RockFest begins tomorrow, and in what appeared to be a straight-up money-grab, a fourth day was added to the event… which was not included in the ticket price. Nevertheless, those who had missed out on the VON HERTZEN BROTHERS/KINGSTON WALL shows, or those who missed out on RAINBOW recently, had a new opportunity to see both, alongside PEER GÜNT on June 6th, 2019, at the Hyvinkää airport in a pre-RockFest event! Check out the full festival gallery here.
Due to some logistical delays, we arrived at the festival grounds later than we had intended, and KINGSTON WALL was just starting when we reached the stage area. The music was immediately great – I’ve only listened to KW a handful of times, but I was immediately into everything that was going on. The gorgeous riffs, the happy faces, and the great proggy soundscapes were just wonderful.
I’ve never seen the VON HERTZEN BROTHERS live before, but I’ve heard tales of their prowess on stage and they completely delivered on all fronts. “Shine on Me” featured the melodica (also known as the “blow keyboard”!), which I’ve never seen put to as good use as was done by Jonne von Hertzen. Kie von Hertzen was whacking some cymbals with a drum stick in a few tracks, and Mikko von Hertzen had bongos as well.
The crowd was pretty roaring during the show too. “Stüldt Håjt” had a lot of chanting, and you couldn’t look around the crowd without finding a few people dancing and partying. JJylli, KINGSTON WALL‘s original bassist, got the crowd shouting out “I can’t sing, I can’t dance!” for “Mushrooms” and he was very fun to see. On stage, he looked like a stereotypical Finnish guy trying not to show how happy he was in the moment, which was also kind of great. “Mushrooms,” incidentally, was a ton of psychedelic grunge fun mixed in with another track I didn’t know. It was quite a surprise to hear a bit of MOTÖRHEAD‘s “Ace of Spades” in the set somewhere, but I thoroughly enjoyed the rendition. Mikko VH even had a solo on what appeared to my untrained eye to be snare drums. It was nice that the did a couple medleys as well, such as “Konevitsan Kirkonkellot / Kuusamo / I Feel Love / The Real Thing,” allowing for a lot more to be packed into their set.
Overall, I pretty much loved everything about this show. Not only were the performers full of smiles and happiness, but there was clear passion and joy in what they were doing, along with a great flare for performance. And the mysic itself was incredible. I hope they continue to do these KINGSTON WALL shows, because I would definitely come again!
Then it was time for RAINBOW. Everyone should know Ritchie Blackmore, if not from RAINBOW then from DEEP PURPLE, and everyone knows he’s a sort of… let’s call it temperamental artistic sort. As well, the show from Helsinki last year had a lot of problems, so this was an opportunity for them to save some face.
Alongside Blackmore on stage were Ronnie Romero (vocals), Bob Nouveau (bass), Jens Johansson [whom the locals know of STRATOVARIUS fame] (organ/keyboard), and David Keith (drums). As a bonus, Blackmore‘s wife and musical partner, Candice Night, was also present on backing vocals alongside another woman I didn’t recognize.
To be perfectly honest, I had certain expectations from this show and they were all exceeded. Romero was a sort of fun, charismatic frontman, clearly a good vocalist but not so good that he’d overshadow Blackmore. He was the only one of the main band not in a renaissance tunic, looking a little out of place but also visually suiting the music a bit more than the tunic-clad minstrels around him. He spent a lot of time engaging the audience, joking about how they didn’t do an encore last time and how the crowd was too quiet.
Perhaps the funniest moments of the show were when Blackmore was clearly getting riled up about something. I think already by the second song, something had pissed him off, and when Blackmore is not happy, he doesn’t play. He later smokebombed right off stage for a good long while, leaving Johansson and Nouveau soloing and uncertain if/when he was returning. But! To his credit, every time he had one of these moments he came back playing better and looking happier.
The show itself wasn’t flawless. Night and her partner were pretty much nonexistent in the mix, and the playing certainly wasn’t perfect. But I can cut Blackmore some slack – the man’s in his 70s after all. And every time the cameras did a close-up on his hands, it was mesmerizing.
The set had classics from not just RAINBOW and PURPLE, but also some Russ Ballard songs. Really, they played all the classics like “Since You’re Been Gone,” “I Surrender,” “Man on the Silver Mountain” ft. “Tokyo” by DP, “Perfect Strangers,” and “Long Live Rock n’ Roll.” Romero was definitely at his best in the Dio songs and lucky for us, “Stargazers” was one of the best of the night. And lo and behold, they came back for an encore after DEEP PURPLE‘s “Burn,” and Blackmore himself introduced “Smoke on the Water,” teasing the song by not starting with its classic riff until the vocals had already begun.
Ultimately, I thoroughly enjoyed myself yesterday! Though we missed PEER GÜNT, KINGSTON WALL was outstanding, and while RAINBOW wasn’t perfect, they delivered on every point that mattered (at least to me). While this wasn’t an official RockFest day, I’m nevertheless pretty amped up for the rest of the weekend! \m/
Written by Bear Wiseman
Photos by Janne Puronen