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Monday, July 4, 2011

The Sweet live at ‘Stars and Stripes Festival,’ Mt. Clemens, Michigan (2011)

The Sweet live at ‘Stars and Stripes Festival,’ Mt. Clemens, Michigan
July 2nd, 2011

Well, The Sweet are a band that for years and years, I admired and loved to be honest, back in those old teenage years and ‘Teenage Rampage’ couldn’t have been a better song for thinking with the rebel mindset! Ha ha!
I know, I know, what am I thinking writing that? Kids reading this today may well be influenced …!
I don’t think so somehow, as certainly all the kids I know today that are teenagers growing up, certainly appear to be – sadly – a lot smarter than we probably were and they are certainly a LOT more aware of what is going on in the world today, the only sad part is … Teenagers of today, very often just don’t care … So many don’t feel they need an education and that somehow or another, they’ll get by … Sad indeed that they can be so naïve, but … They are just kids, right?!

Anyway enough on that, yes I did love The Sweet, but sadly in my years of UK concert going from late 1978 to 2000, somehow or another I missed checking the band out in whatever shape or form they were in … Shame.
Of course original vocalist Brian Connolly passed away in 1997 from a heart attack, original drummer Mick Tucker passed away sadly from leukemia in 2002. Two classic Sweet line-up survivors remain today, guitarist Andy Scott who in fact was not a founding member, but was in the most successful line-up and original founding member Steve Priest on bass and vocals.
Both have their own versions of ‘The Sweet’ today.

 The line-up that graced us in Mt. Clemens was – In my opinion – the better of the two. Why?
Steve Priest is a solid bass player, who is still winning recognition for bassist of the year - - and Stuart Smith on guitars / vocals, an immense talent in his own right -  Check out the band / project, Heaven and Earth: http://www.heavenandearthband.comRichie Onori on Drums (Also from Heaven and Earth), Joe Retta on vocals, great voice and front man and the band is completed by the very talented Stevie Stewart on keyboards / vocals.  They are still playing big festivals across the US and Andy Scott’s Sweet is doing what...? Low key gigs across the UK ..?

Editor's additional note:
It seems I was quite wrong in my original estimation of Andy Scott. As the guy certainly seems to be out on the road, across most of Europe and the Eastern Bloc even, touring much more than the Sweet line up over here.
Seriously, I say all the best to both of them, enjoy it while you can right guys?

 The Sweet onstage at Mt. Clemens, Stars and Stripes 2011!
Photo Alun Williams©

Sorry, it’s just how I see it, also this line up of The Sweet late last year released the much recommended ‘Live in America’ album, perhaps I can do a retrospective review of that here to give you another clue on this act.
So the stage was set, there was a heat index here of around 100°F but there was a slight helpful breeze, phew, a scorcher indeed and a storm was threatened!
They hit the stage with ‘Action’ and I have to say, I love it! What a great song, without doubt as for a couple of years, Def Leppard took it and covered it as their own opener! Vocals are good and the band looks like they are having fun, even in the heat!
‘Hell Raiser’ fires up next and the wind is starting to get up and the sheeting around the stage is flapping, making it hard to take good pictures, but the crowd is up for it and enjoying the band.
Stuart Smith, what a player, I love his style, seriously good stuff!

 Stuart Smith - Throwing shapes! Photo Alun Williams©

With ‘Teenage Rampage’ next, memories come flooding back from those teenage years of my own! It’s good stuff and it’s an appreciative crowd for sure, but there are some spots of rain coming down and it’s not looking good …

The Sweet - July 2nd 2011 
L to R: Richie Onori, Stuart Smith, Joe Retta, Steve Priest and Stevie Stewart
 Photo Alun Williams©

Joe introduces ‘Love is Like Oxygen’ but the weather is really looking bad, the rain starts coming and before too long, people are running for cover as it becomes torrential and thunder is rumbling, but the band is still on and then it’s worse than ever and the band has to leave the stage, so they’re not electrocuted!

 Joe Retta centre stage at Stars and Stripes. Photo Alun Williams©

 The Sweet live at Stars and stripes ..., storm approaching! Photo Alun Williams©

Steve Priest with Joe Retta and Stuart Smith - Photo Alun Williams©

The storm continues for around thirty to forty minutes and people are still in front of the stage chanting, ‘We want Sweet, we want Sweet!’
As the storm and rain seems to abate, the crew gets up trying to dry everything that couldn’t be covered or what was covered after a lot of the rain hit already. An announcement is made that Sweet will return to finish their set!
The show must go on and go on it does!

Top: Steve Priest and Stevie Stewart.
Bottom: Stuart Smith.
All photo's Alun Williams© 

At 8.15pm the band returns with an absolute killer rendition of ‘Set Me Free!’ They were here to play a show and that’s what they were going to do and the crowd welcomed them back with open arms.

Stevie Stewart keys and Stuart Smith’s guitars completely rock out here, some great Hammond rockin’ from Stewart and the interplay between both him and Smith is great!
Anyone still thinking these guys are pop rock are seriously mistaken, as they rock!
There were a few spots where some of the levels seemed a little off, but Stevie Stewart’s keyboards were on the side of the stage where the rain got through hardest. These guys are lucky they’re not getting shocked!
Stuart Smith - Ready to strike! Photo Alun Williams©

‘Fox on the Run’ for whatever reason, back in the day became my favourite Sweet tune, but I don’t know now  after hearing ‘Set Me Free’ first hand, reminded me that so much of their album material deserves to be heard, I think I’m going to start digging out the old material!

The band were now back into their groove and ‘Sweet F.A.’ is up next and there’s more crowd taking notice of the band and rightfully so. Once more the keyboard work from Stewart interacting with Stuart Smith’s guitar work is excellent.

I have to make clear though, not so much mention of the other players is simply because they’re keeping it tight and Steve Priest’s supporting vocals are right there, to Joe Retta who’s doing a grand job throughout.
Richie Onori is a spot on, powerhouse drummer, who’s a joy to see play … I know I’m biased! LOL!

‘Blockbuster’ has all the crowd cheering , even if the USA wasn’t it’s most successful release territory and the band’s combined harmony vocals, show clearer here than at any other time, how strong together they are.

The Mt. Clemens crowd from the stage towards the end of the set. - Photo Alun Williams©

 Sadly, ‘Little Willy’ is played, but since it was the band big breakthrough single here hitting number three back in ’72, hardly surprising that it gets such a great reception.

The song ‘AC/DC’ from the ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’ album, obviously caused a stir back in the day when it was released, but put simply it rocks, again emphasizing this band is beyond a shadow of a doubt, first and foremost a rock band and looking at the rock t-shirt’s (Thin Lizzy, Metallica, AC/DC, The Cult, Rolling Stones, etc) on the fans here, I think it speaks for itself! I had my England shirt on proudly …!

‘Ballroom Blitz’ closes the set to great applause and I know the fans would’ve liked more, but it was a festival and there were two final band still to play, who probably had to drop one or two songs of their own, from their sets, to allow Sweet to complete theirs.

Top - Stuart Smith, 'Well I guess we'd better get this cleaned up!'
Bottom - Stevie Stewart - 'How's my Macbeth here?!' Joe Retta to the side chats with out of shot Steve Priest.
All photo's Alun Williams©

A good and truly eventful show by this very good band, who I hope to see again, in the not too distant future! Thanks guys!
Rating: 4 out of 5 – All things considered, with the storm and everything else, I know for sure it would be better in a better situation and weather wise!

The impressive sky at Mt. Clemens, after the storm passed.
Photo Alun Williams©

Official band site:

Another couple of pictures showing the clean up effort after the storm. It suddenly hit so hard, I was just running to keep the camera dry!


  1. andy doing low key gigs..... sorry what about all the big gigs and festivals he does around europe. Andy was the main force behind the post glam sweet and kept the name going for years until SP decided he needed the money. he has also released new stuff such as the excellent Sweetlife CD.

  2. Gaz, shame on me, I stand corrected, although I am aware that SP's Sweet does not play the UK or Europe - Generally ... - guessing he leaves that market to AS.
    Surprised in the UK that Andy doesn't try to do more gig, I mean a gig at Sudbury FC, with a load of tribute bands as support ... Hmmm

    Also, the Sweetlife release was in 2002, is there any live album planned to represent how the current AS Sweet sounds on the classic material?
    I'm sure UK fans would love to hear a Sweet band playing over there, so why not more live gigs there ...? Seriously, being a huge music fan, if I still lived there, I'd be curious.

  3. just a point you said about small gigs I dont even think SP version would ever sell out 500 capacity VENUE in then UK the thing with both bands is they need festivals to get a big audience see the photos on for an idea of what andy plays to in europe.... it seems the UK just dont care and i agree with gaz SP came out of the woodwork when he saw Andy making money.

  4. A little "biased" as you say, but lovely review anyway, I enjoyed reading it :)
    Sweet rocks !

  5. Thanks 'Anonymous,' glad someone liked it! LOL! :)

  6. Paul and Gaz, as I kind of indicated, it seems the two of them are happily playing their own turf so to speak and not treading / playing in their own backyards as such.
    SP has settle over here in the US and AS is clearly quite happy in Europe.
    All power to them both, as we can all see that both artists have released their own solo work too.
    SP became some what reclusive after Brian Connolly passed on, so my understanding is he wanted a break from it.
    Having met the guy last weekend and spent some time with the band, Steve seemed to be an alright guy. Stand up guy, seriously. Courteous, to a fault.
    I hope to interview him soon, so it will be interesting how that turns out, right?

    As to SP needing the money, come on, we all need cash to make ends meet and although he is playing festivals over here, it's not all the time. The band are playing like one gig a week on average, not every week maybe in some instances twice a week.
    AS seems to be playing live - For money guys ... We do all need it! - a lot more than SP, if you ask me.
    To be completely honest though, they must both be bringing in some serious royalties I would imagine. It's not cheap to live in L.A. and nor is the UK these days, eh?!
    Fair's fair guys and I just say all power to both of them for still playing out there.
    As to UK Sweet dates, looks like Andy Scott has 3 UK dates in September and he is certainly playing a lot more shows than Steve Priest, so who needs the money more, living off The Sweet name?

    As I say, good luck to them both, enjoy it while they can, right folks?
    Al :)

  7. "At 8.15pm the band returns with an absolute killer rendition of ‘Set Me Free!’ They were here to play a show and that’s what they were going to do and the crowd welcomed them back with open arms."

    What! Well it must have been a different version to the one on Youtube then:

    ...cos it's AWFUL!! Stuart Smith must have had monitor problems (I hope) because his playing is all over the place! :( Cliffy.

  8. was the gig as good as you say others are saying it was an off day and from the videos here of both version of sweet FA the AS is better, also in the SP video the crowd looks a bit thin and uninterested. Also they both need money of course they do I like gaz praise andy for keeping the name going for years before Steve came out of the woodwork

  9. Cliffy ..., 'Set Me Free' was the track they came back with ... Your link is to 'Sweet FA,' where I must admit Stuart's guitar is off from Stevie Stewart's keys, where they should be harmonising.
    Don't know quite how I missed that - after the storm I was up on the stage, to the side. - I do know there were moments where both Stuart and Stevie were looking to get the sound right and the sound engineer next to where I was at, was too busy sorting out his next cigar at times or simply not looking to the band to see if they were looking for help! - He clearly wasn't listening.
    That seriously was the worst part of the show, where guitar was off from keys. I could tell that the monitoring was playing up though.
    All said and done, after everything got drenched on stage, I think they did great to pull things back.
    Also remember, the area that is at the front, is the VIP area, that is sectioned off from the main crowd. The crowd behind the VIP railings were chanting for Sweet ... So I guess you had to be there Cliffy!

    The VIP area (Friends of the bands and those who would pay at a free festival) during Sweet's set was probably about 1/3 to 1/2 full at best.
    Sweet were 3rd on the bill, 2 bands followed them. Soul Asylum and Smash Mouth ... Hardly appealing to fans of Sweet and vice versa to be honest.

    Anyway, here's the 'actual' link to 'Set Me Free' as the crew were still trying to fix the stage up, so it's about 2 minutes, before they actually start playing.
    I thought 'Set Me Free' sounded pretty good, for an outdoor gig?

  10. To Steve's comments - As I said in my reply to 'Cliffy ...' Yes, in 'Sweet FA' there were monitoring problems ... I think as the guys corrected Stuarts, he buggered up Stevie's and vice versa! LOL!
    As to the crowd being thin, as I said before also, it was a 'free w/end festival' with a VIP area at the front. Mainly for friends / family of bands or those willing to pay to be up front at a 'free' festival!
    Not everyone was there for Sweet, but those that were, were clearly - From what I could see from photo pit and from the stage. - enjoying themselves!
    Guess you had to be there to really pass judgement ...

    Phew! The Andy Scott fan club is out in force here, isn't it?! Guys, if you don't like Steve Priest ..., then why are you reading this?!

  11. we love SP as well but you got to admit the over the years ans even the last few years of the original sweet that AS is the driving force and listening to both bands live I saw SP in germany recently the AS version is more true to the original sweet and frankly better musicians

  12. Hans, well thank you, I appreciate your more almost 'neutral' response here ...

    I cannot admit to honestly knowing enough of what Andy Scott has been up to in recent years, as I've heard nothing of it over here in the US.

    To be honest, unless I'm really focused around 'one' act / band - Which these days I'm really not, not enough time! - I can only skim around a lot of acts.
    If act's websites don't send out updates or their PR is not actively behind them, it would be difficult for me to know. Sorry.

    Some days when my news sources are few, I simply have to then scour the web to various artists sites, to gather what news I can to share with you all here. Sometimes, that is really tough ..., believe me!

  13. Nice review :) I guess it's true that one cannot jugde how it was from these YT clips alone. I think SP does some songs better than AS, e.g Set Me Free and Love is like Oxygen, just as AS does others better than SP. But two Sweets around is just as luxury to me :) Cheers

  14. Thank you Thomas, well said that man! :)
    Couldn't agree more and I'd seriously love to see Andy's version of Sweet too, why not?!
    It works for me.
    'Appy days!

  15. Stuart Smith and Joe Retta Also joined local Detroit heavyweights Critical Bill onstage later that night for "Highway To Hell" and "Smoke On The Water" Video of "Highway To Hell"

    More video to come within the next couple days