Many festivals are getting larger than life with increasing numbers of both artists and attendees but yet some of them are still happy being a medium sized festival, where a good atmosphere is as important as the music. One festival that falls in this exact category is Bospop, which takes place just across the Belgian border in Boshoven (Holland). With a tradition of being a friendly family festival, the organisers were celebrating the 25th edition and to make sure this would be a special weekend for everyone, they hadn't spared neither effort nor expense. . So it didn't come as no surprise that the festival was as good as sold out. As always the first day of Bospop was reserved for traditional rock and this year despite the rain a lot of people were already present from early on.
Main reason for their early presence was Peter Frampton, who hadn’t been here for years and already took the stage a little past noon. With light pop rock including his hits `Show Me The Way' and `Baby I Love Your Way' he scored particularly good. It’s always a pleasure to see an artist play with so much joy and enthusiasm as was the case with Frampton. And Kiss fans certainly must have recognised bass player John Regan who used to play in Ace Frehley’s solo band.
Meanwhile backstage Steve Lukather had arrived and his friendly entrée that included shaking hands with everybody, showed that he felt nicely at home in Holland. This was already the fourth time that Bospop welcomed the well-known Toto guitarist but only the third time as a solo artist. So no Toto numbers but judging from the crowd’s reaction, the mainly instrumental fusion rock from his solo efforts was well received. Lukather is still a very talented guitar player expressing the love for his idol Jimi Hendrix by covering two of the guitar legend's numbers. Afterwards he told me that a new Toto album is in preparation for 2006 so hopefully we will be able to welcome him again next year.
Uriah Heep have a strong following in Holland thanks to the excellent support of their fan club. So at every gig they play over here a lot of fans are present and today was no exception. It’s been a while since we were treated to some new material but luckily Heep have a huge repertoire to choose from and that keeps things interesting at each of the combo's passages. This time around they served up rarely played songs such as `Blood Red Roses' during the first part of the show but of course the well-known classics weren’t forgotten. As always it felt good to see and hear them because one is never bored during a Uriah Heep concert.
The wonderful music of Marillion is a perfect match for an indoor event but on a festival like this I feared the much-needed intimacy would be missing. But my worries soon proved to be unfounded thanks to Steve Hogarth who lead Marillion through an interesting set. The first part of the band's set was made up of songs from their latest ‘Marbles’ CD and that kinda took me (and probably a big part of the crowd) by surprise but during the second part everybody was able to sing along to their classics songs. Traditionally they ended the gig with ‘Easter’. All in all a great set with much crowd reaction.
Next up was Roger Hodgson who we all know as the voice and the brain (together with Rick Davies) behind the Supertramp hits. Since 1983 however he has left the popular band to pursue a solo career and this can almost be taken literally, because on stage he was only accompanied by an unknown horn player. So not much variety in the instruments department but everybody knew ‘Give A Little Bit’, ‘It’s Raining Again’, ‘The Logical Song’ and ‘Take The Long Way Home’ to name a few of the songs that Hodgson played. And with the audience singing the lyrics word for word, this acoustic performance -which was very unique for a festival- happened to create a wonderful atmosphere.
While Dutch favourites De Dijk set the tent on fire, Joe Cocker was ready to do the same on the main stage. As a studio artist I've always had much appreciation for the way he re-arranged old songs to fit the "Joe Cocker style", but in a live situation I need something more than that. Nothing was added to the studio versions and that’s a bit of a shame. On top of that there was the poor lightning show, a lack of stage action and despite the greatest hits show you can imagine I was a bit disappointed in this performance.
After a good and long night's sleep I arrived a little late on Sunday but just in time to witness German rockers Masterplan. No surprises in the set list which was pretty much the same from the Rock Hard festival. But the frequent touring has made their playing even tighter than before with drum octopus Uli Kusch in a leading role. Very impressive set from the next big thing.
In the meantime Overkill were ready for an aggressive hour of pure thrash. A perfect opportunity for thrashers to do some headbanging.
At the same time Dutch Gothic rock band Within Temptation were gearing up for a home match here at Bospop. Being not really my cup of tea, it was the first time I caught them in a live situation and I was positively surprised. I witnessed a performance by a bunch of skilled musicians with the stunning voice from Sharon van den Adel- who reached those high-pitched notes easily- taking up the leading part. Visually we were treated to an impressive stage set with two huge statues and of course the lovely looks of Sharon. The huge interest from many youngsters and the photo pit being the crowdiest of the whole day, perfectly underlined their enormous popularity which isn’t about to end soon.
The doom metal of My Dying Bride doesn’t really touch my soul so it’s hard to put some objective words on paper. The only thing that struck me was the way lead singer Aaron gets caught up in the music once he steps on stage which offered a great opportunity to take some nice shots.
The first time Y&T played outside the borders of the US was in 1982 when they kicked ass at the Pinkpop festival in Geleen. A fact Dave Meniketti remembers very well and 23 years later they tried to do the same at Bospop. Many fans, including yours truly, have a soar spot for their great melodic music, which includes some of the best guitar solos ever. Just listen to power ballads ‘Winds of Change’ and ‘I Believe In You’ and you’ll know what I mean. Just like during their stopover in Belgium two days before, they were having some technical problems at the beginning but eventually everything was cleared out. To me this was the best performance of the day but then again they are one of my personal favourites.
Introduced by Steve Hogarth, Porcupine Tree brought a progressive set which I wasn't able to witness for long due to the overlapping time schedule.
Headliners Iron Maiden were bringing a special festival package in support of their "Early Years" DVD set with only songs from their first four efforts and that’s something I didn’t want to miss. Knowing that each one of these releases is a classic album on it's own, we were in for a treat. Everyone knew songs such as ‘Wratchild’, ‘Prowler’, ‘Phantom of the Opera’, ‘The Number of the Beast’ and ‘The Trooper’ word for word and it was great to once again hear them. Some of them I hadn’t heard before with Bruce Dickinson on vocals but the front man, who ran the entire gig like a wild goose, put on a perfect performance and so did everyone else in the band. Drummer Nicko McBrain might be invisible behind his huge drum set but we certainly heard him pounding away. The huge backdrop changed frequently and of course at the end Eddie made his appearance. Although more recent work from the band is still decent, it became clear that the older songs are still their best. This certainly won’t be easy to top on a next occasion.
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Bospop (Peter Frampton, Steve Lukather, Uriah Heep, Marillion, Roger Hodgson, Joe Cocker, Masterplan, Overkill, Within Temptation, My Dying Bride, Y&T, Porcupine Tree & Iron Maiden)
July 2, 2005
Sportpark Boshoven, Weert