Day Three dawns heavy-lidded and limbed, but we soldier on and manfully make our way to the arena just in time for a quick livener courtesy of the endearing Night Demon. The first two songs are attacked with such enthusiasm that accuracy and, indeed, pitch find themselves reduced to second class citizenship; however things soon calm down and Life on the Run and especially a superb take on Save Me Now really show the band at their best. They’re almost certainly better suited to a sweaty, beer-fumed club, but they give it their all today and they make for an enjoyable kick off to our final day in the fresh(?) air of Gelsenkirchen. By the time the band round things off with their signature track Night Demon the denim-and-leathered earthrats down the front are eating from their hands.
Ostensibly listening to Uli Jon Roth should be the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon; But after the endorphins have not so much been released by Night Demon as forcibly liberated, something a little stiffer is required to keep the vibe going, even though the bulk of the UJR set today is made up of Scorpions classics.
The crowd love it, though, and biscuit tin snare drum sound apart, there’s some pretty serious musicianship going down before our very eyes. Crystal Breeze frontman Niklas Turmann provides some good vocal accompaniment to the three-pronged guitar assault, and whilst The Sails of Charon and Fly to the Rainbow are always a pleasure to hear, today they don’t hit the spot as required.
Coroner, on the other hand, very much do. The hit the spot repeatedly, with a very blunt instrument, banishing any last aches behind the eyes from last night’s revelry and replacing them with a heavy weight on the chest that refuses to leave for the hour long duration of their set.
Stripped down brutality is the order of the day, with the added excitement of outlandish keyboard noises and samples, and the crystal-clear soloing of Tommy T. Baron. It’s difficult, it’s angular, it’s all the things festival music isn’t meant to be, and yet it connects on a gut level not just with me, but with the majority of the crowd around me. A surprise triumph of sorts, not because I didn’t expect Coroner to be good, but nobody could have told me they’d be this good.
And that’s the difficult bit of the day done. Only three bands left now behind us and a tedious wait at the airport, and thank heaven the first is Sweden’s Backyard Babies.
Storming into Made Me Madman is a good move – it’s one of the only BB songs I’m familiar with – but in reality you don’t need to know any Backyard Babies songs to get sucked into the good times they generate. Nicke Borg and Dregen riff like, well, madmen, and Borg’s well worn voice leads from the front as anthem after anthem tumbles haphazardly out of the speaker towers.
Dysfunctional Professional is a rollicking crowd pleasure that mixes Social Distortion with Rancid, but for the most part Backyard Babies remain very much their own men. Bombed (Out of my Mind) and Th1rte3n or Nothing are late set faves, but every track gets the feet, throat and fists moving and you can’t ask for more than that. Entertainment plus, as my marketing manager at work might say.
But all this has just been messing about, frankly. The two most important bands of the weekend are now upon us: First up, Armored Saint.
Put simply, Armored Saint are fucking brilliant. They rarely disappoint live, and in John Bush they have one of the most enduringly great metal throats in the business. The stage armour might be sadly long gone – in fact the best way to describe what Bush is wearing this afternoon would be ‘strange’ – but the metal lives on.
It’s very much a greatest hits set tonight; March of the Saint and Reign of Fire kick the door in by way of introduction, whilst at the other end of the set Win Hands Down and a rampant Can U Deliver prove that what ever year this band was writing songs, it was writing good ‘uns. The harmony leads provided by guitarists Phil Sandoval and Jeff Duncan during Win Hands Down is one of the most spine-tingling moments of the whole festival for this reviewer.
I reviewed headliners Saxon at a Euro festival last year, and I don’t want to be labelled a one-trick pony so I’ll keep this brief; in front of a rabid and very partisan crowd – is there any other at a Saxon show? – the band once again delivered with a high octane, superbly paced set that once again proved that this band has one of the biggest repositories of self-written quality heavy metal in the known Universe. All the hits, some of the misses, chest-beating anthems, roustabout singalongs, all are given an airing tonight and there’s not a man, woman or child who doesn’t leave the arena tonight drenched in sweat and fully satiated. Saxon are masters of this kind of thing, and tonight they proved that once again.
Let’s do it all again next year!
Backyard Babies photo by Tanja Schilling