SAUNA OPEN AIR FESTIVAL– TAMPERE June 9-11th 2011
On a VERY hot June weekend Steel Mill staff travelled to Tampere, naturally to attend the biggest and best heavy metal festival in Finland, Sauna Open Air. The 2011 line-up was arguably the greatest ever in the history of the festival: Judas Priest, Ozzy Osbourne, Saxon, Helloween, Accept, Queensryche, Doro, Dio’s Disciples, Tarot, Turisas and others all performing during the three day event. The atmosphere in Tampere reminded us of Sauna indeed, the temperature was reaching +30 celsius and sun was shining from a clear blue sky. Friday was already very hot and the next day seemed even hotter. Besides live reviews and photographs, we had couple of exciting interviews coming up but let’s get down to the main business at hand – the live shows!
Are You Metal?
Eagle Fly Free
March Of Time
Where the Sinners Go
Keeper Of The Seven Keys
The King For A 1000 Years
I Want Out
I Don’t Know
Goodbye To Romance
Bark At The Moon
Road To Nowhere
Shot In The Dark
Fairies Wear Boots
I Don’t Want To Change the World
Mama, I’m Coming Home
The Friday show openers Turisas have been steadily climbing towards the top of the new metal tree. Their folk metal was branched out with a violin and accordion players who also sang backing vocals, thus offering a nice touch to band’s usual grandiose choruses. Turisas offer a music of wide variety, from folk metal to traditional Finnish dance music right down to death metal moments. Somehow it all fits together and builds up to something almost larger than life.
The first number “To Holmgard And Beyond” was incredibly well performed and got the audience into the proceedings. Rest of the set varied between old songs and picks from their recent “Stand Up And Fight” album. From the new album especially “Take The Day!” raised the fists and several sing-along parts got the audience involved.
Before the afternoon show’s end drummer started a beat, with vocalist Matthias Nygård quickly singing the opening line’s to Manowar’s “Kings Of Metal.” The band picked it up and they actually did the full first verse and chorus. It was a nice moment before closing the set with their anthem “Battle Metal.” The crowd really was into this number and chanted the chorus back with extra power. Cheers continued long after the band had left the stage.
All in all I was very delighted to see a Finnish band with this kind of stature on the main stage. These guys (and a girl) really have potential and they seemed to belong to a larger arena. Matthias Nygård has really reached his own element as band’s charismatic frontman. He commanded the stage and sang his heart out. Also the female accordion player wasn’t a bad addition.
The band are in the middle of a tight touring schedule, so if you have the chance to catch them, don’t miss out. Turisas’ folk influenced metal has a long way to go.
To Holmgard And Beyond
Take the Day
Stand Up And Fight
In The Court Of Jarisleif
The Land Of Hope And Glory
The Great Escape
The Doom Of All Fires
Roots Bloody Roots
Doro opened her set with two classics from the golden days: “Eartshaker Rock” and “I Rule The Ruins.” The sound was tight, the band in good shape and Doro sang like probably thousand times before. Brutal and Effective. She welcomed the crowd to the show and remembered to mention her first time in Finland was actually 25 years ago supporting Judas Priest on their “Fuel For Life” tour.
“Burning The Witches” paved the way for two songs from the most recent Doro album (“Fear No Evil”). Both were good head bangers and in fact sounded really powerful even within the company of 1980’s hits.
Doro introduced “Fur Immer” as a song for each and everyone in the audience, the tune got the crowd singing extremely loud considering it was still barely 5 PM and the sun was blazing down.
Next up was another new song “We Are Metalheads,” which was introduced as “an anthem for the fans.” The song was originally written as a 20th anniversary tribute for the Wacken Open Air festival in 2009. And anthem it was, maybe a tad too calculated sing-along piece that nicely set the table for “All We Are” and “Metal Tango” to clean up shop. “All We Are” is a catchy song and rightfully Doro standard but maybe a bit overplayed in our book. “Metal Tango” on the other hand always works despite the numerous playing times over the years.
The one-hour set was enjoyable, Doro herself is still the unchallenged metal queen and her voice has remained exactly the same throughout the years. Support band were somewhat faceless but did exactly what was required from them, a great backing for Doro’s catchy tunes.
Most of the set was filled with classics from 1980’s Warlock-era. While for majority of the crowd these went down like a storm and without a doubt they are excellent songs, it would have been nice to have something from later Doro records as well. “Calling The Wild” for example is one of all time favourites yet not represented at all tonight. The two songs off “Fear No Evil” sounded good enough to stand alongside classics and in some cases (“All We Are”) could be replacing them.
Overall the gig was still a good experience and be sure to catch the metal queen if she comes around for a club show of her own.
I Rule The Ruins
Burning The Witches
Running From the Devil
Night Of The Warlock
True As Steel
We Are The Metalheads
All We Are
Following Ronnie James Dio’s tragic death last year, it might have seemed like a cynical move from his band members to take his songs out on the road with two substitute singers and call themselves Dio’s Disciples. There probably are bands out there doing the same thing with purely financial gain in mind but judging from Dio’s Disciples, they are certainly not among them. The core band consists of long time Dio members Craig Goldy on guitar, Simon Wright on drums and Scott Warren on keybords. Due to scheduling conflicts bassist Rudy Sarzo was temporarily sitting out, replaced by former White Lion member James Lomenzo. For vocal slot they have chosen two professionals: Tim Ripper Owens and Toby Jepson – latter formerly of Little Angels.
Owens started off the show with two “Holy Diver” numbers, “Stand Up And Shout” and the title track. Both sounded superb. The band was clearly fully engaged in their performance and material. During “Don’t Talk To Strangers” Goldy had tears in his eyes and had to turn his back to the audience to calm himself down. Ripper absolutely ruled on “Don’t Talk To Strangers,” respecting Ronnie’s original words and phrasing but at the same injecting the old song with class and power of his own.
Toby Jepson, while a solid vocalist in his own right, didn’t seem as comfortable with the material and especially after Ripper’s awesome rendition of “Don’t Talk To Strangers” seemed to lose out. His smoother hard rock voice is fine on more melodic material but songs like “King Of Rock’n’Roll” demand more from a singer.
Ripper returned on stage with a powerful rendition of “Stargazer” – both singers collaborating and doing a good version of this all-time Rainbow classic. But playing “Neon Knights” after that was a bit of an anti-climax. The song is the one Sabbath-track which has been done to death by countless of groups over the years; it’s a classic song – especially in its original form – but not even close to being the best track on “Heaven And Hell.” Yet it is almost always picked when anyone wants to play something from that record.
Rest of the set was filled with safe classics too, but then again Dio always played those songs as well. It’s great to see and hear talented musicians like these carry the torch and RJD’s legacy forward. One of the best tributes out there!
Stand Up And Shout
Don’t Talk to Strangers
Egypt (The Chains Are On)
King Of Rock’n’Roll
Catch The Rainbow
The Last in Line
Long Live Rock ’n’ Roll
Man On The Silver Mountain
Heaven And Hell
Rainbow In The Dark
Friday headliners Saxon are enjoying their second coming since about 1996 they have been making arguably best records of their whole career, and they remain the only band who re-recorded their classic material and actually outdid the original versions.
Biff Byford and his boys walked on stage with the sounds of “Hammer Of The Gods,” one of the best songs from the new record and a thrusting set opener. Biff announced they were going to play couple of songs from the “Denim & Leather” – album. The day before in Sweden Rock, this meant the complete record from back to back. Tonight we got only “Never Surrender”, although standards “Princess Of The Night” and the title track were played later.
With rocking “Motorcycle Man” the set seemed to be off to a very good start indeed. Unfortunately “Attila The Hun” didn’t transcend very well into a live setting. And amidst new songs and this epic, there was a slight blank spot in the middle of the set. Even “Dallas 1 PM” slipped by quickly although that one’s definitely one of the eternal favourites. Luckily Saxon then followed these with a rocking rendition of all time classic “Crusader” and rest of the set was one neck breaker after another. “Painkiller”-influenced “Afterburner” is one of those recent Saxon belters that define their renaissance era.
The band was thrilled with the good response the song got: “Thank you for listening to the new songs!” Next Biff introduced “Denim & Leather” and later Doro stepped on stage to sing the last part of the song. Crowd loved this and sang the chorus back. Biff said his goodbyes to Doro in his sly manner: “I’’ll see you after the show, we’ll have some wine, beer, whisky and….some other things.”
The familiar guitar riff of “Princess Of The Night” began instantly – this metal anthem about steam trains never gets boring even if has been played in virtually every Saxon show since its inception. For encores Saxon rolled out “Wheels Of Steel” with its usual sing-along parts and finally “747 (Strangers In The Night).” During “Wheels Of Steel” Biff spotted a plane flying close by: “Ah, 747! That’s got to mean something tonight.” Makes one wonder if the track was planned, as they noticed there was still time before 10 PM curfew to play one more tune.
The set-list was drastically different compared to Sweden Rock performance the day before. That show had been substantially longer and included several rarities from group’s early days. Tonight’s gig was more streamlined between the old hits and stuff from their latest album “Call To Arms” just released by the time of the festival. Other recent albums “The Inner Sanctum” and “Into The Labyrinth” were represented by one song each.
Compared to a packed club gig I saw few years ago, Saxon suffered a bit on a huge stage as both guitarists weren’t very mobile. Bassist Nibs Carter also didn’t run around as much as he’s done on some of the Wacken DVD’s. And one could always do with some added classics and stuff from “Dogs Of war” and “Lionheart” – to name just two. However, complaining about the set list is also rather pointless since the set was about 1/3 times shorter than previous night’s performance. Like a trusted old warhorse Saxon delivered an evening full of classic heavy metal.
Hammer Of The Gods
Heavy Metal Thunder
Back To ‘79
Attila The Hun
Dallas 1 PM
Call To Arms
Demon Sweeney Todd
Denim And Leather
Princess Of The Night
Wheels Of Steel
747 (Strangers In The Night)
Saturday started even warmer and up on main stage things kicked off with Tarot playing all of “Spell Of Iron” as day’s opening act. On the smaller Inferno stage two bands had of course played their set by that point.
It’s not a bad idea in itself to re-record their debut album 25 years after it was originally released but some of the arrangements on the new “Spell Of Iron” seemed a bit strange, especially the new slower “Love’s Not Made For My Kind,” which was somehow dragging on. On the other hand, on the closing tune “The Things That Crawl At Night” Marco Hietala’s great voice came off brilliantly. And “Wings Of Darkness” is well, “Wings Of Darkness.” Luckily they didn’t change the arrangement on that masterpiece.
This leads me to wonder, why Tuple Salmela got such a big role in singing some of these tracks. He’s a good vocalist sure in his own right, but “Spell Of Iron” even in its re-recorded form is very much attached to Marco’s voice and interpretation.
Obviously the playing time didn’t allow Tarot for more songs. So no “Pyre Of Gods” or “Rider Of The Last Day” or “Descendants Of Power” or…Like Saxon the day before, a club with a full two hour set might be the best place to catch Tarot these days.
Dancing On The Wire
Back In The Fire
Love’s Not Made For My Kind
Spell Of Iron
Wings Of Darkness
The Things That Crawl At Night
De Mortui Nil Nisi Bene
QR have been fairly regular visitor in Finland ever since mid-1980’s. Their star may have diminished of late, with mediocre records like “Take Cover” and “American Soldier” but their popularity has remained fairly high and being originators of thinking man’s metal scene, they do possess some credit. “Get Started” from the upcoming “Dedicated To Chaos” disc was nice, if a little dull introduction to their Sauna Open Air gig. From the get-go vocalist Geoff Tate had a good stage presence and his voice seemed to be in a good shape. However, rest of the band seemed quite a bit distant in comparison. New 24-year old second guitarist Parker Lundgren did fill his spot well, though Queensryche except few chosen moments were never a full on guitar attack kind of band.
“I Don’t Believe In Love” was excellent reminder of this band’s greatness and one couldn’t help to pump fist along with song’s pulsating rhythm. Then couple of more mid-tempo moments slipped away without much notice, although the second one “Hit The Black” is actually one the good ones from underrated “Hear In The Now Frontier.”
From that point on it was a stream of hits until the end. Highlights were hard to pick as any song from band’s 1980’s albums and “Empire” gotta rank as a favourite. “Silent Lucidity” must be Queensryche’s finest ballad and tonight it was delivered with a stunning vocal from Tate.
“It’s great to be alive and playing music” declared the singer triumphantly during “Empire” and at that moment, everyone believed. Three songs in a row from 1990’s hit album was a safe bet in getting the audience on your side and the feeling Queensryche left after ending their set was positive.
The new albums have been touch and go but the classic songs still rule. Towards the end of the set, tracks like “Eyes Of A Stranger” and “Empire” were unquestionable classics and were delivered with substance and punch not really heard on set’s opening numbers. Geoff Tate’s voice has remained in remarkably good shape and rest of the band played well too. Their stage act could do with some sharpening and activity, but again these are minor things.
It was good to see this group for the first time and let’s hope that classic album once more resurfaces from them.
I Don’t Believe In Love
A Dead Man’s Words
Hit The Black
Screaming In Digital
Walk In The Shadows
Jet City Woman
Eyes Of A Stranger
Having witnessed Accept just this past February playing a full show in Helsinki, I already knew what a dynamite performance these guys were capable of giving the crowd. Plus their comeback album “Blood Of The Nations” which they are still promoting ranks as last year’s top metal release, so there was indeed a lot to look forward to.
The band came to Sauna Open Air as a four piece with second guitarist Herman Frank still recuperating from his fall on stage few weeks ago. Wolf Hoffmann has played all guitars himself before so overall this presented no problem, the only time it was obvious during “Fast As A Shark’s” duel solo. However, a guitar tech was seen helping out on couple of songs from backstage.
The pair of new songs “Teutonic Terror” and “Bucketful Of Hate” opened the gig and both were storming numbers. Like I spotted on previous concert, Accept’s chemistry again is working 100 % and all members were having a good time, smiling and throwing shapes. “Breaker” started a row of metal anthems that continued right till the end of the show. Third new song “Pandemic” was slotted in between, one of the highlights from “Blood Of The Nations” it felt right at home between “Fast As A Shark” and “Balls To The Wall,” which tells a lot about the song’s quality.
“Losers & Winners” was the only song tonight, not performed in February and of course several songs were left off from the set due to time limitations. But the band’s most well-known songs, “Balls To The Wall,” “Metal Heart” and “Fast As A Shark” were there in their rightful place. With an album and a tour showing the band in excellent form, those still crying over Udo Dirkscheinder’s refusal to take part must be steadily moving into minority. At Sauna Open Air main stage, Accept laid down a powerful gauntlet for Judas Priest to follow.
After the show we heard the Accept guys also took a swim at nearby lake, in the blistering heat this must have been a relief!
Bucketful Of Hate
Losers And Winners
Princess Of The Dawn
Up To The Limit
Fast As A Shark
Balls To The Wall
Before My Blackened Eyes
Temple Of The Red-Eyed Pigs
Crone Of Bell
Chasing The Dragon
Alone With A Loaded Gun
Red Dead Revolver
My World Of Sin
The Blind Will Lead The Blind
The summer evening showed no signs of turning into night when Priest prepared to begin their set. In fact, sun was still burning down throughout the first few numbers making the left “shadow” side of the stage more popular place to be. For Priest, Tampere marked the third show on their “Epitaph” world tour. It was also third show with Richie Faulkner taking the place of K.K. Downing, so a lot of the eyes obviously were fixed on him to see how the new guy would cope up. The festival area had filled up by this point and reportedly 12 000 people were at present watching the Metal Gods close the three day event.
After the “Battle Hymn” intro the show began with sterling renditions of “Rapid Fire” and “Metal Gods” reminding us of their British Steel anniversary tour couple of years ago. Rob welcomed the heavy metal maniacs to the show and then it was time to head out to the highway. Great song and having missed out the past couple of tours good to have it back on the set-list. First change to normal proceedings was the return of guitar solos in the middle before the famous harmony part. Those leads were inserted into the song back in 1980’s but have been missing from more recent performances.
After “Judas Rising” we got the first real rarity: “Starbreaker.” A song not played by Priest since late 1970’s. This version was short and close to studio version, thus no extended drum breaks in style of Les Binks. “Victim Of Changes” followed quickly and by now we were very positively noticing Rob Halford’s good vocal shape. Much better than on the opening night of the Nostradamus tour back in 2008, he did one of the best latter day versions of “Victim Of Changes” I’ve heard. The screams were clear, loud and long!
Before the start of the tour, Priest announced they would play songs from each and every studio record (from the Halford-era). This meant resurrecting a track from their debut “Rocka Rolla” – the album had been untouched since mid-1970’s. The choice was the most obvious one: “Never Satisfied” – a track Halford has played solo before and it’s also the one song which sounds very much at home with other Priest material heard tonight. The band played it faithfully.
More familiar “Diamonds And Rust” has been performed in both acoustic and electric form since 1998. Tonight’s arrangement combined the two and it sounded very good, Rob always sings this one exceptionally well and Richie added acoustic solo in the beginning. “Prophecy” from “Nostradamus” is a good live number but maybe I would lay off the silver gown. “Night Crawler” was great to hear for the first time live (not done by Priest with Halford since the original “Painkiller”-tour) and Rob pulled it off pretty good.
“Turbo Lover” had a stack of flames enhancing the melodic rocker and “Beyond The Realms of Death” included those nice visuals and light effects. In truth I could take some other song from “Stained Class” but this ballad always gets a warm response regardless of the audience so it served its place. Next up “The Sentinel” – one of those long enduring Priest classics again not heard for several years. For the first few seconds of the opening harmonies Glenn didn’t have his guitar turned on but picked it up quickly. For the first time in the show, Rob was really struggling with a song. To be honest “The Sentinel” is incredibly difficult to pull off live and the original studio version is out of this world in terms of vocal performance. So a bit of roughness in this case was inevitable.
Now it was time for the song many hard core fans had been waiting for. The one and only, king of heavy metal epics: “Blood Red Skies.” The lights and flames added the drama, musically it sounded as great as ever with pedals and effects. As for Halford, he did a lot better than “The Sentinel” singing the first falsetto lines from a lower register more suitable to his current voice. Again the original studio version from “Ram It Down” is inhuman, and Rob did a good job considering 23 years have passed.
“Green Manalishi” and “Breaking The Law” offered a crowd a chance to sing along. The audience was really loud although few by this time were passing out following the “too much alcohol, too little water” tactic. “Painkiller” closed the main set in its usual fashion. Hard core fans may have been hoping for “One Shot At The Glory” since the concert’s intro tape, but “Painkiller” always comes down very well as the closing song.
For first encores we got the “Electric Eye” and “Hell Bent For Leather” with the usual motorbike. The solo section of “Hell Bent For Leather” was altered with Richie playing an extra solo after Glenn’s famous lead break.
Second encore started with Rob having the Finnish flag on his shoulders and began his traditional crowd singing part which segued to “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’.” The sing-along part in the middle was preceded with another guitar solo from Richie which derived mostly from his Randy Rhoads-influences. After band took their bows many thought the show was over based on two previous concerts but after a short while Rob announced “I want to do one more, I know it ain’t exactly midnight but who gives a fuck?” Priest came back for third time and launched into “Living After Midnight.” Again fans got to sing their hearts out and right at 10 PM, the show was finally over. 2 hours and 15 minutes of metal madness.
The light show and flames did suffer a bit from the clear daylight but it was still very impressive show visually. And visuals have never been the main thing with Priest anyway; it’s all down to music as it should be. Speaking of individual performances, Glenn Tipton, Ian Hill and Scott Travis all did a solid, fine job. Tonight most were watching Halford and the new guy on guitar. Like said before, Rob was impressive and giving up smoking has done wonders to his voice. He did have some rough parts during the songs mentioned above but overall and considering this is still the early days of a long tour, I’m sure things will get smoother and Halford’s vocals sharper.
Then there was a certain new lead guitarist to talk about as well. It was impossible to ignore the absence of K.K. Downing but admittedly Richie Faulkner did very good job and added his own stamp to certain songs with extended solo sections. He did his best and truthfully the man is an excellent guitarist. Priest may not be the same Priest without K.K. but tonight’s show was still a classic metal feast and a perfect way to end the most spectacular festival ever held in Finnish soil.
Heading Out To The Highway
Victim Of Changes
Diamonds And Rust
Beyond The Realms Of Death
Blood Red Skies
Breaking The Law
Hell Bent For Leather
You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’
Living After Midnight