Festival: Z Rocks 2001

Artists: Contagious,  Seven Wishes, Prisoner, Dream Hunter

Venue: The Ritz, Manchester

Date: 6 May 2001  

This was the first time that we had ever attended one of the mighty Z Rock Festivals and it was a bit of an unknown quantity.

Being billed as all AOR bands we weren't entirely sure whether it would be our cup of tea or not.

The main reason we went was to see Seven Wishes, a band from Sweden whose two albums really capture our imagination. And so it was that we travelled down from the North East to see what other treasures this festival had in store.

First on the bill was Contagious. A fairly new band hailing from Liverpool who really know how to warm a crowd up. The mood was slow to start off with but considering it was only 12.40 pm when they hit the stage most of the crowd were either just arriving or still sluggish after an early lunch.

Opening the set with 'Flying High' which was obviously a strong favourite from the look of the crowd, this 5 piece band looked and sounded like the good old days when we had all the NWOBHM bands hitting the rock scene with vigour and stamina.

This band may be labelled a melodic AOR rock band but once they get going, especially onto their newer material from their current EP 'Red, White & Slightly Blue', they really knew how to get the crowd pumping and ready for action.

With songs like 'Find a Way' and 'Muscle' under their wings it won't be long before we see them hitting the rock scene big time. These guys are one of the better British rock bands I've heard in a long time and most definitely one that I will be keeping a close eye out for in future.

Luckily enough for us we will be seeing them perform again at the August Z Fest. Their set lasted approx 45 mins and was a good start to the day.

Setlist: Flying High, Time and Again, Hear it Calling, Fantasy, Out of Time, Danger, Find a Way, Lost and Lonely, Muscle


The second band on the bill was our favourites Seven Wishes. Like I said earlier it was this band that we had travelled down to see and it was also the first time we had been lucky enough to catch them play live over here.

Hitting the stage at 1.50 pm it was obvious that we weren't the only ones that were keen to see this band in action. There may have been a queue for the Enuff Z Nuff signing that was going on at the rear of the hall, but there were equally a large proportion of fans standing eagerly at the front of the stage to see this band in action.

We saw lead singer Pelle decked out in skin tight blue snake-skin trousers with a blue chiffon top tied at the waist take centre stage. To his right we had guitarist Anthony who wore an open blue shirt and black gloss pvc's. Looking as stunning as ever we saw bass guitarist Tony in his trademark leopard print shirt and studded black trousers. Behind Pelle we saw the newest member of the band the lovely Linda peering out from behind the drum-kit.

Before we knew it we were off and running as they launched into 'Face that Evil'. A familiar song to a lot of their fans and one that got the mood just right for the rest of the set. It has to be said that this was the most glamorous band we saw all day. Not only did they look the part but they gave it their all in every single song that they performed.

It's been a long time since we saw such an eye-catching band that actually made an effort with both their looks and their music. Half way through the set we were even treat to a costume change for lead singer Pelle. But don't just judge a book by its cover, they may look like a load of pretty boys, but these guys rock with intensity and passion.

Liken to the mighty Dokken they gave us a gig to remember them by.

With catchy tunes such as ' Caught by Surprise' and 'Take my Heart' its easy to understand why one enthusiastic young man shouted out to them 'Sweden Rocks!'. The set was a good mixture taken from their two albums and even included a magnificent cover version of 'Unchain the Night', a song that no other band has in my opinion been able to cover so well before now as what this band have. They were naturals at it. It was if it ran through their very veins.

Unfortunately the band were dogged with a few technical difficulties throughout their set and this meant that there were a few gaps between some of the songs. However, the fans didn't seem to notice this and enjoyed every minute of the set that they did do.

An overall strong set was performed and one that regardless of the dodgy moments, still stood them in high esteem with a lot of the fans.

This was made all the more evident by the way the band were mobbed when they appeared later in the day at the rear of the room and were quickly besieged by a hoard of people wanting autographs and photo's with them.

They may have felt frustrated by the way things went, but by and large they were impressive. It's one of those things that has come and gone now. Very few bands don't have a concert that didn't go according to plan, today it was the turn of Seven Wishes. The other bands took a deep sigh of relief that it wasn't their band's turn and for the large part felt sorry for what this band had to go through.

Now they have to look to the future and carry on bringing us the music we love to hear so much.

The set lasted 50 mins but actually felt like a lot shorter than that to the eager crowd at the front of the stage. We could have listened to them all day.

Setlist: Face that Evil, Too late for Tears, Holy Man, Life goes On, Take my Heart, Out of Sight, Caught by Surprise, Unchain the Night, One to Blame


Just after 3 pm we saw the band Prisoner take centre stage. Having never seen this band before it was quite a contrast to see them dressed so casually to that of the previous band.

This band seemed very popular with the more traditional rock fans in the crowd who were obviously a lot more informed about the band than what we were. Indeed this was one of those bands that had a lot of the AOR media people in a bit of a tis.

Not my cup of tea but they were a very talented band who obviously had a lot of followers in the crowd. I'm sure I heard someone say they had travelled over from Ireland just to see this band play.

Traditional and classy these seasoned pros knew how to give the crowd what they wanted. Their set lasted about 50 mins and seemed to please the large crowd that had gathered to watch them. The only downside to the set was that Tommy Denander was not able to be present as he isn't very well.

I know both the band and the fans missed this excellent guitarist and it is hoped that he will soon be well again and back over on these shores with the band so all his fans can see him in action once more.

Tommy's replacement for the day was a chap called Sayit and he certainly seemed to carry off the songs well.

The set was a good mixture of songs taken from their first album and their newest offering S2. I wouldn't have been at all surprised if they sold out of this album today as they had a lot of die hard fans just ready from the off to buy it. In fact looking at the faces singing along in the crowd I think a lot of them probably already had it.

The fourth band on the list was another Swedish band called Dreamhunter. Yet another band I hadn't heard of until today, (what planet have I been living on?), and yet another band I took to like a duck to water.

In 60 mins I went from not having a single idea what or who they were, to being a very happy camper and rushing over to buy not one, but both of their cd's! I kid you not! If they hadn't told us that they were from Sweden then I doubt anyone would have realized.

Their style was a cross between Little Angels and some of the more good time bands that we loved for so long. To label them as an AOR band is sure to put off a lot of people for one reason or another, people have funny ideas about admitting to liking bands who fall into this genre.

Quite a few of their songs would go down a storm at a lot of the clubs over here and would soon have the place jumping. 'All dressed Up' is just one of them, another is 'Anyway you want It'. Both infectious, both addictive.

While lead singer Stig Gunnarsson really gets into the spirit of the songs and has quite a spunky little attitude to him, it is guitarist Olle Zimmerman who really knows how to whip the crowd (and the photographers) up into a state. Together the band are quite a cheeky little 5 piece.

I would like to see some of these songs released as singles and touted around the clubs. Together they make a great band and gave us an impressive show.

Setlist: Bad Attitude, Braveheart, When heaven calls your Name, The heart is a lonely Hunter, Money loves Hate, My days are Counted, Kingdom Come, Long cold Winter, Keep the fire Burning, Dangerous Game, Anyway you want It, All dressed Up, You're in the spotlight Tonight


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