Royal Hunt, Godiva at Gagarin 205 Club (2008)

Gagarin 205 Club (Athens, Greece)

Royal Hunt, Godiva
Usually May is a warm and hot month for Greece, with sunny weather and streets […]
By Grigoris Chronis
May 7, 2008

Usually May is a warm and hot month for Greece, with sunny weather and streets full of slightly dressed girls. But, in May 7th, a cool breezy wind and a dark cloudy sky showed that ROYAL HUNT - along with GODIVA - were playing in our city. Around 8 o' clock Gagarin 205 venue had less than 80 people waiting for GODIVA to hit the stage. The band had made another appearance for the Greek crowd two years ago, opening for WHITESNAKE and SCORPIONS, and their comeback with a new (fellow Greek) guitar player in the lineup was well accepted from the Greek audience.

(Yiannis Z. on GODIVA set)

At 9:00pm GODIVA finally hit the stage with their heavy, solid sound and two songs from their new album Destruction. Fernardo Garcia made his best efforts to cheer up the crowd and Papacharitos along with Mitch Kootz handled the energetic part of the stage performance.

The Metal headbangers in the club doubled, as GODIVA were performing, and the band gave us a taste of strong balls-to-the-wall kind of Metal music with songs like Heavy Metal Thunder, Call Me Under 666 and the ACCEPT-orientated Let The Tanks Roll. Last-minute replacement on the drums, Stefan Schwarzmann (ACCEPT, KROKUS, HELLOWEEN, RUNNING WILD, U.D.O.) proved to be an excellent professional musician with some flawless performance. GODIVA thanked the Greek crown and concluded their set with Vicious Blade from their brand new Destruction album.

GODIVA set list:

01. Destruction
02. Pedal To The Metal
03. Proud To Be A Beast
04. Heavy Metal Thunder
05. My Fate
06. Call Me Under 666
07. Let The Tanks Roll
08. Vicious Blade

(Grigoris on ROYAL HUNT set)

This specific blend I would not characterize as my finest cup of tea, but - in any means - ROYAL HUNT has always stood tall in creating_performing some good-looking neoclassical_pomp Metal(?) style and, as we witnessed the six-feet-and-beyond tall Andre Andersen hitting the stage to take command on his keys_piano set, I was quite sure we'd have a good time from then on, sound-permitted. The whole band rushed in, in dim lights, and - taking their place on stage (a sweet blond lady was included, to handle the backing vocals) - River Of Pain did burst out in wide applause.

First thing I noticed was Mark Boals aura; a favorite voice, back from the Yngwie J. Malmsteen days, I was wondering how he would 'act' singing the old tunes, bearing in mind this was the band's opening slot for their 2008 tour. Well, any song played off the Paradox II CD was his own winning. His voice stands proud, with enough of high-pitched screaming and lots of passion and theatrical 'mode' in singing. In the oldest RH tracks, he had some slight problems remembering the lyrics but - anyway - did not let the chance adapting some of his own style in the vocal harmonies. Backed by three-member back-up singing, the outcome was more than good while it became quite exciting in many parts.

With an average sound in the beginning, things did get way much better as time passed by. For a band like ROYAL HUNT the matter of sound does count. Thankfully, Andersen's sound was fine all the way and - as soon as things were fixed regarding the guitar amplitude - it was a nice surprise for the few spectators to witness the supremacy of guitarist Marcus Jidell (JECKYLL & HYDE, THE RING). A RH member from the Paper Blood days, he simply blew me away with his astonishingly sharp-but-ardent playing; not as tall as Andre, but quite 'large', his cooperation_cross-firing with Andersen's keys was one of the highlights of the show. His sound was average in the beginning but did gradually get better and better.

The rhythm section of Per Schelander (HOUSE OF SHAKIRA) and Magnus Ulfstedt (official drummer Allan Sorensen's replacement for this tour) did nothing less than keeping the perfect backup for ROYAL HUNT's multi-coloring music to be unveiled. Hence, to the music itself: the pallet of Andersen and Co. was spread wide all over Gagarin Club. There were times you thought you're part of some 'other' eras, a witness of Apocalypse or a Renaissance key-facts bystander. The band did not let the 'limited fans' phenomenon drag them down and delivered some 2-hour set of 'albums divided' setlist (as 'expanded' in the next paragraph). Minor - if any - mistakes, tons of pompous playing, pieces old-school soloing from Jidell at times, and - the 'key' fact? - a general scope of we're here, the music's good and let's have a great 'neoclassical' time. Sometimes Boals was just what the doctor ordered, and the crowd did nothing less than applauding as much as possible, rewarding him for what he's generally offered to our beloved music so far.

Songs? The setlist consisted of two parts; the first one featured equal tunes from the two Paradox albums, and - neither Boals nor any other member speaking in-between - the atmosphere was rather mystique. River Of Pain, The First Rock, Message To God, The Clan, Long Way Home (eerie...), Hostile Breed, Time Will Tell, Tears Of The Sun, It's Over and Chaos A.C. were performed; 5 tunes off each album, with appropriate intermezzos building up a grotesque picture from time to time. This idea was just fine, to comprehend the relation between the predecessor and the successor (concept-wise).

As an add-on, 7-8 songs did follow with specific mention to be made for The Mission (off 2001's same-titled album) and Can't Let Go (from the Eye Witness CD). Given the chance to fool around in an entertaining blues_jazz_swing_boogie jam for awhile (Andersen was brought frontstage 'wearing' this dunno-the-name portable keyboard), it was eventually time for the last 'one cut'. With Andre stepping back again to his lair, the keys intro of Last Goodbye brought up in mind the first time I got to know ROYAL HUNT back in 1995. One of the most consistent RH songs ever, in my humble opinion; the crowd went crazy, the lights did 'promote' the music smartly, the band ended up bowing with a wide smile on their face and...need more? Anyone?

Will ROYAL HUNT perform again live in Athens, Greece? Dunno. Still, for those that decided to attend this gig, it was nothing less than an exciting experience. A nice and 'different' gig, to be more precise.

(photos by Yiannis Z and Nikolas Dolkas)



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