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Väsby Rock Festival 2015

This was the third year of Väsby Rock Festival, taking place in Upplands Väsby, a suburb to Sweden's capital Stockholm. For Metal Covenant, it was the second visit and for me, it was the first. I decided early on that Väsby Rock would be on the schedule this year, since the line-up looked very tasty, featuring a whole range of class bands including some real favourites of mine. Also, reports from friends and colleagues attending the first two editions told of a very nice event.

Regarding the main element of the festival - the music and the bands - expectations were fulfilled with a number of excellent performances, from bigger names as well as some new bands given the chance to play in front of a bigger audience - which is part of the Väsby Rock concept. It also felt like the artists were given very good conditions, being assisted by a professional crew and having a very good stage sound. The latter part was noticeable, especially as one is quite used to festivals with a more inconsistent stage sound.

When it comes to the actual festival site and its features, the words "very nice" - just as people had described it - is a simple but appropriate summary. There are two stages, at each end of a football field which makes things most comfortable, walking on the fine pitch from the gig just finished to the next one starting in the opposite direction. And if you feel like resting your legs, just have a seat on the stand beside the pitch, still with a good view of the stages. Otherwise, there are the usual drink and food assortment, a signing booth, and the VIP area was nice as well.

Apart from being well-organised like other Swedish festivals, Väsby Rock really has a special feeling of intimacy and a positive, calmer atmosphere. The fact that it is a smaller festival - with an attendance of a few thousand people - is a factor of course, and the slightly higher average age probably contributes as well. To sum things up, Väsby Rock is an inviting event which is much recommended for fans of melodic hard rock and AOR, the musical concept of the festival which also makes it stand out compared to other more varied festival line-ups with heavier music. In the festival program, the cheerful and friendly team behind the event wrote that they were "very passionate about hard rock and the joy it brings" - this is an attitude they really manage to transmit and one you feel as a visitor.

Below are reviews of the performances witnessed in full. See links for full line-up and other information.

|Friday| - |Saturday|

Reviews by Mozzy

Friday - July 17

Band: 220 Volt
Väsby Rock Stage 14.15 - 15.15

First band on the agenda for Metal Covenant this year is 220 Volt - a band originating, just like Metal Covenant, from Northern Sweden. One of the most popular Swedish hard rock bands during the 80´s, they split up in the early 90's and then made a couple of brief comebacks. In 2014, 220 Volt gathered again and released a new album, Walking In Starlight. The title track kicks off this afternoon's show and gets a good response just like two other fine tracks from the latest album. That said, it is the material from the 80's that really gets the crowd going. The band sounds very good and display joy of playing onstage, especially guitarists Mats Karlsson and Thomas Drevin, and Anders Engborg demonstrates his excellent vocal ability.

When seeing 220 Volt live today, one always start to wonder why the band did not get their real breakthrough, especially after 1988´s Eye To Eye, represented in the set by four glorious tracks. Then again, that is history and it's very nice that 220 Volt are back again, a sentiment definitely felt at Väsby Rock, where there is much joy among the audience as well as a brilliant, merry connection between band and fans. After some great tracks, including a welcome inclusion of High Heels, the classic 220 Volt tune, Firefall concludes a splendid start to the festival.

Performance: 8 chalices of 10
Stage sound
: 8 chalices of 10
: Eye To Eye
: The medley includes quality stuff but another song in full would have been better.

Walking In Starlight
The Harder They Come
Power Games
Broken Promises
80's Medley
Beat Of A Heart
Burning Heart
Eye To Eye
High Heels
Love Is All You Need

Band: Astral Doors
Väsby Rock Stage 16.00 - 17.00

Astral Doors have not been a regular feature on the live circuit in recent years, so the appearance at Väsby Rock was long-awaited. Frontman Nils Patrik Johansson declares early on that this one-hour gig will be all about the band's most known songs, and this proves right. The opening with The Last Tempation Of Christ and Child Of Rock ´n´ Roll is engaging straight away, and the Swedes then deliver a string of fan favourites such as Evil Is Forever and New Revelation, all much appreciated by the crowd. Delivering music often reminiscing of treasured bands like Rainbow, Black Sabbath and Dio, this is a pleasurable hour indeed.

Nils Patrik Johansson, one of Sweden's finest vocalists, sings great and with power and he is also a terrific frontman. He has an excellent, jovial contact with the spectators, making you feel you are his pal. His bandmates are not nearly as extrovert onstage but their musical effort is solid and the sound is muscular. A quality performance from Astral Doors, and hopefully they will have time to tour more regularly in the future.

Performance: 8 chalices of 10
Stage sound
: 8 chalices of 10
: Child Of Rock 'n' Roll
: A couple of the songs are rather samey but nonetheless of high quality.

The Last Temptation Of Christ
Child Of Rock ´n´ Roll
Of The Son And The Father
Disciples Of The Dragonlord
Raiders Of The Ark
Evil Is Forever
New Revelation
Power And The Glory
Black Rain
Time To Rock

Band: Åge Sten Nilsen's Ammunition
Zamora Stage 19.15 - 20.15

Last year, Norway glam rockers Wig Wam disbanded and singer Åge Sten Nilsen formed a new band, Åge Sten Nilsen's Ammunition. Recruited to the line-up were some well-known names: Erik Mårtensson and Jon Pettersen on guitar, Hal Patino on bass, Robban Bäck on drums and Lasse Finbråten on keyboards. The debut album released the same year contained some quality melodic hard rock, but the material definitely gets a lift live, having an extra dimension and edge. The band members put in a wholehearted and energetic effort and the performance is fun to watch, with lots of joking onstage and an all-round joyful, infectious mood. The collective stage presence and charisma onstage is fabulous, even courtesy of Bäck, an entertaining sticksman playing with skill and power.

When a couple of Wig Wam gems are played, the response is ecstatic. During Gonna Get You Someday, Danger Danger singer Ted Poley makes a surprise visit onstage which the crowd loves. There is much rocking going on to Hard To Be A Rock ´n´ Roller, and to refer to the title, the gentlemen onstage certainly wear the rock ´n´ roll costume with style. The superb Wig Wam hit In My Dreams concludes the party, and there is now loud singing and smiles on everyone' faces. One was looking forward to this performance by Åge Sten Nilsen's Ammunition, but it succeeded expectations and turned out to be the highlight of the whole festival. This point of view was common among the visitors and for me this was even the best live gig I've seen in a long time.

Performance: 9 chalices of 10
Stage sound
: 8 chalices of 10
: The happy party atmosphere created
: ---

Do You Like It
Strung Out
Gonna Get You Someday
Tie Me Down
Road To Babylon
Hit Me With Your Bombs
Take Out The Enemy
Hard To Be A Rock ´n´ Roller
Give Me A Sign
In My Dreams

Band: H.E.A.T.
Zamora Stage 22.15 - 23.45

This is not an ordinary gig for H.E.A.T., as the band has its roots in Upplands Väsby, the city of the festival. This is addressed from the stage by frontman Erik Grönwall, to loud cheers. This band would not treat any gig as ordinary anyway though, and they sprint onto the stage in their usual positive and spirited manner, after stage presenter Kieran Dargan has branded H.E.A.T. "one of the best the genre has ever seen". Some praise indeed, and the band put on a class show as always. A very large audience is treated to a set brimming with first-rate melodic rock tunes, and the performance is passionate and dynamic, not least from the pumped-up Grönwall.

Much pleasurable as the show is, generating love from the audience, I am not as fully excited this time. The setlist is identical to the one at Sweden Rock one month ago which makes it all a bit predictable. That the boys are playing at their home turf does not bring out anything special either, although Grönwall, as mentioned above, makes a heartfelt speech on how proud the band is to play here. Lastly, the performance at Sweden Rock was a notch superior to this one. All in all, however, this is absolutely another very convincing live show by H.E.A.T.

Performance: 7,5 chalices of 10
Stage sound
: 7 chalices of 10
: Tearing Down The Walls
: That the setlist offers nothing new.

Point Of No Return
A Shot At Redemption
Better Off Alone
It's All About Tonight
Tearing Down The Walls
Mannequin Show
Late Night Lady
Beg Beg Beg
All the Nights
Enemy In Me
Breaking The Silence
Living On The Run
Laughing At Tomorrow

Band: Danger Danger
Väsby Rock Stage 00.00 - 02.00

Headlining the first day are Danger Danger, a booking which attracted a lot of fans of melodic hard rock/glam rock to Väsby Rock. The band hailing from New York enjoyed success with their first two albums but has had quite a rocky road since. After some temporary shows with the original five members last year, the band is back as a quartet with the original members Ted Poley (vocals), Bruno Ravel (bass) and Steve West (drums) once again completed by guitarist Rob Marcello.

It is evident that the band has much know-how in the live show department, and in Poley they have a fabulous frontman. The blonde singer has a constant smile on his face and is continuously interacting with the audience. Despite the showmanship and the catchy tunes, featuring impressive guitar work from Marcello, the first part of the concert does not really lift and the crowd response does not either.

During Don't Walk Away, Poley does his trademark walk among the audience, something which is always a fun spectacle. Later, he says that he has something unique in store for us, and he sure is right. A tattoo artist is brought onstage and proceeds tattooing the Swedish flag on Poley's arm, to prove the American's genuine love of Sweden. Sitting on a chair, Poley sings Feels Like Love during the procedure. Needless to say, it goes down a storm with the crowd. Fantastic stuff, and something that should be unique.

From here on, the atmosphere is raised, not least during fan favourites like Monkey Business and the awesome Bang Bang. Final number Naughty Naughty sees a bunch of guests onstage, such as Åge Sten Nilsen, and despite the somewhat average start, Danger Danger's headline spot proves worthy and entertaining.

Performance: 7,5 chalices of 10
Stage sound
: 7 chalices of 10
: Feels Like Love with the awesome tattoo stunt.
: It takes a while for the show to lift.

(sorry, no setlist)

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Saturday - July 18

Band: Work Of Art
Väsby Rock Stage 16.00 - 17.00

Work Of Art was one of the festival bands I was looking forward to the most. The Swedish group´s three albums have received enthusiastic reviews and rightly so, as they contain tremendous AOR. It kicks off splendidly with two tracks from 2011´s In Progress - The Rain and Nature Of The Game - which is the start of an hour packed with great melodies and hooks. Lars Säfsund is singing the catchy tunes brilliantly and impeccably, really proving his renowned abilities, Robert Säll delivers tasty guitar solos and melodies and Hermann Furin is solid on the drums. Assisting as live members are Andreas Passmark on bass, Magnus Midelf on rhythm guitar and Marcus Möller on keyboards and their contribution is very good. The excellent, crisp stage sound is of benefit as well and the collective music coming from the stage is seducing.

Song-wise, Shout Til You Wake Up, a little darker than the rest of the material, is a highlight, as is The Great Fall, the hit from In Progress. The whole performance is very pleasurable and there is a great, playful atmosphere onstage, with the beaming Säfsund proving his fine frontmanship as well. Seeing Work Of Art is a top start to the second day, with music making you warm inside.

Performance: 8 chalices of 10
Stage sound
: 8 chalices of 10
: The constant flow of top melodies.
: ---

The Rain
Nature Of The Game
Time To Let Go
Once Again
Can't Let Go
How Do You Sleep At Night
Over The Line
Shout Till You Wake Up
The Machine
The Great Fall
Never Love Again
Why Do I?

Band: Eclipse
Väsby Rock Stage 18.00 - 19.00

After Work Of Art, it's time for their friends Eclipse to take to the Väsby Rock Stage. That latest album, the brilliant Armageddonize, have increased the fan base is obvious from the big crowd that has gathered, and the foursome come out strong with the two first quality cuts from said album, I Don't Wanna Say I'm Sorry and Stand On Your Feet. The spectators are certainly on their feet and the reception is enthusiastic throughout the show, with much singing going on, not least during The Storm, already a cornerstone in Eclipse´ live set.

The effort from the guys is strong as always, sounding great as an entity, and it is evident that they have much confidence onstage. Erik Mårtensson is a fabulous frontman who is constantly moving and interacting with the audience, while singing excellent. This is a triumphant display solely with top-notch numbers that goes by way too fast, and it is clear that Eclipse has a big momentum going, a momentum that will surely continue on the upcoming European tour.

Performance: 8 chalices of 10
Stage sound
: 7 chalices of 10
: The Storm
: That no more songs fit in the set.

I Don't Wanna Say I'm Sorry
Stand On Your Feet
Wake Me Up
The Storm
Wide Open
Blood Enemies
Ain't Dead Yet
Bleed & Scream
Breaking My Heart Again

Band: Heaven And Earth
Zamora Stage 19.00 - 20.30

The first part of the set by Heaven And Earth is watched from afar by yours truly, lying in the grass relaxing with a drink. The American band sounds good indeed, so moving to a further position is a must. Standing close to the stage the music, which brings names like Deep Purple, Rainbow and Bad Company to mind, is even better. Heaven And Earth was formed by renowned guitarist Stuart Smith, and joining him onstage are singer Joe Retta, bassist Lynn Sorensen, drummer Simon Wright and Ty Baille on Hammond organ.

These are experienced, well-known players too, and together the quintet produces a formidable classic rock sound. It is refreshingly authentic and includes some great groove and touches of blues. There is also tremendous interplay between the members and tunes like No Money, No Love, Man & Machine and House Of Blues are delightful this sunny evening. Retta has a great rock voice and sings with soul, not least during a moving version of ballad I Don't Know What Love Is.

Performing with passion and personality, the quintet is entertaining to watch too, not least bassist Sorensen, a very cool character onstage. The band gets a warm response from the audience, and the attendance is increased during the show as more people are curious of who these great-sounding musicians are. Having little knowledge of Heaven And Earth before the performance at Väsby Rock, their concert was a bit of a revelation and one that without doubt won them more fans.

Performance: 8 chalices of 10
Stage sound
: 8 chalices of 10
: The classic, awesome rock sound.
: That I had little knowledge of this group beforehand.

(sorry, no setlist)

Band: Magnum
Väsby Rock Stage 20.30 - 22.00

This is Magnum's sixth appearance in Sweden in little over a year, with a seventh one upcoming at another Swedish festival, Skogsröjet, in two weeks. That the English band is popular in Sweden is long established, and it is nice indeed to have them regularly visiting our country. This gig proceeds in an enjoyable way as always, but there is nonetheless something to remark on: the setlist is identical to the one used over the last year. The Spirit was played at Sweden Rock last year, but otherwise the songs are the same and the order is the same. It is understandable that the band feels that this set is strong, which it certainly is, and that they still wish to play the material from the last records, but nevertheless it becomes predictable.

While the response from the crowd is positive from the start, it is naturally the older Magnum gems which thrill the fans and generates a wonderful atmosphere. If the band does not want to change the setlist, it would be wise to at least move one of the older tunes to the start of the set in order to excite the crowd earlier. All in all, this is still yet another pleasurable Magnum show. Bob Catley's voice is perhaps not in top shape tonight, but it is still a pleasure to hear him sing the superb music written by guitarist Tony Clarkin. As for Catley's stage persona, he is as charming and cheerful as ever.

Performance: 7 chalices of 10
Stage sound
: 8 chalices of 10
: Vigilante
: That there are no changes in the setlist.

Live 'til You Die
Black Skies
Freedom Day
Dance Of The Black Tattoo
Blood Red Laughter
Unwritten Sacrifice
How Far Jerusalem
Les Morts Dansant
Falling For The Big Plan
All England's Eyes
Kingdom Of Madness
Sacred Hour

Band: Michael Schenker's Temple Of Rock
Zamora Stage 22.15 - 23.45

Before the festival, seeing guitar legend Michael Schenker was no doubt one of the big features for many at Väsby Rock, this writer included. The concert starts in style with the UFO anthem Doctor Doctor and another jewel from the same group as third song, Lights Out. The first part of the set also includes a couple of good tracks from the last two albums released with the moniker Temple Of Rock. For this stage in his career, Schenker have reunited with two of his old bandmates from Scorpions, bassist Francis Buchholz and drummer Herman Rarebell. The two rhythm players are enjoying themselves onstage, Buchholz smiling constantly, and it's nice to see them in action again.

To celebrate Schenker's time with them in Scorpions, we get fine versions of Lovedrive and Coast To Coast, and later on in the set three big Scorpions hits. Regarding these, Schenker had no part whatsoever in the recording of Rock You Like A Hurricane and Blackout, thus making their inclusion a bit questionable. They are appreciated by the crowd, though, and the set is overall a good mixture of songs from the guitarist's career, although some more early MSG tracks are missed.

The band, also with the always reliable and proficient vocalist Doogie White plus guitarist/keyboardist Wayne Findlay, are solid. As for Schenker's own performance, it is a joy to hear him play and he is much more spirited and outgoing onstage nowadays. His solo spot during Rock Bottom gets rather drawn-out, however, and the peculiar, exceedingly bright light directed from the stage during the whole thing gets very irritating. While it's enjoyable to witness Schenker and crew at Väsby Rock, it is not as memorable as their own concert I saw last year.

Performance: 7 chalices of 10
Stage sound
: 7 chalices of 10
: Lights Out
: The guitar solo (not the playing but its form).

Doctor Doctor
Live and Let Live
Lights Out
Where The Wild Winds Blow
Natural Thing
Victim Of Illusion
Coast To Coast
Vigilante Man
Saviour Machine
Shoot Shoot
Before The Devil Knows You're Dead
Lord Of The Lost And Lonely
Rock You Like A Hurricane
Rock Bottom

Band: W.A.S.P.
Väsby Rock Stage 00.00 - 01.40

Concluding the second day at Väsby Rock Festival is W.A.S.P., very popular in Sweden since the 80's, and anticipation is high. The party kicks off with material from the same decade and the chilly night gets warmer. The crowd responds with excitement and singing to classic tunes like L.O.V.E. Machine, Wild Child and Sleeping In The Fire. Blackie Lawless' characteristic voice is as great and powerful as we are used to and the band puts in a tight and busy effort, with Swede Patrik Johansson replacing the recently departed Mike Dupke on the drums. However, some of the songs come in incomplete versions, such as Forever Free and Hellion, combined to a medley. Sure, this has been the case for a long time during W.A.S.P. gigs, but it is still annoying.

The second part of the set consists of complete songs, starting with the emotive The Idol which is a highlight this evening. Then it's time for the big W.A.S.P. and heavy metal hymn I Wanna Be Somebody which has everyone singing along as always. After a couple more favourites as an encore, it is over - still with quite some time left of the band's allotted playing time. This feels questionable, not least with those snippets of some of the songs in mind. When all comes around, though, this is a strong display by W.A.S.P. and a fitting conclusion of a very enjoyable weekend at Väsby Rock Festival.

Performance: 7 chalices of 10
Stage sound
: 8 chalices of 10
: The Idol
: The choice to play medleys instead of complete songs.

On Your Knees/The Torture Never Stops/The Real Me
L.O.V.E. Machine
Wild Child
Sleeping In The Fire/Forever Free
Hellion/I Don't Need No Doctor
The Idol
I Wanna Be Somebody
Chainsaw Charlie (Murders In The New Morgue)
Blind In Texas

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