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Melodic Rock Festival - Live Review
MELODIC ROCK FESTIVAL
ELEPHANT & WHEELBARROW, MELBOURNE
May 13th-14th 2016

Melodic Rock Festival

There's only one man in Australia who could have pulled this off so well - Melodicrock.com's Andrew McNeice who has been shouting loud for the cause of Melodic Rock music for as long as we can remember! After three outings in the U.S. the Melodic Rock Festival finally came 'home' to Melbourne Australia and brought with it a rather impressive line-up of local and international acts, all with their own unique take on the Melodic Rock genre. The best thing of course about festivals like this is that amongst the bands you can't wait to see you always unearth some gems, and sure enough we did.
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DAY ONE - FRIDAY 13 MAY 2016 For those investing in the future of the Festival with a V.I.P. pass the fun started even before the doors officially opened on Friday with a set by 'Special Guests' Erik Gronwall and Jona Tee of Swedish Melodic Hard Rockers - H.E.A.T.




H.E.A.T.'s ERIK GRONWALL AND JONA TEE

As an entree (or appetizer for our American readers) it's the perfect introduction to what is to come with Erik and Jona tearing through a lively acoustic set that included 'Living on the Run'; 'In and Out of Trouble' and an entirely fitting and rousing version of 'Highway to Hell' before ending with rather a rarity in the first song Erik ever wrote, called, he tells us: 'It's Friday Night and I Want to Drink Some Beer' whose lively chorus is soon taken up by the crowd still marveling about this guy's stunning voice.

With the rest of the afternoon stood at the end of the bar drinking a few Pale Ales with Eric from Eclipse talking music and the qualities of English beer (onstage the band drank 'Old Speckled Hen' fact fans) and catching up with Paul Laine and talking The Defiants (the great new band he's just put together with Bruno and Kee from Danger Danger his former band) things couldn't have got off to a better start.

Friday of course being a work day for most took a little while to fill up, but the 'Elephant' venue had already proven it had a room with a great sound and the mixing was pretty much spot on from any vantage point.




THE RADIO SUN (ACOUSTIC SET)

Melbourne's own The Radio Sun, were busy guys this weekend not only plying both electric and acoustic but also providing the backing for Paul Laine later on both days. For a local act there's a remarkable amount of talent here: great vocals, searing guitar and a backline most bands don't get anywhere near. With two world class albums behind them they are a band with real passion and talent to go with that ability and most importantly of all the songs.




PAUL LAINE (ACOUSTIC SET)

We're so lucky to have so many great vocalists on stage this year but right at the top of the tree are three of Melodic Rock's real greats: Paul Laine (D2), Erik Gronwall (H.E.A.T.) and Erik Martensson (Eclipse): all different, all distinct and all full of power and melody. Paul Laine may well be best known for his work with Danger Danger but as his short acoustic set shows whether with Dark Horse, Shugaazer or solo there's huge melody in his work and real power and emotion in his voice. And tonight his first set of the festival highlights the lighter moments of his repertoire, leaving the real D2 rockers till Saturday's electric set.




BLACK MAJESTY

To a casual observer Black Majesty's muscular Metal looked very much like the odd man out on the bill, but looking at it from another point of view it's just another reason to check out the fest and the guys don't disappoint with a remarkably melodic acoustic set, the cherry on the top of which had to be a ripping cover of Deep Purple's 'Soldier of Fortune' which might have even been one of the highlights of the Festival.




TONK

Canberra's 'Tonk' were the big surprise of the Festival, few had heard of them and few knew what to expect when singer 'Jinks' appeared on stage with his peroxide Mohican! What we got was one of the surprises of the Festival - with a sound that took a bit of UFO, a pinch of Y&T, maybe even the attitude of Rose Tattoo, they were well worth checking out and more than worthy of their slot. Cool guys too, even if they do hail from Australia's least rocking city! Great songs, great vocals, scorching guitars and a lot of fun they're a band that deserved to be here and proved themselves to be a real band to look out for. Check out their latest release 'Ruby Voodoo' - I've been giving my vinyl copy a hammering!




VANISHING POINT

Vanishing Point added yet further texture to the evening, throwing a healthy dose of 'Prog' into the mix with a sound that owed more than a little to Queensryche in their prime and a well-chosen set of songs that showcased nicely their take on Melodic Metal.

With such a great string of releases behind them it's perhaps their latest album 'Distant is the Sun' that offers most melody and begs the question that the best may yet be to come.




SISTERS DOLL

Fridays show-closer's Sisters Doll won the battle of the first day's T-shirt wars with a healthy slice of the crowd sporting the 'Dollhouse' shirt. Even more impressive to some though was singer Brennan's vintage Magnum tour shirt. The boys from small-town WA have come a long way since playing red-dirt country towns and since their move to Melbourne have gone from strength to strength, making the final of one of those reality TV talent shows we don't like to mention!

As a live act they have it all: boundless energy, catchy glammed up Kiss-chorused songs, great musicianship, and some nice onstage banter. It's all of course led to a slick set studded with show-pieces (I think that Austin-s light up hat took some beating) and great crowd-engagement with fans singing along to their songs and throwing themselves into the music. It's hard for a casual observer not to join in! They're also a great bunch of hard-working lads too flying all the way up to Townsville the day after their slot here to play two shows.

Closing with a rousing rendition of their heroes Kiss 'Love Gun' it's fair to say that the 'Elephant' rocked considerably.

As a warm up day for the main event tomorrow there were a lot of very happy Melodic Rock fans in Melbourne tonight.




DAY TWO - SATURDAY 14 MAY 2016

After starting the day cranking out a little 'Eclipse' and a hearty breakfast the showcase day of the Melodic Rock Festival looked on paper to be a great mix of local and international Melodic Rock talent, but in truth it ended up far surpassing expectations...




TEARGAS

Getting the day off to a great start, it didn't feel at all like it had been 11 years since 'Teargas' had played together, as they proceeded to play a set of passion and precision and a whole heap of melody. In truth at times it looked like the band were having the times of their lives reconnecting with the music and the not insignificant section of the audience that were there when they were regulars on the Melbourne scene.

Tracks like 'Don't Turn Away' from their very first EP still sounded great and with the promise of another show after a rousing rendition of crowd favourite, the huge-sounding melodic rocker 'Crazy' it will be a case of fingers crossed and eyes closed that we won't have seen the last of these guys.




SERPENTINE SKY

If you wanted more hard rock then 'Serpentine Sky' (who used to just go by 'Serpentine' back in the heady days of the late eighties) was a great addition to the festival. Coming across like a mash of early Skid Row and 70's era Van Halen they certainly knew how to hold a groove and turn it up loud!

Opener 'Whole Lotta Love' (not a cover, and a damned fine track) is just the way you should start a set - with your best foot forward, but in truth there was little not to like about these guys - the songs were there, the musicianship impressive and Patrick Creamer's vocals were particularly solid and at times remarkable especially on the standout of the set 'Strong is the Love' which everyone needs to hear!




THE RADIO SUN

As the busiest band of the Festival (also backing Paul Laine) there's something about The Radio Sun that shouts out 'get us on a bigger stage'. If you haven't heard them then do yourselves a huge favor and check out their two albums. Live though and finally plugged in they are a revelation - the great songs you hear on the albums are even better live and from the opening salvo of 'Caught Between Heaven And A Heartbreak' you know you are going to be unable to resist.

Releasing their third record in September this year you wonder sometimes why our local music scene struggles to fill venues when locally you have guys this damned good out there.




WHITE WIDDOW

If you like the lighter edge to your rock and crave a fix of Melodic Rock and AOR, high on melodies and swimming in keys, then Melbourne's own White Widdow have the kind of sound that reminds you of the likes of Journey, Foreigner, Survivor and the mainstream acts of the early to mid-eighties who dominated U.S. radio.

Great songs, a nice energetic set and plenty of crowd-pleasing moments show you why the band is so highly regarded even if at times the songs can sound a little similar they are lifted by the stunning guitar of Enzo Almanzi. For many Melbourne fans seeing these guys is a regular occurrence and by the number of people singing along you can see how loved they are in these parts.

With songs as good as 'Reckless Nights'; 'Broken Hearts Won't Last Forever' and 'Caught In The Crossfire' though you know that there are few bands around at the moment anywhere on the globe who do this kind of music this well.




BB STEAL

Not many here had seen BB Steel, the semi-mythical Aussie rockers who back in the day were tagged with that oft-used 'Next big thing' label, put out a great album ('On the Edge'), supported Def Leppard and then sort of faded from view. Tonight they are back and they are loud with an unmistakable essence of Def Leppard about their sound Craig Csongrady struts around the stage with ALL the moves.

These guys are a revelation, and well worth the wait even if the vocals are a little too low in the mix initially for everyone's liking. Playing the entire album 'On the Edge' it really does make you wonder why these guys were not huge.




ERIK GRONWALL & JONA TEE FROM H.E.A.T. (and members of WHITE WIDDOW)

Turning 'fun' up to eleven and the clock back to the late eighties Erik and Jona from H.E.A.T. ably backed by the guys from White Widdow really got the party started with a set that took some of H.E.A.T's best songs and nestled them up against some real Hard Rock classics.

Anyone who had met Erik over the weekend knew what a great guy he was and as a 'special guest' of the festival I know all of us in attendance were glad that the 'special guest' status got stretched to first an acoustic show (for VIPs on the Friday) and then and electric one too! Man what a voice the guy has! If you don't know H.E.A.T. and I can't think many in the room weren't familiar with them then actually getting to hear two of them live gave you a taste of what the band must be like in full flight. Songs like 'Mannequin Show'; 'Living on the Run'; 'Tearing down the Walls' and 'Inferno' are cast iron modern rock classics everyone should own, and you'll be hard pushed to see a guy with more passio on stage than Erik.

It was nice to also hear them play Mitch Malloy's 'Anything at All' as a kind of tip of the hat to the artist who had to pull out of this year's event... And if you want to see a bunch of Melodic Rockers going wild then covers of The Gunners 'Paradise City' and Skid Row's '18 and Life' ticked that box in style.




PAUL LAINE

Paul Laine has to be one of the nicest guys in the business and the sort of guy you can just fall into a conversation with especially of it's about music. (Check out our interview coming soon). He also happens to have a stunning voice and tonight is ably supported by the guys from The Radio Sun (whose latest album he produced).

After a stunning acoustic set the previous night tonight it's time to pull out the Rock with Danger Danger classics like 'Don't Walk Away' and 'Bang Bang' and the huge ballad 'I Still Think About You'. One of the highlights for us though was the two numbers he played from the recently released album by 'The Defiants' and the choice cuts from his solo work capped by the unmissable 'Dorianna'.

It is certainly one of the highlights of the weekend and it's great to chat to Paul after the set and share a little joke he had with us the day before about the lyric sheets he has on stage as a safety net!




ECLIPSE

For those that love their hard rock and complain that there aren't the bands out there that do it as good as they used to here's one word for you - 'Eclipse'.

By the time Eclipse take to the stage it's Sunday, though thanks to Melbourne's licensing laws (which are far less restrictive than say Sydney) overrunning isn't an issue with the venue open till 3a.m. The house is also now completely full and loud and there's not been a hint of trouble all weekend with the Melodic Rock brotherhood guilty of only a few questionable T-shirts and the occasional out of tune backing vocal...
Eclipse live is insane and the energy level on stage is clearly firing up the crowd. The most amazing thing about the show is the intensity from the off - there's no build or delay - they simply launch into it and don't stop rocking until the sweat is dripping off the walls.

Starting with the huge loud hard rock anthem 'I Don't Want to Say I'm Sorry' the set starts at breakneck speed and covers all the bases taking in the best of Eclipse's last three albums. Like a lot in attendance I for one never thought we would see a band like Eclipse on Australian soil anytime soon, but that is the beauty of the Festival and the choice of Eclipse as headliner is absolutely perfect.

For sheer intensity it doesn't get much better than this - for the older crowd Eclipse bring back those feelings of the bands of your youth and rekindle that feeling you thought had slipped away, for the younger crowd the excitement is just as palpable - the hairs just stand on end when you get to hear the very best modern Melodic Hard Rock has to offer. It's in truth a set that has no highlights for me - it's ALL a highlight and new drummer Philip Crusner also gets a strobe-lit solo to introduce himself.

Sharing a beer and talking to Erik earlier in the day had been a real pleasure but to see that guy who clearly has such a love and passion for music on stage is something to behold - he's a rock and roll monster as are his three partners in crime!




It's such a pleasure to hear a band so passionate about their music and to hear Erik talk about Sweden Rock and supporting the Scorpions in dates in Germany later in the year. And then you realise that the same guys who have been sharing a beer with you and have that burning passion and huge love of music are up there on stage RIGHT NOW doing it just as well and giving just as much as anyone and you have to raise a glass and think that tonight on stage at the Elephant and Wheelbarrow we are standing at the centre of all that is good about Rock and Roll. Here in Melbourne Australia! Thank you Eclipse and all that came before and thank you Mr. McNeice for putting this all together. Let's all do it again shall we?




Photo Gallery - click to enlarge
Day 1



Photo Gallery - click to enlarge
Day 2




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Review by Leslii Phillips
Photos by The Buffman