Graspop 2011 – reviews (Part 1)

Just a few reflections – in no particular order, just whatever comes to mind….

SCORPIONS……..

Headlined Friday night, and like any headliner with self-respect, they brought enough fire, smoke and fireworks to make us feel like it was New Year’s Eve. But unfortunately it couldn’t hide the fact that Claus Meine isn’t exactly the most charismatic frontman in the world. And nowadays, when his voice sounds like a tone-deaf karaoke-singer in a bar at 2 AM, there is not much to get impressed by. I kept wishing that my earplugs had had a Meine-filter or something, because when he sang “Dynamite” it was so embarrassing that I could barely stand it.

Luckily, the show was saved by the stringbenders Mathias Jabs and Rudolf Schenker who amaze me because they must have found the fountain of youth or something. They never grow old, they still look cool in tight leather pants, and they can work a big stage like it’s still 1983!

Mathias’ smile has always been contageous, and being a stage performer is about projecting a feeling, not just being a perfect musician. There’s so much more to it and he knows what it takes.
Then of course, there’s the energetic and crazy drummer James Kottak who definitely doesn’t allow anyone to fall asleep.  

I just think that if the Scorps are about to retire, they should do the predictable thing that always works. Predictable can be boring, yes, but sometimes, at festivals especially, you need to just do what’s expected of you – which is play a “Best of Scorpions”-set.
Give people the hits, the sing-alongs, and create a singing crowd with cigarette-lighters and all that shit. We (almost) didn’t get any of that until the encores when they did “Still Loving You”.

You can fire off as many fireworks and flamethrowers as you want, it won’t help if the vocals suck and the setlist is boring. Maybe I’m just jaded, but Scorpions didn’t charm me this time.
I’ve seen them before, and years ago when they played Sweden Rock Festival, they kicked so much ass that I was totally exhausted from just having WATCHED them! That I remember it to this day. It was great.

The Graspop-gig was far, VERY far from that…. Enjoy your retirement, guys and thanks for the years of great music. :-)

 

FIREWIND…………

It’s safe to say that there is not a weak link in this band. Bob Katsionis blows me away every time, that guy is unreal..! Gus G may be the star of the band, but him and Bob are without a doubt equals musically – and honestly, if these two guys were to compete and play for their lives, it’s hard to say who would win!

When Firewind were due on stage, it was raining and the keyboards were covered with a towel for protection. Bob played it, with the towel still on it, and didn’t miss one single note…! Call me easy to impress, but my jaw just dropped. Is he serious?! :-)

Apollo has this Tony Martin-like voice that I really like, and although it’s a bit annoying when he adds or changes wovels to make some of the songs easier to sing (e.g a line from “Falling To Pieces” for instance: Let me lead you to-aaaah) he’s still a solid metal vocalist that brings his share to the table.

Bassplayer stand-in Marios (Nightrage) reminds me of Ian Hill of Judas Priest for some reason. :) He just has that same vibe somehow, doing his job and doing it well, but not claiming to compete with Gus and Bob for the crowd attention.

There’s not a lot more to be said about Gus G that I haven’t already said. I haven’t exactly made it a secret that I’m damn impressed by his abilities and I could probably watch another handful of shows with Ozzy or Firewind without getting bored for one second.

Usually what is being mentioned the most about Gus G, is his fast fingers – the ridiculous speed at which he can play. But the fact is that he is also a tasteful player, not just a shredder. In short, you always get what you came for. You get the faster-than-the-speed-of-light shreddng, but you also get simple, cool riffs that stick like glue and he is never boring on a stage either, as he’s all over the place. Just when you think you know where’s he’s heading, he’s already ran off in the opposite direction. :)

I might not be the right person to review Firewind since I really love what they do to begin with, but when you get a soaked crowd to stay throughout the whole set, dispite the pouring rain – you know that you’ve definitely got a good band right there. Looking forward to seeing more in a few days.:-)

WHITESNAKE………..

Oh boy. You can’t really review Whitesnake, because it’s an institution more than it’s a BAND. There’s not a person on this planet who doesn’t know at least one Whitesnake-song (unless they lived in a cave for the past 25 years).  That alone, secures a great show.

However… in this case I’ve got to be honest and establish one thing: The Belgian crowd was more into Channel Zero, who played on the same stage shortly before Whitesnake entered it, and it seemed that in a way the brutal macho-metal worked better than the melodic virtuosity from Whitesnake.

That has nothing to do with the band though. David Coverdale is the MASTER of a stage, he OWNS it, and moreso, he OWNS his crowd. There is not a frontman anywhere that can compete with David Coverdale in terms of charisma and total focus on what he’s doing.
He can project that emotion that I was talking about earlier, where he touches your soul by just showing his own emotions in every song and the way he performs it.

He is professional, yet one of the few who is still genuine and doesn’t come across as one of those “I’ve got to do this gig to pay the bills”-kind of people like so many of the older bands sometimes do.

There were some major differences in this show compared to the Sweden Rock-show. First of all, it’s difficult to create magic in broad daylight, secondly – the long guitar solos had been cut out of the set. Although I really love Doug Aldrich’s very cool, bluesy style, it’s Whitesnake that people want to see and hear, not necessarily a handful of solos.
I was glad that the DRUM-solo was still included though. I’m a sucker for drums, always have been. Brian Tichy is nothing short of amazing. I don’t think I even need to say anything, I’ll just share the evidence of my criminal deed, the video!

It was a good balance between new and older Whitesnake-material but I missed “Ain’t No Love In The Heart of The City“. It may not be Whitesnake’s own song, but they made it their own, and somehow it belongs in a WS-set just as much as “Here I Go Again“.

The Sweden Rock-show was pure magic, so it’s difficult not to compare and you really can’t.
David Coverdale rules, he always have, he always will – period. Doesn’t even matter if his voice can’t reach the stratosphere in some of the songs anymore. He was smart enough to write so many other songs that are not focused on the high-pitch singing. Stuff that shows off his more bluesy, deep, masculine voice that is so, SO sexy!

I’ve seen Whitesnake all over the world tons of times through the years, and they never bore me. Maybe once or twice they haven’t lived up to their standard, but when their standard is in a league of its own, I guess you’re entitled to suck once in a blue moon. :-)

MORE TO COME……

One comment

  1. Ronnie Soo

    Last time I saw the Scorps was at Tampere Sauna Open Air in 2008 – I felt the same, it didn’t really excite me and that surprised me cos every time I’d seen them before (including a 2006 support slot to That Band Who Let Daniela Down Badly) they’d been amazing. I put it down to it still being light when they came on (something I’m not used to, unlike you!) but, James Kottak was far and away the best thing about their set. I *still* haven’t seen Firewind again since that shortened set in 2009 in Manchester, supporting Stratovarius. Hope they play some UK shows and one near me (very near, please!) I agree about the solos re WS – tho I am guessing they were only cut out of this set for time reasons. If DC does need that off-stage breather, rub-down, whatever then it might be an idea to revive ‘Snake Dance’ or maybe ‘Belgian Tom’s Hat Trick’ (!) so the others can jam, or even let Reb sing something! He and Doug are now the two longest-serving guitarists WS has had, now!

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