This fest has been going a couple of years now and it's basically a classic rock all-dayer at the O2 Arena. I missed last year's event but I thought let me give it a shot this time with Rainbow headlining. At the time I bought my ticket I had no idea who all the other bands were going to be bar UK old time glamsters Sweet.
Eventually I found out the list of bands and it was an interesting mix of classic rock and newer less well known bands. I've never actually ever been to an all day fest like this in London so it was good to break that duck. I wasn't sure how it all worked out with the stages etc but well I'll find these things out won't I.
To say it was hot in London yesterday was an understatement though it's actually even a bit hotter today. But anyhow yesterday the thermometer was hitting highs which makes us Brits a little uncomfortable shall we say! The event was due to start at 12pm dead with a band called Riff Rath on the Orange Amps stage which was as it turns out a makeshift stage actually inside the forecourt of the O2 as soon as you walk in. These gigs were actually free as anyone is allowed to walk in to the venue after a security check without actually going into the main arena and the other larger venue Indigo which is a 3000 or so venue also inside the O2 complex. All these stages are within 30 seconds walk which was very handy indeed.
I walked in and immediately you could see a band playing on the Orange Amps stage and my festival guide revealed that they were called Tequila Mockyngbird. Nice name and nice gals for they were an all-girl group playing hard and ready hard rock ala Girlschool or Warlock or other rough voiced female led bands. I saw about 3 songs from them they were quite fun and the 150 or so early gatherers seemed to enjoy their set.Nice start and time to get a beer, the first of a fair few!
Next I entered into the Indigo by virtue of producing my ticket which allowed me quick and free entry to the hall which was on a first come first serve basis. It was time for the Crazy world of Arthur Brown. Never seen the old man obviously and I know Fire of course, who doesn't, but my knowledge of Arthur ends there. To say the show is an experience is an understatement. Musically it's a bit dark and mystical and sometimes progressive dark rock. A bit hypnotic and always very interesting to witness and observe. Arthur is a crazy old man that's for sure! Sadly they got the plug pulled on them right towards the end of Fire as they over-ran their 40 minutes. But that was weird and always a spectacle. never seen a show like that. He introduced the song Devil's Grip and said someone told him he's the reason why heavy metal exists when he wrote that song! Definitely a mystical and slightly satanic song! At the end Arthur said he turns 75 next week and we better keep coming as he doesn't know if he'll be alive much longer haha! Mind you more than a few of the band members of all the bands kept mentioning their ages from the stage during each of their sets!
I quickly exited the Indigo and walked round to catch a few songs from Death Valley Knights. I think they're Brits but not sure but these guys are full on big trad metal with a piercing vocal. I heard about 3 songs but I was gasping for another beer by now so I went to the bar opposite where I can still hear the band but I could also quench my thirst. They were OK but I couldn't really make out any memorable tunes but they looked the part. Big hair, denim and leather and pounding metal! Probably the heavist and most metal band on the whole bill.
Back to the Indigo for a quick listen to Scots Gun who've been around since late 80s early 90s. They were actually rather good and I saw them for about 25 minutes. Very decent catchy hard rock and roll indeed with memorable, poppy tunes. The cover of Word Up was funny and good too. I made for the exits and missed the last 15 minutes of their set as I wanted to catch the full 30 minutes from Massive Wagons, Yorkshire's finest rock and roll band! Or is that only haha!
Got to the Orange Amps stage and the MW dudes strode on and the little fireball Yorkshireman, front man was flying and twirling his mic stand all over the place, nearly knocking his band mates over the stage was that small! The crowd was filling well for them as Gun ended and more than a couple of hundred watched the band. They really have a fantastic set of tunes that are guaranteed to get everyone moving. Their 30 minutes ended rapidly and was very enjoyable indeed. One of the few bands on the bill that I know well and was looking forward to immensely. Could've easy watched another half hour no probs.
I had set aside the next 45 minutes to go and eat some food as I had seen The Answer before and thought I could miss some of their set. I thought I'd maybe catch a few of the songs towards the end if I finished eating quickly enough. I went to eat a pretty hefty burger and chips which went down well obviously and then quickly made my way back to the Indigo to see The Answer, Northern Ireland's finest rock band.
The Indigo was rammed and they closed the main hall but I was allowed to go upstairs to the balcony and it was hopeless up there too with no seat in sight. I must admit The Answer sounded great and put on a really rocking 20 minutes. The front man has a great voice indeed. I should've maybe caught the whole of their set but my stomach won out as usual!
After their set ended a few people left their seats but not many and I managed to find a solitary seat with not a great view of the stage at all but I was just happy to rest the legs to be honest. It would be 45 minutes before epic blues rock legends Blue Oyster Cult would take to the stage. Other bands would be playing outside on the Orange Amps (Massive, Buck & Evans, Evil Blizzard) stage but I don't know them well or at all in some cases and I was just glad to rest a bit and wait for the 'Cult.
Finally after a good wait the old timers, who are celebrating their 45th anniversary, strode out to great applause. The Indigo was rammed to the rafters and any late comers would've been disappointed as the house full signs were up. What I know about BOC you can some up in a couple of abbreviated words. Reaper and Cities. Maybe I've heard more as well, in fact I know I have but I don't call myself a fan so recollection is minimal. But who doesn't love Reaper. One of the best epic pop rock songs ever.
The band sounded good or even great considering the main guys are probably ancient by now haha! One of 'em never took off his dark glasses. I guess he doesn't like house lights or has bad eyes or something. Some of the members were obviously not original as well. probably the bass guy and the keys/guitar guy, "something Castellano" as he was announced. They all sang they, All had extended solo spots. It turns out they were celebrating the 45th anniversary of their debut album and played it in its entirety. Some parts were a bit tedious to be honest but there were interesting and more melodic parts too. Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll was treated with great glee by all the old bastards in the house.
After ending the album the band played about 5-6 hits which were to be honest much better sounding than the debut album which was far too blues and Honky Tonk for my tastes. Of course THAT song is played and everyone loves it and then some. The band played a two song encore as well and finally the proceedings were bought to a close at the Indigo for the night as the fest moved to the man Arena for the final two bands in Sweet and Rainbow.
Took a while getting out of the Indigo as everyone is fucking old beyond belief and it takes us all time to sort our bits and pieces out before we head out and make for the Arena! This is an old man fest make no mistake. I am fairly young compared to plenty here that's for sure but I still feel as bloody old as everyone else. Still time for a cooling beer though as it was dark and baking inside the Indigo. Phew!
Walked up to find that our allocated seats in the Arena had been changed as obviously the venue was vastly undersold. I was given a replacement ticket for a seat much closer than my own but still on the upper tier, but a far better view. The thing was I didn't even sit in my second allocated seat either. There were still expanses of seats available as the lights went down for Sweet. But slowly the old folks filled up the venue and it wasn't too bad as Sweet started things up with their slightly pomp, glam rock. My knowledge of Sweet is built around the two massive hits Blockbuster and Ballroom Blitz. After that I'm tested greatly! I did end up knowing more songs too such as the punky Teenage Rampage and the epic Love Is Like Oxygen which was actually awesome. They played Fanfare for The Common Man in between that song which was nice too. There were lots of people up and dancing to old timers Sweet. I liked them as well and Blockbuster is always fun to listen to. The sound was a bit cavernous for Sweet though and left me feeling they would be far better suited to a club show.
Time for yet another beer and a wander before Ricthie's new mob would entertain us to bring this epic day to a close. The venue was as full as it was going to be, maybe just around 10,000 or a little more in a 20,000 seat venue. To be fair Gun n' Roses were playing 20 minutes down the road and that venue holds probably 50k so that took away a fair few fans from Stone Free I guess. The planning was perhaps unfortunate but it couldn't be helped. At just before 9pm, Land Of Hope and Glory was played over the PA as the Union Jack floated on the massive video backdrop behind the stage to signal the start of the show as the band strode on to cheers from the all seated crowd on the main floor. Although everyone was standing up in any case by the time the band started.
The band starts with Spotlight Kid which is not a song I'm familiar with but it was obvious that everyone sounded good with the star being Ronnie, with his voice ringing out loud and clear. This Ronnie chap is a God send for this version of the resurrected Rainbow. Sure JLT should have been considered as he's great but Ronnie Romero has a youthful enthusiasm and power that JLT wouldn't be able to match. Although I'm sure 90% of these old codgers have never heard of him! It's great that Ritchie has given an unknown talent a chance like this and man has not let him down either. I Surrender has everyone singing the chorus and sounds great too with Russ Ballard the original writer joining the band on stage.
Mistreated slows things down and allows Ronnie to use his full range and power. Since You Been Gone brings us back to hit single territory and everyone laps it up. Man On The Silver Mountain is immense and it's a nice tribute to see images of Dio on the video screen behind the current band as the song is played. Quite emotional to watch actually. The set continues with a mixture of Rainbow and Purple classics. Rainbow bring hits like All Night Long and Purple has epic tales like Child In Time and the big blues rock of set closer Black Night.
The band return for a 3 song encore and all three were classics with Burn which everyone sings along with a nice flame effect video behind the band as they play. The epic and mystical Catch the Rainbow follows and finally the world's most famous riff rears its ugly head as we head on to the end with Smoke. A word about Ritchie. The guy's lead work is still as classy as hell though his tone is a bit unclean sounding for my taste. Maybe it will sound much better in a smaller Arena but it sounds too echoe-y in a big arena. However his actual solos are tasteful and as melodic as any. The man is no doubt a legend and a huge influence to the power metal movement that followed in his footsteps. It's good that he decided to pick up the electric again and play a few dates here and there. Special mention to Mr Romero again. They guy was perfect. He sings with emotion and power in spades and is a worthy guy in a long line of great singers that Ricthie has used in his previous bands.
So Stone Free was over for another year and it had been an epic day indeed. However it wasn't even quite over yet! There was an after party held back in the Indigo which I decided to attend and ended up staying an hour and a half! A band from Finland played humpa and hillbilly covers of metal and rock songs and they were the most fun and hilarious thing ever. They were called Steve 'n Seagulls and they put a final smile on every one's face as the more drunk of us were dancing on the floor including some sorry old man dancing sights! The DJ s played metal and rock classics and it was a chance to have a final dance and party before heading home. That's what you call an epic day folks!
Land of Hope and Glory
(Edward Elgar song)
Over the Rainbow
(Harold Arlen song) (Intro)
(Russ Ballard cover)
(Deep Purple cover)
Since You Been Gone
(Russ Ballard cover) (with Russ Ballard)
Man on the Silver Mountain
(incl. Woman From Tokyo snippet)
Soldier of Fortune
(Deep Purple cover)
All Night Long
Difficult to Cure
Child in Time
(Deep Purple cover)
Still I'm Sad / Drum Solo
(The Yardbirds cover)
Long Live Rock 'n' Roll
(Deep Purple cover)
(Deep Purple cover)
Catch the Rainbow
Smoke on the Water