LEGENDS OF ROCK II
8’TH OF OCTOBER 2011
CLUB TEATRIA, OULU
REVIEW AND PICTURES BY MARKO SYRJALA
The Legends of Rock festival was now organized for the second time in Oulu, Finland. The festival organizers believe strongly in the name of 80’s hard rock and metal. This year’s edition of the festival included a string of exciting bands that haven’t been performing in Finland for ages…if ever. Canadian band Helix was headlining the event. It’s been 26 years since their last visit, so it was finally about time to see them again here. Although Norwegian TNT and Swedish Treat are still in our neighboring countries, neither of them played in Finland until now. Originally, it was announced that German band Bonfire was also on the bill, but they canceled and were now replaced by a local act called Ghost Machinery for some reason or another. It must have been disappointing for the organizers that only approximately 300 people breezed in for the evening. Perhaps it was such a high ticket price or an oversupply of concerts in Finland, but still, I was waiting for more people to show up. Anyway, there were no cancellations, and all the bands were performing as announced. It was time to check out today’s condition of the 80’s veterans…
Swedish hard rockers Treat made a remarkable comeback in 2005 after being on hiatus for more than a decade. Their latest opus, COUP THE GRACE, was released only last year, and it was one of the best releases in 2010 for its genre. When I reached the venue, the band was already in full action. Lead singer Robert Enlund commanded the stage, making the crowd sing 80’s hit song “World of Promises.” It was reflected that the whole band enjoyed being on stage although there wasn’t a huge audience there. The setlist was a pure Treat hit explosion spiced with a couple of COUP DE GRACE tracks, which worked extremely well. Songs like “Too Wild,” “The War Is Over,” and “Ride Me High” were some of the highlights of the evening. It’s a shame that this band made it big in their heydays. This band has so many great songs with huge melodic hooks, which leave behind Sweden’s Europe as many U.S bands at that time. Sometimes justice doesn’t win.
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Beforehand this was the show I was waiting for most from this evening. That’s partly because I’ve seen all these bands performing before but not TNT with their “new” singer Tony Mills and partly because TNT is one of my favorite bands of all time. The band recently released its latest album, FAREWELL TO ARMS, which is an instant classic, at least in my books. It doesn’t lose an inch for any of classic Tony Harnell era material. The set opened up with MY RELIGION track “Invisible Noise” followed by “Listen to Your Heart” from classic TELL NO TALES. The sound was really muddy in the beginning. Ronnie LeTekro’s guitar was ruling everything, and it was hard to hear anything else but that. Things got a bit better during “Downhill Racer,” and then, it was possible to listen to the whole band properly for the first time. The attention then turned into Mill’s vocals, of course, and, let’s put it this way.
Mills’s and Harnell’s voices sound surprisingly the same on the album, and there’s no big difference in the live situation either. Indeed, some backing tracks were used, especially on pre-choruses, but overall, Mills did a decent job, and all the high parts were performed correctly without any problems when needed. The man has stage charisma, which somehow reminded me of some other British singers. Especially Doogie White came to mind for some reason, but anyway, Tony Mill’s is a good fit for TNT no matter what (other) critics say. And on the right side on stage, there is Mr. Ronni Le Tekro. LeTekro is and has always been an outstanding guitarist. His unique “hard attack” style is still recognizable, and his guitar solos are just unbelievable. The man has been loyal to his “hippie” look forever, and he didn’t disappoint with this element either. What an excellent performance! There’s no more to say about one of the best guitarists existing. Drummer Diesel Dahl for sure looks a bit different to his 80’s “big hair” days, but what’s most important he is playing was still solid, and there’s a good groove going on there. Bassist Victor Borge did a great performance as well, especially with his strong backing vocals. I would have liked to hear more FAREWELL TO ARMS –tracks, but because this was the first TNT show ever in Finland, it was understandable they played a pure “Best of“-setlist. Classics like: “10 00 Lovers”, “Everyone’s A Star,” “Intuition,” and “Seven Seals” worked out great, and so did the only new album track, “Refugee,” which was one of the highlights for me. All in all, this was a strong performance and evidence that there’s still plenty of power left on these Vikings and one British here.
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It’s been something like 25 years since Helix last visited Finland. During the band “heydays,” when they had the number one album LONG WAY TO HEAVEN in the Swedish charts, it seemed that nothing could stop these Canadians from conquering the whole world. Well, since then, many things have changed. The band has gone through numerous lineup changes, ups and downs, but they never gave up! We now have an incarnation of Helix with four out of five members from that classic line-up, which visited here almost a quarter of a century ago. The “reunion” album VAGABOND BONES was released in 2009, and since then, the band has been actively touring, mostly in Europe and North America. The quintet hit the stage about 01:15 AM and opened up with “Wild in the Streets.” The song worked out great, and especially vocalist Brian Vollmer and guitarist Brien Doerner were in flames on stage. The old, LONG WAY TO HEAVEN track “The Kids Are Shakin’” got good reception in the audience, and so did “Heavy Metal Love” and “Deep Cuts The Knife.” The guys in their 50’s did an excellent and energetic performance and gave their best, making all of their best-known songs as well as few VAGABOND BONES tracks and at least one song from recently released SKIN IN THE GAME (EP). Vollmer and Doerner were together at the heart of the show, but the whole band was playing very tightly, and a special mention goes to drummer Greg Hinz who was the real backbone of the show. According to crowd reactions, there was nothing wrong with the show itself, but Helix should have been in a different spot from headlining the event. Certainly, the ridiculously late showtime didn’t help, but the band played for about half the number of people compared to Treat and TNT. But still, despite the lack of audience, this was a good rock ‘n roll show which all spices needed, and do we need more?