We know, that Rotterdam has got the hots for hard rock and heavy metal and all its subgenres. Considering all the bands we’ve seen over the years at de Baroeg or in Ahoy (which is just around the corner), then you definitely can only agree with this statement. This afternoon, there are four bands on the bill and the heart of a die-hard rocker like me is surely beating faster after seeing those names. Old school like hell, they start off with IMPACT (who still knows this act must definitely read on and you really know your classics!), REBELSTAR (they may not be totally old school, but they are definitely worth checking out), TOKYO BLADE and headliners TYGERS OF PAN TANG. Hello, need I say more? My mouth is starting to water, so much is for sure. When arriving in Rotterdam very early, we already see a lot of people standing in front of the venue. The atmosphere is cozy and people are meeting up with friends, they haven’t seen in ages. Many stories are being told and every now and then a whole bunch of rockers go inside to see their favorite band on stage. There is a huge BBQ set up and all ingredients for a great night out are there. Rotterdam Rocks is the name of this event and you’d better believe it, this is going to be a huge success. We are glad that the weather is fine, because the atmosphere outside is just as important as inside the venue, where the bands are playing. The first band on the bill is IMPACT. What a treat! I’ve been waiting thirty-five years to see this band live, but it’s well worth the wait. Ladies and gentlemen, here’s my review of Rotterdam Rocks, the way I experienced it. Other people might have a different opinion, but this is my personal view of this awesome party!
IMPACT has been added on the bill for a special reunion gig. I only have to mention one thing and every die-hard metal fan on this planet will go crazy. “Metal Clogs” is the magic word here. This compilation album contained music by CROSSFIRE from Belgium, GILGAMESJ from Leerdam (the town, I live now), FRANKENSTEIN (the cult band from the Eastern part of our country that shocked the world at Lochem Pop in 1980) and IMPACT of course. They were very lucky to contribute three songs on this compilation album. “Looking For Trouble”, the mighty fast “Drop Dead” and the awesome “Misanthrope”, which has a great speed change at the end and an amazing guitar solo, that keeps going faster and faster and faster and aaaaaaarrrrrrrrggggggghhhhhh, it kills and rips the flesh from your bare bones. The one man still standing is frontman Thierry Plisson. De Baroeg is not a strange place for this guy, who worked as a sound engineer for quite a while. This time, he has gathered some musicians to let the old times relive on stage. IMPACT playing live on stage in their hometown, fans in the front row, amplifiers set up to ten, well, let’s go. “On The Rampage” is the first song of tonight and the band proves that they still know how to rock hard, so no worries here. Sometimes a band, that hasn’t played together for a long time, does sound very rusty and looks old and bored. Not with these guys, IMPACT came to rock and you’d better believe it. “No Sleep” and “Red Tape” are on next and IMPACT still knows to surprise the crowd. “Symbol Of The Flag” was taken from the second album. I must admit, that this album sounded a bit more polished and not as rough as the songs on “Metal Clogs”. Those were the three rough diamonds, whereas the first full-length had the same flair, as far as I’m concerned. “Writing On The Wall” is keeping de Baroeg awake, while “You And I” is the obligatory ballad. Not for long, because “Eat Your Heart Out” and “Defying The Odds” are rocking it out loud again. IMPACT has a different guitar player, because Andre Borgman, who now plays with ROBBIE VALENTINE’s band has been replaced by Gert-Jan Hogerbrugge halfway the set. Gert-Jan sounds a bit rawer than Andre, but they’re both very gifted players. The rest of the band consists of Rob Schoof on bass guitar, who is also from the early days of IMPACT. On drums we have Richard van Leeuwen, who also has to keep some energy left for later, because he is also banging the drums and cymbals for REBEL STAR. Then there’s the moment everybody (reading me, myself and I) has been waiting for. Two of the three “Metal Clogs” songs have been played back to back, starting with “Misanthrope” in a slightly shorter version and “Looking For Trouble”. I can tell you, that I really was feeling in rock and roll heaven for about ten minutes. This is what I’ve been hoping for. The magic is still there on stage and this has been the highlight of the evening for me. But there is more, where that came from… IMPACT continues with “Sin City”, before closing their forty-five minute set with a true statement in music: “Never Too Young To Rock”. This has been such a great show after an absence that took them far too long. I do hope, that they will be playing more live gigs after this show. They really nailed it today. Afterwards, it’s time for some socializing outside the venue. My victim is Rene Veerkamp, former reviewer of Aardschok, who we know from the days we travelled to Wacken in the twentieth century. Yes, we’re that old already. It was great to meet up with him after so many years.
REBELSTAR always ensures for a highly enjoyable evening and a good party, but this will be a lot more than just another party. Some guest stars have been announced and this would make the festivity even bigger. The first seven songs are poking up the heath a little and keeping the crowd focused. Starting off with “Big Bang Boom” is a really good move. I’m awake now, so please continue sirs. There are a few problems with the mike standard and Serge deals with it very professional. He’s not getting angry (at least not visible) and keeps treating it as his best friend. Even the sound engineer is trying to get rid of the problem without interrupting the show too much. As a viewer, it is very funny to watch this, but I reckon that it’s just not good for your nerves, when you’re on stage. They go on and put all their power into “Burning Sensation” and “Permanent Disaster”. This evening REBELSTAR goes for a direct approach without any limits and it works, because the people just love it. “Look But Don’t Touch” continues and after “Shelter Me”, it’s time for another rough rocker with “Sick M.F.”. If you like your rock hard, then you won’t be disappointed. One more song before the first surprise guest star appears and that’s “Smoke She Said”. Who said that smoking isn’t allowed here? Serge is giving all he’s got and obviously he is delighted and proud to announce Mr. BODINE on stage. Original vocalist Jan van Feggelen is jumping on stage and the band starts with “Rock Rosetta”. Wow, shivers are running down my spine, when I hear this guy sing! I’ve seen BODINE a number of times, but it was a long time ago that I’ve seen them with Jay (or Jan, if you like) as a singer. Mostly, it was with singer ‘Mad Man’ Axel Langemeyer, who sadly passed away in 2003. They continue with “On The Lookout” and both songs have been taken from the first BODINE album. By coincidence, I have been listening to this song on the day, that I went to this gig. Jan is a rocker in heart and soul and he will always be a rocker. He also points at Gerard Haitsma, the drummer of BODINE, who is in the audience as well. Wow, what a great experience and this is only the beginning. Next surprise is Stan Verbraak, the singer of HELLOISE, who is still a very much respected name in the scene. “For A Moment” is a great ‘sing along’ tune. Stan’s voice is in perfect shape, as always I would say. Clearly, this stage tiger enjoys this moment very much, even if it’s only for a moment. Not strange, because Stan is regularly to be seen on the Dutch stages with his VAN HALEN tribute band 5150, DEEP PURPLE tribute band STORMBRINGER, HIGHWAY CHILE (every now and them) and other projects and bands he’s involved in. “Hard Life” even sounds a bit more wild than usual and you can leave that up to Stan, no worries. This lasted much too short, but it rocked like hell. Two down and one more surprise act to go. People start singing about a liver sausage commercial, when VENGEANCE singer Leon Goewie takes over from Stan behind the mike. Where Leon goes, there is a party and de Baroeg is no exception to this golden rule. “Take It Or Leave It” is the perfect song to celebrate a big party. The audience is the choir of this evening and they shout their balls off during that one. And they lift the roof, when the intro of “May Heaven Strike Me Down” starts. The enthusiastic performance of Leon Goewie makes me aware of the fact, that I do miss Leon and VENGEANCE live on stage a lot. It was always such great fun seeing them together and musically the songs were performed very well. Three of the most well-known hard rock singers on stage here in Rotterdam performing with REBELSTAR. And although Serge had to give away his space behind the mike, obviously he was very proud to be part of these special guest appearances. Two more REBELSTAR songs are up after this. “Another Showdown” is next in line and when the heavy “Hell Yeah” continues, in which the crowd sings a few lines with them. It’s so easy to shout it out loud. A lot of sweat has fallen during this special show. One more time, the three singers will take the stage for one final big bang, but the organization is pulling the plug at once. What a strange situation. Five more minutes and we could have enjoyed the ultimate version of AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell”… There is no way of arguing, the encore is off and Leon can put his high hat back in his suitcase. I heard some rumours about the real reason it didn’t happen. I won’t get into details too much, but in general the crowd was quite disappointed. Luckily, we still have a BBQ outside and it’s time to get some diner after this apotheosis, that could have been handled so much different. REBELSTAR kicked some real ass and that’s all that counts. Our thanks go out to the special guest stars Jan van Feggelen, Stan Verbraak and Leon Goewie. You rock!
After this, we are waiting for TOKYO BLADE to arrive on stage. With original singer Alan Marsh, they will be kicking some asses here tonight and the good old days will return. TOKYO BLADE has been a regular guest on many festivals and clubs throughout the years, so they are definitely part of a huge history here in Holland. Many songs still sound very familiar and can be sung word for word by yours truly. But I’ll gladly let Alan Marsh do all the honors tonight. The blade kicks off with “Death On Mainstreet”, which is followed by “Someone To Love”. What a real kickstart beginning! During “Dead Of The Night”, I see Jan van Feggelen starting to walk towards the exit of the venue. So I move outside to get my BODINE booklet signed, next to the autograph of drummer Gerard Haitsma and thank him for a great performance. In the meantime, the “Lightning Strikes” inside de Baroeg. The two guitarists John Wiggins and Andy Boulton share equal guitar solos for that matter. They are a marvelous guitar tandem for a long time and they like to show it in great old school rockers, like “Mean Streak” and “Love Struck”. During “Fever”, I catch up with Stan Verbraak about the release of the six CD package of HELLOISE. It’s being presented at the record fair in Utrecht and although we can’t go there on Saturday, when HELLOISE will be signing some copies, some arrangements have been made to make sure they’ll save a signed copy for us (thanks, Stan!). In the meantime, “Unleash The Beast” is on next. Sometimes it’s a bit difficult to know which song is next, because I have the idea that the communication between the singer and the rest of the band isn’t optimal, but in the end they start with the same song, so it must be fine. “Sunrise In Tokyo” belongs to my personal faves and therefor it’s definitely one of the highlights of this evening. My real personal favorite song must be “Power Game”, because I think they’ll never play it live again. The songs that follow are all classics in my book, so you won’t hear me complain about the material that the Blade played here tonight. “Midnight Rendezvous” is next and I decide to shout it out during “Night Of The Blade”. Not too loud but just enough to have a great time, as I have to save my voice for the TYGERS. The absolute highlight of the evening for TOKYO BLADE is “If Heaven Is Hell”, an absolute killer track, which belongs to the best they’ve ever composed. The mood swings and speed changes sound outstanding and also marks the end of this great gig. Of course the band has to return on stage for one more song, which is “Warrior Of The Rising Sun”. Time flies, when you’re having fun!
TOKYO BLADE leaves the stage to make room for the last band of tonight, the amazing TYGERS OF PAN TANG. The heydays with Jon Deverill and John Sykes are far gone, but I must admit that the fans are always ensured to get a great evening with the TYGERS. I’ve seen this band countless of times and they are getting better and better every time. The set list is different each time and it’s always a surprise which old songs they’re going to add now. I’m not quite sure, if they started with “Only The Brave” because I came in a bit too late to miss the first riffs. But if I’m not mistaken they started off with this footstomper. The oldies continue quickly with the surprising “Love Don’t Stay” and one of my all-time faves “Gangland”. Surely, it’s songs like “Love Don’t Stay” that make an evening like that priceless for me, but things are getting even better later on, believe me. After “Keep Me Alive”, there is another personal fave on the list in “Raised On Rock”, because I was raised on rock. Or let me rephrase that, I raised myself to wisdom and adultness with rock and roll. The lyrics are still in my mind and I can sing them literally word for word, which makes it a good song. And the jukebox with TYGERS classics continues with “Suzie Smiled”, another blast from the past. “Don’t Touch Me There” is the very first song that the TYGERS released and wrote together from the Jess Cox days. The most surprising choice is a song, that was only to be found on the twelve inch single, that came with the “Crazy Nights” album. You know, the one where that giant tiger is circling itself around a building that looks very much like the Euromast in Rotterdam. Is that a coincidence or what? Anyway, the song is called “Slip Away” and it’s a killer surprise that they want to crank it out here. “Euthanasia” is always a song that the old school fans love to hear. That well known TYGERS sound, that makes the band so recognizable comes back here and the next surprise is knocking at the backdoor already because “Blackjack” isn’t really a song that they play on a regular basis. We are the lucky ones today, I guess. Rotterdam Rocks is really asks for a second edition, because the cool atmosphere and the down to earth attitude of the crowd really made this a highly enjoyable evening for me and everybody who was present there to enjoy these four bands to the max. The TYGERS close their set with a raunchy version of “Hellbound” from the mighty “Spellbound” album. I must admit that I still like the “Wild Cat” album most of all, but this one certainly goes for second best, followed by “Raised On Rock”. I’m an old school rocker and those first albums made this band immortal to me. Of course the band returns om stage for an encore and that’s a cover. Why they still do that, I don’t really know. People say that this is their most successful song and it may not be missed, while others say that they have enough other great songs to choose from, like “Slave To Freedom” or “Don’t Take Nothing”, which I personally think is a great one. Anyway “Love Potion No.9” is the last song of this evening. The guitars cry like never before and the tigers growl one more time to scare the shit out of the audience. Then the lights go on and the amps go out. Rotterdam Rocks, edition number 1 has been completed. The TYGERS return to their cage, the TOKYO BLADE goes back into its sheath, the REBELSTAR stops shining for a while and only the big IMPACT that this festival did have on the old school metal lovers remains huge.
The party is over, but not until the fat lady sings, so the story goes. One of the finest moments of the evening has got nothing at all to do with the bands on stage. In between the gigs there was a DJ playing old school metal tracks. MOTÖRHEAD, JUDAS PRIEST, IRON MAIDEN of course, but also some of the lesser well-known gods, like THE RUNAWAYS came along. I heard some great songs, but the best happened after the show of the TYGERS OF PAN TANG. The people went out of the venue to move into the café, where the booze is, while the first notes of MANOWAR’s “Battle Hymns” sounded from the speakers. The Baroeg choir sang the whole song, while raising their fist in the air. CULT!! Magic happened at de Baroeg that very moment. This is a nice example of the way rockers unite and become one crowd with the love for one particular style of music. It was a great night, that probably lasted very long, after we went away. Rotterdam Rocks, you’d better believe it. \m/