Rock on Green Festival
@ The Forum, London
5th June 2016
Review by: Jacob Ovington
Photography by Billy Edmonds/Graham Hilling
Every festival has to start somewhere, but with only a few bands and taking place over just one evening, I’m not sure the word festival is an accurate description for tonight’s event. What Rock on Green does offer on its first take is variety, though considering the small size of the festival the choice of bands on the line-up is somewhat mismatched.
Upon arrival the audience is sparse, which doesn’t exactly create a festival atmosphere. This is probably down to the steep ticket price considering what’s on offer. The few people present do seem very enthusiastic, though. Kicking off the festival is the UK based band, Immension.
From their sound, it’s clear that they’re strongly influenced by Metallica. The influence becomes even clearer when they perform a cover of ‘Fuel’. Their sound is very different to the headline acts that most people are there to see, but despite this they do a great job of getting the audience warmed up and on their side.
Second on the bill we have Republic of Rock n’ Roll, which is a complete switch in styles again. Out of the whole line-up, they’re probably the most out of place with their style not really being metal at all. As most of the audience are symphonic metal fans, it’s unsurprising that their response to this band isn’t overwhelming.
Octanic are up next, and they’ve come all the way from Australia for this event. You’d think that if the promoters could manage getting a band to come all the way from the other side of the world that they’d be able to pull together enough bands for a cohesive line-up. By this point the venue starts to fill up a bit more, or at least people start moving towards the front in preparation for the headline acts. They seem to go down a lot better than the first two acts, and this is probably down to their great stage presence and energetic sound that mixes death metal with electronic elements.
Amaranthe are up next, and the crowd is certainly pleased to see them going by their reaction. Their professionalism and experience come across straight away with their enthusiastic stage presence. They really know how to please a crowd.
They’re a band I’ve heard of and heard around, but haven’t looked into that deeply as I always found them a bit too pop for my liking. Tonight the set opens with ‘Digital World’, which sets the scene for the entire set with all of it sounding rather futuristic and digital.
Musically, they’re on top form and a lot heavier than I expected. I’m pleasantly surprised by them. The lead female vocalist is excellent live and really good at projecting her voice. It’s just a shame that the sound isn’t great, and mostly obscured by echoes. Maybe that is due to there only being a few rows of people and the emptiness of the venue exacerbating the reverb effect.
Finally, it’s the main act of the night – the legendary queen of metal, Tarja. As someone who for many years performed at stadium sized venues, it’s strange to see her in front of such a small crowd. However, her smile is as bright as ever and her presence almost makes it feel like a stadium.
With Tarja’s operatic voice, the venue’s reverb becomes even more of a problem now. Again, a lot of the sound is obscured by it and it’s hard to listen clearly. Her voice has changed over the years and it’s almost as though it has been toned down to fit more of a rock style.
Tonight’s set mostly consists of songs from her two upcoming albums. She seems to have such productive a creative output that it was just too much to fit on one release. After the first few songs, her voice gets better as she warms up. As this is the first show of the tour, there are moments where the band seems a bit loose but as they play more dates I’m sure things will come together.
Unexpectedly, she pulls a cover of Muse’s ‘Supremacy’ out of the bag – and it sounds better than anything that has come so far tonight. And then we’re treated to a cover of the classic and almost universally known Goldfinger. She pulls it off very well.
The rest of the set goes well, and her voice continues to warm up throughout it. It’s a shame she’s got a shorter slot than usual as by the time things are getting into full swing it’s almost the end.
The set finishes with ‘Over the Hills and Far Away’, Tarja’s voice sounds great on it but the band leaves a lot to be desired. It just puts things into perspective and shows how good as a live band Nightwish really are.
As an inaugural festival, a few teething problems are to be expected. However, we were treated to some great bands and many hours of music. I think the main problem was the steep ticket price keeping people away. It would have been a lot better with a bigger audience and more cohesive selection of bands. Let’s hope that Rock On Green will be back bigger and better.