Z-2002 - Manchester Ritz Sunday 5th May, 2002
YOUR BANDS: SONS OF ANGELS, ARABIA, BRIGHTON ROCK, SILENT RAGE, VON GROOVE, HUMANIMAL, BONFIRE, WESTWORLD.
YOUR COMMENTATOR: DAVE ATTRILL
It's flown, hasn't it. The 364 days since we were last down this street below a railway arch in rural Manchester town. And so the doors fly wide open once again, in we go, past various heavies collecting ticket stubs, as well as thrusting flyers of all shapes and sizes. Then, half an hour to get used to the place again before the lights go down for our first act of the afternoon.
SONS OF ANGELS
Two familiar faces front the ranks amongst these Scandinavian retournees. Street Legal main-man, Bjorn Boge is a hired hand on bass here, at the moment, and being relieved of his lead vocal duties today means that he's got more time to perfect his stage presence classes further (remember Gods 2000?). Frontman Solli, has been seen in more than one place of late with also being the current vocalist in 21 Guns but sadly, no covers of 'Knee Deep', 'Little Sister' or 'Jungleland' look to be on the bill tonight.
They actually start off with 'No Sorrow' as it happens, Solli taking to the boards in full biker attire, leather jacket, shades, n' all. A particular bizzare opening track for a live set this song is, given its slow deep grinding arrangement, but it is followed by a song bang at the other end of the tempo spectrum. 'Burning Up My Childhood' is probably one of the new album's golden cuts, along with 'Love You Too Much' and 'Fire', both of which get the go-over today. One, which to all acts of scandal, doesn't is stunning power ballad 'Gimme Lovin'.
We do of course expect, and get, a selection from their first record including old nuggets 'Fight' and 'Cowgirl', but which time Solli's donning a Stetson. I'd think however, the best dressed man on the boards has to be their guitarist who comes on in suit, tie, short hair n' shades looking like some wealthy business tycoon. Great comeback set from the Norwegians, and I think a higher slot on the bill would have been nice considering this and other things, but the day at least starts on a high note - that's what counts.
These US newcomers were supposed to have been at last years's Z2001-Part 2 in Wigan, but when the said event almost bit the dust, they were one of the acts who failed to make the truncated final bill. My sadness at being unable to attend last August was shortened substantially by my second, this time successful, attempt to witness one of Z's hottest new properties.
A year since their debut disc '1001 Nights' hit the streets, they've built up quite a following, and their similiarity to scene legends House Of Lords is to their credit. Where this comparison comes from is crystal clear, whether it's on Cd or stage that you've first lent them your lobes, - it's all due to frontman John Blaze's roof-ripping roaring vocal talents. Dubbed the vocal find of 2001 by several magazines, I understand, this chap's performance makes the band, the band it is.
The guy on guitar knows how to churn out some top chords too, though I can't help but wonder what all his constant grimacing through the 50-minute set's all about, did you forget the toilet before you started, mate? Good to set the East Coast still reeling out acts like these on its production line. A worthy return for next year's do.
One of Canada's top four melodic rock acts, all of whom will be playing over here this year, Toronto's Brighton Rock are one of quite a large batch of old faves signed to the label in the last year. Yes, so they've aged a bit, since last seen about a decade back and only one of them still retains a poodle perm. It's the music that matters though, as always and the quintet's blues fuelled bombast has stood the test of time flawlessly.
Apart from their new live album on Z, a future studio release is said to be on the way, and I think we get one or two apparently 'new' numbers tonight. Quite a lot of their most avid followers are in attendance today, as the volume of applause demonstrates, and I'd think there's still enough cement to add some more bricks to their wall of support. Their set tonight is a perfect example of putting paid to that detestable cynicism about old bands losing form on a later life return.
Some more old friends from the eighties follow soon after and rarely have I become a fan of a band so quickly as I have of LA's Silent Rage. Still with the same line-up they left off with on '89's 'Don't Touch Me There', they explode on to the same rippling response that Brighton Rock have just garnered. Their set is a heavy blend of material from all three albums including new corker 'Still Alive' with recent Z sampler CD fave 'Unchained' being my finest four minutes of the hour.
'Rebel With A Cause' and 'Running On Love' are still the anthems they've been from conception - stadium rock meltdown of the first degree, and raise the same smiles and studded fists as before, on being heard once again. The primary characteristic you notice with this band is their triple lead vocal rota which continuously alternates from song to song, between guitarists Jesse and Mark and bassist EJ - usually you'd expect this to be one damn good way of making a band's members fall out.
You also notice the growing trend in the wearing of Hawaiian tops by melodic rock musicians onstage, these days which actually does credit in that it reduces the ridicule pinned on hard rock by the small-minded majority of mickey-takers for being all 'leather n' denim'. Silent Rage come on, play and go, leaving us feeling just like they themselves claim to be - rebels with a cause.
A slight reshuffling of the schedules means that Von Groove get on a set earlier - the cause being Humanimal's drummer Thomas Broman flying in late, so the two bands have traded slots. Von Groove decide to be their own technicians in tuning up the equipment prior to starting but everything is to adequate adjustments in only a matter of minutes.
Starting rather unexpectedly with 'Can't Find My Groove', they then tear into 'Oxygen' from the 'Seventh Day' album from hereon in, Toronto's finest are in business. They quite predictably stir up the same deafening response as their UK/European debut here a year earlier did, albeit only being allocated an hour on the stage this time round by those devastated by the cancellation of the autumn 2001 UK tour now have their compensation on a plate. There are one or two standout moments through the set - one being the amusing aborted attempt at 'Lily' after one or two of the members miss their count-in, thus postponing the tune to a later place in the set, the other is the emotional acoustic run of 'Heaven Knows Your Name' which Mike Shotton dedicates to the victims of the September 11th bombing, still fresh in everyone's minds, eight months on.
Other old faves are not forgotten today either and 'Chameleon', 'Drivin Off The Edge' and countless others get a regular roasting, not least from that human riff-machine himself, Mladen, as usual on no less than absolutely top of top form tonight. 'Lily' gets another try, this time without mishap before it's time for the song that everyone comes to a Von Groove show for, 'Once Is Not Enough', still the belter it's been since it was first heard over a decade ago. With the stunning quality provided courtesy of both their PA and their powerful musicianship, once certainly is NOT enough, and I have my doubts to whether twice is, either.
With all four men safely in the house, it's time to see what this much-hyped Swedish/US Supergroup can offer us. Having enjoyed their debut CD, high, or higher things are anticipated. And delivered. This who's who of the Swedish melodic rock scene, having been together for a year at the time of writing, have already visited us once with last year's Z2001-Pt 2 package. Pontus Norgren, Marcel Jacob and Thomas Broman have already climbed their way to the top of Sweden's hard rock roster over the last decade plus, with bands like Great King Rat, Talisman, Amaze Me, Electric Boys and Human Clay whilst Jeff Scott Soto can also add singing with US faves Takara and guitar god Yngwie Malmsteen to his accolades.
Tonight though, it's stuff off the 'Humanimal' platter that matters and an impressive majority are already acquainted with the disc. This band's material comes under no real category within melodic rock circles apart from its similarity to Talisman. Anything involving Mr. Soto stays in quite a self-contained area, but it still stands out about a decade from most of the sort of hard rock you'd mostly be familiar with. Quite deep, brooding and soulful, it only bears very vague resemblances at moments to the product of the other acts apart from Talisman, that the four lads have been a part of in the past.
They suffer a Von Groove-esque mishap when kicking into the song 'Turn Away', (which I think one or two of them did, rather red-faced) but eventually get it off the ground and going. The party piece comes at the end of their set with a STUNNING rendition of Journey's 'Edge Of The Blade' - well, if we're not likely to see Neal Schon and co on these shores in the too distant future, this will more than do in the meantime. The ultimate melodic rock hybrid of the season are out in full bloom. Fab stuff lads.
A late, but very welcome addition to the Z-2002 listings comes in the shape of these Teutonic titans who've not withered one second in the fifteen years or so they've spent as a working unit. An eleventh hour replacement for Burning Rain (who've had to give it the heave-ho due to a busy recording schedule).
Last year's rather striking 'Strike Ten' has been re-issued on Z, landing it a proper release in the UK. Stuff from this, and classic early albums 'Fireworks' and 'Point Blank' is what they're mostly about tonight, with plenty from their intermediate releases scattered amongst the pack. Quite an alarming little amount of pogoing at the front there indicates the enthusiasm of the fans and believe me, opportunities to see bands like these are not exactly on your doorstep on a daily basis, so everyone is advisedly making the most of proceedings.
Whilst the drum solo is on, vocalist Klaus Leismann does a lap of honour round the room, shaking hands and thanking their followers for making the effort to attend, That's not to say the band don't make one themselves because they deserve us more than we deserve them with splendid work from all five lads today, Leismann's Holder-esque shrieking still providing this bonfire with it's fuel by the gallon. One of hard rock's greatest survival stories, still as strong as ever.
Probably one of the larger appeals of tonight's headlining act is having a member of Danger Danger (namely Mr Bruno Ravel, esqire) aboard the ship, the other being their highly cheerful brand of new-age melodic rock. They've only been together for four years and only have two albums worth of their own material to go at, but New Jersey Supergroup Westworld give it their all, all the same.
Having heard both of these sizzlin' spinners, I anticipate their set tonight in a high light. Opener 'I Belong' is probably my favourite song of theirs so far, and others such as 'Uneasy', 'Get A Life' and 'Ivory Towers' make the albums all the more tempting to the uneducated. I have to confess to not being too familiar with TNT's material but I'm guessing I've heard one or two tracks from Tony's legendary Norwegian act - also now on Z - tonight. The odd Danger Danger song would have also been nice - BRUNO - but there isn't room for everything.
I have a further and much more bitter pill to swallow in having to leave the venue, a few minutes from the end of the show due to fitting with the infuriatingly insufficient late night train services from Manchester back to Sheffield -well it's a long walk home otherwise. I'm trusting that the band will have played their other essential cut 'Illusions' in my absence, and next time I see these guys, I will make sure I'm able to stop for the full set. As for what I've caught of you tonight though lads, I can hardly fault one bit. Smashin'.
That was Z-2002 then. It Flew just as fast as last year's . For those of you who didn't catch it, the show moves down the road to Nottingham Rock City for next year. I'll be there, and so I hope will be most of you.
I'd just like to go on record to thank the venue for food I ruthlessly consumed through the day, the bands for taking the time come over, playing their arses off, talking to their fans and signing various bits 'n' bobs.
A big thank-you to the Bassist from Brighton Rock for letting me know I'd left one of my sets of autographs at their signing stall earlier.
And finally to Mark Alger for making today possible - you are God, mate.
Peace and Keep The Faith - DAVE
Sunday, May 6th Manchester Ritz
Is it really that time of year again already? Pinch me til I'm hurting horrendously but it is. The Z Festival of 2000 was in our first issue in October, and barely half a year on, here we go again. We've ranted in anticipation about this show in every issue thus far and then it came . rocked the roof off, and was gone. So those of you naughty enough not to turn up, what did you miss.
The first of two bands returning from last year's event heat things up to nearly Gas Mark 5 as it is. I'd missed about three quarters of that set due to me and my entourage turning up somewhat short of schedule. This time, I'm in as soon as the doors open and the hour-and-a-quarter before the Scouse sextet set foot on the boards, gives me time to familiarise myself, - about a few times over - with the whereabouts of the various stalls and outlets at my disposal.
What impresses me most today is that we for once have a proper stage, rather than the pathetic postage-stamp-sized little foot-high platform that bands have to squeeze themselves onto at Maximes. Hence, better view of who's playing that great rock music up there. That'll be Contagious, by the way. They air a considerable quantity from their forthcoming debut full-lengther, plus most of the stuff off their well received 'Red, White and Slightly Blue' EP from last year - which I finally get my mitts on today at the CD stall.
'Find A Way' and 'Danger Signs' are punchy UFO - drenched numbers, the latter also stained by vague traces of Tyketto. I didn't 't quite catch who their current keyboard bloke is, although I remember Ged Rylands being part of this tribe a year ago. Danny Danzi had also lent a hand during the band's early days and this legacy appears to hover as the two guitarists shred out some solos that keep this band's soundular presence felt very warmly indeed. They close their 45 minute set - extended from 30 because of Shy's last-minute abscondence - with 'Muscle', always a favourite since hearing it on last year's sampler, and originally written by Swedish band Treat. Contagious? You bet your life they'll be, matey. On my first go at gig photography (since my feeble attempts at Donington in '95) I get two successful snaps of the band, though it doesn't help that there's six of the buggers to keep all of within the lens at any one time, so apologies if I missed any of you off the shots, lads.
by Dave Attrill
Hell, I've just given their new album the full ten marks n' all, but it had to come. Bursting into action with 'Face That Evil' actually one of the newies they played last year, the quartet are intense in both power and melody as they practically own the room for the full 55-minute stretch that they're up there.
The material ratio of the show is pretty straight forward when you think about it - practically 50 % each of stuff from the 'Utopia' and 'S/T' albums and the choice cuts are just as. 'Life Goes On', 'Caught By Surprise', 'Innocent' and of course their striking run of Dokken's 'Unchain The Night' come in way ahead of the pack for me. There's quite a gathering of some of the lads down the front on some occasions - I wonder if trying to get a glimpse of their stunning female drummer Linda has some connection. Me, I'm too busy enjoying some of the best old-school heavy metal I've heard in years to care, really (I'm afraid our thoughts on attractive women playing in the band are not allowed to enter into things). All four musicians go through their notes with such prowess; I'm surprised there's no smoke from the back of their amps by the time they finished. You see, this is what heavy metal was like once, kids, if you've got into the scene via Slipknot et al, and believe me, if you take this trip back in time with us to when the number of chords allowed per song exceeded three, you'd have had some fun.
By Dave Attrill
Sweden's Prisoner hit off to 'Don't Wanna Waste Another' from their debut album, one of the best songs of the day in my humble opinion before proceeding to bombard us with stuff from both their albums, (last year's 'Blind' and the recently pressed 'Prisoner 2' offering). Stuff off both is white hot, sounding even better on stage than on CD. The title track off 'Blind' is itself a fave from before but the other much anticipated cut 'Italian girl' is sadly a non-inclusion on the afternoon's billing, despite the rather repeated demands of one loudmouth amongst the gathering.
What I like about Pris' particularly is how the two vocalists take turns throughout the songs, changing over after each verse, chorus or even just lines sometimes. One of the two lads brought out an acoustic guitar at one or two points in the set so that unfortunately shuts him up a little bit. On the subject of geetars, main bloke Tommy Denander is absent tonight as announced by one of the lads whose accents actually sound more American than Swedish, I notice, earlier on in the show. And you think their music doesn't sound American? Kip Winger would give his house to have written some of these tunes, matey.
Finishing off our Swedish triple-bill today are a group who once were called Lifeline and once played at the Z before, in 99. Today they are Dreamhunter and they are still hunting though things have come pretty much true for them over the last year, on the back of their debut 'Kingdom Come' and now their follow-up 'Bad Attitude' witnesses their fantasies materialise further.
Again, it's a direct half & half split between both albums for selections today, though the first brace is as expected from the latest pressing. It takes me a little while to get the hang of things, as one or two of the first songs do differ a bit from their other stuff, which may be because I hadn't heard the 'Bad At ' However, salvation is round the corner, as plenty of 'Kingdom ' faves come flying at me from all directions, including 'Kingdom Come', 'Anyway You Want It', 'When Heaven Calls Your Name' and 'Long Cold Winter' but to name just a handful.
Not neglecting the new material, 'Heart is The Lonely Hunter' and 'Banging Like A Drum' are faves on stage as much as they are on disc and along with the rest, sum up everything that is big about the big hair era. Strangely enough, none of them have hair longer than collar length though if you picked up the May issue and saw that ancient photo from the band's primitive days, you could be forced to dispute. Quality control maintained throughout, as is the law in this field of rock music; things are looking very promising indeed at the halfway stage of the day.
By Dave Attrill
After a slightly delayed take to the stage, Burning Rain woke up the crowd with the cut 'Smooth Locomotion' from their self titled debut album. Here on it was air guitar, fist pumping and foot stomping all the way through till the end of the set.
Taking influences from a healthy dosage of Whitesnake, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple - these guys rocked. Vocalist, Keith St. John is a cocky little Californian who can really command and turn on a crowd - big style; whilst Doug Aldrich is a top notch rock guitarist who further electrifies the already excited audience.
Burning Rain broke into new cuts from their 'Pleasure to Burn' album, premiering numbers like the 'snakey bopping of 'Love Emotion', the ballad 'Cherie don't break my heart' (with it's 'Mr. Crowley'ish lead guitar solo from Doug) and Keith's voice being a mirror image of Coverdale's. The track 'Fireball' (also from 'Pleasure to Burn') is an absolute barnstormer and is mixed in with sensational material like 'Tokyo Rising', 'Can't turn you back' and 'Fool No More' from the first album.
Drummer Alex Makarovitch is very much a Cozy Powell of the new millennium - Good on him; whereas Bass-man Ian Mayo is a fine example of what Roger Glover would sound like if he was abducted from Deep Purple and placed in a sleazy cock rock fun-time band.
If you require the wailing vocal style of David Coverdale, love Led Zeppelin and dig Deep Purple then you must see these guys live. In the meantime - buy their albums - I did!!!
A top-spanking 10/10.
By Glenn Milligan, BA Hons CS
The originally intended headliners of the day, as announced at Wigan last year, the Canadian supremos show no embarrassment at being toppled down a slot by Enuff Z'nuff, as over the next hour and a quarter, their exquisite brand of seventies flavoured hard rock takes command. Having already got myself in guitarist Malden's good books over my 10/10 review of the new 24K album, I can see that he is enjoying the English hospitality to the hilt as he smashes the hell out of those strings. And when you've got such great songs plus such a great new album as 'Seventh Day' as your weapons of choice, no ammo should be spared. 'Believe In The One' and 'Guns Over London' are the significant blasts of latest making, tonight with old favourites aplenty rigged to explode throughout.
A fan in the audience gets his chance at fame by singing out loud the chorus to 'Drivin' off the Edge' as Mike Shotton introduces the song and then the vocalist proceeds to climb into the crowd and hand his new friend the mike for a spot of karaoke. What makes that so special for the band is their underground status on these shores though they will NOT be that, this time next year, if tonight's show is anything to judge by. What makes it very special indeed is that it is, as the majority of you peace lovin' Brit folk know is it is the Groove's first ever live gig in the whole of UK and Europe and you can tell the effect the long wait has had on the crowd as their reception practically deafens even Shotton himself.
The band has the cheek to play a song called 'I Can't Find My Groove', too. One of their heavier tunes this, actually with some real fingernail-down-blackboard riffage. Crowd pleasers, the essential part of any live show are tucked neatly away until needed with 'Once Is Not Enough' and 'House Of Dreams' amongst the faves of the two .yes TWO encore sessions, and who says only Metallica are allowed to do multiple encores . This band have never set foot on this island, mate - unless you count Mladen with 24K last year, and also the fact that Shotton was born in Newcastle. Pity Matthew Gerrard never will with this band, as he left less than three months before hand - but new man Tom Lewis clad in bleached hair and shades does the duty pleasingly, aided by live drummer Matt Caverzan.
The heat seems to have an equally overwhelming effect on the sharp suited Mladen tonight as the welcome his band gets though he bears it until the last five songs where the jacket is shed and come the encores there's no shirt in sight either through he keeps the bowler hat on. And you think the audience were freezing, Mlad? Von Groove are over here again in October so for those of you who missed this magical day in Manchester, you think you could try and make it up to them?
Enuff Z 'Nuff
After waiting a seriously long time to witness this band - I was rather disappointed with what was offered. This was due to the sound mix which rather messy (you simply couldn't hear Donny Vie's Vocals properly - they appeared to be echoed away and buried in the mix with the guitar sound).
Opening with The Beatles 'Revolution', the audience was considerably impressed with their presence - especially since the band hadn't played in the U.K. for years. They performed numerous songs from their self-titled debut album like 'Kiss the Clown' and 'For Now' which were interspersed with cuts like 'Takin' a Ride' (from their 'Animals with Human Intelligence' album). A really nice version of the acoustic 'It's No Good' (from the 'Seven' album) was delivered which impressed me a lot - it's amazing to witness a powerful rock band when they are stripped down to the bare wood essentials.
An excellent drum solo was delivered from Ricky Parent (who was joined by Bassist Chip Znuff - it reminded me of the times I saw G'N'R live when Duff Mckagan would add in extra sound to Matt Sorum's earth-shattering solo's. A major highlight was when the Enuff Znuff were joined on-stage by two girls towards the end of their set who danced stage-left and stage-right to an extended version of the EZN classic 'New Thing'. Chip Znuff collapsed during this song, and later hurled his bass guitar to the floor and left the stage - much to the shock and bewilderment of the entire crowd. Funnily enough, no encore pursued - instead Donny Vie came out and informed us that Chip had hurt himself and thanked us for a great day???
Now that's a rather strange end to what had been an otherwise excellent concert!!!
(due to bad sound, a crap ending and a guitarist who was forever fiddling with his amplifier - which didn't help matters).
By Glenn Milligan, BA Hons CS