|» Metal Night 2007 07 18||
When metal and hard rock bands - and music artists in general for that matter - come to Sweden they tend to stick to appearances in larger cities, mainly Stockholm and Gothenburg. Therefore, the announcement of a concert in the city of Örnsköldsvik in northern Sweden, with four popular acts under the moniker Metal Night, came as wonderful news for fans of the genre living in these parts.
Fittingly, a band from the local area has the honour of opening the event. Having received fine reviews for their debut album last year, April Divine have slowly but steadily established a name for themselves. Unfortunately, most people are still queuing as April Divine open their set. The band's music - which could be described as post-grunge in the vein of acts such as Staind and Sevendust - is not this scribe's favourite, but a couple of numbers, such as Almost Famous, manage to stir some emotions and prove that the potential is there. However, April Divine don't succeed very well in establishing a connection with the few hundred that have entered the venue in time, receiving a lukewarm response.
Basist Peter Ulvén is the most energetic of the band, but the overall stage presence leaves much to be desired. Frontman Joakim Åström is somewhat reclusive; his interaction with the crowd and spoken parts between songs is sparse. Altogether, the band come across as rather uninspired during the 30-minute slot they are given. It has to be said, though, that they have very limited space on which to move around, with three other drum sets occupying the stage.
(sorry, no setlist)
5 chalices of 10
Next band presents a more uplifting display, musically as well as performance-wise. Hailing from the same city as Europe; Sweden's most prolific hard rock band ever; H.E.A.T. has emerged as a bright hope in the scene. The youngsters' self-titled debut is a quite remarkable interpretation of the melodic rock scene of the eighties, combining a crisp and warm sound with formidable song-writing ; bands like Giant (especially) and Toto spring to mind as good reference points. What's more, their reputation as an entertaining live band proves to be well-founded, with lively activity onstage. Their joy of playing is infectious, while the outfits, haircuts and gestures are ingredients which effectively emphasise their image and concept even more.
But most importantly, their song material is impressive: tunes like set opener There For You and Never Let Go are just two numbers which incorporate a string of exquisite melodies and memorable hooks. H.E.A.T. also consist of very competent musicians, with guitarist Dave Dalone laying down stylish solos, and the harmony vocals sound really good. All the same, most eyes are on front man Kenny Leckremo, who is a real gem; his talent is most notable tonight during a brilliant rendition of Keep On Dreaming. In addition to having a strong, appealing voice - reminiscent of Joey Tempest at times - he is an accomplished crowd conductor who embodies the positive spirit which is projected to the audience. As a final treat, the anthem written for the city's hockey team Modo is played as an encore (two of the members participated in the writing of the song), to the delight of the crowd.
(sorry, no setlist)
8 chalices of 10
The existence today of Thin Lizzy is debated. The late Phil Lynott was a revered rock hero as well as the undisputable leader who personified Lizzy, and the current version of the groundbreaking band, without Lynott, is seen in some quarters as blasphemy. These opinions are understandable - I have questioned the matter myself; a change of name would be preferable perhaps - but when seen in a wider aspect, disregarding the fact that this live act is maybe not the "true" Thin Lizzy, it can be argued that it fills a significant purpose. After all, isn't it essentially about the music itself? These timeless songs deserve to be heard and be kept alive - consider it as a tribute to Thin Lizzy and Lynott; the wild rocker would probably be honoured by the high esteem his music still holds. Although the entire set consists of classic material, highlights tonight include Cowboy Song; one of the finest rock tunes written; the heavy riffing in Cold Sweat and the mighty encore Black Rose.
The two remaining members of the final Thin Lizzy line-up including Lynott; Scott Gorham and John Sykes; have a humble approach - Sykes also taking the time to salute Lynott, to a warm response - and look like they truly enjoy playing the classic songs. The same can be said about the complementing member duo - the most proficient rhythm section consisting of bassist Francesco Di Cosmo and drummer Tommy Aldridge. The latter, one of the most respected and celebrated names in his field, brings down a thunderous response when he performs his drum solo, complete with his trademark hand-bashing on the skins.
Sykes succeeds quite well in mimicking Lynott's voice and vocal lines, while handling the guitar parts effortlessly; the much-travelled blonde Englishman - very much similar in appearance as 25 years ago - nowadays has a cool, laid-back style onstage and is comfortable in his role as front man. His six-string companion Gorham is more energetic, and while he is not as recognisable with his grey hair, his guitar poses and tasteful playing is still intact. Although they don't manage to create that special atmosphere on this occasion - the audience is somewhat cautious; the young portion is possibly not that familiar with every number; and the sound is actually a bit weak for some reason - these professional gents deliver a solid rock show with great music, which is the main thing. Because this is essentially a celebration of the legacy of Thin Lizzy and Phil Lynott, and as such it is highly significant - regardless of any objections concerning the legitimacy of the project.
(sorry, no setlist)
7,5 chalices of 10
Then time has come for a true rock legend to conclude the evening. Now 60 years of age, Alice Cooper takes the stage in his typical, imposing fashion, to the notes of It's Hot Tonight. Not a single track from the new album Along Came A Spider - due for imminent release at the time of the gig - is included in the set list, Alice instead focusing on the classics from the seventies while adding some later songs in between. Although he has not enjoyed anywhere near the same success of old in recent years, the shock rocker has consistently put out good records, and it is refreshing to hear some newer material as well. Dirty Diamonds - the title track from the 2006 release - is actually one of the highlights tonight, offering an engaging drive. Otherwise, the set is no revelation, including old staples such as Under My Wheels, School's Out and No More Mr Nice Guy. While these numbers have been played forever, it cannot be disputed that they are classic rock tunes which continue to strike a nerve.
But the song which generates the liveliest reaction from the audience is Poison. A big hit in Sweden twenty years ago, it is a safe bet when it comes to vocal participation from the audience. Conversely, another popular song from the eighties; He's Back; is overlooked. One could speculate whether Alice thinks that the more commercially-sounding material from the eighties is not representative of his career, but nevertheless it would be nice to hear an additional couple of tracks from this era.
At the same time, an Alice Cooper show is of course not just a mere music performance but also an eye-catching, theatrical show. The famous guillotine execution is not part of the repertoire this time around, but the hanging of the main man from the huge gallows works as a spectacular replacement. Alice is as convincing as ever as his stage alter ego, displaying an obvious presence and charisma. He also shows that he still knows how to provoke, giving a female character a vicious treatment during the lovely Only Women Bleed - something which still would cause a storm among ignorant people failing to see the underlying message. Cooper's band musicians, on the other hand, are frankly rather anonymous - although Eric Singer is energetic as usual behind the drums - but handle their task well in assisting the front man. The show is rounded off with Elected, which introduces people with "Vote for Alice" signs and includes an amusing, tongue-in-cheek parody of the Obama/Clinton contest.
The hour-and-a-half show does not really offer anything that overly fantastic or something that haven't been witnessed before, but the feeling afterwards is nonetheless one of fulfilment. The once self-destructive boozer, now a long-time teetotaller and golf enthusiast (he even took the time to grace the city's golf course during his stay in Örnsköldsvik), definitely still has what it takes as a prolific rock entertainer.
8 chalices of 10
All in all, Metal Night was a well-organised event with high-quality acts. The attendance was perhaps expected to be higher - as it turned out, 3500 people bought a ticket - but it is said that at least the concert broke even. Thus, the chances of it becoming a reoccurring event should be favourable. Such a development would certainly be welcomed by rockers in Northern Sweden.