HIGHWAY CHILE/PICTURE - Tribute to Alfred Lagarde @ De Boerderij, Zoetermeer, 24-01-2020

This gig at de Boerderij is actually a tribute to Alfred Lagarde, one of the most excellent radio disc jockeys from my youth. In fact, there was another one, because next to Lagarde, I would also like to mention his female companion and partner-in-crime, Hanneke Kappen. Both have taught me a lot about the hard rock and heavy metal scene in Holland and beyond and I never skipped one single radio show. Lagarde was not only well-known for his own radio show Betonuur, but he also did a lot of voice overs and of course he presented Countdown Café with the mighty Kees Baars for many years. Kees Baars would be in the house as well tonight and we were very much looking forward to that. All the more reason to celebrate the legacy of Lagarde with HIGHWAY CHILE and PICTURE that played at Countdown Café many times. HIGHWAY CHILE announced another special guest star tonight and nobody else but original singer Armand van der Stigchel would be on stage to sing a few songs. PICTURE possibly liked this move and announced that they would be helped out by Len Ruygrok on guitar as well. This is going to be an evening full of surprises for every visitor of this special event.

HIGHWAY CHILE and Alfred Lagarde have come a long way and this evening would be a nice trip down to memory lane. Not only because Armand will fly over from New York, but also when you have HIGHWAY CHILE on the bill, you will also get HELLOISE, which is the best of both worlds. The band is billed tonight as HIGHWAY CHILE and they start off with "Highway Chile Is Coming To Get Ya". This classic tune will surely please all the HC fans and even the fans of PICTURE, I can tell you that much. The next song "Keeper Of The Earth" is taken from their latest studio effort and a real crowd-pleaser. Old and new material is mixed very well together. The old school classic "Going Blind" is up next. The band has got a full hour to impress the fans and so they brought their best weapons and "Fever" is definitely one of them. It's a great sing-along tune and everybody, who was there tonight, got the fever for sure. Then it's time for a short trip down to memory lane with the HELLOISE anthems "For A Moment", "Gates Of Heaven" and "Hard Life". I think, they couldn't please the fans any more than that. I'm sure, that Alfred would have loved this moment, too. Obviously, there are a few more surprises, because after this triple dose of HELLOISE, it's time for the first guest, Armand Vanderstigchel, who flew over from New York, where he literally rattles the pots and pans in the kitchen. He's a well-respected chef de cuisine back there. He once was the front man of HIGHWAY CHILE and "Jesse James" is his moment of fame. He does a terrific job and also involves the audience during his performance. He even takes a walk on the little catwalk, which was created on the middle of the stage. The old school HIGHWAY CHILE songs are certainly his cup of tea and in "Carol", he gets a second chance to entertain the audience. Of course he is helped out by Stan Verbraak and the people in the audience. What a great moment!

The band continues in the old school line-up with "Bite In Anger", where Stan is in charge again. This is the way to make your crowd happy. But there is more, because HIGHWAY CHILE also presents a new song tonight, called "Metal Infused". It gives the wooden barrel on stage, filled with whiskey, a metal infusion. The harder the crowd shouts, yells, claps, stamps and applauds, the whiskey will feel it and will get better and better and more metal infused every time. The song is easy on the ear and after hearing the chorus once, you will be able to sing along to it and that was also clear tonight. I think, the input of the audience will probably do the barrel good. "Dreaming Of Heaven" is the last song for tonight, but the crowd is still screaming for more. After all, you're dealing with the hardcore fan base of the Dutch heavy metal. When I look around and opposite of me, I see people who are good for a couple of hundred years of heavy metal experience. They are in the front rows, pumping their fists in the air and yelling for more. The final song is the appropriate "Headbangers", which has Armand on stage again. HIGHWAY CHILE could easily have been the headliners with a setlist and a performance like that. The band gave it all they've got and they received a lot of respect from the audience and a lot of loud yelling and screaming and shouting, which is good for the whiskey barrel. I keep on wondering though, if there was real whiskey in this jar?! I guess, we will never know.......

The part, where guest speakers would pay tribute to Alfred 'big Al' Lagarde is on right now. Kees Baars would be the right man to do the job, but unfortunately he was ill and couldn't make it tonight. Because of that, the organization had to do some improvisation and found a very suitable replacement. Armand is the right man to tell some nice stories about the early years and his speech alternates with some nice pictures projected on a giant screen. This way there's enough time to prepare the stage for the next show of PICTURE and also entertain the people with some nice stories from the past.

After this interesting interlude, it's time for PICTURE to throw some decibels into the audience and you can leave that up to these five guys. Surprisingly, they kick off with a new song, called "Blown Away", which is a true statement here. We are blown away by a loud yet pretty clear sound of the band. PICTURE has already played some new songs live from the current album "Wings" and tonight they will do four. After that, they continue with the magnificent "Message From Hell", where the crowd goes really wild. At least, it's slowly turning into a true madhouse at our part of the venue. "Little Annie" is up next, which is a new and old song at the same time, that got a facelift. Originally, it has never been released on any album before. I'm really glad that it got a second chance, because it's such a great song and definitely one of the highlights on "Wings", as far as I'm concerned. The DEEP PURPLE type of song structures and the input of Laurens Bakker and Jan Bechtum are amazing here. That's not all, because title track "Wings" is next and besides me, I hear a few other guys shouting out the song title very loud. The new album has been received very well by the Dutch metal fans and I haven't read any negative comments along the way. What more do you want, when you release an album like that after so many years of existence? The setting will be slightly different for "Wings" tonight, because Appie de Gelder will play the keyboards this time and the second guitar player is guitarist Len Ruygrok (ex-PICTURE, ex-VENGEANCE), which is one helluva surprise for everybody. It's really great to have Len back on stage and by judging from his skills, he hasn't lost his touch and did some serious practice. After this special appearance by Len, another old headbanger is coming up in "No No, No". I remember, this was one of the favorite songs of Alfred lagarde. He played it quite frequently on the radio in his show Betonuur, which is why it can't be left out here. "Eternal Dark" has its own intro and of course this classic tune still belongs to PICTURE's biggest hit singles. There is one more new song on the list for tonight, which is "The Line Of Life". As you can see, the new album is well presented here. "Night Hunter" continues and after the fast pounder "Heavy Metal Ears", the title track of the band's second album, it's time for another surprise guest. Nobody else but the legendary singer Peter Strykes (ex-IST AVENUE, ex-VANDENBERG, among other very impressive collaborations and solo projects) walks on stage to do "Live By The Sword", which is taken from the "Old Dogs, New Tricks" album. And he's nailing it, what a voice! That's what can happen on an evening like this. The sky is the limit. After this blasting performance, it's time for the "Night Tiger" to get out of his cage. Watch out, because this animal is vicious. "Diamond Dreamer" is very suitable to sing along to and the band closes with "Unemployed", which is one of my personal favorite songs. It's fast, powerful and 'Bakkie' is in the spotlight with a short drum solo. What an energy and such an amazing show. Without any doubt, PICTURE is a well-oiled machine and you can hardly find a more experienced live band in our country for that matter. Needless to say, this can't be the end of this evening.

And after a short while, the band is getting back onstage for a set with three encore songs. You haven't been to a PICTURE show without "Bombers", which I think is probably one of the most loved and successful songs of the band. It's always very special seeing Rien doing his bass 'thing' in the audience between all his friends and fans. Tonight will be is not any different, because PICTURE doesn't like to leave the work half done. They go for the full two hundred percent or nothing at all. For a short while, Rien decides to stay in the audience, but then he returns onstage, before his fellow band mates will miss him. In "Lady Lightning", it's time to introduce the band. After some monitor climbing of Ronald (I guess, next time he will go for the roof in de Boerderij in Zoetermeer!!), the guitarists are showing their skills. Jan is also demonstrating how playing guitar behind your back sounds like, which is quite impressive. This has been a night to remember and when the band hits the final notes of "You Can Go", everybody knows that it's time to go home.

PICTURE started their show with a song from their latest album and closed with a song from their debut album, released in 1980. Forty years of pure heavy metal have been passing by tonight. Can you beat that? I think, these were the ultimate bands to perform on this tribute night to Alfred Lagarde and I also think he would have been proud of it. I'm pretty sure, he would be sending a 'thumbs up' from up above after this show. The evening comes to an end, like any other night, although there was a lot more to meet the eye this time. After all, Armand Vanderstigchel joined HIGHWAY CHILE onstage again, we saw Peter Strykes fronting PICTURE and Len Ruygrok playing guitar with his old band mates, all in honor of Alfred Lagarde. What we didn't know and heard a couple of weeks after, is that this was the very last show of Ronald van Prooijen. He decided to quit PICTURE and would be replaced by the Italian metal singer Phoenix Reborn. We also learned that Gert Nijboer is focusing on AUGUST LIFE from now on, next to playing in a few cover bands. He decided to leave HIGHWAY CHILE and played one final gig in Sept. 2021 in his hometown Breda. He will be replaced by Ben Blaauw, who the fans will definitely remember from the early days of HIGHWAY CHILE. We wish both Ronald and Gert lots of success with their future endeavors and we are thrilled to see that both HIGHWAY CHILE and PICTURE are still going strong with their new recruits. Our thanks go out to the bands, the organization, our metal friends and everybody who was there tonight to shout their balls off. Thank you!

Text by Toine van Poorten & photos by Rita van Poorten

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