FRONTIERS ROCK FESTIVAL – 3 MAY 2014, MILANO ITALY
For melodic rock lovers was the third and final day of this festival a real dream line-up. Winger, Danger Danger and especially Night Ranger are bands that don’t come over to Europe (mainland) on a regular basis to play a gig. When we arrived at the venue it was very clear this time it could be a full house. So the fab four from Belgium entered the hall and prepared themselves for the final treat!
First band on stage were the Swedish CRAZY LIXX. These guys bring us pure sleaze! Opener “Rock And A Hard Place” from their second album “New Religion” made a huge impression on the crowd. The result of this was a spontaneous singing along from the first ten rows. Danny Rexon knows how to get the crowd going an both guitarslingers Andy and Edd flood the crowd with some sleazy hard hitting riffs! Also the stage moves from bass player Jens catch my eye (and my lens as well!). We get a nice mix from new and old. Even a new track, the single “Sympathy” was played! Crazy Lixx promoted them selves to the best opening act of the three days! Their party metal immediately set the stage alight and heated up the place!
Next up was the Norwegian rock diva ISSA. A blond singer on stage again, could Serafino have a weak spot for blonds? Issa started with the Boulevard cover “Dream On” from her latest album “Can’t Stop”. She’s got the looks of a rock pop diva and has a warm voice with that little typical pop twist. All her three albums get attention. With “Invincible” she shows her more sensitive side of her voice. But set closer and ultra catchy Aviator cover “Can’t Stop” gets the most reaction from the audience! A great performance from Issa who can be seen as blend of the looks from Tave (Adrenaline Rush) and the voice from Lenna (Moonland).
If you wanted to summarize JEFF SCOTT SOTO you could use the words: singer, performer and entertainer! He shared the stage with the likes of Yngwie J. Malmsteen, Journey, Talisman, Soul Sirkus, Eyes, Axel Rudi Pell, but is now mainly focused on his solo-career. Jeff kicks off full throttle with the energetic and riff-filled “Take U Down”. During the set of W.E.T. he was dressed in white and now he chooses to wear black! The somewhat special build up “21th century” follows and Jeff entertains in a big way! He runs and jumps on stage like a kangaroo on speed! His powerful voice stays fine to hear! During “Damage Control” he got the opportunity to show his more melodic voice. Jeff brings a good mix of his albums and songs like “Believe In Me”, “Look Inside Your Heart” (with Night Ranger’s Joel Hoekstra on guitar), “Soul Divine”, “Holding On” and “Eyes of Love”. I got a peek at the set list when I was in the photo pit and I saw that he also planned a Talisman medley. But many people in the crowd went crazy when he did snippets of seven Talisman classics!! The medley with “Break Your Chains/Day By Day/Give Me A sign/Colour My XTC/ Dangerous/ Just Between Us/Mysterious” was a true gift from heaven and also he threw in two covers with Madonna’s “Frozen” and Seal’s “Crazy”. But the gifts kept on coming, because we got a full version of Talisman’s “I’ll Be Waiting”. His time was up – but he got to do another one! A cracking version of the Rock Star movie hit “Stand Up” put an end on this overwhelming performance!
JOHN WAITE is undoubtedly one of the most charismatic singers of the international rock scene. His work with The Babys, Bad English and his solo albums are top notch! “Change” from his first solo album “Ignition” opens the set. John has got a new hair cut and was dressed in bit over sized suit, but his voice sounds still extraterrestrial. The Babys track “Back On My Feet Again” follows and the crowd believes this is meat and drink to them! But I would have loved to hear some keys during this (and other songs as well) melodic track! He continues with two tracks from his latest album “Rough and Tumble”. Next up is the hit single “When I See You Smile” from Bad English! A bit strange that he let’s the audience sing the biggest part of this awesome track. But he is known for his bit unusual way of doing things! But that doesn’t mean we don’t had any fun! To hear him sing “Every Time I Think Of You”, “Best Of What I Got” and “Missing You” gave me goose bumps! He ends his set with a rockin’ version of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”. But to be honest I’d rather would have heard “Isn’t It Time” or “The Price Of Love”. Somehow I expected a bit more from John, but nevertheless I had a blast during his set!
Who has seen DANGER DANGER before on stage knows what’s coming your way! A winning mix of melodies, energy, feel-good sound and above all a party-attitude. They get this party going with “Rock America”. From the first note the audience caught on and singer Ted Poley showed us once again what the word front man means! They played mainly tracks from their first two albums “Danger Danger” and “Screw It!” and they are among the best you can find in the genre. The backing and harmony vocals from bass player Bruno Ravel and guitarist Rob Marcello gave it all a smooth and catchy feel. You feel the urge to sing along and that’s exactly what the audience did! The set was loaded with party tracks such as: “Blame It On Love”, “Bang Bang”, “Beat The Bullet”, “Crazy Nites” and “Monkey Business”. Ted even did his walk trough the crowd stunt again during “I Still Think About You”. Yep I even got a slap on my shoulder from that always smiling Ted! Their explosive set ended with the mandatory “Naughty Naughty”. The band blew the roof when they closed Firefest in 2012 and they simply did it over here in Italy.
WINGER released also two gems in the genre at the end of the eighties. The band faded away after their third release “Pull”, but resurrected in 2006 with a new album “IV”. But the band put itself on the melodic rock map again with the brilliant “Karma’. The band took the Live Music club by storm by starting with the heavy new album opener “Midnight Driver of a Love Machine”. Kip Winger takes care of the lead vocals and still has an impressive throat! Besides singing he also handles the bass, which lays strongly in the mix! Guitar-wizard Reb Beach is also part of the new Whitesnake line-up and he gets the company of Donnie Smith on the rhythm guitar on stage. The emphasis lays on the first two albums but the other ones (except the “IV” album) gets attention. With the golden oldie “Madaleine” they take us back to 1988. After a sexy version of “Hungry” we get a selection from the later albums. We got hard versions of “Pull Me Under”, “Blind Revolution Mad”, “Down Incognito”, the newest single and fast track “Rat Race”, “Deal With The Devil” and the pumping “Stone Cold Killer”. The second part of the set is entirely devoted two the first albums! The more melodic and slower “Miles Away” and “Headed For A Heartbreak” follow with Kip behind the keys. The crowd goes wild with the catchy “Can’t Get Enough” and “Easy Come Easy Go”. Reb Beach shows his skills during a solo spot and the finale consists of mind blowing versions of “You Are The Saint, I Am The Sinner” and the inevitable set closer “Seventeen”. Winger set the stage alight and gave the crowd what it wanted! Mission accomplished!
Due to naughty boy Soto the time table was a bit shaken up! So with a small half our delay we could witness the last band of this festival on stage: NIGHT RANGER. The first three albums are still highly acclaimed by the media and lovers of AOR and melodic rock. When AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” the audience already started to sing along. So the mood was set even before the Californian dudes came on stage. And when they came on stage they were treated with a great welcome. They put their gig in motion with “Touch Of Madness”. Every member of Night Ranger (keyboardist Eric Levy excluded) was full of energy and especially Jack Blades acted like a teenager who just got his first taste of some XTC! The man could not stand still for a second! When “Sing Me Away” from that debut album followed we all knew this was going to be a real treat! The guitar work from Joel Hoekstra and Brad Gillis has a real hard edge and this was made perfectly clear with the heavier “Lay It On Me” from their latest album “Somewhere in California”. The harmonies are also a trademark for Night Ranger! But what makes this band a bit special is the fact that the drummer Kelly Keagy is also a great singer. He takes over the microphone during the more melodic “Sentimental Street”. Jack Blades was a member of that other success band Dawn Yankees! “Coming of Age” was the next gift for the audience. We even got a preview of the new album with the title track “High Road”. A track completely in the vein of the previous brilliant “Somewhere in California”. From new to old we went with “Eddie’s Comin’ Out Tonight”. The Damn Yankees came back with “High Enough” and the sentimental and romantic sounding duo from “7 Wishes”: “Goodbye” and “Four In The Morning” was the ideal cool down moment before the band started their final attack. “When You Close Your Eyes” and the faster paced “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me”. They even included a snippet of “Highway Star” (Deep Purple) as a tribute to the music they grew up with! The real finale consisted of a smashing version of their world hit “Sister Christian” and the catchy rocker “(You Can Still) Rock In America” acted as the terminal of this sunny roller coaster ride! I can say that Night Ranger was a worthy closing act for this first edition of the Frontiers Rock Festival. It was fun to see that all members seem to have the same amount of fun on stage as the audience before the stage! They all were full of energy and the guitar work from Joel and especially Brad was like heaven on earth. I will conclude my review from day 3 with the words from Jack Blades himself: “You can still rock in Italy, baby!”.
How can I summarize this first edition? All the bands where eager to play! They played what the fans wanted to hear! The timetable was strictly followed with the exception of the last day with the help of Tazmanian devil Jeff Scott Soto who wouldn’t stop playing (but we all forgiven him of course!). The venue was great and the possibility to go outside between the gigs was very pleasant!
Wasn’t there anything wrong, you ask? Well the music and venue were excellent, but maybe the catering could be a bit bigger next time! Why not install a small metal market outside or some hamburger or pizza stands? But like I mentioned before the musical organization was in fact flawless! So a big thumbs up for Frontiers Records!
Text and photos by Rik Bauters