Saturday, June 11, 2005.
I’m having a déjà vu, when walking through the entrance gate of the third Arrow Rock festival with IO Pages editor Menno, while the rain is pouring down on us. Do we get another day like last year, and will we sink into the mud up to our knees again? The damage is not that bad this time though. Every now and then, we will have a bit of rain, but for the remaining day we will mostly have dry weather on the festival site. So far our weather forecast, brought to you by our own whirlewolf (sorry Martjo, but this one was too easy!). With respect, the first band doesn’t really provide any good news either. I am talking about THUNDER here. But the thunder outside is not coming, thank God, and inside the tent we only get to enjoy some musical fireworks instead. The band sounds very enthusiastic and their show is filled with old and new songs, like “I Love You More Than Rock & Roll” and the most recent single “Fade Into The Sun”. But we also hear classics, like “Higher Ground”, “River Of Pain”, “Backstreet Symphony” and an acoustic version of “Low Life In High Places”, showing us a band, that is ready to rock! Luke Morley plays his solos on his Flying V, like it is the easiest thing in the world! And Danny Bowes’s voice sounds raw, and again he will remind you of his big examples Paul Rodgers and David Coverdale. A real good opener. And drummer Harry James simply couldn’t leave the stage, without taking off his long haired wig, showing his bald head to the audience.
THE LITTLE RIVER BAND are the openers on the main stage, and for our website not really interesting. In the festival guide, they are described as the Australian version of THE EAGLES, to which I can fully agree. Some of their songs are very recognisable from the many times that I listen to Arrow Rock radio, but they don’t have too much in common with hard rock and heavy metal. The real music fan in me though enjoyed songs like “It’s a Long Way There”, “New Love, Old Money”, “Drift Away”, “Down On The Water” and “Love Is On Its Way”. Afterwards, we go back to the tent again for ‘The Voice Of Rock’: GLENN HUGHES. He took Chad Smith of THE RED HOT CHILI PEPERS with him on tour this time. And he attracts a lot of people. Guitarplayer J.J. Marsh is a mix between ULI JON ROTH and JIMI HENDRIX, and not only for his guitar playing. When Glenn opens with “Stormbringer”, things can’t go wrong anymore. Next, the new CD “Soul Mover” comes to the spotlight with the surprising “Orion”. “Mistreated” is introduced by a guitar solo of J.J. Marsh, and we are treated to a long version today, like it should be played. You simply can’t play that song in four or five minutes. That would be blasphemy in my mind. During the next DEEP PURPLE cover “Getting Tighter”, Chad is able to prove himself in a drumsolo at the end of the song. And so at the end of the set, the DEEP PURPLE fans definitely get value for money. Because of this, there isn’t much room left for Glenn’s own-penned material. But I didn’t hear any complaints, when he played fantastic versions of “Burn” and “Might Just Take Your Life”. As a true rocker, Chad Smith destroys his whole drumkit at the end of the set. Yes, GLENN HUGHES is still pure rock and roll. And I really can’t wait to hear the new album, the man is recording right now with Tony Iommi (BLACK SABBATH guitarist), which will be called “Fuse”. He could have played a couple more of his own songs this afternoon though.
It has been a long, long time, since I saw STYX over here in Holland. It must have been 1981 or 1982, during the “Paradise Theater” tour, and that’s far too long. This band are still like real heroes to me, mainly because of the fantastic albums, they released in their early years. They had a weaker period too, but this afternoon they showed, that they’re still a fantastic live band. When they opened with one of my favorite songs; “Blue Collar Man”, I’m already in seventh heaven! And it gets even better, when they continue with another classic like “Too Much Time On My Hands”. The cover “I Am The Walrus” of THE BEATLES, taken from their new album “Big Bang Theory”, is not really my cup of tea, to be honest. However, the audience likes it a lot and they sing every word along with the band. Original bass player Chuck Panozzo also enters the stage during “Grand Illusion”. Glenn Burtnick and Larry Gowan impress me a lot with their enthusiasm, but especially James Young and Tommy Shaw, ask for all the attention of the crowd. “Miss America” is a nice introduction to the sing-along song “Come Sail Away”. Let the goosebumps get loose, because the band deserves it. They close their set with the HUMBLE PIE/WASP cover “I Don’t Need No Doctor”, but I will forgive them this little mistake.
SURVIVOR is another band, that we see very seldom in our country. So again, there’s a lot to enjoy in the giant tent. I have to catch up on a couple of years, so let the madness begin, please! The band have always remained true to their well-known sound. Whether the songs are sung by Jimi Jamison, like today, or by Jim Petrik (PRIDE OF LIONS), the remarkable SURVIVOR sound will always be the same. When they open their set with “First Night”, the sound is not too good. And this bad sound will remain during the first three songs or so. Only when Frank Sullivan changes guitars for “Poor Man’s Son”, the sound gets better and better each song., and we are able to enjoy great SURVIVOR songs such as “Caught In The Game”, “The Search Is Over”, “Love Was Right” and “I Can’t Hold Back”. Frank sounds like an unleashed beast, while Jimi Jamison is having some serious difficulties with the high notes. He is very fortunate though to get a lot of help from the audience during “The Eye Of The Tiger”, and so he can easily make it to the finish line. Hopefully next time, they will return with Jim Peterik, and then it’ll be all perfect. But after all, Rocky isn’t a teenager anymore, so we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt this time.
KANSAS was the band with the best papers this day for me. And they impressed me a lot. I didn’t recognize singer Steve Walsh at first, who looked inspirationless. He just showed no temper today. And he was dressed like he had been gardening the whole afternoon. But their technical sympho rock makes up for this minor detail. After the intro, the band starts playing their mighty masterpieces, like “Belexes”, “Paradox” and “Opus Insert”. Vocalist annex violin player Robby Steinhardt waves around with his bow, like he is Zorro himself. The rake off must be considerable sometimes, I think. Let’s hope this treasury doesn’t get noticed because of this. Guitarplayer Rick Williams, dressed up with his Captain Hook eye patch, can only be found in the background. But when he comes to the front of the stage to play his solos, he has really found himself a good reason to get into the spotlights. After “Icarus”, the band plays a cover, called “Bringing It Back” (from their first album), which was originally written by J. J. CALE. A real treat for every devoted fan of the band. The highlight of the set however is reached, when they start playing “Point Of Know Return”, after which they close with “Portrait”. But this is not all, folks. When Rick Williams takes his acoustic guitar to start the classic hit “Dust In The Wind”, the crowd is willing to let them go off the stage. But the band returns with another highlight; “Carry On Wayward Son”. Yes, this was KANSAS, the way I liked them. Complex breaks, beautiful long, instrumental parts, and very innovative song structures, which are played in the easiest way possible, so it seems. KANSAS belongs to the real top of sympho bands for me, that’s for sure after today.
LOU GRAMM is another story. He has had a very difficult period in his life, and gained a lot of weight because of this. I heard some funny jokes like “Lou doesn’t care for a GRAMM or two more”, during his set. But the tent was jam-packed, when Lou started his ‘best-of’ set, of this afternoon, starting with “Double Visions”. Also Gramm doesn’t seem to have the best sound in the tent. And I would almost say of course, because his voice is not what it used to be anymore. But the man just deserves all the credit he can get for writing so many beautiful songs, like “Dirty White Boy”, “Cold As Ice” and “Waiting For A Girl Like You”. They are made to sing-along to, and Lou is thankfully making advantage of this. After “Women”, Lou’s brother Ben Gramm, is playing a drum solo. Lou’s other brother Richard, is playing the bass guitar this afternoon. “Head Games” and “Midnite Blue”, which can be found on Lou’s solo album, continue the set. At the end, the audience can sing along again with “Jukebox Heroes”, one of my favorites, and “Hot Blooded”. Despite the fact, that his voice is not what it used to be anymore, I think the man gained a lot of success with his gig here today. Especially by judging the reactions from the crowd, I have to conclude, that many have enjoyed the hits of the former FOREIGNER frontman a lot.
Because we didn’t get something to eat yet, we decided to take a bite during CROSBY, STILLS & NASH. Bring in the French fries, and watch the band from a little distance. And I was also dying to get a cup of coffee. What we heard from the band was quite satisfying. These old pacifists still know to rock. Songs like “Marakech Express”, “Come To Chicago”, “Love The One You’re With” and “Almost Cut My Hair” create a very peaceful atmosphere and a lot of people applauded loudly for these old rockers. Which was a bit difficult for me, because I had my hand full with greasy food, and a hot cup of coffee. But they knew to impress me. After this hot cup of coffee, I was ready for the last round.
But before MEAT LOAF would invade the main stage, we could enjoy DREAM THEATER in the festival tent first. And it was there, where the time schedule went wrong. The band actually started much too late, and they were only halfway their set, when MEAT LOAF already started his show. And so we had to miss a large part of the DREAM THEATER concert. The band was in excellent shape, and the tent was jam-packed again, when they opened with “About To Crash”. Their new CD “Octavarium” was promoted very well during this one hour gig. Songs like “Never Enough” and “Sacrified Sons” sounded really good indeed. We also heard great versions of “Learning To Live”, “Endless Sacrifice” and “The Spirit Carries On”. Many fans had outed already, that they were not too pleased with the fact that DREAM THEATER only had one hour to play. Why was it not possible to play a three hour set, like G-3 did here last year? But like we already mentioned before, the set of this evening would last longer than the fans expected at first. When MEAT LOAF was already pleasing his fans on the main stage, DREAM THEATER kept playing and playing in THEIR tent. And that’s why I had to miss “Losing Time / Grand Finale” and the encore “Metropolis Part I”. Outside, the big spectacle was taking place already. DREAM THEATER created a great party here tonight, and again the band seemed to play the most complex breaks and solos in the most easiest way possible. Guitar shredder John Petrucci is a member of the G-3 caravan, that will tour in the USA, where he is opening for headliners JOE SATRIANI and STEVE VAI.
I had expected a bit more from MEAT LOAF. His show wasn’t bad and the setlist was more than perfect, but I missed the flash, the magic touch, the sparks. As I didn’t get to see opener “Whore”, because I was still enjoying the show in the ‘dreamtheater’ tent, but during “Life Is A Lemmon”, I was ready and willing to see the show. The first thing I noticed was, that MEAT LOAF was accompanied by two different ladies. We know Patti Russo already of course, but I’d never seen CC (which stands for Carolyn Coletti) before, what I regret a lot. The set continued with a cover of “Black Betty”, which was originally a huge hit for the AMERICAN RAM JAM BAND (who remembers, that MEKONG DELTA also made a wonderful version of this great rock song??). It looked a bit like MEAT LOAF rushed through the set, and the long, epic songs that he wrote together with Jim Steinman were played as fast as they could. It was almost as, if they didn’t really want to play all these fantastic classics. The bombastic sound has completely disappeared, now Jim Steinman is not a member of the band anymore, and the songs sound less impressive than on the albums. “Dead Ringer For Love” was already a less bombastic song, than the average MEAT LOAF classic, and maybe that’s why it became one of the highlights of the evening for me. “Hot Summer Night”, which is better known as “You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth” was also being played without the long spoken intro. Not too many fans might have noticed it at all, but I just missed these minor details a lot. “Only When I Feel” will be one of the songs on “Bat Out Of Hell III“, which will be recorded in 2006. The band finally raises the roof with “All Reved Up With No Place To Go”, “Paradise By The Dashboard Light”, “I’d Do Anything For Love” and of course “Bat Out Of Hell”. And still I felt like these classics were lacking in conviction. This show could have been so much better. Much earlier than planned, this edition of Arrow Rock comes to an end with the encore “Mercury Blues”.
The winners of this edition were undoubtedly STYX, KANSAS, THUNDER and DREAM THEATER. On Friday evening, the camping guests were treated on a nice show of THE SWEET. The planned gig of HANOI ROCKS was cancelled. Don’t worry though, because we still have BERTUS STAIGERPAIP, who came over and played a whole set of WHO covers. If I’d known that before, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. But we did have a great festival today, too. Those who have the youth, have the future, but I liked the sound of all these old bands a lot too. On my wants list for next year are names like JETHRO TULL, THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND, GOV’T MULE, FRANK MARINO, JOURNEY, VAN HALEN, WHITESNAKE, VANDENBERG, BOSTON, ROGER WATERS, BLACKFOOT, ROBIN TROWER and TED NUGENT. See you next year in Lichtenvoorde!