Gig Review: Robert Plant & The Sensational Spaceshifters, 28.07.2016

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It was Thursday, July 28th, that I got to see who is in my mind one of the greatest rock singers of all time: Robert Plant.
Famous as Led Zeppelin-frontman from 1968-80, the artist is currently touring Europe world with his Sensational Space Shifters, with whom he also recorded his latest studio album Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar (review here).

Just in time for the start of the main act, I arrived at the well-filled Arena Wien and found a great spot on the lawn near the stage with excellent view. Just as good as the view was the sound that night, which was lengths better than of Wolfmother’s concert at the same location (review here).

At about 21:00 pm, Robert Plant emerged with a huge banner carrying the feather-symbol in the background. He himself on vocals and diverse membranophones, he brought five other musicians with him: Juldeh Camara on nyanyeru (an African one-string fiddle), Liam “Skin“ Tyson on guitar, Justin Adams on bass, John Baggot on keys and Dave Smith on drums.
What’s known is the different musical approach of the ensemble (compared to Plant’s earlier times). Not focusing on one specific genre, the artists freely mix styles and rhythms. The result is a colourful medley with folk and country elements as well as foreign African sounds paired with Led Zeppelin classics and the well-known mighty riffs.

This diversity lead to an interesting set list that included Poor Howard, Rainbow and Turn It Up from Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar, a cover of Willie Dixon (Spoonful), the traditional Little Maggie, and lots of Led Zeppelin medleys that included (parts of) What Is and What Should Never Be, No Quarter, Dazed and Confused, Whole Lotta Love, Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You and Rock and Roll for the encore.

The band not only convinced the audience by its versatility and range of styles, but also by the quality of performance. Robert Plant still has that great voice of his and a very individual approach on singing that one recognizes immediately. Furthermore he really secured a great atmosphere by continually including the audience and performing with lots of energy.

This concert meant a great deal to me – and without any exaggeration: it was truly sensational.


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© Robert Plant


Gig Review: Wolfmother – Gypsy Caravan Tour, 11.05.2016

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Perfect weather, great location and tons of fans: the evening of May 11th had a promising start for the Australian rock act Wolfmother in Vienna’s Arena Open Air. I arrived only a few minutes before they started their set (the support band I unfortunatley missed beforehand was Electric Citizen).


© Wolfmother

To be honest, I never really got into Wolfmother that much as a fan, but I was aware of who they (or, more specifically, frontman Andrew Stockdale) are and what they do – and have always liked their sound. I was thus very excited to go to this concert without any expectations at all – which is probably the best way possible if you dig the unexpected, like I do. You just end up with lots of surprises – good and bad. So here they are:

First surprise: the band’s tempo and dynamics. Man, they played a set of twenty songs and took but three breaks (one to say hi, one to say thanks, and one before the encore), which lasted only a few seconds each.
Which leads me to the next surprise: they hardly said a word to the audience. Apparently, Stockdale is not much of a talker, but it would definitely have been his role to communicate with the fans a bit more. However, the band did not seem as if they did not enjoy themselves on stage – so even though there was no communcation, there was still a lot of energy in the performance. Which is probably what saved them from an angry crowd.
Third surprise: Alex Carapetis is a damn great drummer. In fact, the drums were the only instrument that sounded as they should all the way through the show. The others, from guitar to bass and vocals sounded horrible most of the time. That night’s horrendous sound was yet another surprise for me. I do not know who was responsible for it, but honestly I’d rather not even know at all – it was a real shame. The guitar sounded bad, the bass was too loud at times, whereas bassist Ian Peres‘ backing vocals were hardly audible at all. Well…drums and keyboard were fine, at least.
Fifth surprise: I already mentioned that Wolfmother have a cool sound. Main reason behind that is Andrew Stockdale, who is basically the brain behind this music project. The other musicians are rather professionals hired to play along. Big part of the sound, however, is Stockdale’s special voice, which mostly reminds one of Jack White’s. What I did not know, though, was that besides its cool and bright timbre it is pretty monotonous, too. I haven’t heard Stockdale sing much more than five notes during that show. It’s not like he tries and fails – the songs are just composed that way, without exciting melodic vocal lines. And they are fine like that, just a bit monotonous after a while.

To summarize all of that, I was most impressed by their efficient way of performing, playing one song after the next without even considering taking a break. This is naturally the most professional way to play a gig and shows that the band is really tight and knows what’s going on. On the other hand, there is not much space left for interaction with the audience or spontaneous improvisation on stage. Still, they played well, and the bad sound was not their fault.

So all in all I did enjoy this gig, and I am glad to have seen Wolfmother live. They do make cool music that definitely comes from the right sort of inspiration and surely inspire tons of young garage rock bands, which is exactly what today’s music needs.

More information / photo credits:
© Wolfmother,

Gig Review: Midriff, 11.03.2016

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© Midriff

© Midriff

Am Freitagabend des 11. März traten Midriff im Arena Beisl auf. Die Tiroler Band, gegründet 2010, widmet sich dem Genre des Alternative bzw. Stoner Rock und ist längst kein Geheimtipp der heimischen Musikszene mehr.

Die Gruppe besteht aus lediglich drei Mitgliedern – hat jedoch eine ungewöhnliche Aufstellung. Während Gitarrist Josh für Melodik und Soli sorgt, übernimmt Bassist Jele die Rolle des „Publikums-Kommunikators“. Der Gesang kommt jedoch von Schlagzeuger (!) Paul, was ich vorher noch nie live erlebt habe.

Der Gig startete um ca. 22:45 Uhr. Irre, wie viel Energie das Trio trotz später Anfangsstunde zeigte! Mit regelmäßigem Platztausch von Gitarrist und Bassist, sowie tighten Doubletime-Wechseln spielte die Band eine gemischte Setlist aus allen drei Alben. Darunter waren die Songs Before I Wake, Pumping Iron (ein eher langsamer Song mit vielen Bendings auf der Gitarre), Broken Dreams, The Machine Force und einige weitere. Lobenswert war ein gelungener Taktwechsel bei der Nummer Safe House, die zwar hart ausfiel, aber trotzdem melodisch blieb – mit einem ziemlich coolen Ende plus Gitarren-Outro. Insgesamt kamen die Musiker dann auf stolze 16 Songs inklusive Zugabe, bei der Motörhead’s Ace of Spades gelungen gecovert wurde.

Dass die Band eine gute Performance ablegte, erwies sich an der stetig wachsenden Zahl der Zuseher im Raum, der sich mit Ende des Konzerts um etwa 00:00 Uhr zur Gänze gefüllt hatte. Die Partylaune wurde, abgesehen von der treibenden Musik, zusätzlich durch eine Runde Jägermeister für alle (ausgegeben von der Band selbst), enorm angehoben. Freier Eintritt und dann noch Stamperl auf’s Haus – wie oft kommt das schon vor?

Midriff haben mich in vielerlei Hinsicht positiv überrascht. Der wohl wichtigste Aspekt ist jedoch der singende Schlagzeuger. Neben einer relativ hellen, vielseitigen und angenehmen Stimme ist vor allem faszinierend, dass hier keine Unsicherheit, kein schiefer Ton, keine Fehler zu hören waren. Und das betrifft sowohl Stimme als auch Schlagzeug! Zwar konnte man natürlich nicht mehr erwarten, dass das Schlagzeug eine virtuose Hauptrolle einnehmen wird – man konzentrierte sich eben auf die Basics. Aber die waren sattelfest, und dazu noch für jeden Song die Lead Vocals zu übernehmen, ist einfach nur beeindruckend. Es gibt in einer Rockband wohl keine schwierigere Kombination aus Instrument und Gesang, als eben jene mit Schlagzeug. Hut ab!

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© Midriff,

Gig Review: Graveyard – Innocence & Decadence Tour, 09.11.2015

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What happened on this year’s November 9th is the best example for a win-win situation: both Swedish bands Backyard Babies and Graveyard released their latest albums in August and September, which means that both of them are currently on tour. Since they were about to come to Vienna on the same day, they simply fused their shows, bringing along three more Swedish support bands. So for the price of one act, you got to see five – how often does that happen? Exactly.

The first of five Swedish bands I saw on the evening of November 9th were three young women in red overalls, who followed JUNKSTARS, a band I unfortunately did not manage to see. They came in support of Backyard Babies.
heavy tigerThe female musicians call themselves Heavy Tiger, a name which at first sounded and looked like heavy metal to me. This assumption was wrong, though (Misleading Band Names, the 1st). What followed was some steady classic rock – or, as the band calls it, „High Voltage Rock ’n‘ Roll“. High voltage can indeed be confirmed, for I cannot recall having seen such energetic female rockers live on stage…ever. I was thus very pleased to see these girls with songs such as Chinatown, Girls Got Balls or Heavy Tiger (short but great guitar solo!), which are all to be found on their debut album Saigon Kiss from 2014.

With Maja Linn’s dynamic guitar and vocal performance, backed by solid bass (Sara Frendin) & drums (Astrid Carsbring), this power trio has what I like to call a good foundation. I approved of the way the musicians presented themselves on stage: no explicit front figure, instead guitarist and bassist chose to arrange themselves slightly in front of the drummer’s left and right side. Switching singers (Carsbring took over for one song) and choreographical elements added quality to the performance. Even though the whole thing would look even better with bassist Sara Frendin being less static. The other thing is that Heavy Tiger played songs that were good, but all similar in style, there was no contrast within their set. I would recommend to always include something that is a bit different from the main idea, no matter how little time there is on stage, to prove yourself versatile, which I definitely trust this group to be.


imperial state electric

This band, formed by Nicke Andersson after the break-up of The Hellacopters in 2008, is a true gem. Imperial State Electric is a band that successfully pursues real rock music. The group came in support of Graveyard.

The group consists of Andersson (vocals, guitar), Dolf de Borst (bass, backing vocals), Tobias Egge (guitar, backing vocals) and Thomas Eriksson (drums), whereby the formation underwent several constellations throughout the gig. Andersson is singing most of the time, for one song, however, Egge became the singer. At first I thought this wasn’t such a good idea, because his backing vocals hadn’t convinced me up until then. I was thus really surprised that he actually did have a powerful voice! For another song, de Borst handed his bass to Egge, and took over the vocals as new „frontman“. De Borst, in contrast to the more melodic and bright Egge, had a rougher sound. Things like switching instruments and singer are so fantastic because they prove how talented and experienced the musicians are, guaranteeing very high quality, especially if everything goes right, which it absolutely did. Fascinating, too, was that all three singers have completely different voices and timbres – so within one setlist, ISE practically created three bands instead of one. Nevertheless, Andersson is the most talented singer of the three, and the best choice for a frontman.

Though I simply could not tell which band or artist exactly ISE reminded me of, there was hardly a rock band it didn’t remind me of. These musicians seem to be taking out all the good bits and pieces of several great rock bands, be it Guns N‘ Roses, The Darkness, The Who: name it and you will find something of it in Imperial State Electric’s music. This does not mean that they simply copied – they do have their own style, but you can hear that they know rock music – and you can see it, too: their performance included perfectly simultaneous twin guitar sequences, a by-the-way Day Tripper riff within a song, and last but not least a great ending, where all three singers fell to their knees at once. Well done!


backyard babies

My expectations for Backyard Babies were high, considering that this band exists for over twenty years, got a Swedish Grammy and supported artists such as Alice Cooper, AC/DC or Motörhead.

Founded in 1987, singer Tobias Fischer was replaced by Nicke Borg after only two years. By Borg’s side are Dregen on lead guitar, who also had several projects with Nicke Andersson from ISE, Johan Blomqvist on bass and Peder Carlsson on drums. The group functions, definitely, the musicians are mostly energetic (especially DregenBlomqvist not so much) and work together – but I expected more. Even though they call their genre rock ’n‘ roll, I think what they do is punk rock. Or did, since it seems their best days are over. The first half of the show did have a rough and punky edge considering the songs, but it all turned shallow toward the end, with songs like Th1rt3en or Nothing, White Light District or Bloody Tears from the latest album Four By Four. Their melodies were nothing special, the lyrics boring. It almost sounded like pop music in the end – some sort of Bon Jovi trying to do punk rock. The track Wasted Years was not an exception – but that one had a catchy tune, I’ll give them that.


Finally, Graveyard made their way onto the stage. Graveyard, too, is a band from Sweden, which formed in Gothenburg in 2006. On September 25th they released their new album Innocence & Decadence, from which (among others) they included the fantastic track Too Much Is Not Enough and The Apple and the Tree in that night’s setlist. There was no greeting, the band started playing right away, and actually kept on – without break – for the rest of the show.

Not knowing too much about Graveyard, I was not sure what exactly to expect (Misleading Band Names, the 2nd) – besides being aware of the band defining itself as a classic heavy rock, blues and psychedelia group I only knew a few songs beforehand, mostly from their second album Hisingen Blues. From that album, released in 2011, Graveyard played the cover title Hisingen Blues, Buying Truth, as well as The Siren in the encore, which is one of their best-known singles – and in my eyes the best song of the gig.

It was interesting to see that while during the first half of the concert guitarist Jonathan Ramm was doing most of the solo-work, it was singer Joakim Nilsson who presented his guitar skills in the second half. I was impressed by the fact that this did not diminish his vocal performance at all – Nilsson has an incredibly strong and uncompromising voice, which he proved throughout the whole show. Moreover, the singer shows great variety in style, that ranges from melancholic blues tunes to high and loud screams. The only thing that puzzled me about him is that on one hand you have this great performance, while on the other Nilsson seemed to be sort of tired or down – but maybe that is just his way, who knows.

Jonathan Ramm as well as bassist Truls Mörck, who replaced past member Rikard Edlund, seemed rather unmotivated to me throughout the set. This was actually the overall-impression I got from Graveyard, even if they played really well. The only exception, in that respect, was drummer Axel Sjöberg, who can doubtlessly be called a living machine. He seemed to be putting his whole self into this show – and I am confident he does so every time. Generally, Graveyard have quite a hard, edgy sound, with a few calm, bluesy parts „sprinkled“ over the songs. Interestingly – and with good reason -, those were exactly the parts the audience loved most. I would have hoped for more, because that is the style which in my eyes fits the band’s sound and strengths best, but it remained exclusive in that night’s setlist.

Further information / photo credits: (JUNKSTARS) © (Heavy Tiger) ©