Kiss, Motorhead and more at Arrow Rock Festival Gofferpark (2008)

Arrow Rock Festival Gofferpark (Nijmegen, Netherlands)

Kiss, Motorhead, Whitesnake, Twisted Sister, Def Leppard, Kansas, Journey, Gotthard, Reo Speedwagon
Arrow Rock Festival's 2008 installment was maybe the best choice for any 'classic' (hard) Rock […]
By Grigoris Chronis
June 15, 2008

Arrow Rock Festival's 2008 installment was maybe the best choice for any 'classic' (hard) Rock fan; would not miss the chance in other words, to see fewer - in regards to other European summer fests - but more 'grand' bands.

Located - for the first time - in the Gofferpark wide-spread park in the city of Nijmegen (in the kinda 'eastern' part of Holland), the 6th 'chapter' of the festival (has welcomed bands like BLUE OYSTER CULT, Fish, HEART, G3, JUDAS PRIEST, SAGA, U.F.O., Y&T, YES, STYX, SURVIVOR, BLACKFOOT, DEEP PURPLE, DIO, STATUS QUO, WISHBONE ASH, AEROSMITH, EUROPE and TOTO) did bear - again - a resemblance to an all-star lineup billing.

KISS, MOTORHEAD, WHITESNAKE, DEF LEPPARD, TWISTED SISTER, KANSAS, JOURNEY, REO SPEEDWAGON and GOTTHARD. The participation of KISS in the billing would anyway raise way more the number of fans present over here, with US rockers JOURNEY's and REO SPEDDWAGON's addition helping more to expect a fully packed arena. So did I think, while waiting anxiously to enter not later than 11:00 an under a willing-to-rain sky.

Have not been to any of the previous years' installments but did widely see some great atmosphere from the very beginning. Two stages were already set to accept the participants, with the one on the back_center called as the 'Rock Garden' one - bearing a main area barriers-rounded space for the deluxe tickets holders. The other one - called Open Arrow Rock Stage - was located in the rear left, being relatively smaller but with the same vibe. In terms of facilities, there were more than 30 spots for food and drink, a separate area with stalls of people selling LPs_CDs_merchandise and related stuff (tattoos, clothing etc), a special area in the center of the field with official merchandise from the bands and the festival itself, a good-view spot for disabled people, lots of WCs, a lockers van...what else?...huh, that's already a helluva service for a summer fest.

Raining - raining not - raining - raining not: that was the whole case that day.

Still, the mood was fine all around (I eventually witnessed more than 30,000 visitors while unofficial rumors made it up for even more) and, as soon as REO SPEEDWAGON hit the 'main' stage all suspicion was put to rest. Kevin Cronin and Co. rapidly convinced us that we'd have a great one-hour set full of rockin' melodic Rock, due to their wide smile, great crystal clear sound and vast setlist. Honoring mostly their 'classic' tracks (isn't this what festivals are more?) REO performed grant hits like Don't Let Him Go, Keep Pushin, Keep On Lovin' You, Take It On The Run, Can't Fight This Feeling, Back On The Road Again, Ridin' The Strom Out (must have forgotten a couple) plus Smilin' In The End from their 2007 fifteenth studio album Find Your Own Way Home.

Kevin Chronin was an oasis to witness. Constantly smiling, with a great acoustic guitar sound, he did guide the whole band in presenting some impressive performance that would lave no one un-interested (even non-fans of the band). Neal Doughty, the only founding member of the 1971-born band, was dominant in his keyboards/piano set; a guru of the Hammond_Minimoog synthesizer, the trademark for the REO sound, he was silent yet bombastic. Lead guitarsist Dave Amato (Ted Nugent - replaced longtime axeman Gary Richrath in 1989) was simple yet ample in his duties, bassist Bruce Hall (Ted Nugent) again provided the appropriate solid backup while he again did the lead vocals in Ridin' The Storm Out and drummer Bryan Hitt (Cher, Graham Nash and Spencer Davis Group) did nothing less than supplying the right grooves for everyone moving to the rhythm. Well done, really well done!

Swiss hardrockers GOTTHARD was next on the bill, in the 2nd stage. Did not see much of their setlist, mainly due to endless hunger and appetite for cold beer(s) and - trust me - it can take up to 30 minutes to order both in the relative stalls. From what I had the chance to hear/see at times, they had a fat sound with guitars on top, meaning they could deliver some nice set. And they did, judging from the reaction of the crowd. Steve Lee's voice was somehow harsh but overall fine; he did make everyone jump on/off with Anytime Anywhere and Mountain Mama, with lead guitarist Steve Leoni providing some ass-kicking performance in full sound. Really wish the band would play later on in the afternoon, but - on the other hand - which band of the rest of the lineup would someone switch slots with?

The main reason for my trip was right on the main stage at 14:45 sharp. One of the creators of the Arena_FM_AOR Rock sound, JOURNEY's performance was highly anticipated, mainly due to new singer Arnel Pineda's presence. Still, the time the first notes of Never Walk Away did break away no objections would someone find to resist. The first track off JOURNEY's brand new album Revelation proved to be a great opener for the quintet's setlist, in its 'sweet' mode, while Pineda shut all mouths off with some spectacular singing, clear and distinct, powerful and melodic. This status did last throughout all of JOURNEY's songs.

What songs? Separate Ways, Only The Young, Ask The Lonely, Don't Stop Believin', Wheel In The Sky, Faithfully, Any Way You Want It, Be Good To Yourself, Lights...phewww...what else?...can't recall right now. Anyway, all songs were played with total professionalism but also great energy and honesty. Neal Schon's sound was tremendous, his guitar leads were impressive, Ross Valory's dominant presence onstage was faultless, Jonathan Cain provided some really inspiring keys_piano sound and - not to forget, of course - Dean Castronovo's (CACOPHONY, BAD ENGLISH, WILD DOGS, HARDLINE, Ozzy Osbourne) 'heavy' pounding (with enough of double-bass drumming) confirmed this was always needed by the band in order to balance the songs' 'cute' face. Watch out, if you're a JOURNEY fan, you should not miss them playin' live in your town.

KANSAS: I did manage to miss their performance, due to a long-time illness entitled as record collecting (400 Euros in 30 minutes...OK...). I did succeed in listening to the legendary band performing Fight Fire With Fire, however, which brought a wide smile in my_our face, being maybe the best off their non-complex 80s tunes.

I was really looking forward to DEF LEPPARD's performance, mainly for the reason that I had never seen them onstage in prior but also for the rumors that their setlist consists of lots of 'oldies'. Being a long-time-ago beloved band, the Sheffield-based British quintet had lost my respect with nearly all their post-Adrenalize releases (still, I consider Euphoria a nice album overall) plus the new album did not attract my interest either. So, what I did witness in their 60-minute set was full professionalism (apart from Joe Elliot's voice, who did not manage - in my ears - to perform at full value) but a kinda not that 'warm' approach. Maybe it was the whether, maybe the ultra-perfect sound of the studio takes cannot ever be presented equally onstage...dunno...

The setlist was good, in general: Rocket, C'mon C'mon, Armageddon It, Hysteria, Rock On, Animal, Photograph, Rock Of Ages, Pour Some Sugar On Me, Let's Get Rocked and a couple of tunes more maybe. A bass solo was included, too, the sound was more than adequate, and I have the impression most of the spectators enjoyed a nice show by the Leps. I only wish they were more vivid in their reactions with the crowd.
It is not necessary for a band like TWISTED SISTER to have makeup on, and the usual dress code, to kick some ass. What if Dee Snider had a sleepless (couple of) night(s)? What if they were late enough in The Netherlands to dress properly up (a helicopter was hired to pick Dee up from Amsterdam and get him to the fest)? Take some ol' wine, shelve it up for years, get it out and drink it bottoms up. Slurpy, huh? Enough where the troubles with Eddie Ojeda's guitar in the beginning, but - as time passed by - things got steady and the band was already breaking loose with monumental goodies like You Can't Stop Rock 'N' Roll, Under The Blade, The Beast, I Wanna Rock, We're Not Gonna Take It, Shoot 'Em Down etc. A TWISTED SISTER setlist will not possibly take by surprise someone, anyway, but when you can have an Amercian hardhittin' Rock party in front of you why should you close the door?

For one more time, a young at heart Dee Snider was the driving force: screaming, headbannging, raising hell, teasing the crowd ( all you over there at the main stage...the stage's empty for fuck's sake!...) and - in genral - being a great entertainer. He (or JJ? Phew...) mentioned a things or two regarding the fest lineup, praising it as a really 'classic' one, while JJ (or Dee?...I'm losing it...) again slammed all the TV reality shows two-week-career singers. In the background stood A.J. Pero, whose skin pounding was as merciless as expected (even if he - I think - exaggerates a little bit in loops and double-bass drumming at times). As for Mark The Animal? Bless him, the man's a mountain and slaps the bass like a nasty arse, after more than 25 years. I don't want a new TS album. Never. I just wanna see 'em playing live till the day I_we_they die.
When it starts to rain in Holland, humidity is a killing weapon. Running to the main stage it was time for WHITESNAKE to hit the lights, in front of a wet audience really looking for a dynamic show, equal to the potential of this year's Good To Be Bad comeback album. Did we get what we want? In terms of setlist and musicianship I'd bet the band gave a fine roll, with Doug Aldrich (LION, BAD MOON RISING, DIO) and Reb Beach (WINGER, DOKKEN) spiting dual fire at first sight. The rhythm section was fine too, fat to the bone, and songs like Still Of The Night, Is This Love, Lay Down Your Love, Best Years and Fool For Your Loving amongst a set of approximately twelve cuts. Great, huh?

Well, not that really, at least in my opinion. Unfortunately, David's voice was - at its best - average, struggling to sing in more than mid-pitch parts. The back-up vocals did help him survive, in general, but it was obvious that he couldn't make it. Sad to say this, still this charismatic frontman is the trademark for a WHITESNAKE performance, but - just because of this - you can easily be 'let down' when you have a certain picture in your mind regarding what you should hear. Else, his onstage behavior was fascinating (as always) and I bet enough ladies that evening got again wet staring at this 57-year-old loverboy. Cause he still is, I admit.

The day a MOTORHEAD gig becomes boring, the same day aliens will take over earth. Lemmy stepped in the side stage, the band kicked off with Dr. Rock and everything was louder than everything else. Lemmy's figure is kind of an icon, and - with the assistance of some prowlin' Phil Campbell and enough of a rebellious Mikkey Dee - one more party had begun. The sound was excellent, from my point of viewing, and MOTORHEAD did not let anyone down. Overkill, Ace Of Spades, Killed By Death, Just 'Cos You Got The Power, a cover of THIN LIZZY's Rosalie, Metropolis, Killers...woa...

Lemmy's voice stood malignant and reckless, Phil was making noise and Mikkey thrashed all around, with the whole audience applauding each and every moment; an everlasting value is MOTORHEAD for our music, and - judging from this onstage performance - we'll have them around as long as possible. During Killed By Death it was Dee Snider who hit the stage to sing along, praising MOTORHEAD's importance afterwards. You bet, Dee, you bet.

Having seen KISS in Greece nearly a month ago, I was looking forward to see them again onstage for three reasons: a) KISS does not play in your neighborhood twice a week (more likely they're playing once a decade?), b) there were some objections I had during Athens' show (mostly sound-wise) and would like to confirm whose 'fault' this was, plus c) KISS is KISS and, whether you like them or not, it is a great part of the whole Hard/Heavy history to see the Stanley_Simmons duo performing songs now counting (even) 35 years of record. And, yes, their addition to the Arrow Rock Festival did push on the total of spectators, just by witnessing how many 'makeup' faces and band T-shirts were scattered here and there.

The hottest band in the world broke loose from up above in an elevating platform. Deuce did burst out and it was all there. The makeup, the costumes, the lights, the pyros, the platforms, the grand KISS logo in
the back. It was kinda weird to see most of their set before the sun had set down (in Holland darkness comes up after 22:00), but - anyway - I was eventually blown away from the soundblast and the stage show. As for the songs? It's now old news KISS honors their 70s songlist at most of this Alive 35 tour, so if you're into the Alive! period you should have got a helluva time listening to blistering cuts like Strutter, Hotter Than Hell, C'mon And love Me, Parasite, She, Let Me Go Rock 'N' Roll, Black Diamond and Rock 'N' Roll All Night. Starting their remaining set with Shout it Out Loud, it was time for some more recent(!!!) stuff to be heard, such as Lick It Up, I Love It Loud, I Was Made For Loving you, Love Gun and Detroit Rock City. OK, it's an unstable setlist (many many fans would like to hear more of the 80s 'party' hits, I guess) but, hey!, it's KISS playing (see reasons a) and c) in the previous paragraph) and you should enjoy any setlist.

Paul Stanley's throat was not in such a good shape; he did not succeed in scoring in the high-pitched parts. Still, his persona and onstage behavior unveiled such a feel that I don't think anyone was eventually really bothered. He climbed up above us during Love Gun and was in constant motion to cheer the crowd up, that - I have to admit - really honored the quartet. Gene Simmons was the 'figure' he's been shaped to be all these years and - I bet - he was smiling wide while lifted up to sing I Love It Loud in front of such an audience. Tommy Thayer was as a roller - even if I (again) found his solo part quite poor for his experience and the band he's now playing with - while Eric Singer was a bulldozer of drums, providing the real 'metal' amplitude with his pounding to upgrade (in terms of volume) the 70s vibe of most of the songs. He's a great singer, too, we again had the chance to discover.

KISS left the stage under a thunderous applaud. The whole event I bet this applaud was for. The bands, the sound, the management, the facilities...everything was of good quality. The Netherlands offered a great fest and we would not wish something less than having an even more impressive roaster in 2009. Thumps up, in summary!

(Photos by Ada Blonde Angel Goudriaan)








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