Firefest - Saturday

20 October 2012

Rock City, Nottingham


Opening the first full day of Firefest with Made In California, Johnny Lima leaves us in no doubt where he is from, if you hadn’t already guessed from his headscarf, sunglasses and scarfs tied around his microphone stand.  That opener constituted the oldest song in his set, which otherwise was drawn from his 2009 album Livin’ Out Loud, with two new compositions added.


Back when recorded, that last album was posted online by someone claiming it to be new Bon Jovi demos.  Its true Lima’s recorded voice does at time have a resemblance to Jon Bon Jovi, however live it sounded nearer to Vince Neil with at times the likes of Wildflower recalling Motley Crue.


Johnny Lima Johnny Lima Johnny Lima


For his European dates, Lima is backed by a group of musicians from Hannover who have the Californian’s material nailed as if they were his regular band.  They give a brooding edge to new song My Revolution, which also saw Lima showing off his own guitar skills.


Johnny Lima provided a fun opening to Saturday, closing the set in the photographers pit with the fitting finale of Hard To Say Goodbye.


Johnny Lima setlist:

Made In California / Hate To Love You / All I Wanna Do / Wildflower / My Revolution / Blame It On Love / Caught In The Middle / Hard To Say Goodbye


For a 1.50pm start, Work Of Art had drawn a very impressive sized crowd, eager to see if the Swedes were as good in the flesh as their two albums to date have delivered.  The opening two tracks from their latest, In Progress, started the set strongly.  Having fronted Lionville the previous day, Lars Säfsund was back on duty with the microphone, with his ever present smile intact.


To Säfsund’s right, guitarist Robert Sall impressed early during his solo for Nature Of The Game.  However, perhaps it is still a bit too early, as the following Cover Me catches him in the wrong tuning, with the guitarist sheepishly rectifying his error during the first verse and mouthing “Sorry” to the forgiving crowd.


Work Of Art Work Of Art Work Of Art 


Camelia took the band into Toto territory, whereas Never Love Again could easily have appeared as montage music in an 80s movie.  Work Of Art’s songwriting is incredibly slick and easily wins over the Firefest crowd.  The Great Fall has the crowd singing the chorus line so loud, Säfsund is visibly taken aback.  Meanwhile Why Do I? closed out the set to cheers from the satisfied crowd.


Work Of Art setlist:

The Rain / Nature Of The Game / Cover Me / Camelia / Emelie / Never Love Again / The Great Fall / Why Do I?


One of the few issues with Firefest is getting food, with nothing available in the venue and the gaps between bands barely sufficient to allow time to nip in and out.  As a result Johan and I chose to sacrifice seeing all but the first couple of songs of Robin Beck’s set, giving him just enough time to get some photos.


From what I did see, Beck may be small in stature, but possesses both a big voice and personality.  Opener If I You Were A Woman & I Was A Man was belted out in a strong fashion with Beck working the stage alongside husband, and House Of Lords mainman, James Christian.


Robin Beck Robin Beck Robin Beck 


The other amusing brief observation was Beck’s comical constant use of expletives with a “positive” surprised cry of “Shite!” at the strong crowd reaction to that opener and a random “Bollocks” and something to do with “Getting the clap” as we were heading out?!  Feedback from friends on our return was very positive.


Robin Beck setlist:

If You Were A Woman & I Was A Man / Don't Lose Any Sleep / Hold Back The Night / Save Up All Your Tears / That All Depends / Tears In The Rain / The One / Hide Your Heart / First Time / Follow you


We returned to fight a wave of people exiting the main hall as we tried to fight our way back in.  Unfortunately for Santers it appeared as perhaps the most unknown band on today’s bill, people had decided to take their slot as food time.


This was a shame for both the Canadian band and those missing them as they opened strongly with Winter Freeze and Mistreatin’ Heart.  Santers offered something a bit different and perhaps more blues based with Mark Santers slipping the Layla main lick into that second song.


Drummer Rick Santers exclaimed, “It’s been a long time and it feels fantastic”, with the stage announcer having noted earlier “We’ve waited 30 years for this.”


Santers Santers Santers 


With the band only comprising three members they not only have a lot of stage to fill, but also come across as more organic than their recorded material with only a single guitar and the keyboards absent.  Mid set they seem to stretch out, particularly during the low key Dreaming and did lose the crowd a little with the inclusion of an unnecessary drum solo.


A cover of Free’s All Right Now gave the crowd something familiar to sing along to and put the set back on track, strongly finishing with Can’t Shake You and Road To Morocco.


Santers setlist:

Winter Freeze / Mistreatin’ Heart / Time After Time / Black Magic / The Rapper / Dreaming / Shot Down In Flames / Drum Solo / You Turn Me On / All Right Now / Can’t Shake You / Road To Morocco


I was really hoping for a strong showing from XYZ and they didn’t disappoint putting in my personally favourite set of the day.  Following opener Come On N’ Love Me, it just needed Tony Marcus to play the opening riff to Maggy to get a cheer from the crowd.


“We have the best crew, we have the best crowd, so we’re gonna sing loud and proud”, declared Terry Ilous.  His statement of intent was echoed by a powerful vocal performance.  Between songs he projected a likeable rapport, telling the crowd that What Keeps Me Lovin’ You was particularly special as he, “Wrote it for wife no.1”.  Later he comically described After The Rain in similar terms about “Wife no.2”.


That latter song formed part of a three song acoustic set mid-set with just Ilous and Marcus seated on stools.  This added a nice change of pace to the set, though considering the brevity of their stage time, I’d have preferred to have switched one of those songs for a full electric song.




With the full band back in action, Face Down In The Gutter had the crowd clapping through its mid-section.  At its conclusion Ilous introduced a surprise for live wire bassist Patt Fontaine with two girls taking the stage with a Birthday cake.  “He thinks he’s gonna get laid” joked Ilous, before quipping “Get some Viagra!”


Inside Out wrapped things up and here’s hoping the band can be tempted back to our shores in the future.


XYZ setlist:

Come On n' Love Me / Maggy / Off To The Sun / What Keeps Me Lovin’ You / Follow the Night / After the Rain / When I Find Love / Souvenirs / Face Down In The Gutter / Inside Out


Comically this was how XYZ’s on stage set list actually read:

Come On & Blow Me / Magget / Off To The Bun / What Keeps Me Loathing U / Follow The Dick / After The Drain / When I Pound Love / Souvedicks / Face Down / Inside Out / Don’t Say Ho (if encore)


“So good to be back Firefest”, called Mitch Malloy towards the end of his opener Mission Of Love and it hadn’t been long with the singer songwriter last appearing here only a year ago.  Without a pause Malloy led his band, which consisted of the bulk of the Lionville line up, straight through Falling To Pieces and Stranded In The Middle Of Nowhere.


When the band finally paused the fact that Malloy is a Firefest favourite was undeniable from both the loud cheers and girls swooning at every toss of Malloy’s hair or glint of his teeth.  After a flirtation with Country music in Nashville, his return to the rock fold was clearly the right move for Malloy and tonight he mainly draws from his self-titled 1992 rock debut and its natural 2011 successor Mitch Malloy II.


Mitch Malloy Mitch Malloy Mitch Malloy 


Malloy’s music may stray too far to the lighter end of rock for my tastes to fully hold my attention, but his vocal sheen is undeniable and hearing it makes it less surprising that he was (very) briefly welcomed to the Van Halen line-up between Sammy Hagar and Gary Cherone’s stints.


Later in the set he introduced a new song, I believe called Shine, whilst welcoming a special guest in “Mr Naughty Naughty himself”, Danger Danger bassist Bruno Ravel.  The biggest responses however is unsurprising the penultimate song, and Mitch’s biggest hit, Anything At All


Mitch Malloy setlist:

Mission Of Love / Falling To Pieces / Stranded In The Middle Of Nowhere / I’ll Still Love You / Over The Water / It’s About Love / Love Song / On & On / Our Love Will Never Die / Forever / Shine / Anything At All / All My Friends


Gotthard’s set was always going to be emotional, being the band’s first UK appearance since the tragic death of original singer Steve Lee in 2010.  Having taken the decision to continue, the remainder of the band recruited Nic Maeder, putting out a new album Firebirth this year.  Obviously it’s a tough ask to replace a frontman who was so synonymous with Gotthard and well loved by the fans.  On this showing however Gotthard appear to have selected the right man to continue their legacy.


Maeder does not shy from the role of frontman, with a full emphasis on truly fronting the band.  His presence is by no means nervous and a commanding Gone Too Far quickly quells any doubts.  Reappearing with a guitar he leads the band through Starlight, the opening song from their latest album, with the crowd clapping along mid song.


Gotthard Gotthard Gotthard


Gotthard turned the atmosphere jovial very quickly, with the crowd bouncing along to the anthemic Top Of The World and loud shouts of “naa-na-na-naa” during a cover of Billy Joe Royal’s Hush, made most famous of course by Deep Purple.


One Life, One Soul, dedicated to Steve Lee was emotional played with just a piano and vocal.  The lighting pitched at a more sombre tone with less lights directly on the band.


This was a strong return from Gotthard indicating the story’s in fact far from over.


Gotthard setlist:

Dream On / Gone Too Far / Starlight / Top Of The World / Remember It's Me / Sister Moon / Fight / Hush / One Life, One Soul / Shine / The Story's Over / Fist In Your Face / Give Me Real / Mountain Mama / Right On / Lift U Up / Master Of Illusion / Anytime Anywhere