It was slightly different getting up in the morning only to transport myself from one side of town to another – from one situation to another. From the Metal God to a guitar-gig.
I was still in Kensington where I had spent most of my day at Sony Music’s office, listening to the new Judas Priest album and talking to “The Metal God” himself, Rob Halford. NOW, I was checking out from my fancy Kensington high street 4-star hotel, to take the tube over to Angel station (funny – the song “Angel” by Judas Priest was in my head the whole time…!)
It was pretty easy finding my new hotel. What I didn’t realize was that it was right down the street from the venue where the Marty/Gus-gig was taking place later that evening: O2 Academy Islington.
I always pick hotels that are as close to the venues as possible, but this had to be a record! It was literally maybe 20 steps from the back door of the venue…!
I found a familiar face, Andy, sitting outside in the sun just chilling. It was the calm before the storm. Chatted for a minute or two, then I left him to just enjoy the few minutes of peace he would have that day, and went over to my hotel to check in.
After an hour, I went back out again, thought I would find something to eat, but after a short stroll around the block, I couldn’t find anything that I was in the mood for, so I went back to the venue.
During the 30 minutes that followed, I managed to steal a few minutes from the busy crew guys and a few band members who had been out for a walk and were about to start load-in. :)
There were two fans outside the club with plastic bags full of records, and I was wondering if they were there for Marty or Gus. Turns out, neither. They were there for Mats. They had every single CD he’s ever sung on…! And there was……a LOT. :D
Jo came off the bus, looking slightly dazed. So, while the load-in was in progress, I went inside the O2 with Jo and Or. They went looking for the dressing room, while I decided to just find someplace to make myself invisible, stay out of the way and just be a “fly on the wall”. :D
During the hours in there, I watched two sound checks, by Marty Friedman and Gus G, a video shoot for Marty’s new video and a “lesson”/rehearsal thing with Herman Li from Dragonforce who was going to join the guys on stage later that evening.
[Marty shooting a video] I bumped into Marty out in the stairwell. He smiled: “Oh, hi! You take good pictures. I like your photos.” I figured he probably must have liked them, cause I’ve seen a few of his updates that included some of my pics. I’m glad he liked them. :)
It was crazy hot inside so I went outside and found Or (bassplayer for both bands) there too. When Jo came out he immediately went: “Let’s go get some food!”. Food was the keyword. I was starving! So off we went.
Found a Vietnamese restaurant nearby, the menu sounded good, prices reasonable. And best of all, free WiFi (was pretty much the first thing Jo asked for, haha!).
I don’t exactly remember what I ordered but it was spicy…! And then we couldn’t quite figure out the currency (three people from 3 different countries, with the wallets full of various mysterious currencies, not necessarily the kind that is accepted in that particular country…!).
When we got back to the venue, the doors had already opened and there were people standing at the barriers, so I took my place there too. Last gig, thought I’d get a few pics and vids.
The opening act, Primitai, was okay. Never heard of them before – but they were alright. I remember thinking they had a good drummer. He didn’t look like a “powerful drummer” but he hit pretty hard and I liked his style.
Next on stage – Gus G. It was the perfect ending to my Guitar Universe tour, cause if I compare the level of energy at the first show in Tampere, Finland, with this one in London, it was very clear how much the band had grown into a true unity and what they were able to deliver.
Jo Nunez, drummer extraordinaire, impressed me more than anyone on this tour, funny enough. He’s always been an impressive drummer, but now he’s a full-fledged showman and entertainer as well.
He’s up there killing his drums every night but he’s gone from being a quiet guy that was almost invisible on his first tour with Firewind, to this mohawk-adorned, cool madman that’s spinning drumsticks, throwing them up in the air, challenging the crowd to make more noise, standing up behind the drum set letting his presence be known… He’s probably one of the best acquirings Gus has made for his band. :)
All I can say is: Jo-sus Christ!
Same goes with the new aquaintance, the bass-master from Israel: Or Lubianiker. Make no mistake, maybe people will take him for a shy and quiet guy seeing him offstage, but once he’s up there, he’s definitely not making any excuses. Just like Jo, he was working double-shifts, playing for Gus and Marty on the whole tour, keeping a steady and reliable rythm section for both guitar heroes.
While I guess that most of the guys in the crowd were guitar-geeks, I’m sure that there were some pretty impressed bassists there as well, who were checking out Or’s dexterity and experiencing total bass Or-gasms… (yeah, pun intended. ;D).
Mats Levén is a given frontman, he certainy has the pedigree to prove it too. He’ll sing whatever you throw at him, and he will do it well.
And Gus G himself? What can I say- I’m running out of adjectives! He was in a good mood which led to a more intense communication with the crowd.
The ONLY thing I would want to see more of from Gus, is an Yngwie-style guitar-pick rain during his set, to “feed” the hungry guitarists in the front row.
Those dudes down there would kill their own mothers for one of his picks…! More of that, and I think the “guitar geeks ” would walk on pink clouds for DAYS.
Cause needless to say, there are mostly guys in the crowd. How do you get more girls to the shows? My suggestion, from a female point of view, would be simple: Bring the “hair-fan” next time, it’s gonna work (well, it’s always worked for Steve Vai)! ;)
Other than that, he plays like a god. Always. I liked the songs from his solo-album before the tour, but I’ve gotten new favorites as I’ve kept hearing them live over and over again. “Eyes wide open” for instance has been stuck in my head for days already!
Also, their rendition of Thin Lizzy‘s “Hollywood – (Down on your luck)” was really one of the best so far. There was a drive and an energy in the performance of that particular song in London, that was really contagious.
Then, after the change-over, Marty time! Like I’ve said before, he’s got a very natural stage personality and that combined with his material, which is a winning mix between melodic, heavy and “riffy” instrumentals, simply makes time FLY!
He and his “partner in crime”, Takayoshi Ohmura, are constantly interacting with the crowd, making sure every single person out there feels like a part of the show. It’s virtuosity in every sense of the word, but not in a boring, nerdy sort of way, it’s made accessible and enjoyable for all kinds of people (providing of course that you like music…).
Before I knew it, he was done and it was time for that one last song, that one last little surprise…. Which this time wasn’t only Gus as a special guest, but also Dragonforce’s Herman Li. Yet another fast shredder to add to the equation. Hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen, here we go!
After the show, I remembered that I was wearing high heels (I usually go to these gigs in sneakers cause I always have to walk a lot, but this time with my hotel being so close, I chose the heels instead). Those things were KILLING me after so many hours or standing and walking, so I figured I’d just go and say bye to the guys and then get a bit of sleep.
Flashed my laminate to the security guy and went to the backstage area.
My original idea was to wait at least 20-30 minutes so the guys could just get a break before people started barging into their dressing room, but when two guys just walked right in, I just went right along with them. What the hell, if nobody else thinks in my unfashionable “considerate” terms, then I’ll just go along with the crowd, lol! :)
It was slightly crowded back there, all kinds of people. Glad to finally have met Sharon from the management as well. She was actually the first person I was in touch with before that Relentless garage-gig in London years ago, and then I’ve seen her name online many times, but never actually met her. So that was nice. :)
Gus was stuck in this tiny production office with people walking in and out. I could only see a bit of his black Converse snakers and hear him back there somewhere – otherwise he was pretty much invisible.
When a handful of guests had left the backstage area I just stuck my head in and asked if I needed to take a number or something. :) It was kind of like in a dentist’s office. “Neeeext!”
He was talking to the guy who’s made Firewind’s cover-artwork and also for the latest solo-album. So as it turned out, the Firewind-symbol silver-pendant that I was wearing, had in fact originally been designed by him.
Pretty cool, you rarely ever meet those people. As always after a show, people just scatter all over the place so I never got to say bye to any of the crew guys, Jo had left to take a shower but it took a while so I just decided to call it a night and leave the area.
It’s been different, but good and I hope there will be more touring soon.
Reflections on coming home: Welcome to Tour Twilight Zone
Bang Your Head-weekend in Balingen, Germany, is over. It’s been two interesting days. Part one has been published in the Firewind-blog here.It’s not every day that you see Venom in the catering or Cronos walking around in his stage outfit in broad daylight (or have the dressing room across from the ladies room for that matter).
Swedish sleaze/glammers Crash Diet were like glued to their chairs in the backstage area all day on Friday. The only time they moved was when it started pissing down in the evening, and theyhad to move inside. After that, they didn’t move from the catering tent until god knows when. When I left after Venom on Friday night, they were still sitting there.
I forgot that Elize Ryd from Amaranthe was with Kamelot. She walked into the catering as well, right after Kamelot finished their set, being very particular with what was on the menu and what she could eat. :)Another piece of entertainment was seeing a few half-naked musicians both days when going to and from the ladies room (not my fault it was in the dressing room area, lol…!).
Some guys who were working at the indoors-stage were staying at the same hotel as Anett and me and one morning, at breakfast I heard them talking, in German (I can pick up on a lot of German as long as they don’t speak too fast or at the same time). One guy was somewhat upset about what had taken place the night before.
– I couldn’t believe it…! Four girls in the front row called EXODUS singer to come over, and when he went there, ALL FOUR of them FLASHED their tits in his face! What the fuck! This is a THRASH-concert, it’s not a fuckin’ STEEL PANTHER-show!
I don’t think I’ve ever heard a guy complain about chicks flashing their boobs, but this guy certainly didn’t like it, lol! :-)
I could enjoy listening to a “private show” on the stage right after Firewind, when Armored Saint‘s singer John Bush was warming up. Usually you hear singers warm up with scales, but he was singing at the top of his lungs, as if he was already on stage. Pretty cool. :)
Walked into the indoors arena on Friday afternoon, as they had signing sessions there during the day. Arch Enemy had a looooong line of fans standing in line to meet “Barbie of death” Angela Gossow and the guys.
Some fans were so taken by the situation that they just stood there like paralyzed staring at Angela and wouldn’t move. There were cameras and people everywhere. I left, couldn’t see much but could establish that the band was as popular off stage as onstage. :)
When Thin Lizzy hit the stage, it was raining again. The festivals this year have been haunted by bad weather. Ricky Warwick walked out on the runway, fearless of the rain and stated: Here’s the deal. YOU get wet – WE get wet! He stood by his word.
It was guitarist Damon Johnson‘s birthday that day and he looked like a happy kid in a candy store when looking out over the crowd. :-) Excellent show!
Went to the VIP tent after Thin Lizzy because the rain kept getting worse. But shortly after there was a loud bang and it was the beginning of Venom’s show. The rain was really pissing down at this point. When I came to the stage I was surprised – it was almost empty. I could easily walk to the front of the stage. There were fireworks and fire and god knows what else in Venom’s show but… the crowds were gone.
DAY 2. (Axxis, Primal Fear, Primordial, Sabaton, Gotthard, Pain)……….. coming up.
Saturday was the best day for us – nice weather and super-VIP treatment! Spent all day on the main stage.
We got guest-passes from Rob, a crew guy who we met at Sweden Rock Festival (see, I haven’t even finished writing about THAT yet…!). When Vera approached the security, they didn’t even bother to check our passes, they just smiled and welcomed us in. We thought “wow, unusually friendly security people here!” but minutes later we learned that Rob had notified them that we were coming and instructed them not to give us any problems, lol! :-) So it was the freaking RED CARPET to the backstage area.
I didn’t want to go up on stage at first, it’s somebody’s working area so unless I’m explicitly invited up there, I’m not going. Vera went ahead and came back after a while – Rob was up on stage and we were invited. Evenso, I found a dark, secluded corner up there where I figured I wouldn’t be in anyone’s way. My legs were aching, must have strained a muscle or ten at the Slayer gig the night before.
It was only a few minutes before Adrenaline Mob were about to hit the stage.
We missed them at Sweden Rock because they were playing an early slot. Those early slots at festivals generally suck, cause it’s difficult for a band to gather a large crowd at noon. You know…. Children of the Night or Up All Night, Sleep All Day…all that sort of thing. ;-)
It was the same this time. They were due on stage 12.15. I have to admit that I haven’t listened to Adrenaline Mob before, so it’s difficult to rate their show properly. Hearing songs from the stage doesn’t do the music justice. I sat there and watched Mike Portnoy more than the others to be honest. First of all, because I am a sucker for great drummers – and hey, I don’t need to tell YOU guys that mr Portnoy is without a doubt one of the best in the business! It’s a kick watching him kill those drums, so for me I didn’t need a lot more to enjoy the Adrenaline Mob-show really. :-)
I also like great singers and although I’ve never listened a whole lot to Symphony X either, I did go to check them out at Sweden Rock, simply because two of my friends – Jan and Taz were with them on that particular tour. So that was when I got to see and hear Russell Allen. He is a great vocalist, wish I could have heard him more up there but the stage monitors didn’t do him any favors. I couldn’t hear a thing. But basically, I love bands that are the best at what they do – and if you’re looking for “Crème de la Crème”-musicians, Adrenaline Mob is definitely for you!
Photos on my FB-page: www.facebook.com/intherearviewmirror
Video – this is what I heard from the stage monitors (=not too much)
Next up – PRIMAL FEAR.
Those guys are cool as hell too. Met them for the first time at Z7 with Jon Oliva’s Pain back in 2007 I think. Super-nice guys. Then we hung out with singer Ralf in 2009 at Sweden Rock. My friend Kevin from JOP was in Sweden visiting and Ralf had missed the shuttle back to the hotel. So we drove him back to the hotel, got a nice chat on the way. Really a polite, nice guy.
Met him and Mat in the backstage-area after their show, they seemed to actually remember me (I never count on that…).
Most of all – I’m INCREDIBLY IMPRESSED by Ralf’s VOICE!! Jesus, there is no competition at Graspop 2012 that comes even CLOSE to that kind of range!
My jaw dropped several times, absolutely amazing! The whole band is rocking their asses off, not one quiet moment during Primal Fear’s performance. Their gig felt a lot shorter than it was. It’s not what I would listen to at home maybe, but I would definitely go see them live – any day! It’s well worth the money.
PRIMAL FEAR photo album on my FB-page: www.facebook.com/intherearviewmirror
Check this out:
Next up was Thin Lizzy but we missed part of their show cause we were in the backstage catering. Good food, and nice to be able to bring a bottle of water with you without anybody keeping the bottle cap (not sure why they do that).
Forgot that keyboardist Darren Wharton is with them, that’s where he got his first break in the first place. The reason why Darren Wharton in particular is “special” to me is because he was one of the very first people I ever interviewed when I started out in this business.
I was 19 and thought that my English wasn’t good, so I printed the questions I had and gave it to the band beforehand so they could follow me during the interview. Lol! :-) My god... looking back now, I wonder what they must have been thinking.
Also, Darren was late for that particular interview, but I remember thinking he was sooo hot when he showed up in tight, bleached and torn jeans, leather jacket and his dark hair and blue eyes. That was enough to impress a young teenager like me..! :-)
His band back in those days was DARE and they had just released their first album:
Scott Gorham is also a funny guy. Many years ago when Thin Lizzy played in Malmo, he just walked out in the freezing cold – said he didn’t feel like waiting for the others to get to the hotel and asked if I could drive him back to his hotel. I told him that if he was cool with a small Renault, then sure…. He sat back there, in my tiny little car, looking around going: “Well…this is nice!” So, definitely no rock star attitude there, whatsoever. :-)
And then there’s Marco Mendoza – who’s played with every band it seems…. Whitesnake for instance. I think I’d better not comment on Marco at ALL, lol. :-) He’s a good bassplayer, that’s the main thing. :)
And current singer with Thin Lizzy – Ricky Warwick…. I interviewed him back in 1992 at Donington Monsters of Rock, I still have this CRAPPY recording from that (apologies for the bad quality, after all it’s exactly 20 years ago now…!)
This is only a CLIP – maybe someday I’ll post the whole thing…
So Thin Lizzy always brings back memories. :-) Wish I could have seen their show, I only saw the last two-three songs but it’s always a treat to hear the classics – The Boys Are Back In Town, Rosalie (eventhough that’s a cover…).
Next up –
Both require more space – so they will be reviewed separately. :)) Coming upppppp……..
THE GRASPOP BLOGS: