving all of the crowd interaction and focus to vocalist Johnny Gioeli, who did his best with a crowd who seemed largely unfamiliar with the material.

The setlist itself was identical to the band's headlining shows earlier in the year, minus Fool Fool and Carousel, and while it's not one of his most imaginative, sing-along moments for a festival crowd like Strong As A Rock and Casbah worked well. The biggest reception was reserved for Deep Purple cover Mistreated played in a medley with Mystica, which probably indicated exactly where the crowd's general level of interest and enjoyment lay. Gioeli tried to get the small collection of ARP fans near the front involved in other songs, but the enthusiasm failed to spread any further back than that.

It may have helped if Pell had come forward to engage the crowd himself a little more when peeling off solos, but it's more likely that most of the crowd simply weren't terribly impressed with a performance which never seemed to spark.

“ enthusiasm failed to spread ”

Setlist: Ghost In The Black / Strong As A Rock / Before I Die / The Masquerade Ball/Casbah/Dreaming Dead / Drum Solo / Mystica/Mistreated / Circle of The Oath / Tear Down The Walls / Nasty Reputation / Rock The Nation


Edguy

Sweden Stage
Wednesday, June 6
00:00-01:55

Various different styles of headliner have been trialed on the opening half-day of Sweden Rock, but what has proven the most popular approach is to book a band which generates a party-style atmosphere. Therefore while some questioned Edguy's status, they were the perfect band for the slot.

The constantly-cheerful Germans, supporting their new album Age of The Joker, delivered their full headlining set from the new album's tour, with an additional rare airing of Land of The Miracle, in just short of two hours, the longest festival set they were scheduled to play all year.

As usual live-wire singer Tobias Sammet lead from the front jumping and running around the stage almost non-stop, in fine comical form throughout, and although their current set fails to highlight the best of the new album, the high-energy nature of his performance drew people in all the same. Pandora's Box, Faces In The Darkness and Behind The Gates To Midnight World are the best three tracks from Age of The Joker, demonstrating a new, heavier side to the band. Sadly they don't play any of them, choosing instead to showcase the songs which sound exactly like all of their others (lead single Robin Hood, The Arcane Guild and tedious Rock of Cashel). Fortunately they kind of blend into the background, allowing tracks like Ministry of Saints, Tears of A Mandrake, Vain Glory Opera and Babylon to stand out.

In an environment like this playing a full version of Iron Maiden's The Trooper in the encore instead of their usual snippet would have gone down very well (and they had time for it too), so they missed an guilt-edged opportunity there, but otherwise they proved the perfect way to kick-off Sweden Rock 2012.

“ the perfect band for the slot ”

Setlist: Nobody's Hero / The Arcane Guild / Tears of A Mandrake / Rock of Cashel / Land of The Miracle / Lavatory Love Machine / Vain Glory Opera / Robin Hood / Drum Solo / Ministry of Saints / Save Me / Superheroes // Babylon / The Trooper snippet / King of Fools


Gamma Ray

Sweden Stage
Friday, June 8
15:00 - 16:15
Photos

Due in part to his involvement with Michael Kiske's new band Unisonic, Kai Hansen and Gamma Ray haven't toured much in 2012, so Sweden Rock was a rare opportunity to see them. They also haven't had a new album since 2010's To The Metal!, which meant the setlist could include just about anything.

The band immediately hit the stage like they intended to have fun. All smiles and bouncy energy they pulled out a compact set which represented nearly all of their albums. Only the first three, when the band was fronted by Ralf Scheepers, and 2007's Land of The Free II didn't get a song in the set.

In some senses though, it almost doesn't matter which tracks Gamma Ray pull from which albums, because all most fans seem to want to hear is Kai singing songs from the first couple of Helloween albums. They always do some, so everyone's kept happy, but it does mean the crowd can be a little dead during the rest of the songs. This time I Want Out, which always features, was accompanied by Ride The Sky and predictably those were the two moments of the loudest audience response. Gamma Ray didn't seem to mind as they went about their business bright eyed, if a little stiff.

Their set was perhaps not the most electrifying of the week, but it was professional and above all fun. The career spanning set seemed to be over a little quickly, but delivered several curve-balls which kept the true fans guessing throughout, which is exactly the kind of set veteran bands with nothing to market should be able to pull out from time to time.

“ All smiles and bouncy energy ”

Setlist: No World Order / Gardens of The Sinner / Ride The Sky / Empathy / Fight / Rebellion In Dreamland / Dethrone Tyranny / To The Metal / I Want Out / Somewhere Out In Space / Send Me A Sign


King Diamond

Rock Stage
Saturday, June 9
21:45 - 23:05

Without question the biggest coup of Sweden Rock 2012 was the booking of long-absent Danish heavy metal legend King Diamond, one of only two shows Worldwide King would be playing all year (the other being Hellfest in France) after several years off the road due to health problems.

No one really knew what to expect, especially as the Hellfest show hadn't happened yet. A career-spanning setlist was probably likely, but no one really knew. In the end he played a set almost entirely from his solo albums, with just one Mercyful Fate song in the shape of Come To The Sabbath. The setlist probably didn't even really matter too much to most people. A King Diamond gig after so many years, with his famed stage show and near-flawless back catalogue of songs he could have played almost anything and the fans would have been happy. The big question was his voice.

For the first five songs of the set King might as well have not been there. He sounded fine, fantastic in fact, but no one could see him. The front of the stage was blocked by a mock-iron fence, which the band performed behind. On top of that, really ridiculous amounts of dry ice were used, and between these two obstacles the band were basically invisible. King also spent the majority of those songs skulking around atop the various platforms and walkways erected around and behind drummer Matt Thompson, making glimpses of him even more fleeting. After Up From The Grave cloaked stage hands removed the fence and from then on King and the band were able to come to the front of the stage and perform properly.

King's voice sounded truly incredible for the whole show (something he puts down to not being able to smoke anymore due to his heart bypass surgery) and once the band were freed up on stage the show was equally good. As if that weren't enough, former Mercyful Fate guitarist Hank Shermann and Volbeat front-man Michael Poulsen were invited to join in on Come To The Sabbath, which former King Diamond band members Michael Denner (guitar) and Mikkey Dee (drums, now Motörhead) came out for Halloween in the first encore.

A second encore of Black Horsemen sent everyone on their way thoroughly satisfied, albeit 10 minutes early, and many people called it a week at that point, choosing to finish their festival on the undoubted high of King's set rather than watch Mötley Crüe. Given the state of Vince Neil's voice, that was probably wise.

“ voice sounded truly incredible ”

Setlist: The Candle / Welcome Home / Drum Solo / Voodoo / At The Graves / Up From The Grave / Let It Be Done / Dreams / Sleepless Nights / Shapes of Black / Come To The Sabbath (with Hank Shermann & Michael Poulsen) / Eye of The Witch // The Family Ghost / Halloween (with Michael Denner & Mikkey Dee) // Black Horsemen


Lynyrd Skynyrd

Festival Stage
Saturday, June 9
20:00 - 21:30

A return for Lynyrd Skynyrd to Sweden Rock has been much requested by regular for many years, and with all the talk by the band throughout the Spring and early Summer being about their forthcoming new album, the title of which they revealed at the SRF press conference, it was hoped some new songs might be debuted.

Sadly all they did was play their usual set; all the same hits they play every year, with only Skynyrd Nation from 2009's sickly-patriotic God & Guns retaining its place. Whiskey Rock-A-Roller and The Needle And The Spoon enjoyed medley status with Gimme Back My Bullets but that was a rare moment of interest in an otherwise largely uninspired set.

The band, now including The Black Crowes' original bassist Johnny Colt, of course played well. Newest guitarist Mark Matejka, who has now been in the band for six years, has become more exuberant as time passes, and he now provides a second focal point during solos alongside Ricky Medlocke, having replaced the usually-stationary Hughie Thomasson. But not matter of guitar histrionics and shapes could really make up for a set which played out like a budget record label compilation, or the increasingly lacklustre performances of front-man Johnny Van Zant. At times it seemed Matejka and Medlocke were the only ones interested.

With a band who play so well, and a catalogue of such quality as Skynyrd's, it wouldn't take much to turn their shows into the rock 'n' roll spectacle they should be, but it currently seems the effort is lacking, leaving them in danger of becoming stale. They likely fair better under the lights of a theatre, but hopefully their new album will refresh their set on the next tour.

“ largely uninspired set ”

Setlist: Workin' For MCA / I Ain't The One / Skynyrd Nation / What's Your Name / Down South Jukin' / That Smell / Saturday Night Special / Simple Man / Gimme Back My Bullets/Whiskey Rock-A-Roller/The Needle And The Spoon / Tuesday's Gone / Gimme Three Steps / Call Me The Breeze / Sweet Home Alabama // Free Bird


Mastodon

Festival Stage
Thursday, June 7
20:00 - 21:30

Mastodon were the band tasked with filling this year's modern/alternative metal slot on the bill. Although Sweden Rock always caters for as many different styles of rock and metal each year as it can, it does root itself firmly in the classic styles, and chooses bands both old and young from them.

Last year saw probably the biggest name the festival have had to date take the modern alternative slot, Rob Zombie, and even he didn't enjoy the kind of crowd his solo shows, and festivals which pander to trends and who more typically book him, attract. Such is the story of every band who take the slot, and such was the case for Mastodon, who had a hardcore of their fans taking up the front few rows of the Festival Stage, but beyond that people were either relaxing and listening to them play, or not paying much attention.

That's usually the way for most bands on the big stages during the afternoon and early evening. It's rare for anyone to draw large crowds until the Rock Stage headliner comes on. It was therefore both disappointing, and incredibly unfair for the band that despite Troy Sanders' energy and effort at the front for the full 90-minutes, Brent Hinds' diva-like attitude all but ruined their set. Hinds did not appreciate that the predominantly classic rock crowd were simply standing, spread out, listening to them play. Calling them "pathetic" didn't help, and Sanders had to work twice as hard to get them back.

He never really did and although the Mastodon fans in the crowd still loved every minute, and the band certainly played their music flawlessly, not plagued by an all-too-common muddiness of the sound mix affects their shows either, most of the people watching either walked away, or watched disapprovingly.

“ diva-like attitude all but ruined their set ”

Setlist: Black Tongue / ? / ? / Hand of Stone / ? / Octopus Has No Friends / Stargasm / Blasteroid / Crack The Skye / All The Heavy Lifting / Spectrelight / Curl of The Burl / Bedazzled Fingernails / Aqua Dimentia / Iron Tusk / March of The Fire Ants / Blood And Thunder / ? / Creature Lives


Motörhead

Rock Stage
Friday, June 8
21:45 - 23:00

Another year, another Motörhead tour, and it would be nice to at least once be able to say "another Motörhead setlist", but unfortunately that is not to be the case. Shocking everyone by not booking the English veterans in 2011 (avoiding the running joke that the band play SRF on all odd-numbered years), they obviously couldn't resist adding them to the 2012 bill.

But it might as well have been any other year as Lemmy and company rolled out most of the exact same songs as usual, more or less in the exact same order, and appeared to play them with a kind of formulaic laziness as well; like they too were tired of having to do it. Even the use of the bomber lighting rig fails to add a special touch to an SRF performance now, as it is already one of the few occasions they are able to use it, and have done on many appearances in the past.

The arrival of Ugly Kid Joe singer Whitefield Crane and King Diamond guitarist Andy LaRocque for Killed By Death provided a short spell of interest, but otherwise the band plodded through a worn-out set of songs with all the enthusiasm of a criminal suspect recounting his own statement under interrogation. Uncharacteristically they also finished 15 minutes early, time in which they could have played songs like The Thousand Names of God, Get Back In Line and I'll Be Your Sister, songs which at least went some way to refreshing their headlining sets following the release of latest album The Wörld Is Yours, or even missing classics like Orgasmatron.

At least on previous occasions the band delivered their set flawlessly. This time, besides apart from their biggest fans, they did not send people away satisfied with what they had just seen.

“ a kind of formulaic laziness ”

Setlist: Damage Case / Iron Fist / I Know How To Die / Stay Clean / Metropolis / Over The Top / One Night Stand / The Chase Is Better Than The Catch / The One To Sing The Blues / Just Cos You Got The Power / Going To Brazil / Killed By Death (with Whitfield Crane & Andy LaRocque) // Bomber / Ace of Spades / Overkill


Pentagram

Zeppelin Stage
Friday, June 8
20:15 - 21:25

Sweden Rock 2012 saw the debut appearances of two of doom metal's veteran bands and in the battle for supremacy, the day most definitely belonged to Pentagram, whose successful resurgence has met with critical acclaim both on stage and off.

Still supporting 2011's Last Rites, the first original Pentagram album in seven years, the band's renewed energy, passion and performance levels have been widely talked about, bringing them more touring opportunities than ever before it seems. At those shows front-man Bobby Liebling has proven that all of his crazy-looking shapes and faces are not just an act; he and guitarist Victor Griffin genuinly seem to feel the music.

Liebling's ways may be an acquired taste, but the non-stop parade of riffs Pentagrams songs contain, played with such authenticity by Griffin, have a similar impact to those of Black Sabbath; they are undeniable. And with their current line-up they are played at such volume that they can't fail to have impact. The setlist hasn't changed throughout the tour so far, but since many of the shows they're playing are either their first visit in a long time, or in some cases their first visit ever, that isn't important yet. The set mixes very old, old and new, updating riffs to sound as heavy (incredibly so on just one guitar) as their successors, cut through by Liebling's renewed voice, his vocals greatly improved since he quit drugs.

Pentagram's set at SRF was the kind of performance which changed minds. Many people who had either not paid much attention to the band over the years or had not really been fans before were turned on to them by this show. It should easily be enough to earn them a recall at SRF 2014, and be put on a larger stage.

“ non-stop parade of riffs ”

Setlist: Treat Me Right / Forever My Queen / Review Your Choices / Sign of The Wolf (Pentagram) / Evil Seed / Into The Ground / Death Row / All Your Sins / Call The Man / Relentless/Nothing Left / Dying World // Wartime / When The Screams Come


Saint Vitus

Zeppelin Stage
Thursday, June 7
15:45-16:45

Another on the reformation list, Saint Vitus have been touring together again for a couple of years now, but have finally released their first album in 17 years, Lillie F-65, and that earned them their Sweden Rock debut.

Playing for just an hour in the middle of the afternoon on the fourth stage is probably lower down the bill than their history deserved, but it has to be said that the crowd they attracted did seem to match the slot. The audience was probably badly affected by other bands being on at the same time. Saint Vitus were moved forward by 15 minutes which meant the first half hour of their set overlapped with both Exodus and Danko Jones. Then 15 minutes from the end the much-anticipated Night Ranger started playing on the main stage.

The small numbers may have therefore been the reason for a less-than-engaging performance by front-man Scott "Wino" Weinrich. Guitarist Dave Chandler seemed to be playing passionatly enough, although the trademark sloppiness of his playing did seem somehow more pronounced than usual, but from the opening song (lead single from the new album Blessed Night) Wino never seemed quite into it. The set was their current headlining one apart from the absence of White Stallions, and it was good to hear them play four new songs amongst the classic old ones (although longer-term fans do wish for more from the Scott Reagers-fronted albums), The Waste of Time working particularly well, but the spark that is so very often present at a Saint Vitus show was missing.

An off day, perhaps, but the real Saint Vitus fans packing the barrier certainly enjoyed it and wanted it to be longer. So maybe they were just unlucky with their time slot, but the same thing happened to Pentagram the next day, and they faired much better.

“ less-than-engaging ”

Setlist: Blessed Night / I Bleed Black / Clear Windowpane / Let Them Fall / The Bleeding Ground / Look Behind You / The Waste of Time / Mystic Lady / Dying Inside / Born Too Late


Sebastian Bach

Rock Stage
Thursday, June 7
21:45 - 23:10

Four years after cancelling his main stage performance at the last moment Sebastian Bach was finally able to re-book an appearance at Sweden Rock, with new band members Nick Sterling (guitar) and Jason Christopher (bass) and a new album Kicking And Screaming.

This time headlining the Rock Stage, which is a more prestigious slot than he was going to be playing in 2008, his reception and audience were huge. Eager to exhibit his new songs, and some from the album he would have been promoting last time, Angel Down, he mixed no less than nine of them amongst tracks from the first two Skid Row albums, but did so in a way that never meant there were more than two in a row before an old track everyone knew.

The energy Bach himself brings to his shows is well known, but this time he has a band who are equally energetic, even if young guitarist Sterling had to have smiles coaxed out of him. Long-time second guitarist Johnny Chromatic remained his usual jovial self, and new bassist Christopher seems to have fit in perfectly. But after so many years (seven since his last performance at Sweden Rock after 2008's cancellation) all eyes were on Bach, and the large audience were clearly eager to hear him sing Skid Row songs again.

They gave his newer solo material a warm reception, but it really was the Skid Row material they were interested in, until two songs from the end when Bach brought out surprise guest Dee Snider of Twisted Sister for a clearly unrehearsed, but very good-natured cover of We're Not Gonna Take It, followed by perennial set closer Youth Gone Wild, given new life by Snider's additional voice. Disappointment may have reigned last time, but it certainly didn't this time.

“ reception and audience were huge ”

Setlist: Slave To The Grind / Kicking And Screaming / Dirty Power / Here I Am / Big Guns / (Love Is) A Bitchslap / Stuck Inside / Piece of Me / 18 And Life / American Metalhead / As Long As I Got The Music / Monkey Business / My Own Worst Enemy / I'm Alive / I Remember You / Tunnelvision / We're Not Gonna Take It (with Dee Snider) / Youth Gone Wild (with Dee Snider)


Soundgarden

Festival Stage
Thursday, June 7
23:30 - 01:25

It is fair to say the choice of Soundgarden as headliner was not the most popular announcement Sweden Rock made for 2012. Despite being one of the highest profile reunions of the last year or more, and a thoroughly necessary change of pace for the festival, the '80s-loving regulars did not approve.

Such a narrow view of who should and shouldn't be invited to play at Sweden Rock meant the attendance for their set was the lowest of all the headliners probably since the ill-advised booking of In Flames in 2009 and Poison in 2010. Their extensive, high-class set which represented all areas of their catalogue, was therefore missed by too many.

Focusing, quite rightly, on their riff-based songs, deviating only to break out classics like Blow Up The Outside World, Fell On Black Days and Black Hole Sun, their current sound is exceptionally heavy. In particular Gun and Outshined proved crushing. Given the generally stationary nature of both guitarist Kim Thayil and bassist Ben Shepherd, it's surprising how good a show Soundgarden are capable of putting on. Much of it has to do with Chris Cornell's magnetic personality on stage, even when his voice occasionally cracks. On songs where he needs to play rhythm guitar he can find himself constrained to his microphone stand except during extended instrumental parts, and the rest of the time he engaged the crowd in the manner of a well-versed front-man.

Hopefully Sweden Rock's enthusiasm for casting their net a little wider hasn't been dampened by the crowds for Soundgarden, who did their faith proud with their performance and far-reaching setlist. In that regard they could certainly teach a few other acts a thing or two. However they do need to stop spending ten minutes at the end of their set playing with feedback when at least another song could be added in its stead.

“ extensive, high-class set ”

Setlist: Searching With My Good Eye Closed / Spoonman / Let Me Drown / Outshined / Flower / Drawing Flies / Hunted Down / Blow Up The Outside World / Fell On Black Days / Ugly Truth / Loud Love / Live To Rise / My Wave / Burden In My Hand / Rusty Cage / Gun / Black Hole Sun / Room A Thousand Years Wide // Jesus Christ Pose / Beyond The Wheel / Slaves & Bulldozers


Symphony X

Sweden Stage
Saturday, June 9
18:15 - 19:45

It has been said that singer Russell Allen is not really as progressively-minded, musically speaking, as his bandmates in Symphony X. Or at least not as passionate about it, and it has to be said that when compared directly to his performance with Adrenaline Mob a day prior, his feelings were obvious.

Unfortunately SX's current set, which spends the first six tracks mired exclusively in new album Iconoclast, good album thought it is, doesn't fill even big fans of the band with enthusiasm, but that lack of passion seems to have found its way to Allen as well. Not into his vocal performance, it should be said, but into the enjoyment he appears to be having on stage, which was visibly far greater with Adrenaline Mob.

A consummate professional his vocals were still perfect, as they always are, and the rest of the band of course reproduced their challenging material without fault, but the combination of the apparently disinterested Allen, and the setlist containing just two songs not taken from the most recent two records ensured a subdued mood on the hill in front of the Sweden Stage. And though their timeslot was more prestigious than Adrenaline Mob's lunchtime slot the previous day, they were on the smaller stage, with the much-requested Slaughter playing opposite, resulting in a crowd which was at best the same size, but in all likelihood smaller.

This setlist was all well and good on headlining club shows around the release of Iconoclast, but at a festival it was a mistake. Change the set up from last time they play the event, of course, but this was too inaccessible for a festival audience, SX fans or otherwise, regardless of the passion with which it was delivered.

“ a subdued mood on the hill ”

Setlist: Iconoclast / End of Innocence / Dehumanized / Electric Messiah / Children of A Faceless God / When All Is Lost / Inferno (Unleash The Fire) / Of Sins And Shadows / Sea of Lies // Eve of Seduction / Serpent's Kiss / Set The World On Fire (The Lie of Lies)


Ugly Kid Joe

Sweden Stage
Friday, June 8
18:15 - 19:45
Photos

Sweden Rock were one of the first, if not the first, of 2012's festivals to announce the reunited Ugly Kid Joe in their line-up, and they were certainly the most fitting event for the band to play, armed with a handful of new songs destined for the Stairway To Hell EP.

The official reformed line-up is the one which recorded the Motel California and Menace To Sobriety albums, before splitting in 1997. For this Summer tour however UKJ needed some understudies with drummer Shannon Larkin already engaged in touring with Godsmack and guitarist David Fortman was similarly unavailable. They were replaced by Ya'el on drums and former Sevendust guitarist Sonny Mayo, who acted as an engineer for the new EP.

Front-man Whitfield Crane strutted his way onto the stage during the opening riffs of VIP in the manner of a man who had missed being on stage as much as fans had missed the band for 15 years. Similarly Cordell Crockett, who was dressed like a man at least 15 years younger, and Sonny Mayo sprang around the stage with irrepressible energy. The band sound great and clearly felt great. Following megahit cover Cats In The Cradle and their version of Black Sabbath's Sweet Leaf they aired the two tracks from Stairway To Hell, I'm Alright and You Make Me Sick, which sound the most like old UKJ, full of heavy bouncing riffs. Not playing the lead single, Devil's Paradise was slightly strange, but playing it safe after so long was perhaps a good idea.

There was only one disappointing thing about UKJ's performance, and that was how quickly it ended. Billed for 90 minutes, having already arrived on stage five minutes late, they left 25 minutes early, barely playing for an hour. There was easily enough time to play new songs Another Beer, which had been debuted on stage just two days earlier in London, and Devil's Paradise, played a few days later at headlining club shows in Europe, plus some conspicuously absent old ones like Mr. Recordman and Come Tomorrow, both also later added to headlining setlists. For the time they were on stage they were electric, but leaving so soon soured the occasion a little.

“ irrepressible energy ”

Setlist: VIP / Neighbor / God / Panhandlin' Prince / Milkman's Son / C.U.S.T. / Cats In The Cradle / Sweet Leaf / You Make Me Sick / I'm Alright / Dialogue / Tomorrow's World / Sandwich / God Damn Devil / Everything About You

Written by Andy Lye
More: 2012, Doom Metal, Festivals, Grunge, Hard/Heavy Rock, Heavy Metal, Progressive, Southern, Thrash Metal, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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