The times they are certainly a changin’.
The record industry is struggling with poor record sales and illegal downloads, but there is one thing that they can still cash in on, something that will never go out of style: The magic of LIVE SHOWS.
There are people in less famous bands and in local bands that “have IT” : that spark, that natural ability to work a stage and a crowd, that makes you come back for more time and time again. It’s not a competition and you can’t really compare musicians because they are all so different – it’s not the Olympics of Rock – but these are some of my personal favorites. Note that this is 100% a list of people who I think are outstanding LIVE PERFORMERS (which is not necessarily the same as favorite musicians or bands)
When this man walks out on a stage – he OWNS every single person in the crowd.
He has a unique quality of making every individual feel noticed and a part of the show. Although he is a larger-than-life rock star who works best on the biggest stages of the world, he always makes it feel like he’s playing just for YOU.
He mixes a sense of humor and self-distance with sex, confidence, authority and pure professionalism. Not to mention the way he moves on a stage like a rock’n’roll-emperor, using the micstand as his #1 tool. There is only one David – Coverdale be thy name. :)
When he’s about to hit the stage, he’s like a missile! The man oozes of pure, raw energy and rock’n’roll, nothing and nobody comes even close…! I’m not the biggest Twisted Sister-fan in the world, I don’t even have all their records, but watching this man on stage is a kick beyond belief! He is genuine and a real punch in your face.
If you could take everything that rock’n’roll is all about, and transform it into human shape – Dee Snider would be IT!
The ULTIMATE frontman. The one and only King of the Stage. The energy and the raw frenzy is beyond what I’ve seen ANY other artist produce on a stage – ever! He is the only frontman I can think of that was truly BORN to do this. If you took it away from him, he would languish, stop breathing, cease to exist. In 23 years I’ve only seen him suck ONCE. Don’t even ask how many shows I’ve seen with either Skid Row or Baz solo, but it’s more than enough to state that this guy is very unlikely to let you down if you’re looking for an action-packed show.
Entertainment personified. It’s enough to just mention the name David Lee Roth and people will immediately start thinking of a rock’n’roll strutter with his body as his main tool. He was THE sex-symbol back in the day, moving in a way that would make the ladies blush.
He would impress us all with the martial-arts high kicks while at the same time looking like a kid in a candy store who LOVES what he does. His sense of humor is contageous, and even to this day he hasn’t lost much of all that. He’s never been the world’s greatest singer, but it’s safe to say that he’s most definitely one of the world’s greatest entertainers!
The one and only ULTIMATE guitar hero – and probably the only one who turns a prolonged guitargasm into a show unlike anyone else! He was (and still is) WILD on stage!
Like a super-model, he will strike 30 different poses in one minute, yet continue playing that guitar like nobody’s business. How can you do all that running and posing and headbanging and still play making it look like a piece of cake??? The man is a guitar god and a top notch live performer in every sense of the word!
Those are my Top 5 live performers, but the list goes on – and on…Joe Elliot of Def Leppard had an amazing charisma on stage, he just caught your attention from the word go and kept it there for as long as it took. I was mesmerized the first time I saw Def Leppard. Fantastic frontman. I don’t know what happened though, because the last few times I’ve seen Def Leppard, the magic wasn’t there. I guess there’s a peak in every band’s career and a fall – sooner or later. After 30 years of kicking ass on stage, I guess they are entitled to lose the spark.
Same goes for my #1 hero Rob Halford (Judas Priest). He was never a “run-around-the-stage-like-a-marathoner” type of singer, but he had “IT”. All he had to do was stop and LOOK at his crowd and they would go freaking CRAZY! He just had what most entertainers don’t, it’s within your personality and he would make me forget that there was even a world outside whichever arena Judas Priest would be playing….However, just like Joe Elliot, Rob Halford has lost some of his magic. I can still see it when he’s with his own band Halford, but it’s like he’s a parody of himself when he’s with Priest nowadays.
There is a reason why this man has been on the top for more than 4 decades! It’s not because he’s Pavarotti, but because he has this wonderful way of truly loving what he does, just being OZZY.
Watch this and try NOT to smile! :-))
Speaking of Ozzy automatically leads me to another, fairly new, aquaintance and favorite performer: Gus G (guitarist w. Ozzy & Firewind, in case you’ve managed to miss it)
I was stuck after the first time I saw him with Ozzy. He walks onstage and becomes a true old-school Rock Star!
He owns the stage in a very natural sort of way, with a charisma that few “new” musicians possess. This guitar wiz handles Madison Square Garden just as well as the smallest, tiniest little dark club in the middle of nowhere.
The posing, the hair-fan, the guitar-hero moves all that stuff makes Gus a true arena-entertainer.
Another kick-ass live-performer is Kevin Rothney (Circle II Circle, JOP) who played bass with Jon Oliva’s Pain on the 2006-2010 tours, when I saw the band countless times.
Jon Oliva might be the songwriting genious, but Kevin was the one who brought rock’n’roll to the live performances of JOP.
I’ve always been impressed with Kevin. When you see musicians like that, you realize that the music business is all about being in the right place at the right time, there are amazing showmen (and -women) out there that don’t get the recognition they deserve.
Moving on to a more local level, where singer Andy Pierce (Nasty Idols) without question, makes it to my list of favorite performers. It was his natural talent as a frontman that made me notice the band in the first place – 25 freaking years ago! He was a real rock star before people even knew it and he will be till they have to roll him out on stage in a wheel chair!
This road report was originally written for a magazine, but was never published for various reasons. I think part of it had to do with that the editor at the time, had a different idea of what he wanted a tour report to be. He prefered interviews on the bus instead of the “fly-on-the-wall“-approach. Either way, it was never used.
To me however, it is still, to this day, one of MY favorite pieces. And now, in 2012, it’s also a piece of untold history.
Two people who were on the 2007 tour are not with us anymore. Greg Marchak (sound engineer and producer) passed in September 2007 from a brain aneurism. Matt LaPorte (lead guitarist) passed away in April last year.
When this was written, Jon Oliva’s Pain was still a family well held together in a way that I’ve never seen or experienced with any other band ever before. It brings back some great memories.
So here it is – tour of 2007, Scandinavia, on the road with Jon Oliva’s Pain.
ON TOUR WITH THE MOUNTAIN KING
Text & photos Daniela P
It’s an early, damp and chilly morning in Halmstad, Sweden. Jon Oliva’s Pain, band and crew, have just enjoyed a day off and now it’s time for the equipage to start heading to the next destination: Oslo, Norway.
The band’s bassplayer Kevin Rothney is helping me get my heavy, bulky Sweden Rock Magazine-bag up on the bus. When I finally get my ass up on the bus, I’m greeted with smiles that make me feel right at home, like an old friend.
One of the first things a first-time visitor on a tourbus must learn, is how to use the toilet.
Well…if it’s absolutely necessary to use it at ALL, that is. Cause you don’t go unless there’s just no other option. Somebody starts laughing and mentions the word “pissfoot” and everybody seems to know what that is. I’m about to learn that as well.
The bus-toilet must have been designed for pygmies, cause whoever tries to get in there will have to grease their hips and practice advanced yoga to get in and out.
Some of the guys ended up standing OUTSIDE trying to aim, well you get the picture – and with a bus that drives 90 km/h on the highway, brakes and passes other cars, you can probably figure out what happens. The piss doesn’t end up where it’s supposed to. So, whoever enters the loo next, can expect an unpleasant surprise. SPLASH! Sock + cold piss = Pissfoot.
Then, when the piss dries on the sock, it spreads a certain…odor on the bus. So, that was the very first introduction I got to “life on the road”. Might as well be informed of the worst parts right away and get it over with.
The bus starts rolling, and the two Italians – drum tech Rig and guitar tech Fabio, start yapping in Italian, while eagerly filming everything through the bus window.
THE KING LIVES IN THE “ELVIS ROOM”
The curtains of one of the bunks are drawn to the side and a sleepy light tech peeks out – the Dutch girl Hanneke. Suddenly drummer Chris goes: “HEEY!” while looking at something behind me. I turn around and there’s the man himself, mr Jon Oliva. The guy who’s been the face and voice of Savatage for over 20 years, whose fans worship the ground he walks on. He smiles. He’s cool and he’s damn funny. You can’t help but instantly like the guy. He sleeps way in the back of the bus – in the Elvis room. There’s much more space back there than in any of the other coffin-like bunks that the rest of us are sleeping in.
We are approaching Oslo and the video cameras are rolling, everybody’s admiring the stunning view. Jon is just smiling. He doesn’t look particularly impressed. He’s used to this.
When we reach Oslo, and park outside the venue, it’s like somebody hit a button. Everyone knows what to do, and like worker ants they unload everything in a matter of minutes. People are running back and forth, pushing anything with wheels on it. Inside the black-painted rock club Johnny Dee, things are going very quickly. It doesn’t take long before everything is up and running and the sound check is ready to commence. Efficiency, that’s the word of honor. Tour manager Anett is all over the place, making sure that everything works. She is like a school-teacher telling the students about things they need to know and remember – anything from dressing rooms, showers, food, schedule….
Someone put a veggie-plate in one of the dressing rooms. The guys are looking sceptically at it. You can probably die from veggies. So, broccoli and all that other stuff, ends up being used as ammunition in a food fight. Jon Oliva however, is sitting in his own dressing room with a viking helmet on his head. He is just taking it easy, greeting journalists with that Oliva-smile that we know so well.
The club is jam packed when it’s time for the band to hit the stage. The craziest die-hard fans are already hanging at the barricades. As expected, the classic Savatage songs are the ones that gets people to sing-along, But it’s also clear that the Oliva-fans are loyal and they keep buying the records no matter what name is on the label.
After the gig it’s full speed again. The crew is rolling out the gear fast, The bus has a deadline to meet, so gear, band and crew all need to be ready for “takeoff” on time.
The noise level on the bus is all the way up to eleven, you can hear roaring laughter and hi-fiving all over the place, The adrenaline is still pumping through everybody’s veins after the successful show. But the bags need to be packed and that’s done while the chatter with the guests backstage continues.
[One of the guests in Oslo – from Pagan’s Mind]
When it’s a few minutes past midnight, everybody’s on the bus cracking jokes, laughing. Some are a little buzzed, others are crawling into their bunks falling asleep pretty much right away. It’s easy to tell the crew from the band at this point. The “foot soldiers” are the ones who have a tendency to be in bed way before the band.
FIRST COME FIRST SERVED SHOWERS
It’s five thirty in the morning, and there are still people up partying. Soundguy Greg and a few more people from the crew, have crawled into their bunks and drawn the curtains. It’s cozy in the bunks, there’s a little lamp in there and everything. The kind of place you would have loved to have as a kid. But you have to twist and turn like a rubber-circus to try get your clothes on or off, cause there’s not exactly lots of space in there.
It’s like a cradle – a dark, humming bus that just rocks you to sleep in no time. Perfect. Well…If it hadn’t been for the fact that musicians aren’t exactly the type of people who are known for keeping their mouths shut and even less for sleeping at any time of day – at all.
Those who decide to go to bed and get some sleep, will do it to the sounds of laughter.
The next morning, I get bright sunlight in my eyes, even through the curtains. We are in Gothenburg, apparently. The guys in the other nightliner, opening acts Nostradameus and Dionysos, are running back and forth like a shuttle service to the two showers that are on the second floor, near the dressing-rooms. Two bus loads of people means that time and shower facilities aren’t always enough. It’s simply the first come first served rule that applies.
In the meantime, it’s totally dead on the Oliva bus. People were up all night last night, so it will be quiet most of the afternoon. The only ones that are up and about are the people in the crew who went to bed early last night.
Breakfast is a luxury. Someone made coffee, you can smell it throughout the bus, but if you’re looking for actual food – forget it. People simply grab whatever lies on the table from the night before, which could be anything from chips to chocolate. Breakfast in this context usually means a smoke and a beer, or, in best case scenario, coffee.
One after the other they are waking up, and it doesn’t take long until the front part of the bus starts looking like it’s being populated by characters from “The Night Of The Living Dead“.
Keyboardist John Zahner is standing with his newly purchased digital camera ready to be tested. He announces that he’s going out for a little sightseeing tour.
BEER IS NOT ONLY GOOD FOR YOUR HAIR…
Once back on the bus, there’s a grunt from one of the bunks and it’s Kevin who’s come to life. He’s about to give a lesson of how to take care of your dental hygiene on the road. He takes out his toothbrush, squeezes out a bit of toothpaste on it, whips it around in his mouth then takes a mouthful of yesterday’s Heineken, gargles and….swallows. All done! Dental hygiene á la tourbus!
Everything is set up and ready inside the club, it’s time for sound check. Soundguy Greg is angry because the sound board is crap, some junk that looks like something you would find at a recreation center – it will be a challenge to make anything sound good with what he’s got to work with.
Light tech Hanneke is shaking her head also, the stuff she’s got to work with is a joke too. It basically consists of THREE buttons that a three-year-old could handle. She laughs and says that it’s easily earned money that night.
There’s a sign in the dressing room that says something about smoking being prohibited and no alcohol. Jon’s eyes are as big as plates, he starts laughing. I had to explain that it wasn’t a joke, it’s for real. Welcome to Sweden!
NO REST FOR THE PARTY ANIMALS
It’s party time again on the bus after the show. Half of the working force is totally beat though, so they crawl into their bunks and fall asleep pretty much instantly. At four in the morning there’s still a lot of noise in the front of the bus, which makes some give up the idea of getting any sleep anyway, so they decide to crawl out of their bunks to join the others – which results in them not getting back to bed before six in the morning…
Three hours later, tour manager Anett starts kicking people out of the bus and up on the ferry. She doesn’t care who’s hungover, everybody must leave the bus right now. There’s a lot of grunting and grumbling, but they all eventually get out and light up when they see and smell the coffee in the cafeteria.
Bassist-Kevin, the band’s party animal, plonks down on the nearest couch and passes out again. That guy can fall asleep anywhere. The others are sitting there crosseyed, trying to perk up. Musicians don’t like being up at this hour, that’s for damn sure.
When the bus arrives at The Rock in Copenhagen later that morning, nothing is working as planned. The promotor doesn’t know which band he booked, the elevator is out of order and the gear has to be carried down steep steps, the sound system is not the one that has been promised, and the irritation is noticable. Anett is pissed off, Jan is shaking his head. But they are all professionals and used to this sort of thing. They have learned how to work miracles with whatever is thrown at them.
All the problems have been fixed by the time the doors open several hours later.
But guitarist Matt LaPorte gets the very sad news only minutes before he’s due on stage… His father has passed away. It lowers the mood of the whole band, it’s tough to be so far away from those that are close to you. The band is the only family you can turn to in times of crisis. But the crowd won’t notice anything, because Matt goes up there and he plays, just like he does any other night.
Because the show…must go on…
[Greg Marchak and Jan Janvier trying to get the best out of the sound equipment at The Rock, Copenhagen, 2007]
[On the bus to Oslo, beautiful view, crew filming]
[1:14 – Probably the biggest Oliva-fan in Oslo!]
Like I said in the last Sweden Rock Memories-post, there is a LOT more where that came from.
I found a whole bunch of photos and videos that I thought I’d share with you.
This one, for instance, is a classic…! It’s from Sweden Rock Festival 2006.
Venom had just finished their set and they had actually left the stage maybe 10-15 minutes before this was filmed. THIS Venom-fan apparently never even noticed that. He was TOTALLY into his headbanging, whether or not it was accompanied by the soothing sounds of…Venom:
Or this – Skid Row were doing a spontaneous photo-shoot outside the press-tent. They were actually posing for the photographer when I walked by and Scotti just walked out of the group-shot cause he was so happy to see me…! :-)
These guys are really like old friends, we “grew up together”. I met them for the first time in 1989, we were all in our early 20’s and our careers had just begun. I love them, the most wonderful guys one could imagine:
Rachel Bolan on stage before the show:
So what else have we got here…. On stage during Lita Ford’s set. Jon Oliva’s Pain played that year, I think it was 2009, and their dressing rooms were right next to Lita’s.Since JOP’s bassplayer Kevin is a good friend, he knows that I am a HUGE Lita-fan (well, check out the URL for this blog “lita77777” – guess where the “lita” part comes from ;-)). So, he just grabbed me by the hand and pretty much dragged me up on stage during her show. There I was, as close as I’ll ever be during a Lita Ford-concert. :) Thank you Kevin, one of those things that will definitely stay in my memory for a long time! :)
Kevin behind the stage, about to go up there and rock people’s asses off:
Jon Oliva’s tour manager Anett on the stage during early sound check:
And why not a few clips from some of the press conferences…. there is just so much more, I need to find all that stuff – press conferences with Ronnie Dio, Sebastian Bach, Heart…. Every band that’s ever had a press conference at Sweden Rock Festival… Well, pretty much. It’s all here somewhere.
Judas Priest-short clip from 2008:
Blackie Lawless (W.A.S.P):
And just some random photos of artists, fans, stage area, backstage area and just other…stuff!
Guest pass (for Alice Cooper), typical Sweden Rock fans, Spike (Quireboys), Suzi Quatro, backstage-bar, stage (Heaven and Hell), Meatloaf, Nightwish, Wilson-sisters of Heart, Judas Priest, Dio, Sebastian Bach, Rudy Sarzo…
And a few snapshots from the camping-, food-, and merch areas taken by my friend Beatrice in 2005 (I think, might have been 2004):