Firefest - Sunday
21 October 2012
Rock City, Nottingham
Sunday represented both a slow and late start for Rockers Digest, opting to forego both Far Cry and Fiona our first band of the day was Royal Hunt. Taking to the stage a little later than planned with One More Day from their latest album Show Me How To Live, the band’s live line-up included two female backing singers. Taking lead vocals, American D.C. Cooper, who fronted the band during their popular Moving Target and Paradox era’s, returned the band last year for that impressive album. As he pointed out later in the set, tonight represented “Technically the very end of Royal Hunt’s 20th Anniversary tour”.
The Mission from the 2001 album of the same name was next up with Jonas Larsen playing Richie Blackmore enthused guitar lines. His military jacket and curls of hair had him resembling a slim-line Yngwie Malmsteen, as he took centre stage to play the guitar solo for Step By Step behind his head.
Unfortunately, due to the late start, Hard Rain’s Coming was dropped from the set which continued still strongly with Half Past Loneliness. The ever quirky Cooper headed into the photopit to get closer to the fans before a round of band introductions. Cooper exaggerated that band leader André Andersen usually has 26 keyboards but was limited to 4 this evening. Andersen then comically indicated one didn’t actually work so he was down to three. Those keyboards form an integral part of the Royal Hunt sound, adding a symphonic and at times baroque feel.
This felt an incredible brief sighting of Royal Hunt as they closed out the set with Message To God and I made a point of seeking them out later to suggest a headline UK show was much overdue.
Royal Hunt setlist:
One More Day / The Mission / Step By Step / Last Goodbye / Half Past Loneliness / Stranded / Message To God
If you based your opinion on Brighton Rock on the videos for power ballads Can’t Wait For The Night and One More Try and even, more up-tempo but very commercial, Hangin’ High & Dry, you could get a very warped view of the band. That was essentially my introduction to the Canadians back in the day and they’d been pretty much off my radar as a result up until prepping for Firefest.
In fact, Brighton Rock rock far harder than expected. They opened with statement of intent Unleash The Rage, which saw a suspense building delayed entrance from frontman Gerry McGhee. A bit of synchronised rocking followed during Young, Wild & Free, with McGhee sounding borderline Brian Johnson. Barricade recalled Accept and it was only after that that Hangin’ High & Dry introduced the keyboard and a far more commercial sound. I do have to confess that song is however something of a guilty pleasure.
Brighton Rock split after their third album in the early 1990s and have since re-grouped on a couple of occasions without long term plans. However, this time Firefest’s invite may inspire more longevity, with talk of a new album in 2013. The band stick to their back catalogue today including the anthemic Rebels With A Cause, We Came Here To Rock and aforementioned lighter waving moment, One More Try.
Brighton Rock setlist:
Unleash The Rage / Young, Wild & Free / Barricade / Hanging High & Dry / Outlaw / Rebels With A Cause / Hollywood Shuffle / We Came To Rock / One More Try / Night Stalker / Power Overload / Bulletproof
Top of my hit list for the weekend were Lillian Axe who today were making their first UK appearance in almost 20 years. I believe guitarist Steve Blaze was the only member left from that line-up, though Lillian Axe has very much been his baby that he has nurtured.
The band’s trip to Europe was not without issues however, with current vocalist Brian C. Jones having to skip the tour, but fortunately former singer Derrick LeFevre agreed to step in. Oddly perhaps of the four albums not touched on today, three were the albums LeFevre sang on, though it’s possible the set was already rehearsed prior to the singer switch. Regardless LeFevre appeared both confident and well equipped to handle all of the material today and it’s likely many here were unaware of his status.
Unsurprisingly the band’s most commercially successful album Love & War featured most heavily and it’s that material that was received most warmly by the Firefest crowd. All Fair’s In Love & War and Show A Little Love provide sing-alongs towards the beginning and end of the set, whilst the dark Ghost Of Winter’s chiming guitar was spine-tingling.
With long red velvet waistcoat hanging almost to the floor, Blaze prowled the stage like the head lion. His playing impressed and the strength of his song writing peppered the set. He’s described latest album, XI: The Last Days Before Tomorrow, as the best he has written for Lillian Axe and it’s no idol boast. Babylon and particularly the Savatage like Death Comes Tomorrow stand tall in the set.
It’s noticeable that the weakest moment of the set is closer No Matter What, which is a Badfinger cover version.Let’s hope we won’t be waiting 20 years for a return trip.
Lillian Axe setlist:
Misery Loves Company / Deepfreeze / All’s Fair In Love & War / Mercy / The World Stopped Turning / Hard Luck / True Believer / Dream Of A Lifetime / Babylon / Crucified / Ghost Of Winter / Death Comes Tomorrow / Show A Little Love / No Matter What
Heading into the final straight, Rock City was packed by the time Stage Dolls lengthy countdown intro tape and ended and the curtain had fallen to reveal the band. Personally they are a little too lightweight for my tastes and as soon as Johan had finished getting some shots we departed for some food.
Stage Dolls setlist included:
Always / Love Cries / Left Foot Boogie / You're The One / Love Don't Bother Me / Commandos / Sorry (Is All I Can Say) / Wings Of Steel / Still In Love / Soldier's Gun
So it was left to Danger Danger to close out the 2012 edition of Firefest. Many of the bands from the hair metal era may still be around to belt out their hits but perhaps no longer carry the image. Danger Danger do. With a large band logo back drop and wall of amps either side of drummer Steve West’s kit, the band skipped around the stage looking like a video from the era.
They can do no wrong with the Firefest crowd who go bonkers right from opener Rock America. Frontman Ted Poley is drawn to comment on the level of singing, “You guys are singing in tune tonight, no auto tune for you guys!”.
I couldn’t help thinking of Steel Panther’s affectionate parody of the era as I watched Danger Danger, particularly Poley who Michael Starr must have taken some influence from. Poley has appeared with that band and so obviously no offence has been taken.
After second song Beat The Bullet, the band were chatting away on stage so much that bassist Bruno Ravel joked, “We figured we’d do more drinking and talking than playing”.
“How many of you guys are packing 6 guns?”, asked Poley before crowd favourite Bang Bang, which was followed up with mega soppy ballad I Still Think About You.
Late on the band were joined on stage by a variety of guests, which included an incident of Mitch Malloy getting hit by a banana as roadies dressed up as monkeys danced round the stage to Monkey Business.
A fittingly fun end to a fun weekend then.
Danger Danger setlist:
Rock America / Beat the Bullet / Shot o' Love / Killin' Love / Don't Walk Away / Don't Blame It On Love / Hearts On The Highway / Feels Like Love / Bang Bang / I Still Think About You / Crazy Nites / Monkey Business / Naughty Naughty