HIGHWAY CHILE @ Bel Air, Breda, March 24, 2018

It’s always nice to come to my hometown Breda for an evening of hard rock. Unfortunately, Breda may not be the best city for that. Every now and then though, there is a good reason to go there and HIGHWAY CHILE with Breda rocker at heart Gert Nijboer on guitar is definitely one of them. The place to be tonight is the pub, where Rita and I spend our first night out together, about 28 years ago now, Bel Air. Back then, it was HOUDOE & BEDANKT that was playing here with Peer Verschuren on lead guitar. What a great evening that was. Now it’s time for HIGHWAY CHILE, another legendary band, that would also play some HELLOISE stuff tonight. After all there are three members of HIGHWAY CHILE playing in both bands. We arrived in Breda pretty early and so there was still a little time for a cup of coffee and a short chat with some of the band members. After that, it was time for the band to get things going here. Everywhere in the pub you could enjoy the gig, because the show was transmitted to a TV set, that was in the front of the bar. But the best way to enjoy this fantastic music is of course to be in front of the stage. The sound of the music has got to move your trousers and you will have to feel the bass guitar pumping in your stomach. And HIGHWAY CHILE’s music will exactly do that, believe me. A lot of our Belgian friends even came over to see the show. I saw a whole of familiar faces and it really felt like old times would be relived tonight in Bel Air. It’s 2005, when Gert joins HIGHWAY CHILE and it’s good to see him perform in Breda again. The bar is very crowded, when the band walks on stage. Well, the show is about to start, so you’d better fasten your seatbelts. Happy birthday to the man, who organized the party, by the way. I hope, you had a fantastic evening and you liked the exclusive HELLOISE gifts, that were given to you during the show.

It’s time for some music, boys and girls, let’s rip! The band starts with the title track of “Keeper Of The Earth” a great opener and a wonderful choice to get the fans focused. There is a band on stage that is giving more than hundred percent and they are not going to stop, until the last man standing is going down on his knees tonight. A lot of people have come to hear the old songs but tonight everything is possible. Especially since the band is willing to expand their song choices with some HELLOISE stuff, but this is saved for a little bit later. First up, we hear “Run Away” and the first ‘sing along’ moment of the evening is “Jesse James” from their 1983 debut album “Storybook Heroes”. That album is thirty-five freaking years old and I still remember buying it, as if it was only yesterday. Six out of eight tracks from that album are being played tonight, so you won’t hear me complain. In fact, I will never complain when these Dutch metal heroes are on stage. They rocked the cradle of our Dutch heavy metal scene. In “Free Fighters”, they grab back to their latest album “Keeper Of The Earth” that was released way back in 2008 by Mausoleum Records, which is already ten years ago. Time flies, when you’re having fun. Before we get to enjoy the HELLOISE stuff, there are some more classic sing along moments in the set. “Carol” is one of the crowd pleasers for many years. And if this won’t do the trick, I’m sure that “Fever” will. Have you got the fever??? I can answer that with a ‘yes’ for the full hundred percent and I’m proud of it. The next part of the show is something else. It will be difficult to see a HELLOISE reunion on stage again. It’s been a while ago, since the band came back together again in de Boerderij in Zoetermeer for a one time only show event. That was then, but this is Breda now and this is five years later. Three out of five members ain’t bad, I guess. Ernst van Ee on drums, Stan Verbraak on vocals and Marchel Remeeus on bass are the members of both bands and they surprised everybody with some stunning and powerful versions of “Hard Life”, “For A Moment” and “Gates Of Heaven”. Both guitarists are HIGHWAY CHILE only in this context. They sound very powerful and try to share the solos equally. The winner of the funny face contest however is Gert. He must have had a good example in Peer Verschuren for example, who is the king of the funny faces, next to Henky Backer of JEWEL. Their guitar skills are of a very high standard and these guys nailed every riff and solo. Everybody is in the singing mood tonight and there’s no doubt that these songs easily stood the test of time. They have all been taken from HELLOISE’s debut album “Cosmogony”, from 1985. Many people get to relive their youth for a moment. The last song of the first set is “Bite In Anger”, which is another golden oldie, for which they received more enthusiastic reactions. A short break is needed after this. It’s time to socialize and take a leak. A very nice surprise awaits me, when someone taps on my shoulder. One of my long term friends from way back, when I was still a young kid, is standing behind me during the last songs. I must admit that it’s been too long since we saw each other again. Good memories are being shared. Men, do we have a lot of memories in music! Before we know it, the band is getting ready to play their second set again. And they start off with another favorite song of mine, of which I thought they would have started their show in the first place, but it’s in the second part and actually also the opener. “Highway Chile Is Coming To Get Ya” is a truism and their band anthem since the beginning and it’s also time for some singing again. The second set contains more material of “Keeper Of The Earth”, starting with “Poison” and “Stealing With Pride”. I know, that many fans love the early stuff of HIGHWAY CHILE, don’t we all? The “Keeper Of The Earth” album however is a rough diamond and an excellent release, that everybody should own and worship, in my opinion. For the old school rockers, they also grab back to their early stuff, like “Going Blind”, “Endless Trail” and “This Girl”. As an special surprise, they take the opportunity to play another HELLOISE track. This time it’s from the “Polarity” album, their second release and the song “Destination”. The Bel Air vocal choir is going at overdrive on this one. I must admit, that the HELLOISE tracks have been very well received tonight. The combination of the songs works very well. “After The War” is the last HELLOISE song of tonight, it’s a track from their “A Time And A Place For Everything” album from 1998. “Rock ‘N’ Roll Blitzkrieg” brings back some really great memories about the early days of HIGHWAY CHILE. Let me be honest with you at the end of this review. HIGHWAY CHILE was a legendary band in the eighties. You couldn’t go to a concert in Holland or HIGHWAY CHILE was the support act, always and every time. Even when MOTORHEAD did their Iron Fist tour here in Leiden in 1982, HIGHWAY CHILE supported them, but then with Ben Blaauw, Rick Finck and Armand van der Stichel in their ranks. It was the show, when Brian Robertson was in the band and MOTORHEAD left the stage after only nine songs. It was the band, in which Ben Blaauw was the guitar player. He received a Gibson Birdland by nobody else but TED NUGENT, for he was voted the best guitar player by the listeners of the legendary radio show Countdown Café with Kees Baars and Alfred Lagarde. When you have memories like that, an evening with HIGHWAY CHILE in your hometown simply is a must. We had a great time and a wonderful evening, so much is for sure, I guess. The last song is called “Dreaming Of Heaven”. The rock and roll party is over or has it just begun? The guys have to return for another encore and I think that they’re in for a party at the end of the show as well. An old classic SAXON tune is always good to please the old school rock lovers. “Dallas 1 P.M.” is cranked out and it’s time for the guitarists to show their skills. What a great closure. But the band is still on stage and they need to do one more song to satisfy the Bel Air crowd and HIGHWAY CHILE fans. And which song can do this trick better than “Headbangers”?! All the heads are banging, the lyrics are sung and the band and the audience are having the time of their life together. In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with HIGHWAY CHILE. There is so much experience in this band. But this was really special to me, because the show was in my hometown Breda. Nobody left the bar unsatisfied and a lot of fans went for t-shirts and DVD’s after the show. Bel Air, it has been one helluva night!! Who said they can’t rock in Breda??? Gert and HIGHWAY CHILE know better now.

*Text by Toine van Poorten & pix by Rita van Poorten.

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