REVIEW AND PHOTOS BY MARKO SYRJALA
Skogsrojet is one of these newer hard rock / metal festivals organized in the promised land of festivals, Sweden. The two day event is held in the outlying village of Rejmyre and the nearest town is Norrkoping about 40 kilometers away. The festival was held for the first time in 2006 and it has been increasing steadily year by year. Last years line-up included Alice Cooper, Doro, Testament and L.A. Guns and now the fans were treated to Twisted Sister, Helloween, Pretty Maids and Lita Ford. As you can see from the list of names, the event organizers rely heavily on traditional hard rock spiced with a few heavier acts. I don’t know if this kind of concept would work anywhere else, but in Sweden, but it works. This year, the festival again gathered thousands of participants who were eager to rock hard!!!
SKOGSROJET Festival 2013: FRIDAY
Swedish hard rock veterans Treat were the first band to catch on Friday. The band, which is going to retire after the current tour, was in good shape and their “larger than life” choruses still worked out great. The set list was a well built combination of the most recent COUP DE GRACE tracks and 80’s classics like “We Are One” and “World of Promises”. It’s a pity if the band really is quitting, because they still sound great and in fact there aren’t too many bands playing this kind of super melodic hard rock anymore.
Shotgun is a new band featuring original Shotgun Messiah members Zinny J. Zan and Stixx, bassist Chris Laney (Laney’s Legion) and guitarist Rob Marcello who is known of his stint with Danger. This was Shotgun’s first show together so it was interesting to see how the band works together. As expected, the band based their set list around the first Shotgun Messiah album. Songs like “Shout it Loud”, “Bob City” and especially “Don’t Care About Nothin” sounded great but somehow it did feel that there wasn’t enough good material to carry the band through entire show. To be honest, the show became a bit boring at the end. Things will hopefully change once the band finds some time to write more original material to fill “the holes” in the future. Anyway, the band sounded good and their performance was really energetic and they definitely had a good time on stage – and that’s the most important thing after all, right?
It’s been more than 5 years since I’ve seen Finnish horror rockers Lordi live. So now it was time to fix that issue. The band has gone through several transformations during the past years including several line-up changes but it seems that the band has managed to turn all setbacks into positive result. The latest album TO BEAST OR NOT TO BEAST is easily one of their strongest releases to date and it was now great to witness the bands positive “monster energy” on stage. Audience was thrilled when Mr.Lordi was doing his famous theatrical tricks and the show truly was a great visual experience. The set was a cleverly built ensemble including four heavier songs from the latest release mixed with bands biggest hits like “Would You Love a Monsterman” and the Eurovision winning track “Hard Rock Hallelujah”. Maybe Lordi does not headline as much as they did in the past, but the current line-up is easily the strongest in their history and it shall be granted that musically the band is now in the prime of their career.
The next interesting artist on Friday was one time Guns ’n Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke. The man now performs as a solo artist with his Swedish rhythm section which featured bassist Chris LeMon and drummer Robert Young. Well, Clarke might not be as interesting front man as his former bands singer, but Clarke certainly does have a bunch of decent material in his catalog. It wasn’t surprising that “It’s So Easy” got the noisiest feedback from the audience but the man’s own “Wasn’t Yesterday Great”, “Tijuana Jail” and “Cure Me or Kill Me” are just brilliant rock songs and they lost not a cent for Guns n Roses classics. All in all, the band played good and tight set and there’s nothing to complain.
Lita Ford is one of the very few female hard rockers who have managed to create her own successful and long lasting career. Ford began her career, at the age of 16, in the all-girl band Runaways in the late 70’s. She started a solo career in the early 80’s and enjoyed great commercial success with her 1988 album LITA which included such hit singles as “Kiss Me Deadly” and “Close My Eyes Forever” which was a duet with legendary Ozzy Osbourne. But a lot of things have changed since the 80’s heydays. Ford was out of music business for 15 years and her comeback album WICKED WONDERLAND (2009) was not her strongest album to date.
Lita Ford’s live show was about to begin at 10:25 PM but because of some technical problems the show was delayed a bit. About 45 minutes later she was finally on stage and opened up with new LIVING LIKE A RUNAWAY album track “The Bitch Is Back”. The song is originally written/recorded by Sir Elton John and it was to a good fit for Lita’s set. STILETTO track “Hungry” followed and the crowd started to be very involved in the gig. There was a little quiet phase when the band performed a string of new tracks in a row but always when she announced some early classic the crowd was instantly into it. It was “Gotta Let Go”, old Runaways classic “Cherry Bomb” and LITA album hits “Close My Eyes Forever” and “Kiss Me Deadly” which clearly got the best reception from the audience.
Lita Ford played an almost disastrous show in Sweden Rock few years ago, but this performance was like from different planet. Lita was full of energy. She was singing and playing great, she performed with a passion and really loved being on stage. The rest of the band was really tight as well. Former Vinnie Vincent Invasion/Nelson etc. drummer Bobby Rock was amazing behind his kit and his powerful playing indeed brings extra kick for the whole band. Guitarist Mitch Perry (MSG, Asia) was a great addition too and the man played some great guitar harmonies with Lita. Bassist Marty O’Brien (Tommy Lee) looked like quite a stranger on stage with his short hair and peaked cap but his playing was very accurate and efficient. There was not any songs on the set from her best album DANGEROUS CURVES but other than that the show was very entertaining, and Lita Ford proved that now she truly is back!
German power metallers Helloween were the headliners on Friday. The band still enjoys extensive popularity and they attracted easily the largest audience of the day. Unfortunately there were (again) some delays with the schedule and for that reason I managed to miss the first two songs of the Helloween show. The title track of latest album STRAIGHT OUT OF HELL was the third song on the set followed by another new track “Waiting for the Thunder” although Andi Deris first introduced incorrectly (maybe because the songs are similar?) it as “If I Could Fly”.
For some reason Helloween didn’t have proper lightning during their set and it was really hard to have decent shots from the show. With the exception of a few moments the whole band was basically performing the entire show in the dark. There were few other bands having the same problem before, but I would have thought that this would be in order when we are talking about the headliner here.
However, the band did not let it interfere and they played a decent gig. Deris was still wearing his Gene Simmons t-shirt, Weikath was his own strange character and Grosskopf/Gerstner ran and jumped all over the stage. The set list was pretty much the same what they’ve been playing earlier this tour and there were no surprises. All in all, this was a good, but a bit of a routine gig from the Germans.