This was the first time Dutch radio station Arrow Classic Rock organised a rock festival. For the location they chose a giant meadow, in the eastern part of our beautiful country, at a place called Lichtenvoorde. Now, the name of the festival already gives away what to expect here. No Nu-Metal, Black Metal, Death Metal or Gothic Metal or whatever they’d like to call it. Every band at this festival can be categorised as hard rock, so it’s that simple. They all come from a good old time, where all these sub genres did not exist already. You either played hard rock or heavy metal, pop or disco, and everybody knew who played what. Before I start to write about the bands, I would like to make a big compliment to the organisation of the festival first. Everything was perfectly organised, which made it a big pleasure to look at the bands of my early years. We had to run back and forth between the main stage and the tent stage. The program started and ended at the main stage. Here’s a reflection on how a fourty year old, devoted hard rock fan witnessed the first, and hopefully not the last, edition of the Arrow Classic Rock Festival.
SUPERFLOOR, a Dutch rock band from Arnhem (which is about thirty miles away from Lichtenvoorde), opened with a very powerful set. The band is formed around female frontlady Floor Kraaijvanger, who sounds like Joyce ‘Baby Jane’ Kennedy of MOTHERS FINEST. Her enthusiastic performance was rewarded with a warm applause from ‘the early birds’. The biggest part of their set was filled with self-written material, but they also pulled out two covers, namely “Bad Thing” and “Highway Jones” (both CRY OF LOVE). A great way to open the festival!
Due to a few traffic jams, we haven’t been able to eat yet. The L.A. DOORS was the first band that played in the tent. As I’ve never been a great fan of the dark, depressing sound of THE DOORS, I decided to take a quick look there and have a bite first. Their singer looks like Jim Morrisson, and for the fans this was a good reflection of what a DOORS show would look like. “Riders On The Storm” and “Light My Fire” are still classics today, but the band always knows to create a negative, depressive atmosphere, that I never understood. Recently, Ian Astbury (singer THE CULT) joined the remaining members of the original DOORS for some shows. I would have liked to see that show, but I choose to skip the biggest part of the L.A. DOORS set to enjoy my lunch.
WISHBONE ASH already exists for thirty-three long years. This band was one of the inventors of double lead guitar solos, together with THIN LIZZY of course. Andy Powell remained in the line up, and together with him the characteristic sound of the band maintained. A song structure, that can be described as a simple rock song that is slowly converted to a long jam session, which slowly returns back to the original tune after the long guitar solos are over. Listen to a new song like “The Warrior”, and compare it to an oldie like “Faith, Hope And Love”. Both songs are build up the same way, they only changed the lyrics. This is easier said and done of course, but the structure of both songs are just the same. Timeless music, because between these songs is a time gap of thirty years, a lifetime for some of the people who walked around on the festival site today.
One of the first highlights was preparing themselves in the tent already. BUDGIE from Wales really did what a lot of the people expected them to do: blow everybody off the stage!! They opened with “Panzer Division Destroyed”, and Burke Shelley showed us that he really had the time of his life. One of my friend recalled that he had seen BUDGIE for the first time in 1972 (!!!), when they supported NAZARETH on their European tour. These kind of stories constantly made its rounds at the festival site. Songs like “Anger”, “Napoleon Bonaparte Part II”, “Crime Against The World”, “Wildfire” and “Breadfan” were played at a very high volume. Simon Lees is the new guitar monster in BUDGIE, while Steve Williams plays the drums. “Breadfan” was dedicated to METALLICA, and I bet that a lot of the younger fans knew the METALLICA version better than the original. During the solo spot of Simon Lees, Burke Shelley left the stage. Not too many people could see him stand there at the side of the stage, but it was a marvellous sight. When Simon set in a short part of “The Sabre Dance”, Burke started to perform a hilarious ‘sabre dance’ at the side of the stage. Great to watch, while the rest of the audience was watching Simon pulling out some great guitar exorcism. “Never Turn Your Back On A Friend” is the title of one of their albums. Fact is that this band is very loyal to their fans, so this explains their album title in a nutshell here. Check out their new album “Live In San Antonio”, and you can relive this gig again from your sofa at home. After their gig, they played a tape of the old evergreen “We’ll Meet Again” (VERA LYNN), and I can only say, that this is definately a true statement!
‘You Can’t Keep A Good Band Down’ is a sentence, that’s forever tied to the band URIAH HEEP. Philip Lanzon on keyboards, Trevor Bolder on bass (who had the chance to chat with his old bandmate Andy Powell of WISHBONE ASH again), the always symphatic frontman Bernie Shaw on vocals, Lee Kerslake on drums and ‘the wizard’ Mick Box on lead guitar. They opened their set with “Easy Living”, a knock out punch in the very first round. After a few newer songs, the band performs a few nice classics like an acoustic version of “The Wizard”, “July Morning”, “Gypsy”, “Sunrise” and “Look At Yourself”. Mick Box seemed to grab the notes out of the sky to place them at the neck of his guitar. He really delivered some magic solos again. No wonder, that URIAH HEEP had to return for an encore. The crowd sang “Stealing” from the beginning ‘till the end. The second encore was an acoustic version of “Lady In Black”. And again the crowd started to sing along. Oh, I forgot to tell you that the festival was attended by about 27,000 visitors. Not bad at all for a festival in a small country like Holland. When the outtro tape of “Land Of Hope And Glory”started, the band came to the front of the stage to thank their fans for their enthusiastic and warm applause.
It was hardly possible to enter the tent, where MANFRED MANN’S EARTH BAND had started their set already. It was six o’clock already, so we decided to have our dinner now. We didn’t have to miss any of the bigger names this way. This band, around keyboardplayer Mannfred Mann, who originally hails from South Africa, is still very popular with the classic rock fans. The average hard rock fan will only know a few of their songs, like “Do Wah Diddy”, “Ha Ha Said The Clown” and “Blinded By The Light”, that became hit singles over here.
After our dinner, it was time for the second highlight of today, STATUS QUO. A lot of people may see them as a commercial dinosaur, that plays the same songs over and over and over again and again and again and again, unfortunately. However, the joy they still seem to perform every time, even after so many years, easily reflects to their audience. Two minutes later, the crowd is jumping up and down. And when you had inspected the t-shirts of the people well enough, you could easily tell that about sixty percent of the whole crowd just came to see STATUS QUO. They opened with “Caroline” and continued with “The Wanderer” and “Something About You Baby I Like”. “Don’t Waste My Time”, which was played next, has always been one of my favorite tunes. Then they came with a little surprise, a remarkable choice, a fresh version of the good old QUO classic “4,500 Times”. Not an obvious choice, I’d say. “Rain” was meant to keep the rain away, I think. And the sun started to shine even more. After two new songs, “All Stand Up” and “Creeping Up” from their most recent album “Heavy Traffic”, it was time again for a couple of more classics. “Mystery Song”, “Most Of The Time”, “Rolling Home”, “Again And Again”, “Roll Over Lay Down”, “Down Down” and “Whatever You Want” followed. Need I say more here? I really don’t think so. This was just great from the beginning until the very end, and the public seemed to agree with me.
But we had to rush to the next big highlight of today, Y&T. A band, that was named after an American album of THE BEATLES. I loved the three solo albums (two studio albums and recently the live CD “Live In Japan”) of DAVE MENIKETTI a lot. A reunion with his old mates however, is the real deal for me. I saw the band in 1982 already, on a festival over here in Holland (Pinkpop), when they played with SAGA and ZZ TOP. They were absolutely brilliant back then. Now in 2003, three out of four original members returned to the Dutch tent stage of this amazing festival. Phil Kennemore on bass, Leonard Haze on drums and Dave Meniketti on vocals and lead guitar. Stef Burns was part of the reunion at first, but he left Y&T again after a few shows. One big question however remains. What on earth has happened to Joey Alves????? Can someone tell me maybe???? Nobody seems to care about him right now, though. As an introduction tape, they used “Highway To Hell” of AC/DC. From the reaction of the audience, you could tell that AC/DC would have been a good choice to play on this festival, too. The people were obvious ready for a great metal party. Then a second intro tape started, which was the famous “From The Moon”. Needless to say, that Y&T kicked off with “Open Fire” after that. With “Eyes Of A Stranger”, they made a false start maybe, because this song is not that well known. But they made up for that with “Dirty Girl”, “Meanstreak”, “Rescue Me” and the “Barroom Boogie”. Followed by their American hit single “Summertime Girls”, which was some kind of commercial interlude to one of the most beautiful ballads, that was ever written, “I Believe In You”. People holding their loved ones, cigarette lighters flickering in the night, and hundreds of people singing the lyrics of this true master piece. The atmosphere was perfect at this time. And the singing wasn’t over yet, because during “Hell Or High Water”, the fans were able to shout their balls off again.
On the main stage, LYNYRD SKYNYRD was already preparing themselves for their show. There has been a little bit of trouble to one of their guitarplayers. Gary Rossington had to undergo a bypass operation, just a couple of weeks ago. Professionals don’t cancel any gigs though, if this isn’t necessary. So only just a few weeks after his operation, he was playing live on stage again. He left the wild stunts and jumping on stage over to ex-BLACKFOOT frontman Rickey Medlocke though, who is here, there and everywhere on stage, playing the lead guitar parts on a fifty-fifty base with his ‘partner-in-crime’ Hughie Thomasson (OUTLAWS). The band opened with “I Know A Little”, and after a few songs, it was obvious that also LYNYRD SKYNYRD was going for the ‘best of’ set. They played two new songs from their most recent album “Vicious Cycle”, and after that, it was time to prove that the South had risen again. “That Smell”, “Give Me Three Steps” and the J.J. CALE cover “The Breeze” were on next. Then Hughie Thomasson filled a solo spot, which was an introduction to “Sweet Home Alabama”. It won’t be too much of a surprise that “Freebird” was chosen to be the encore for tonights show.
The tent stage was ready for their last act of the evening. A band, that is ‘live and dangerous’, every time they play their gigs. THIN LIZZY is a legendary band, that fits very well on this bill. I really love this band. Their songs are great. John Sykes is one hell of a guitar player, and Scott Gorham too of course. Despite all these positive remarks…….I am sorry to say so, but I still miss Mr. Philip Lynott. To me, he was THIN LIZZY, in one person. It goes a bit far to call all the other band members ‘stage fillers’, but you’ll catch my drift here. Same goes for Brian Downey. He never was a man, that was in the spotlights a lot, but he simply filled every gap possible with his very tight drumming. And he didn’t need to be in the spotlights, because I remember that during Brians drumsolo there were always two giant flashing lights turning around on stage. Okay, that was then, and this is now. And guess what happened? THIN LIZZY kicked some serious ass here tonight. Phil Lynott was watching the show, sitting in a ‘rocking chair’ (good joke or not?!) next to Leon Wilkinson (LYNYRD SKYNYRD), Ronnie van Zandt (LYNYRD SKYNYRD), Steve Gaines (LYNYRD SKYNYRD), Jim Morrisson (THE DOORS) and David Byron (URIAH HEEP), and he nodded that it was good! When the air raids started to roar, we knew that there would be a “Jailbreak”, while everybody was “Waiting For An Alibi”. If you “Don’t Believe A Word”, you must have been in “Chinatown” bathing in a “Cold Sweat”. The “Bad Reputation” of the “Killer On The Loose”, who was “Still In Love With You” was obvious. He asked us “Are You Ready” for “The Cowboy Song”, because tonight “The Boys Are Back In Town”? Does this make sense?? It did to the audience and the magic was still there. Sykes pulled out most of the solos, where good ol’ Scott Gorham had to deal with a lot of the rhythm parts. Michael Lee (ex-ROBERT PLANT) is a tight drummer, and he did a very fine job. Darren Wharton didn’t play with the LIZZY’s tonight (he’s actually working on a new DARE album right now), so there were only two ex-THIN LIZZY members on stage actually. The effect stayed the same though. Maybe it’s a nice idea to add Brian ‘Robbo’ Robertson to the band, so John can concentrate himself a bit more on his singing. They don’t have to be afraid to put three guitar players in their line up. It has worked alright for LYNYRD SKYNYRD all those years! And even IRON MAIDEN has three guitar players right now. Time flies, when you’re having so much fun, and I had the time of my life here. Before we knew it, we were walking to the main stage for the last time already.
The festival closer and headliner of this evening was DEEP PURPLE. Don Airey (ex-everybody) has taken over the place of Mr. Jon Lord. It’s good to know that some things will never change. These are certain standards, that you can cling to in this life of rushing and endless changes. Whatever may happen in this world, these things will never change. One of these things is, that DEEP PURPLE will always start their show with “Highway Star”. You can set the clock straight to that. You can bet your life on it. DEEP PURPLE mark ‘Gillan’ will open with “Highway Star”, and DEEP PURPLE mark ‘Coverdale’ will start with “Burn”. These are the stable things in life, and I cherish them. The fact, they followed with “Knocking On Your Backdoor” was more of a surprise to me. So was “Pictures Of Home”, which returned in the set again. After “Lazy”, they played a new song from their upcoming album “Bananas”, which will be out in August of this year. It’s called “Haunted”, and it was a nice little ballad. The next ballad was called “Speed King”….. Oh well, they introduced it as a ballad. They did, honest! “I’ve Got Your Number” was another new song, which sounded a bit more like a regular rock song to me. Maybe it didn’t really meet the high standards that I would expect from a band like DEEP PURPLE, but hey it was just the first time that I heard the song. Then it was showtime for Don Airey, who played some boogie, some classical stuff, some great sound effects, and he even opened with the nice sound of a church organ. All of a sudden, he made a bridge to “Perfect Strangers”. Steve Morse took the liberty then to step into the spotlights too. Knowing that Ritchie Blackmore won’t play with this band anymore, even if they promise him a ‘silver mountain’ to stand on, I am slowly getting used to Mr. Morse. He’s not an improvisor like Ritchie, who loved to fool around a bit with some blues stuff or a piece of boogie or rock and roll. Steve sticks to original construction of the songs a bit more, but he knows to improvise too. And he showed this during his solo spot. Just like in his old days with THE DIXIE DREGGS, he played a medley of famous rock riffs starting of with “Hocus Pocus” of our very own FOCUS (featuring JAN AKKERMAN). When you listened very carefully you could discover the riffs of “La Grange” (ZZ TOP), “Hey Joe” (JIMI HENDRIX), “Back In Black” (AC/DC), “Stairway To Heaven” (LED ZEPPELIN), “Day Tripper” (THE BEATLES) and “You Really Got Me” (VAN HALEN…..got you there, THE KINKS of course!). If you guessed them all in the right order, you could win a refrigerator. The final riff was the riff of “Smoke On The Water” of course. They ended with another surprise: a steaming hot version of “Space Trucking”. Not the usual twenty five minutes, like on “Made In Japan”, but it was very intense and cool. After that, it was all over. They got two more encores to say goodbye to the public. First there was “Hush” and with “Black Night”, it was really all over. When we left the festival site, most of the crowd was still there. Sometimes when you leave a festival site, you discover that everybody went home already while you were staring at your heroes, playing their final chords. Not this time! I think that nobody wanted to leave the perfect atmosphere, that was created on this day. For a moment, I thought I’d stepped into a time machine that had brought me back to the early eighties again.
On our way back home, we were already thinking about some names, that would make a fine bill for the second edition of this great festival. We came up with bands like ZZ TOP, KANSAS, FLEETWOOD MAC, GOLDEN EARRING, MEAT LOAF, YES, HEART, JOURNEY, WHITESNAKE, FOREIGNER, TED NUGENT, ROGER WATERS (playing a PINK FLOYD set of course) and BOSTON. Maybe it is possible to get RUSH over here?!?! When we listened to the radio a few days later, we heard that there probably will be a second edition next year. They already spoke to Ian Anderson and JETHRO TULL - a great choice in my humble opinion! Which bands will eventually play, won’t be much of importance though. If they’ll be able to create that same magic atmosphere, like they did this year, I will definitely be there again, because this is just my kind of music and I am damn proud of it. Cheers to the Arrow Classic Rock Festival, and hope to see you all again next year!!!!