FRONTIERS ROCK FESTIVAL – 2 MAY 2014, MILANO ITALY
After a good night rest I woke up hungry! So my stomach was healed! Alright, now I could enjoy the bands in full! The boys and me took a huge breakfast at the hotel and picked up some supplies (drinks and some snackfood) at a local super market. We drove to the venue and arrived before the actual start! First thing what stroked me was the fact that there where less people than the day before! It seemed that this day was a regular work day and I believe that’s why the headcount was lower.
First band on stage was the Swedish ADRENALINE RUSH. The eye-catcher of this band was definitely the whirlwind Tåve Wanning as front-woman! Tåve got together with producer and songwriter Erik Martensson (Eclipse, W.E.T.) and started working on some songs! This worked out very well because the band already finished the recording for their debut album which is planned to be released in the summer! These young dudes brought us catchy melodies, with lots of energy and a pure R’n’R attitude. Tåve could be described as a mixture of Christina Aquilera and Shakira regarding her stage presence. The girl sure knows how to play the crowd and with her outfit she makes the eyes from the men in the audience roll! They released a single “Change” and on that single she demonstrates a powerful voice. She lacks a bit of power on stage. But she makes that up in a big way with her moves and attitude. My adrenaline sure got a boost when shooting this blonde on stage! They concluded their set with a rocking version of Rainbow’s “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll”. And a Dio song always gets the crowd going!
Another new project on Frontiers Records is MOONLAND. Again a female behind the microphone but this time she is born in Estonia. Lenna is a true chameleon because she first got in the picture as singer for the band Vanilla Ninja. She sang the rocker “Cool Vibes” at the Eurovision song contest in 2005 representing Switzerland! Later on she sang in native tongue and brought mainly calm songs with the emphasis on her voice. But Frontiers kept sending her melodic rock songs and she got interested and she will release a debut album somewhere in 2014. Lenna is the opposite of Tåve when it comes to stage outfit and moves! But her voice sounds pure and is strong, her vocal chords are quite impressive in fact! She moves me with sensitive songs such as “Open Your heart” (written by Alessandro Del Vecchio), “Heaven Is To Be Close To You” and “Life and Let go”. But Lenna proved with the more up-tempo “Another Day In Paradise” that she also can boost the power in her voice. I really liked this performance and await patiently to hear her album in full!
Serafino has a fine nose for molding some new projects. The next band on the L.R.S. is another fine example of his matchmaking! L.R.S. stands for Tommy La Verdi (21 Guns), Josh Ramos (The Storm, Hardline) and Michael Shotton (Von Groove). Born as a studio project under the direction and supervision of Alessandro Del Vecchio and Frontiers’ president Serafino Perugino, their music takes us back to the classic US AOR style of bands like Journey or The Storm. But the three musicians decided to bring the songs on stage. La Verdi surprised me and a whole bunch of spectators with his crystal clear and powerful voice! He certainly had fun on stage and the fans loved it! They started with the wonderful “Our Love To Stay”, which was followed by the equally uplifting “Livin’ 4 A Dream”. Josh Ramos layed down some catchy riffs during the slightly punchier title track “Down To The Core”. The power ballad “Universal Cry” showed the skills from keyboard wizard Del Vecchio and also holds some sweet backing vocals! But this party got really started when they brought us some awesome classics. First up was “I’ve Got A Lot To Learn About Love” from The Storm. Alessandro did most of the vocals on this one! The rougher sounding “Once Is Not Enough” was originally from drummer Shotton’s Von Groove. Ramos could let his guitar howl on this riff overloaded track. A steamin’ version of 21 Guns’ “Knee Deep” concluded this real party! Love to see these guys again with a full show!!
In the middle of the bill for the Friday there stood the band that made with “Bleed & Scream” the album of 2012 according to myself! ECLIPSE immediately delivered some power with opener “Wylde One”. Erik Martensson is a real jack-of-all-trades, because besides being a musician (guitar player) he is also a singer, producer and songwriter. Above all that he got a real good taste in music, because he shows up on stage with a t-shirt from that other killer band H.e.a.t.! Things get even wilder when they start the cracking “Ain’t Dead Yet” from their latest album. “Wake Me up” makes it clear that Eclipse is the hardest band on stage so far. The powerful guitar work from Erik and especially Magnus Hendersson gives the songs a hard edge and the solos are razor sharp! Erik must had a trophy for being the guy with the most bad luck. The day before he got some technical problems with his guitar and here he got some troubles with the microphone! But Erik is a true tornado on stage, but calmed a bit down during the awesome ballad “A Bitter Taste”. I went to the melodic heaven during their set because they granted us seven tracks from the album “Bleed & Scream”. But the guitar sound from the ultimate party maker and killer track “Bleed & Scream” smashed the romantic vibe and made me play the air guitar again! That’s what good music is all about! Having a ball and letting go all negative thoughts and feelings. No wonder you can only see laughing people in the audience! The dude on the keyboards must have been teleported from the golden eighties! With a red spandex, a white singlet and a scarf around his head Johan Berlin was a real tribute to the glory days for the AOR. At the end of their set we got another more romantic moment with the rather fragile “About To Break” but the closer “Breaking My Heart Again” from the previous album “Are You Ready To Rock” did raise the rock meter for the last time!
RED DRAGON CARTEL can be seen as a rather unusual band for Frontiers! But now and then they have a band in their grid that doesn’t fall under the moniker AOR or melodic rock! Ring of Fire and Royal Hunt can also be cataloged as such! Many people wanted to see guitar wizard Jake E. Lee back on stage, so they had high expectations! The band started with a bang and threw Ozzy’s “The Ultimate Sin” in our faces. The sound wasn’t perfect, but in the photo pit it’s sometimes hard to evaluate that! Jake E. Lee has a special way of playing his guitar. Many special moves and techniques is his trade mark. Singer D.J Smith (drummer from band Harem Scarem) had some bad reviews with the start of the live gigs for the band. But I must say that he did a more then fine job here in Milano. “Deceived” was performed very well and the sparks on stage went over to the audience. The band continued with the ultra heavy and pounding “War Machine”, which has a high early Black Sabbath feel! Many people went berserk when the Badlands song “High Wire” started and this really got hot with the second track “Shine On”. Jake E. Lee unleashed the beast within himself and tortured his six string in an unbelievable way! Jake could demonstrate his skills also on the Red Dragon crusher “Shout It Out”. The colorful bass player Ronnie Mancuso stands relatively cool on stage and lets his bass roar on this song! Lovers of Badlands got what they came for because we got another trio of songs! The sensitive “In A Dream” was followed by the guitar extravaganza of the stomping “Rumblin’ Train”. And with the bluesy “Sun Red Sun” we even got a track from the underrated “Dusk” album. This steamin’ set came to its end with the equally explosive “Feeder”. But everyone was waiting for the ultimate Jake E. Lee riff and as an encore they played an overwhelming version of Ozzy’s “Bark At The Moon”.
Danish rockers PRETTY MAIDS are among the “prime-movers” of the North European melodic hard rock scene. They are celebrating their 30th anniversary and released last year the stunning “Motherland”. “Mother Of All Lies” from their last full album set the mood for things to come! Layers of keyboards, tight riffs and powerful, slightly raw vocals fill the concert hall. The opening riffs from “I See Ghosts” follow and get the company from the keys from Morten Sandager. After “Final Day Of Innocence” from that great “back to basics” album “Pandemonium” is followed by a brand new track “My Soul To Take”. This track is more melodic (great keyboard lines) and forms a bridge for the classics from the successful “Future World” album. The semi acoustic intro from “Yellow Rain” proofs that Ronnie Atkins still can hit the sensitive notes. When the song really goes wild the crowd responded with the same feeling and the temperature rises again in the Live Music club! With the commercial sounding, but pounding “Rodeo” the atmosphere even gets better. We get an attractive cover from John Sykes’ “Please Don’t Leave Me Now” and a surprised good performed piece from Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall”. The second new song “Nuclear Boomerang” is a heavy rocker again and forms a strong contrast with the commercial sounding, but always delightful “Little Drops Of Heaven”. When “Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi (Carmina Burana)” blasts through the PA the fans know what’s coming! And the duo from their debut album makes the fists raise in the air and I can even spot some headbanging in the crowd! The fast and roaring “Back To Back” and the extremely heavy title track “Red, Hot and Heavy” always gets the crowd wild and I happily play my air guitar while nodding my head to the beat! As an encore were treated with the ultimate Pretty Maids live track: “Future World” with his ultra fast riffs and fresh sounding keyboard lines!! These Danish lads aren’t that pretty anymore (no offense intended of course), but they sure know how to rock!
I had seen the headliner for this second day STRYPER once before a few years ago in The Netherlands! It was one of the highlight to me that year. So, you can imagine I had high expectations from the Yellow and Black Knights of the Holy word! When they kicked of with the ultimate party track “Sing Along Song” I knew this was gonna be even better. The hard version of “Loud N’ Clear” from the debut EP establishes my assumptions and the band sounds way harder live then on the albums. In fact that can be said for all bands in the AOR and melodic rock genre! Michael Sweet can still sing with a natural ease and even can hit the high notes as in the early days! This trip to heaven continues with one of my favorites “Reach Out” from according to me their best album “Soldiers Under Command”. The harmonies from Oz Fox and Timothy Gaines gives the songs that special catchy feel. The best selling album “To Hell With The Devil” gets the most hits and they threw three songs in a row into the crowd! The more commercial tracks such as “Calling On You” and “Free” get help from the harder and more guitar orientated “More Than A Man”. Back to the future afterwards with three tracks from their latest stunning album “No More Hell To Pay”. The fast and furious “Legacy” is clearly the winner of the new ones! Michael sings also a bit angrier here! The following two covers makes the venue almost to it’s boiling point! That the guys have a sense of humor is proven with the choice to bring Judas Priest’s “Breaking The Law”. This awesome version is chased by the KISS classic “Shout It Out Loud”. Before the finale Michael Sweet can proof his vocal skills during an voice only version of the romantic “Honestly”. Oh My God (kinda fitting here, don’t you agree) the man can sing! The end is near but Oz can let his guitar scream during “The Way” and “Soldiers Under Command”! As an encore we get a pulverizing version of “To Hell With The Devil”. Stryper did what the fans wanted and have us a dream setlist with hard versions of the classics! I can truly say: “By their strypes I was healed”!
Day 2 was even better than the first day to me. First we got to see all the bands in full and I was feeling way better than the day before. The bigger bands all gave the fans what they wanted to hear and headliner Stryper was even better then Tesla the day before!!
Text and Photography By Rik Bauters
Thanks to Rocktribune