Festival: Z Rock 2001

Artists:  Burning Rain, Von Groove, Enuff ZNuff

Venue: The Ritz, Manchester

Date:  6 may 2001 

BURNING RAIN 

A little before 6 pm we had our 5th band of the day hit the stage. This was the famous Burning Rain that I had heard about earlier in the day from some of the other punters.

Lead singer Keith St John looked scaringly like a white Jimmy Hendrix doppelganger in his leopard print shirt and waistcoat. He even took on the mad persona of this mighty rock legend.

The bands material is deeply influenced by the likes of Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin and it showed in a lot of their songs. Coming over to perform from the heady heights of LA this band looked cocky and full of confidence. Whether they felt it inside or not we shall never know but they carried it off very well.

A large proportion of the crowd had come along today to see the wondrous Doug Aldrich play with the band and play he did. Were we impressed? Yup! Nothing to complain about his performance at all.

During the softer tunes they sounded not a million miles away from David Coverdale in his solo material. Not such a bad thing to be compared to someone like that and I know I wasn't the only one who was under that impression.

The camera man that was filming the set seemed quite intent on getting a lot of close ups of the band and at times seemed to be getting in their way. In fact the keyboard player who to be fair to him has only just joined the band, looked at times to be positively terrified as it swept about inches from his face. Poor mite was still trying desperately to read the music sheet in front of him and you could see the fear in his face incase they were knocked away. All this said he did still manage to pull off the songs without any duff notes, well none that I noticed.

A very musically vibrant set and one that was very charged from the very first song right to the last one. They came to make an impression and an impression they sure did make on us all. 

Setlist: Smooth Locomotion, Love Emotion, Metal Superman, Cherie don't break my Heart, Tokyo Rising, Cherry Grove, Love de Jour, Can't turn your back on Love, Fireball, Judgement Day, Fool no More

VON GROOVE

Deputy headliners, is that what we could call them? Well second off last then! We saw Canadian AOR gods Von Groove.

This was the very first time this band had played live in Europe and here they were now standing before our very eyes. Not only that but they were complete with new bass guitarist Tom Lewis. Anyone who thought he looked familiar would probably remember him better for his time with the Honeymoon Suite.

Lead singer Michael Shotton knew that this was their big chance to impress and made sure that he did everything in his power to make it happen. Were we impressed? Well you got to hand it to them they sang some good songs and played some good tunes.

Ask anyone who likes AOR to name their top 5 favourite bands and most likely Von Groove would appear near the top. Quite an accomplishment when they haven't played over here before. A big surprise to many would be to find out that Michael does in fact hail from none other than our own fair Newcastle upon Tyne. Yes, the man's a Geordie! And proud of it by the sounds of it as he kept referring to it throughout the set.

One member of the audience got a bit of a shock when he tried to heckle them from the middle of the crowd, Michael shot off the front of the stage and was after him like a whippet after a rabbit. Ha! Bet he won't do that again in a hurry! It was all in good fun but it made sure that anyone else that might have been getting any funny ideas kept them to themselves for the remainder of the set.

The second style award of the day has to go to guitarist Mladen who looked super cool in his top hat, white shirt and black pants and jacket. Even when things started to get warm he just took off his jacket and kept on playing with his hat on. Wearing an eye-catching crucifix hung low around his neck he wowed the crowd with his impressive playing. Not since the days of the great Tony Clarkin have we seen a guitarist look such a cool dude while wearing a hat on stage.

Another great feat of their energetic lead singer was that he climbed one of the speaker towers to sing from the top, not original by any means but he was the first of the day to attempt such a feat.

Fans of the band will be pleased to know that they intend coming back over from their native Canada to play our shores hopefully later in the year. Keep your eyes peeled and your fingers crossed is all we can say.

Setlist included: Chameleon, Should've been Me, Once is not Enough, House of Dreams, Lily, Kashmir (as an encore)

ENUFF Z NUFF

Top of the bill we had a band that needed no introductions at all when they took to the stage. The mighty Enuff Z Nuff had rode into town and were ready for action.

The band may have been 15 minutes late going on stage but we soon forgave them. This may have been the first gig the band had played in over a month but they were as sharp and together as they ever were.

Front man Chip looked calm and collected in his tie-dyed purple trousers and black leather cap and biker jacket proclaiming him to be a member of the Chicago police. Some people would look like a reject from the Village People in such an emsemble but not our Chip, he looked more a like a man not to be messed with.

Donnie stood to his right wearing a most magnificent patchwork coat that set off his red hair blue eyes a treat. That jacket should have been given a style award all of its own, it was lush.

One can only presume that it was for this very fact only that some idiot threw a bottle of water at Donnie when they started off their opening song, either that or some jealous person who shouldn't have been at a gig like this if that's the way they were going to treat our special guests.

A lesser man would have thrown down his gear and stormed off the stage, as I have seen done in the past with other bands. But on no, not our Donnie, he may have been furious inside but he didn't let it show. Like the true pro his is he carried on and focused more on the room full of heaving fans who were there to see them and not this sad individual who probably got a good kicking later on for what he did.

To Chip's left we had the wonderful Monaco wearing a white vest top and black pants, then last but not least we had the ever cheerful Ricky looking as happy as ever wearing a bit smile and looking rather topless from between the drum kit! Phroaw!

A lot of people have tried to write off Monaco as just another guitarist, but today he certainly showed us all just how much of a talented player he really is. He may look a bit on the miserable side at times but I think that was more to do with his deep thinking and concentration whilst playing on stage. He does smile occasionally; I have witnessed this once or twice when he hasn't been playing.

Ricky played an impromptu drum solo during the earlier half of the gig while the stage tech's assisted Chip with a problem with his equipment.

The set was littered with all our favourites including For Now, Baby Loves You and Kiss The Clown. The crowd loved every minute of it, the band looked like they were enjoying it as well which is always good to see.

Like Von Groove's front man Michael, Donnie also took to the speaker towers to do a song, whether he would have done this anyway if Michael hadn't we will never know, I suspect he would have as he was high on the atmosphere of the fans which was totally intoxicating.

It was like walking into and seeing a long lost friend having these guys play for us once more. Why have they left it so long? Was a question a lot of us were asking, we loved them before and here we are still loving them. Lets hope they don't leave it as long before they return to these shores.

One rather strange occurrence was the appearance of two scantily dressed young women during one of their songs. Obviously wannabe fans and never once introduced to us by the band. I wonder if the band actually knew who they were as they looked as startled as we did when they appeared.

I know a lot of their fans weren't too happy with their actions as it kind of soiled the appearance of what was a great show. The girls gyrated around for a song and then left as quickly and they appeared, leaving us back with the people we had really come to see which was after all the band.

The band closed the set with the anthem like New Thing. During the latter part of the song Chip fell back over some stage equipment and actually hurt himself quite badly.

Only those at the front were fully aware of what had happened and the set was quickly brought to an end. A lot of people there won't have realised that although he kept on playing he was in immense pain and was lucky to be able to continue the set, never mind the UK tour. Like a true pro he carried on till the song had finished.

To all the people who complained that there was no encore I think we should count ourselves lucky that this freak incident didn't happen earlier in the set. Also the set was supposed to finish slap bang at 10.30 pm and they were still playing at 10.40 pm.

Setlist: Revolution, Heaven or Hell, For Now, Fly Away, Takin' a Ride, Fly high Michelle, Kiss the Clown, 
Time to let you Go, Invisible, Baby loves You, Rock n' World, New Thing

An overall impressive day with a lot of very good bands, topped with some excellent bands as well. There was something here for everyone and if this doesn't put the Z Festivals onto the great festivals of the year list then I would like to ask for a re-count.

Anyone wanting to see more of the Z Records bands in action should check out the August line-up

 

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