by Marcel “Mars” Groeneveld
– Columnist –
October 19,2012 At Rock City in Nottingham, UK –
One of the most impressive melodic rock festivals is without a doubt the Firefest festival which takes place every year in the city most known for the story of Robin Hood, Nottingham. Although not the biggest venue, the Rock City is known for its intimate atmosphere. And also is a contributor of the feeling that regular Firefest fans are attending a family reunion each year instead of a rock event.
The 9th edition of Firefest started Friday October 19th. Normally, the Friday night was intended to be a pre-party, but just like last year, it is definitely the real first day of the festival. Headlining this day was the high energetic rockers Tyketto.
Kicking off and first to climb the stage was the AOR band/project Lionville. From Italy the band features with Swedish Lars Säfsund (also to be seen with Work Of Art on Saturday) on vocals. All their songs are very well crafted tunes and are inspired by bands like Toto, Giant, Bad English, Survivor and Richard Marx which is stated on their website. I can totally relate to this as the response of the people was amazing for an opening band. With the amazing Alessandro Del Vecchio on keyboards and backing vocals his presence was definitely a noticeable one. Together with founder, guitar-player, and vocalist Stefano Lionetti the band spread the AOR virus with the beautiful “Power Of My Dreams” being one of the highlights of their set. The always smiling Lars Säfsund would have been a household name had he lived 20 years earlier. They performed a great set and all are great musicians, who would resurface in one way or another by performing with different bands on stage throughout the weekend. This is also one of the successful ingredients that makes Firefest a success.
The second band of the night to perform was Dante Fox. They have been around since 1989 and high expectations were expected of the band but unfortunately they could not deliver a 100%. Sue Willets could not win over the audience completely mainly because of her static performance. Unlike Lionville where the bands joy to play was more than obvious, the charisma of Dante Fox took the night off and was not to be found in Nottingham. As soon as power and volume was needed Sue Willets gave the impression the vocals went a little over the top, as she had to strain herself to much to reach her normal volume. She was coughing a bit on stage also on “I Can’t Sleep,” which isn’t that powerful of a song so she managed that one pretty well. The song “Firing My Heart” was OK and during “Lost and Lonely Heart” guitarist Tim Manford and bass player Mike Dagnall had some fun. They moved around but overall compared with the opening act the audience response to Dante Fox performance was pretty lame.
Even higher expectations were being discussed by a large part of the audience about the next act to perform, the UK rockers Ten. From the start of the Intro going into “Lights Go Down” people were clapping, singing along with most songs even though most songs came from the new album Heresy and Creed. The vocal quality of Gary Hughes is so impressive; the way he performs on stage is an exact copy as he records on a disc. Singing comes naturally to him and while Sue Willets struggled with her vocals for Hughes it is like taking a walk in the park.
The only down side as the six piece band started performing their second song of the night “Spellbound” was the size of the stage. It became clear, in this case, size does matter. Even though there was not too much space for the band to move around it was an entertaining show. Bassist Steve McKenna definitely has a strong presence on stage; guitarist Dan Mitchel, well not so much, but guitarist John Haliwell has the looks and charisma that a rocker should have on stage. The new single “Gunrunning” was received very well and the new songs seem to be a return to the more classic rock Ten played on their first albums. From the Robe the song “Ten Fathoms Deep” once again brought out the best of the crowd and from the debut album X the band played the semi-ballad “After the Love Is Gone” before returning to the new stuff.
They performed the more up-tempo “Unbelievable” followed by “Red” from the album Spellbound. Leaving without playing one of their best songs is not an option but they kept the best for last “Name Of The Rose” closed the set. Overall their set was way to short show. Ten is one of the greatest underrated bands of melodic rock, hailing from the UK, they definitely rock!
Headliners New Jersey boys Tyketto have always had a large following in Europe and unlike a lot of their fellow American rockers have never forgotten where their truly loyal fans come from. The main difference between Europe and the States is definitely European fans are more loyal and American fans are more likely to love the flavor of the month. This is not a critical note but just pure facts as also confirmed by almost every American band ever to play on the Firefest bill.
With the four original members present consisting of front man, Danny Vaughn on vocals and acoustic guitar, Michael Clayton on drums, Jimi Kennedy on bass and background vocals and yes they even managed to find Brooke St James on guitars this time around, they are back on the scene. With the addition of Ten’s Ged Rylands on keyboards and background vocals falling in for Bobby Lynch, the “fifth” band member, who had other obligations, Tyketto was complete. Showtime!
Starting off with an old familiar gem and also title song of their second 1994 release “Strength In Numbers.” To be honest the crowd was won over even before the first note was played. Tyketto came, saw, played and conquered the Firefest crowd hands down.
Danny Vaughn is a real entertainer he loves to play the crowd; and his vocal capabilities are always spot on. Something old followed by something new, the new single “Faithless” from their recent release Dig in Deep was laid down and continues where they stopped some 20 years ago. If melodic rock wasn’t crushed in the 90’s by grunge these guys would have been huge, songs like “Burning Down Inside” is an invitation by the band to just sing along. Another song that can count on some vocal support of the folks present is “Lay Your Body Down” from their 1991 debut Don’t Come Easy.
It is amazing how the old chemistry between the guys in the band is back also considering all the logistic problems they have had to deal with, Vaughn living in Spain, Clayton in New Jersey, St. James in Wisconsin but still they pulled it off. After 18 years with the original members are together again, after stating the band would not exist in 2007, well the fans brought them back and the band delivered another masterpiece with the album Dig In Deep.
Vaughn states after all this time you would expect when you get older to be more mellow, calmer but they are more pissed off as way back in the days as shown during their performance of “Here’s Hoping It Hurts” is blasts throughout the Rock City venue. They followed that up with “Catch My Fall” and “Sail Away” causing Rock City to shake on its foundation. During “Standing Alone” Vaughn shared his gratitude with the audience as the beautiful song has touched the hearts of so many different people.
After the song “Rescue Me” and the uptempo “Meet Me In The Night” the band performed the new song “The Fight Left In Me“ which featured great riff by St. James. Things settled down a bit giving Vaughn the opportunity to address the Firefest crowd again. He was very thankful being at Firefest again and told the crowd about the last time they had played the festival. He noticed this beautiful smiling girl in the crowd and he dedicated “Wings” to her, as he had married that same girl. See rockers can be tough, macho but also romantic. Of course after the expected roaring of the audience, the “we want more..” chant was met by Tyketto playing their biggest hit “Forever Young” and that took care of what was left of the Rock City’s roof.
Tyketto was a perfect ending of the first day of Firefest leaving the crowd begging for more, however because of curfew already been passed, they had to shorten the show playing 65 minutes, there were still plenty of happy faces all around!
[Pictures are courtesy of RockManian Devil Entertainment.]