Sweden Rock Festival 2019 - Day 4

Waking up early the next morning we found out that by 10 o clock it was pouring down like crazy… rain, the only potential disaster that can turn a Sweden Rock into a less pleasant experience; given my 4 times there, this one inclusive and where Sweden is, it’s actually fairly “dry”… I mean, I had more rain in two Wacken’s than in four Sweden Rocks and again, we seemed to get lucky, as the rain had seemingly died down by noon.
Sweden Rock Festival 2019 poster
Dog tired, by the fourth day, we arrived a little later than usual, missing, nice Swedish hard glam rockers Dust Bowl Jokies, funky Canadian corpo rockers Danko Jones, as well as the vintage propositions of Jared James Nichols. We got to watch a tiny bit of Electric Boys on the Rock Stage, who were damn fine…. but really decided to go see what compatriot Yiannis Papadopoulos has been up to with Finnish Anime meets Disco meets Halford metallers Beast In Black, Anton Kabanen’s post Battle Beast “vehicle”. They managed to sound almost as good as on their records, which is a rather tall order, but due to all the pre-recorded parts, maybe lacking a bit in spontaneity.
 
Also Yiannis, because of his stage attire that seems to restrict movement a bit, kept doing a kick, as part of his stage routine, that seemed to invoke more of Monty Python’s ministry of silly walks, rather than look cool, I am afraid to report, but that’s a minor qualm, as they overall were pretty entertaining.
 
Beast In Black Setlist:
Tape : Intro
Cry out for a Hero
Unlimited Sin
Beast in Black
Eternal Fire
The Fifth Angel
Born Again
Die by the Blade
Crazy, Mad, Insane
Sweet True Lies
From Hell with Love
Blind and Frozen
End of the World
Tape: No Easy Way Out (Robert Tepper song)
 
With not much ado, we went to the festival stage to watch Styx, putting on one of the best performances of the entire fest. Professional, superbly musical and with the “crazy” super animated Lawrence Gowan  behind the swiveling keys, dancing around like a lunatic and making us forget about Dennis DeYoung not being in the band anymore, they did perform a handful of hits from their long and illustrious career, with an emphasis on “The Grand Illusion Era”! Superb AOR with chops for miles.
 
Sty Setlist:
Gone Gone Gone
Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)
The Grand Illusion
Lady
Rockin’ the Paradise
Radio Silence
Miss America
Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)
Too Much Time on My Hands
Expert from Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen cover)
Come Sail Away
Encore:
Mr. Roboto
Renegade
 
The fact that we missed the tongue in cheek and by the numbers power metal of Brothers Of Metal in order to watch Styx was something we could live with. Hunger and tiredness meant that we gave a pass to Pete Way’s Band, who were playing in the “tent”, which was a pity since I really wanted to check them out. Next up were also his old chums in UFO, although only Andy Parker and Phil Mogg were there from the originals, to celebrate the 50th anniversary, before allegedly Mogg quits… ehm, it pains me to say it, but Mogg, who was a great singer and has inspired tons of singers, can barely cut it anymore and maybe his bowing out, was long overdue. Hardly a celebration, rather a last adieu.
 
At the same time, the dynamic duo of Hansi Kursh from Blind Guardian and Jon Schaffer from Iced Earth decided to resurrect Demons & Wizards for a tour, using members from their original bands to perform live. It was an interesting show at the rock stage, with a very refreshed a strong sounding Kursh, after years of sounding less spirited and rather “tired” live (at least every time I saw Blind Guardian perform). He even made a joke about this being their virgin time in Sweden, which quickly escalated to campiness beyond words. If this singing shit fails, Hansi Kursh, sex educator, might be a decent option. Also while Kursh sounded fine doing a couple of Guardian covers – no mystery, or surprise there, his attempts at a couple of Iced Earth ones were, kind of ill fated. Not terrible by any stretch of the imagination, but they just didn’t seem to fit his style all that well.
 
Demons & Wizards Setlist:
Chant / Rites of Passage
Heaven Denies
Poor Man’s Crusade
Crimson King
Burning Times (Iced Earth cover)
Welcome to Dying (Blind Guardian cover)
The Gunslinger
Terror Train
I Died for You (Iced Earth cover)
Valhalla (Blind Guardian cover)
Tear Down the Wall
My Last Sunrise
Blood on My Hands
Fiddler on the Green
 
I then proceeded to the tent to watch my beloved French/Tunisian friends from Myrath, really put on a hell of a show. They had made the whole stage in the tent look like a Sheikh’s tent, with arabesque backdrops, pillows, hookahs and whatnot and when they came out with fire-artists, a belly dancer and a magician, it was a faultlessly choreographed performance that was really exciting and enchanting, without for a moment slipping into kitsch territory. Their complex Kamelot meets Theater, meets oriental style and Zaher Zorgati’s amazing vocal prowess and ability to pick up many Swedish phrases – almost seamlessly and with a nearly native accent also impressed the people.
 
Myrath Setlist:
Born to Survive
You’ve Lost Yourself
Dance
Wicked Dice
Monster in My Closet
The Unburnt
No Holding Back
Beyond the Stars
Believer
Shehili
 
I made a quick foray to the Festival scene to snap pictures of the ever-rocking Saxon. Biff and the boys delivered Heavy Metal Thunder, without fail, as you would expect them to. I however decided to go back and see Myrath finishing their set, which culminated with Zorgati floating into the air, while singing “Shehili” from their eponymous latest album. Wow! Seriously one of the most amazing performances I saw in the entire festival. Returning to the festival stage Saxon were still at it, so I happily watched the rest of their set ( I mean this was the 21st time I was watching them… I guess – give or take a couple)…
 
Saxon Setlist:
Wheels of Steel
Strong Arm of the Law
Denim and Leather
Sacrifice
Battering Ram
Thunderbolt
And the Bands Played On
Broken Heroes
They Played Rock and Roll
Power and the Glory
Dogs of War
Solid Ball of Rock
Backs to the Wall
747 (Strangers in the Night)
Dallas 1 PM
Crusader
 
Encore:
Motorcycle Man
Heavy Metal Thunder
Princess of the Night
 
US crossoverists Green Jellÿ whose biggest hit was their bizarro riffy take on the story of the three little pigs, really put on a party on the 4rock stage, with a gazillion people on stage, in all sorts of masks and bizarre bondage gear. Smashing! But the Scot in me, wanted to see original guitarist of Alex Harvey’s band, Zal Cleminson and his Sin Dogs in the tent, which I did – and not regret it one bit.
 
Along the same time, the match between two Swedish bands, Hammerfall in the Rock Stage and death metal supremos Unleashed in the Sweden Stage, was won by the former, since I had recently seen both… I tossed a coin (for real, it’s my goto method, for making tough decision for me. Wine or Beer PorA and all such things). Hammerfall did perform most of their hits and debuted a new single “We Make Sweden Rock”, a tribute to all Swedish rock/metal bands through the years and a fitting song to perform at a festival that bears the same name. Entertaining as always.
 
Hammerfall Setlist:
Legion
Hammer High
(We Make) Sweden Rock
Renegade
Blood Bound
Any Means Necessary
Hero’s Return
Riders of the Storm
Hector’s Hymn
The Sacred Vow
Last Man Standing
Let the Hammer Fall
 
Encore:
Templars of Steel
The Dragon Lies Bleeding
Hearts on Fire
 
My feet, heavy as lead, by four days of standing up for multiple hours, sort of gave out for a bit so after photos etc., I did go back a bit to sit on my butt for a few songs in order to be able to watch the elusive “Man in Black” and his fine folk in Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, who put on quite a show.
 
The Man in Black, himself, was in better form that before, having potentially been rehabilitated completely from his arthritis operations. Nouveau and Keith made for a quite sturdy rhythm section, while the crazy Jens Johansson did some banter in Swedish among other things like playing his organ/keys. Mrs Blackmore (Candice Night) along with another lady were doing infrequent backing vocals, but the real glue that made it all work, was Ronnie Romero, the Chillean whose now domiciled in Spain, who manages to channel Ronnie James Dio quite nicely, while having something from the flair of a Mercury or a Coverdale, when it comes to his stagecraft. He was truly able to make this whole thing work and despite the numerous Purple numbers that the show includes (a likely aporia of the fact that Purple declined to do a reunion with him), he kept the show from stagnating and feeling dull.
 
Rainbow Setlist:
Tape: Land of Hope and Glory
Tape: Over the Rainbow (Harold Arlen song)
Spotlight Kid
I Surrender (Russ Ballard cover)
Mistreated (Deep Purple cover)
Since You Been Gone (Russ Ballard cover)
Man on the Silver Mountain (with “Woman from Tokyo” by Deep Purple snippet)
Perfect Strangers (Deep Purple cover)
Black Night (Deep Purple cover)
Difficult to Cure
All Night Long
Stargazer
Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll
Burn (Deep Purple cover)
 
Encore:
Smoke on the Water (Deep Purple cover)
 
Swedish dark extremists Darkane, and former Turbonegro frontman Hank Von Hell, happened to coincide, with the Man in Black so we didn’t go there. Among a small confusion about what was going on with Behemoth (The Polish had to cancel as two of their members were left stranded at an airport after a flight got delayed), we said our goodbyes to the very lovely and accommodating press ladies, who helped us with all our inquiries and requests and made us feel very welcome to Sweden Rock (behind the curtain), thus missing out on Stateside Blue Coupe and Swedes The Bones, who were playing in the tent, electing to go to the rock stage, for a last minute and weird as heck replacement of Behemoth by none other than Myrath, who by accident ended up also headlining – sort of – the fourth date. They show scaled very well onto the big stage, ie their backdrops did fit nicely spaced apart and the larger stage allowed the belly dancer to really dance around, uninhibited. Zaher and the boys, despite having performed a set only hours earlier, put on a flawless show again and thus I was able to also watch the three songs I missed in order to see/snap Saxon. About 15-20 thousand people remained captivated by the strange (to them) exotic metal that suddenly swept Norje like the mad wind “Shehili”… and I’m pretty sure the band must have easily increased their status in Sverige tenfold, by a simple chance of luck. They obviously deserve it and it was a beautiful conclusion to an excellent fest that left us with a burning desire to maybe return for 2020…
 
Sweden Rock… a benchmark of how a rock festival should be. We filled our heads with so much rock, we had to pay excess baggage on our way home! Not really, but we had a hell of a good of a time nonetheless! We highly recommend you check it out and why not, go there next year! Tack så väldigt mycket!