Firefest is a festival by and for fans who all have one thing in common: the undying love for AOR and melodic rock. This year was the seventh edition and as usual it was held in Nottingham’s Rock City. Every year the organizers try to set up a bill with some of the greatest and sometimes long forgotten names in this genre and also this year they succeeded in doing so. In fact, so many bands were contacted that the event was held over a full weekend again with a pre-show on Friday.
Due to technical problems with the soundboard of the Rock City, the first day started with a delay of one and a half hour. But eventually and thanks to the hard working Firefest team all problems were solved so we could enjoy a wonderful weekend of our beloved music genre. Together with fans from all around the world the Rock Report team witnessed following bands on Sunday…
Sunday, October 31
With only one album available, Swedisch rockers Grand Design had the honor to kick off the second day of Firefest. Not an easy task but with their Dep Leppard-esque AOR they tried to win over the crowd. With songs such as “Piece of the action”, “Air it out” and “Love sensation” they succeeded eventually in doing so. On last year’s debut ‘Time Elevation’ singer Pelle Saether has a strong voice, but live it sounded a tad monotonous. Still this was an OK starter and their mission to warm-up was certainly accomplished. (LV)
English rockers Newman played a home match and that was certainly obvious viewing the many reactions of their fans. Their show was (together with some others) filmed for a DVD and should be released somewhere next year. Since 1997, founder and frontman Steve Newman is working hard to build up a career and already wrote seven albums since then. Although all band members and especially new guitarist Shaun Bessant were skilled musicians, their songs couldn’t keep my attention for very long. With the exception of “If It’s Love” from their debut, all songs sounded average to me. They certainly should have scored better if more of these songs would have been played instead of the many from new album “Art of Balance”. (LV)
Getting legendary rock band Strangeways to play at Firefest has been a labor of love for festival organizer Kieran Dargan, but all his hard work finally paid off. In the late eighties this was a cult band whose albums ‘Native Sons’ and ‘Walk In The Fire’ both were bona fide classics. Recently they reunited and released a new album, ‘Perfect World’. So this was the first reunion gig of the legendary line-up consisting of Terry Brock, Ian Stewart, David ’Munch’ Moore and Jim Drummond. It started great with “Love Lies dying“and “Only A Fool“. But soon many new songs slipped in the set, and disturbed the walk down memory lane where everybody had been waiting for. The new songs weren’t bad though missed the magic that the older ones have in spades. I know Strangeways had a new record to promote but playing four new songs was a touch too much. After all this was a festival and the playtime was limited. This could have been another highlight but was now more a set with mixed emotions. However Terry Brock has still an awesome voice and certainly delivered the best vocal performance of the weekend. (FB)
With their performance in Nottingham, Stage Dolls made a long overdue return to these shores. During the years and with a career of 25+ this Norwegian trio has certainly made an impact with their soft and melodic rock. But still the warm and enthusiastic reactions that welcomed them from the first notes came as a big surprise. The polished sound of the studio albums was replaced by a rough and rocking groove. And along with a perfect setlist containing classics such as “Love Cries”, “Love Don’t Bother Me” and “Still In Love” that was all it took to make the crowd go mad. On some songs Torstein Flakne even didn’t have to sing. Anthem “Soldier’s Gun” that was dedicated to Phil Lynott finally closed down this truly amazing set. (FB)
When five years ago I saw Jimi Jamison with Survivor at Holland’s Arrow Rock Festival, his voice was in bad shape. But since then he hooked up with Jim Peterik again, who gave him some valuable vocal lessons. And those paid off big time because when Jamison kicked-off with Survivor’s “Caught In The Game” he was top notch from the first note onward. There was that magical voice again that we all heard and loved on albums like ‘Vital Signs’, ‘When Seconds Count’ and ‘Too Hot To Sleep’. His backing band consisted of H.E.A.T.-members alongside the talented guitarist and songwriter Tommy Denander, who all delivered a tight performance. Jamison wasted no time and with firing one classic after another he didn‘t make the same mistake as Strangeways. Everyone sang along with songs as “It’s The Singer, Not The Song“, “High On You“, “See You In Everyone“, “Is This Love“, “Didn’t Know It Was Love” and “Rebel Son” who all came from his Survivor period. That created a truly amazing ambiance that reached a climax during encores “Burning Heart” and “Eye Of The Tiger”. Without a single doubt the best performance of Firefest this year. (FB)
Pretty Maids were scheduled on stage before Jamison but a traffic jam forced them to change places. Of course following ‘the act’ of the weekend wasn’t easy but the Danisch rockers with only vocalist Ronnie Atkins and guitarist Ken Hammer remaining of the classic line-up, gave us a run for our money. Still an experienced live act their hit it off hard with “Pandemonium” the title track of their new album. Pretty Maids always had a harder sound but never forgot to maintain the melody in their songs. Their mix of strong riffs with melodic keyboards worked perfectly and the new songs were just awesome. Just listen to “Little Drops of Heaven” and you know what I mean. Add to this a few classics such as “Savage Heart”, “Future World” and “Red, Hot & Heavy” and you had a great set that made way up for the cancelled show from two years ago. (FB)
In 1990 the Nelson twins had a number-one hit in the US with “Love And Affection”. Since then they kept on making records and recently released a new album with ’Lightning Strikes Twice’. However they never played on European soil before but the Firefest team managed to put them on this year’s bill. The long blond locks of Matthew and Gunnar may have been replaced by a shorter hairstyle but the harmony vocals of the twins were unmistakably the same and spot on. With three guitarists, including Mark Slaughter and Neil Zaza, they delivered a greatest hits set that sounded a lot harder than the studio albums. Even the Slaughter hit “Up All Night” passed the revue, much to the delight of many fans. The drum and guitar solos perhaps were a little out of place but the enthusiastic set made way up for that. With many years of experience Nelson knew how to put on a good show and was truly a great headliner. (FB)
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Firefest 2010 (Grand Design, Newman, Strangeways, Stage Dolls, Jimi Jamison, Pretty Maids & Nelson)
October 31, 2010
Rock City, Nottingham