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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas ! - Christmas Eve - December 24th, 2013

Christmas Eve - December 24th, 2013

Merry Christmas Everyone!!!
I would just like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a wonderful and Merry Christmas!
I hope your New Year also brings you absolutely everything you wish for, including happiness, health and my very best wishes for a successful year, in however you choose to measure your successes!
I thank everyone out for all of your continued support even though Chambers of Rock has faded somewhat from where it has and had been in the first few years of running it.
It's been very tough to maintain the level of coverage I would've loved to have provided.
So on that note, thank you all, you've been great, you've taken the site to just over 208K page views in four year and that means more than I could've ever imagined.
I also offer my huge thanks to all the fantastic musicians who have not been egotistical and have been more than humble.
Thanks guys!

To all my PR contacts, thank you for all you have done to allow me to cover what I have!
Take care one and one, Merry Christmas and have a rockin' New Year!

Alun Williams
Owner / Editor
Chambers of Rock

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Deep Purple – ‘Perfect Strangers Live’ DVD review

Deep Purple – ‘Perfect Strangers Live’ DVD review

Released on: Eagle Rock. Release date: Available now
For so many rock fans, when Deep Purple announced in 1984 that Ian Gillan and Ritchie Blackmore had set aside their differences and had agreed to make the reformation of the classic Mark 2 Deep Purple line up a reality, there was a great buzz in the world of rock again!

The lineup of Ian Gillan (Vocals), Ritchie Blackmore (Guitar), Jon Lord (RIP - Keys), Roger Glover (Bass) and Ian Paice on drums who produced such classics as ‘Highway Star,’ ‘Speed King,’ ‘Lazy,’ ‘Black Night,’ ‘Smoke On The Water,’ ‘Fireball,’ ‘Woman From Tokyo’ and ‘Space Truckin’,’ to name just a handful between the years of 1970 to 1973, were finally back together!
During that time, they produced four great studio albums and wonderful live release that every good rock fan home should own, ‘Made in Japan.’

Sadly ego’s took over and Ian Gillan was out and Purple brought in David Coverdale, for the next album 'Burn,' They also let Roger Glover go too and in came Glenn Hughes and Mark 3 Purple was born …, but that’s a story for another day!
In 1984 the press release flew around like wild fire and the ensuing press conferences were endless it seemed and then they hit the road, first in Australia where this live DVD was recorded.
Thirteen classic Purple tracks are included here with five of the thirteen coming from the reunion release, ‘Perfect Strangers.’

There’s also a brief interlude from Blackmore’s Rainbow, with the instrumental ‘Difficult to Cure’ and I guess it’s a nice touch and tribute to the late, great Jon Lord that one of the actual fifteen tracks is titled ‘Keyboard Solo.’
Of course Ritchie Blackmore solos and adlibs throughout and Ian Paice even gets a little solo spot, but I’m not saying where, although you can probably guess! ;-)

It’s sad in the end that they only recorded one more studio album with Blackmore in the lineup, ‘House of Blue Light’ and that having been a Purple fan for so many years, that I never did get to see this lineup playing live.
For ‘Perfect Strangers’ at the time in the UK they played just one show, Knebworth in 1985 and although I had attended a number of outdoor festivals by then, the thought of Knebworth and who knew how many tickets would be sold, I was prepared to wait until they toured the UK proper.
It really didn’t happen and the ‘House of Blue Light’ tour in 1987 was very limited, just five dates in the UK two in London, two in Scotland and one in Birmingham … I didn’t go … Much to my later regret!

That was the last tour Blackmore did with them so the reunion had lasted about as long as the original Mark 2 lineup.

So, to the DVD then from Eagle Rock which finally makes available official, professionally shot footage from that tour, when so little footage has actually been available.
There is bonus feature, which is a documentary that to be honest, kind of has its moments where the band are interviewed in different settings and through it all, how many times does Blackmore speak to reporters? Not once! Sad …

The concert is pretty good though, back to basics stage set, kicking off with the excellent ‘Highway Star.’

‘Nobody’s Home’ next from the ‘Perfect Strangers’ album rocks out well and of course Ritchie Blackmore looks his typical moody self and Jon Lord jams a little and then Mr. Blackmore gets to rock out a little too, with some nice touches.
A little chat from Ian Gillan before ‘Strange Kind of Woman’ takes a hold with Blackmore milking the solo spot before the Gillan vocal play off with Blackmore’s guitar, which includes a little snatch of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ part of Gillan’s history, some ‘Waltzing Matilda’ from Blackmore before wrapping the song up, after eight and a half minutes!
‘A Gypsy’s Kiss’ from the ‘ … Strangers’ album, is led into with a little blues before the driving riff develops and powers on through.
The band is solid with Roger Glover and Ian Paice keeping it driving, Jon Lord's wonderful touches, Gillan not sounding bad at all and Blackmore, well, he does his own thing right?!
The title track from the then latest album ‘Perfect Strangers’ comes next and it’s for me such a wonderful piece, if perhaps a little drifting here and there, mainly Blackmore of course, but I still love it it’s one Rhonda and I love to jam in the basement! Fun stuff!
‘Under The Gun’ next another newer song at the time and perhaps it’s early in the tour after the album’s release and the fans aren’t quite up to speed just yet with the new material based on the reaction during the song, until Blackmore start to abuse his guitar a bit and at the end, huge cheers!
The absolute killer ‘Knocking at Your Back Door’ is next and I say that because I recall it being the first ‘new’ song I heard from Purple at the time and just loved it then and still do now!

Blackmore is out to just play every guitar solo different from each of the originals. Shame really …, even if still entertaining.
Must’ve frustrated the hell out of the rest of the band at the time, I’m sure.
The classic ‘Lazy’ is next and yet again Blackmore performs in disjointed fashion, but that was always his way I guess, but Jon Lord gets jamming briefly and then it’s the man behind the drums to have some solo fun!
Take it away Ian Paice! Brilliant!

Jon Lord leads the band into ‘Child In Time’ next, perhaps one of my best and first favourite Purple song I always remember so well, as ‘In Rock’ was the second ever Purple album I ever bought. ‘Made in Japan’ was my first Deep Purple album back around 1976, not when it first came out I know, but I was fourteen at the time and I was blown away when I heard it at a friend’s house.
I’ve always loved the song, but once again Blackmore takes it into space so to speak.
Blackmore’s ‘Difficult To Cure’ is led into by some fooling around for about three minutes, then the band joins him and where the track counter indicates that this track # 10 is only 0:01 minutes long it’s far from it, try closer to around five minutes, before the late great Jon Lord is left to jam his own piece, ‘Keyboard Solo,’ for just under five minutes and it rocks!!!
Time to go ‘Space Truckin’’ next after a little lead in between Jon Lord and Ian Paice and this seems to do just fine, with Ian Gillan screaming his lungs out!!!
The band leaves the stage before returning for the encores, ‘Black Night’ first … Oh yes, a true gem, with Blackmore’s extended jam version, although Jon Lord does get a slight look in!

It’s time for Ian Gillan to introduce all of the band next, good stuff, before they launch into ‘Speed King!’

A bunch of improvisation occurs here and there, including both Jon Lord and Ritchie Blackmore playing a few little familiar fun jingles before they wrap up ‘Speed King’ and they leave the stage again …

They return then to play next the only track they could possibly close with, ‘Smoke on the Water.’
It’s a pretty enjoyable DVD, but I just wish that Ritchie Blackmore could’ve stayed a little truer to the original solos he played originally on each of the songs, but still a precious piece of video history for Purple fans everywhere.

Not all I had hoped for but worth owning as a fan of the band.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

Friday, December 6, 2013

Melodic Rock Festival #3 (Day 2) - The Home Bar, Arlington Heights, IL - Saturday 28th September, 2013

Melodic Rock Festival #3 (Day 2) 
The Home Bar, Arlington Heights, IL

Saturday 28th September, 2013

*Please Note - Review updated / Public Apology added Dec. 12th 2013*
Hi all and yes, I'm extremely guilty as charged for this taking so long to post AND for lack of posts on here in general.
I so wish I could do more, but ..., previous or regular readers or should that be previous regular readers as I know people have given up coming here anymore and understandably so since I've been unable to keep this site as up to date as I would like.
Anyway, this was a three day festival that I had looked forward to for so long that in the end we could only commit to ONE day, yes just one due to lack of availability of family or close friends to watch the kids while we were away.
But ..., what a day it was!!!

Well, we would’ve loved to have attended both those Friday and Sunday show's as well, but …, it was tough enough for us to set up heading for the event leaving Detroit Saturday morning at 5am EST to drive for the 12 noon (CST) start local time and then leave Sunday morning to relieve our babysitter.

Trying to do the full weekend was just never going to happen.

Sadly, Rhonda ended up missing out on even the Saturday gig, since our daughter got sick on the Tuesday prior and the sitter could not afford to risk getting sick in her University year, so we brought the kids to Chicago and Rhonda like a trooper had them with her in the hotel.
What was a further bummer was that the promised hotel shuttles between hotel and venue, seemed extremely limited and the first one would not be available until 2pm … No way I was waiting for that after driving the five and a half hours already for this event. So I ended up taking our vehicle leaving her (Rhonda) kind of stranded, to which I ended up feeling soooo guilty about.
Sorry Rhonda, I should’ve tracked down a taxi … :(

So, what is Melodic Rock Fest 3 you say?
Well, it’s the dream melodic / hard rock festival for fans everywhere, that became a reality for the first time in 2007 for Andrew McNiece, the owner and founder of a very tasty rock website, absolutely loaded with information that would take any newcomer to it, a lifetime to ever get through it!
Andrew also had a great deal of help putting the whole thing together here in the US from Kivel Records founder and owner, John Kivel.
Melodic Rock Fest #1 took place in South Bend, Indiana in October 2007 and was a great fun day.

The second event took place in Elgin, IL in 2010 and was generally planned as a two day event initially but then became a three day event.

Andrew has been very fortunate over the years in making many friends and strong contacts in the rock world, that at each event it has always been an extremely strong melodic / hard rock line up.

This year has been no different, with top names from the world of rock like Eric Martin (Mr Big), Steve Augeri (Journey) and Jeff Scott Soto (Yngwie Malmsteen, Journey) to name just three top players, across the whole weekend.

It also pulled in bands from all over the world!
As well as US acts, there were bands from Sweden (Eclipse, ColdSpell), Australia (The Radio Sun), England (Newman) and Canada (Harem Scarem) represented. To be honest, the musicians that make up W.E.T. also is combination of American and Swedish talent, with Jeff Scott Soto as lead vocalist and members of both Swedish acts Eclipse and Work of Art.
The Home Bar, Arlington Heights, IL situated in a strip mall, perhaps a little tucked away.
The venue for the MRF3 event is The Home Bar, in Arlington Heights, IL, which seems to be a great venue for live acts, holding up to 1000 people, even if it was somewhere that I couldn't find at first and GPS was not helping!
It has a bar and grill appeal, reasonable size stage for the size of venue, pretty reasonable floor space and booth type seating around inside.
Some designated upper levels were assigned for VIP ticket holders only, as was the meet and a greet area that had been assigned.
The booth seats seemed to be taken right away and those that got them, were not giving them up!

So as I arrived at the venue I caught up with my old mate Steve Newman and his band, who were sitting outside, sunning themselves on the patio.
Newman drummer Pete Newdeck immediately joked that they were soon going to rename the band Newdeck! Nice one Pete!

I just want to add now that for the gig, I didn't  bring my SLR, why, because I considered lugging everything around inside the venue and the camera kit bag over my shoulder banging into everyone and just a pain trying to hold that, take notes, have fun etc, so I just had a regular digital camera. Sadly, in trying to avoid using flash, it didn't do so good in the low light conditions and some of the set's came across that way and with dry ice / smoke, it doesn't help. Deep pink and blue stage saturations do not seem good either and there were quite a few of those at The Home Bar ... Apologies for the not so good pic's folks.
It also got harder to take better pic's as the venue filled, as people tended to push and shove a little, I really started to notice this when Heaven + Earth hit the stage and it was tough to get good pic's unless you were one of those people that had basically perched right at the front and you weren't trying to write notes and take pictures.
Sad that people couldn't see this when I even tried saying excuse me, wouldn't move ...
Ah well ...
Sadly when W.E.T. were onstage the best chance I had to get pic's was side of stage and even there, I wasn't allowed close.
Anyway, once I got inside The Radio Sun were just finishing their last song, which sounded really pretty good so kind of sorry to have missed their set.

Sadly for them, there were not too many people on the main floor to watch their set.
I’ll have to check out some of their material for sure though.





Evolution Eden (Above) onstage at The Home Bar at MRF 3. - Photo's: Alun Williams
Evolution Eden was next up and is another band I knew nothing of previously and I'm not sure if they are a signed act or not?

They did have some really good material to me, but sadly I didn't know any of it.
I would certainly say go check them out, as it

was a pretty solid set from them and again at this point in time, where there only seemed to be little over a handful more folks on the floor when they started, but towards the end of their set there seemed to be quite a few more present.

Then it became clear why, as more and more people filed into the hall for the next bands set ...
Band website:


The next band 7th heaven it seems have come quite a way since I last saw them performing at the first MRF event in South Bend and that was six years back!

They also played the second MRF event as well, so within the MRF or community, they have become quite well known, add to that Arlington Heights for them is like a serious home town gig, I mean you should’ve seen these guys merchandise stand, impressive or what?!

They had brought t-shirts galore and many CD's for sale and other bit's and pieces!

History tells that they were previously jointly managed by former Bon Jovi bassist Alec John Such and Styx man James JY Young, so clearly the band's potential has become common knowledge, but then they have been around since 1985! 

They also pretty much were all playing their own gear with the exception of the drummer, as the drum kit did not change during the whole event, except for angle adjustments on cymbal stands, single to double kick pedals, etc.

They have also opened for Bon Jovi at Soldier Field home of the Chicago Bears and that place holds 60,000+!



7th heaven live at MRF 3
Top: Nick Cox (Guitar) and vocalist Keith Semple.
Bottom: Keith Semple with guitarist Richie Hofherr.
Photos: Alun Williams

They opened their set very strongly indeed with a big sound and loads of strong harmonies too.
I think the song was ‘Go for a Ride,’ which sounded really catchy and was certainly put across well and for many fans of the band, there was delight at the return of Irish vocalist Keith Semple who had left the band briefly, after recording two albums with the band previously.
He made a comment early on, clearly indicating that Extreme was one of his favourite bands, when he said, ‘I can’t believe it, why would anyone interrupt and turn off an Extreme song? What’s wrong with people?!’
Big cheer followed …

His stage presence was quite something, with his cheeky Irish one liners coming out throughout the set.
7th heaven bassist Mark Kennetz and Nick Cox. Photo: Alun Williams

‘Dance of a Lifetime’ was next, another winner with the crowd.

Keith was then provided an acoustic guitar, which before they started the next song he proceeded to play a little Extreme to tease the crowd, before then playing ‘Better this Way’ – I think – again sounding very good.
If I didn’t know better, I’d say I heard sampled stuff added in the mix from time to time though throughout the set …
The opening track from the band’s latest album ‘Synergy’ was next, ‘We Live Life Young,’ which again was very strong.
They really do have this stuff down well, but then something I didn’t know and recently learned, was that these guys have been around since the 80’s and although they have not had huge hits, they seem to still sell a reasonable amount of albums independently, merchandise too and play so frequently live, that they can actually make a living at it.

Part of how they master their live sound though, is they have their sound guy walking out in the crowd, with the sound board controls on an iPad, so they really can’t go wrong!
Keith left the stage briefly, leaving it to one of the band’s guitarist’s to take over, Nick Cox before Keith, then comes back for ‘Beyond Beautiful.’ Nice ballad.

‘Summers Gonna Last Forever,' next then a couple more songs and their set was done.
It was a good set and they were very warmly received, but then they had plenty of factors I’d mentioned earlier on their side, which really meant that they couldn’t fail, so there you have it!
Band website:




UK band Newman followed an act that could’ve certainly been higher on the bill, but Steve Newman, Shaun Bessant, Paul Boyle, Pete Newdeck and Joel Peters were simply happy to be here to play their debut US show.

Clearly setting up there were some monitor problems, which was a problem I’d heard from other artists that was going on.

Steve Newman, the man behind Newman the band! - Photo: Alun Williams
Suffice to say, they opened the set with ‘Killing Me’ from their ‘Under Southern Skies’ release and I think the crowd appeared happy that Newman were finally playing here in the US, after having released nine studio albums already since 1998!
Admittedly there were not as many people in front of the stage as 7th heaven had but as the performance proceeded, I think word had spread that, ‘Come and check out Newman, they sound pretty good!’
Top - Newman onstage at MRF3 2013 - Chicago!
Bottom - Newman guitarist Shaun Bessant counting how many Newman fans are present ...
Photo's: Alun Williams

From the latest AOR Heaven release ‘Siren’ came ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ next which without doubt raised the rock edge a little more.
For me it was great to see Steve and the band ‘finally’ get their chance to play in the US as I’ve known Steve for many years and know personally how dedicated this guy is to giving it – Newman – his all and to keep fans happy and it must be said, his band did him proud!
 Nice to hear ‘Every Moment’ from the ‘Dance in the Fire’ release, a very strong Newman track and Shaun Bessant is doing a great job on handling all of Steve's album solo work onstage!

Something that does seem clear or should that be not so clear, is Paul Boyle’s keyboards seem very up and down in the mix, but that’s certainly not the case with both Pete’s drums or Joel’s bass, which are both loud and clear!


Top - Newman taking it to crowd!
Bottom - Shaun Bessant, Pete Newdeck and a happy Steve Newman.
Photo's: Alun Williams
The ballad ‘Stay With Me’ is next which started with a little confusion, but soon got back on track and the audience really seemed to enjoy it too, especially perhaps enhanced by a really well played solo once again from Mr. Bessant.
Pete Newdeck’s drum intro got the driving ‘Primitive Soul’ underway, the title track of Steve’s 2007 album.
They seem to have overcome the gremlins now and seem quite comfortably enjoying themselves although sadly, after the excellent ‘If It’s Love’ from his first album, the band get the message that they have to wrap up their set – Cutting out three songs – as the schedule is running late … Cruel …
There can really be only one song for these guys to close with and sure enough, probably their best known song and title track from their second album ‘One Step Closer,’ does well to wrap up the set with Steve also getting the crowd into a singalong.
Good job guys, you deserve the opportunity to come back again to the States anytime soon to show everyone EXACTLY what you wanted to present.

 Next up was kind of a sad situation as the next set was due to be that of Brett Walker, who sadly passed away suddenly about a month or so before the event and right as his new album 'Straight Jacket Vacation' was due to be released.

The artist, good friends with organizer Andrew McNiece and many of the other artists on the weekend bill, had expressed ahead of the event how much he had been looking forward to it, sadly it was not to be.
So to pay tribute to the man, the rock community pulled together and with Brett’s wife Sheron’s blessing, the rest of his band and friends agreed that they would played the planned set the Brett Walker band had been rehearsing.

Brett’s lead guitarist Matt MacKelvie pretty much took on the lead role in the band performing, with special guest Jeff Paris taking the main lead vocalist role, with other special guests including a good friend of Brett’s in Shawn Pelata (Line of Fire) stepping up to help out too.
Unfortunately, I am guilty of really not know Brett’s material and now I regret it big time, as what I heard I really enjoyed and now know full well, that I would’ve been a fan of his stuff years before if only I had picked up on it sooner.

The set was preluded by the MTV video of Brett, for ‘Hard To Find An Easy Way.’
I think that really moved a lot of people at that time and must’ve been really tough on Brett’s wife who was present at the event and then next when the band played along with a Brett vocal track, which was kind of eerie, but cool of them to do.
Must’ve been tough …
Top - Matt MacKelvie, Brett Walker's long time friend and guitarist.
Bottom - Brett's old band with special guest Jeff Paris helping out.
Photo's: Alun Williams
Jeff Paris next adds, ‘This next tune is one I wrote with Brett, it’s called ‘Waiting For Love.’Sounds great, this is the song that was actually a hit for the band Alias ... Good stuff.
Jeff is indeed a class act …

The rest of the set is very well done, including some guest spots one of which Shawn Pelata, does very well.

My apologies for not knowing the names of the other guests who stepped up or songs, but it all sounded good and I’m everyone would agree, that complete respect was paid to Brett Walker. RIP Brett.



Kivel Record's artist Tango Down were up next and perhaps they sounded a little rough in their opening couple of songs, but with the way the change overs are happening so fast and without sound checks, it’s tough on these bands. They were not alone!

I only know of the band’s last release ‘Identity Crisis,’ none of their previous stuff at all so I’m a little limited on my song knowledge of the band, I’ve also had a bit of a hard time really getting into the latest album ..., but part of that could be lack of time to listen to it ...

Lead singer David Reece (Ex-Accept, Bangalore Choir) though seems to expect the audience to know all their stuff, based on how he came across to the crowd.
Perhaps he should consider that this is a multi-band festival and not just Tango Down’s day … Maybe he was just playing with the crowd ...?

Top and Bottom - Tango Down rocking MRF3.
Photo's: Alun Williams

I for one love the melodic / hard rock scene and still was only familiar with around half of the day’s bands’ music, but I went with an open mind to judge / assess the bands on how they came across and their attitudes to the fans.

Perhaps that the opening two tracks, I now understand were from the latest album and I didn’t recognize them tells you something … Sorry guys …

That said, many did seem to enjoy it and know the stuff, so I guess I'm in the minority.

‘Dream Child’ next though I did recognize and enjoyed!
David Reece though does seem to come across as if he wants to be Mick Jagger or Paul Stanley, it’s just a little too over the top sometimes IMHO and after all, this is just a bar - The Home Bar - in Arlington Heights, IL .. Where (?), some may say …


The overall songs sound kind of familiar but the presentation from Reece … Hmm …
The sampled keyboards on ‘Blame (it On Me)’ next are pretty obvious …, that said, it is a song I really like and am glad to hear it.

The next song I do know well, as it’s a cover of Jace / Chasing Magic’s ‘Corners of my Mind,’ written by the talented upcoming singer / songwriter Jason Pawlak.
They do it well, good one guys!

I’m at a loss with the next track, sounded like ‘Open Your Eyes (?),’ but I’m not sure, but it did sound good, the big harmony vocals a little too good perhaps, when I only saw partial participation on backing vocals … Sampled?

More keyboard samples are obvious in the next track, again one I didn’t recognize.
I understand the next two songs were Bangalore Choir tunes, another band that I’m not familiar with but the last one though I understand was ‘Angel In Black.’

So Tango Down in my books were OK, maybe I need to listen to them more but learning that David Reece is their third vocalist on as many albums, who knows where they go from here?


AdrianGale took the stage to much applause and cheering and yes, are another band I’ve never got into for whatever reason ...

AdrianGale are another Kivel Records artist that unfortunately I've never got to know any of their stuff before, not really heard it, which doesn't help with the sing-along aspect.

Top - Jamie Rowe leads AdrianGale at MRF3.
Bottom - Vic 'Hair' Rivera with AdrianGale.
Photo's: Alun Williams

AdrianGale started some years ago, releasing four studio albums between 2000 and 2004 before they split up and then reformed last year and recently released the much touted ‘Suckerpunch’ album through Kivel Records.

Clearly they have some following, based on the warm reception they received and the guys came out with all guns a blazing!

Vic Rivera I know about and is a great player on guitar, but sorry AdrianGale the rest of the band I am not familiar with at all except vocalist Jamie Rowe who I've heard good things about, but likewise with the material, I'm pretty much at a loss.

In fact the opening track really reminded me of The Beastie Boys ‘Fight For Your Right (To Party)’ and to be honest I thought the harmonies seemed a little flat, but that just kind of echoed what I’d heard elsewhere about the monitoring.

As the set progressed, many of the songs sounded punchy with ‘No More Chances’ that was pretty solid too!

‘Getting Closer To the Weekend(?)’ I believe was next, good stuff.

They did seem to be greatly appreciated and came across as good strong players, but I just did not recognize anything and nothing was really outstanding, but was certainly good.

Facebook page - No official website available:

 Around this time, my feet could not possibly stand anymore, dogs were barking big time and I needed to eat!
Breakfast now seemed so long ago and lunch had been skipped ...
I realized that Heaven + Earth would be on soon, so I hoped that the staff in the The Home Bar were quick with food.
As I waited, I could hear Heaven + Earth checking everything was working, as close to any sound check as anyone got and I did not want to miss them.
I took a couple of bites of my sandwich and asked for a box to go ... I grabbed it and ran into the hall as the band were all on and getting ready to strike up and go!
I have been waiting for some time for the chance to see next band Heaven + Earth.
Stuart Smith is a guitarist who I had admired for a while too, especially since he is so strongly influenced by Ritchie Blackmore, who Stuart has some history with.

Over the past few years, I have got to know Stuart a little, through his playing with Steve Priest’s version of The Sweet and reviewing their live gigs in Detroit in 2011 and 2012 and some friendly phone calls here and there, before Stuart quit the band to focus on the latest Heaven + Earth release ‘Dig.’

The band now features alongside Stuart, Joe Retta (Sweet) as lead vocalist, Richie Onori (Sweet) on drums, Arlan Schierbaum on keys and Hammond B3 and guest bassist Tony Morabito.

The set was scheduled originally to be an unplugged set, but then then opted late in the day to plug in and rock out, a very wise choice and one that made many of their fans at the event, extremely happy including me!
My only beef was that they played quite a short set, all things considered and with the exception of their theme song from the first album – ‘Heaven + Earth.’ – all songs were from their latest - Although a very enjoyable release … - album ‘Dig.’

Stuart Smith at MRF3, the man behind Heaven + Earth
Photo: Alun Williams

They opened the set as the new album does with ‘Victorious’ with its mystic and Arabic like intro leading into jamming Hammond and Stuart’s riffing guitar work, some solid bass and top notch drums, Joe Retta’s vocal was right on the mark too!
The song with the interesting video, ‘No Money No Love’ was next and it was just class!
The interplay between Stuart’s guitar and Arlan’s Hammond keys work, sounded so, so strong! I just love the track!

Top - Arlan Schierbaum having fun on B3!
Bottom - Heaven + Earth, they rocked!
Photo's: Alun Williams
‘Lonely House of Blues’ next is so soulful and it’s on tracks like this that Joe Retta very much reminds me of Paul Rodgers. Stuart rips out a killer solo on this too, which Arlan matches well too, as he climbed all over his B3 Hammond!
Heck Jon Lord (RIP) would’ve no doubt agreed too!
When they launch into ‘Man and Machine’ next, I was convinced we’d be hearing the whole of the ‘Dig’ album!
The band players all seemed completely on their game, having fun grinning like crazy and just rocking out!

‘I Don’t Know What Love Is (Anymore)’ is such a beautiful track, it has got to be the power ballad of the year if you ask me and once again, it’s on the more soulful styling’s of the band where Joe’s voice comes across so very much like Paul Rodgers, really strong.
The rich sound these guys are getting between Arlan’s B3 and Stuart's almost Blackmore like style is just phenomenal!
‘Dreams of Desire’ - Bach's 'Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring' – leading into the ‘Heaven + Earth’ theme tune is preceded by Joe Retta's explanation that ‘You all know that this next song was originally sung on the first Heaven + Earth album by Joe Lynn Turner, so hopefully I can do it some justice!’ 
Joe does just fine, as do the rest of the band. Magic!

 Top - Joe Retta showing some Les Paul action!
Bottom - Heaven + Earth, into the light!
Photo's: Alun Williams

Richie Onori gives us a brief drum solo before the band rock out with ‘Good Times’ from ‘Dig,’ before they close with ‘See That My Grave is Kept Clean,’ a serious blues jam!

A great set that I hope the video footage that was taken is released sometime …, I would’ve loved to have seen a longer live set from these guys, capturing more of their back catalogue. Ah well … Enjoyed what I saw and heard!

Talk of live dates in 2014 is certainly something that I hope comes off.


Official band website:



Mecca next was kind of bittersweet, as I’m sure everyone felt the same way on the day.

Joe Vana is and has been the main driving force behind Mecca, but also involved on the first release were former Toto bassist David Hungate, ex-Survivor / Pride of Lions main contributor Jim Peterik plus former Toto and La Roux vocalist Fergie Frederiksen who has sadly been battling inoperable cancer since 2010.

Mecca released their second album ‘Undeniable’ around the middle of 2011 in Europe, but not until January 2012 in North America. Suffice to say, it was a very strong release.

Joe Vana is still the driving force behind the project, but now he’s pulled his son Joey into the project too on guitars and backing vocals.

The ‘Undeniable’ album featured a whole host of players, that we won’t go into here, but yes, if you’re a lover of AOR / Melodic rock, think Toto, Journey, Survivor styling’s and you wouldn’t be too far off.

Sadly, the bittersweet comment I made at the beginning of Mecca’s set reference was relating to the fact that Fergie Frederiksen had hoped to be a part of the event but his various cancer treatments and just his current health state, meant that he was not in any position to be here.

Andrew McNiece when he introduced the band, explained all of this and he also asked the audience if they wouldn’t mind doing him a big favour and help him send a message to Fergie wishing him well with a big cheer and he proceeded to call Fergie and left a message and he had the audience give a huge roar and he captured the audience on video from his phone, to pass the message on. The crowd duly obliged! Great stuff! We certainly would wish Fergie all the very best.

Andrew then asked the audience to go gentle with Joe, as he wasn’t 100% from some recent surgery for cancer but he wanted to be a part of the event and he certainly did very well all things considered, even if he did have an iPad to help with lyrics.

Joe Vana, the voice behind Mecca - Photo: Alun Williams
Their set opened with ‘Perfect World’ the very same great track that opens ‘Undeniable.’ Wonderfully big sound!
‘The One’ next comes across in a very Toto like way indeed, especially the chord structures. Great stuff!
Joe Vana does seem to be struggling a little here, as Andrew had hinted at the beginning that he might be, musically the large band assembled to back up Joe and son Joey, sound great!
Nice keyboard work from Eric Ragno throughout their set too!
‘Undeniable’ the title track is next and as the previous two songs, it comes across as just pure class music!


Jimi Jamison shone with Mecca's Joe Vana at MRF3
Photo: Alun Williams
Then it’s special guest time, as they bring out Survivor’s Jimi Jamison for ‘Burning Heart’ and you should’ve seen the phones come out along with multiple cameras actually videoing it! Well sung Jimi!
The fans were certainly enjoying it and Jimi was grinning from ear to ear as well and as he leaves the stage, he makes the comment, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll be back out later!’
Also from the latest album, ‘Did It For Love’ was next before the band’s theme tune ‘Mecca’ itself.
Smooth tunes indeed!
Jimi returns to sing ‘Too Hot To Sleep’ which raised a huge cheer, as it’s a track, that album’s title track of the album that possibly most die-hard Survivor fans rate as their best, it was also the last one to feature Jim Peterik.
The track rocked and the fans loved it!
Another newer song in ‘Closing Time’ next and although it’s a good song, I think the Jimi Jamison appearances are something that the crowd are kind of yearning for here.
Jamison comes back to sing ‘A Dream Too Far’ from the ‘Empires’ album release which is once more welcomed with much approval, before ‘First Day of Love’ from the same ‘Empires’ album next and then one that went out to Fergie as the band pulled off the Toto gem, ‘Carmen’ that Fergie sang so well. They didn’t do bad and kudo’s to Eric Ragno for his keyboard flourishes on this.
‘Without You’ from the first Mecca release is next and gets some big cheers and it seems Mecca have won a lot more fan and friend tonight!
They close with Survivor’s ‘I Can’t Hold Back’ and with this, they pretty much take the roof off!
So many happy faces, so many people singing along and it close the set well!
Get better Joe, Fergie, all our thoughts and prayers are with you.
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Next it was W.E.T., combing the multi talents of guitarist / songwriter Robert Säll from Work Of Art, the multi-instrumentalist Erik Mårtensson from Eclipse and the singer/songwriter Jeff Scott Soto from Talisman.
Sadly the picture above, is about the best picture you'll see here, relating to this gig review as I couldn't get anywhere close to take any reasonable photo's.

Of course those that know Jeff Scott Soto’s background know that he has played with many other artists as well as Talisman too, such as Yngwie J. Malmsteen, Journey, Axel Rudi Pell, Trans-Siberian Orchestra as well as fronting Queen tribute bands.
Very talented guy, but then if you have ever listened to Eclipse or Work Of Art, you’ll realize the equal talents of both Robert and Erik!
On the night, Jeff of course took lead vocals, Erik on guitar, and Robert was on keys, they were also augmented by Eclipse member Magnus Henriksson on guitar and guest bass player and drummer who I'm sorry, I just didn't know?

Here's the thing folks for me, it was like with Jeff Scott Soto ...
He was the guy that I know would not disappoint, live he put's on a stunning show!
What a talent!
I have huge and utmost respect for the guy and would love to interview the man who's work I have greatly admired for years and is the guy that I love to tell people, 'You know that song in the movie 'Rock Star,' the 'Stand Up and Shout' song? Yeah, Jeff Scott Soto sung it!'
Sadly some poor souls watching the movie actually believed that Mark Wahlberg sung it and much as I admire Mark Wahlberg as an actor, no people, he did NOT sing that song!

'Stand Up and Shout' aside, what Jeff has achieved on his own merits is fantastic, but I'll let up on that and get on with the review as after all, that's all people are wanting know about!

As W.E.T. were getting ready to kick off their set, the intro tape or Robert Säll on keys started with a tubular bell type sound that led into the excellent 'Never Walk Away!'
I was in heaven!
These guys, from the first notes and the full sound were just great, although Jeff did seem perhaps a little shaky ...

'Learn To Live Again' put simply is just another masterpiece!
Sounds so good and 'Invincible' next, it's just killer stuff!

Can these guys do any wrong!
'I'll Be There' next is yet another strong, catchy song and it's pretty loud as well, but I'm not complaining. To get to see most of these acts is such a rare deal, but W.E.T. is a very unique mini super-group project.

W.E.T. what a band! Live at MRF3!
Photo: Alun Williams

With 'Love Heals,' there really aren't many power ballads that come close, certainly not this year, with the exception of the earlier mentioned H+E song, but Jeff's voice has got into a wonderful groove for the evening.
The whole band is so on their game, what talent though with Erik and Magnus from Eclipse and it's a shame that Robert Säll is simply covering keyboards, as he's quite the guitarist himself.

The monster title track of the latest album, 'Rise Up' is next in the set and the crowd does just that! Boy, is it special, as it seems is every track played tonight, I mean they are all winners!

Jeff Scott Soto and Magnus Henriksson rockin' Chicago!
Photo: Alun Williams

Jeff pulls a track from his Talisman days next in 'Break Your Chains' which slots in pretty well with everything else here.

He then takes a breather to pay tribute to all the great singers and bands that are at Melodic Rock Fest 3 this weekend and to Andrew (McNiece) for putting it all together.
Amen brother!

Another gem from the 'Rise Up' album in the shape of 'Bad Boy' next, just class!

Then it's 'Still Unbroken' and then 'Broken Wings,' before another Talisman track in 'I'll Be Waiting' where he get's the crowd to sing along, as well as pulling some of the guys from other bands to try and sing the main line.
I mean I don't think he was trying to humiliate some of the other singers, where he was trying to get Gary Schutt, as well as Coldspell's lead singer and one other to try and scream (?) the main line from the song ..., but he was messing with them.
I guess it was just kind of funny and fun ...

'If I Fall' from the first W.E.T. album next was good but not perhaps as strong as the material from 'Rise Up,' but there is no faulting the band, it all sounds great still.

Dedicating 'Brothers in Arms' to his band mates was a great touch and so true.
They close with 'One Love' and it was one great set from a project band that really impressed me and clearly impressed most if not all the audience that had really packed the place out by now.


That was it for me I was beat, I had never seen Harem Scarem live before, I had looked forward to and am so sorry to have missed them but weariness - I had sat down for ten to fifteen minutes max in the whole time at the gig since I arrived at 12 noon - and a certain amount of guilt too, made up my mind to return to my family that had patiently waited for me at the hotel.

Melodic Rock Fest 3, just the Saturday show was great, wish I could've seen Harem Scarem and the Sunday show too, but it wasn't to be.
At least they are back together, so next time they're around this way or at a multi-band festival like this, I'll be there!

No matter, it was great to have been a part of it and catch up with meeting great people, old friends and new alike.

Roll on Melodic Rock Fest 4 ... Bring it on Andrew!!!

Please note - Public apology:

I would like to offer a sincere apology and retract some of the original statement made in my original review posting of this event that may have caused offence to John Kivel.

I have redressed certain areas of my review, that were badly placed originally and had no place in a concert review.

It is also always my intention to be as honest as I can be in my reviews and opinions, which at the end of the day is what my reviews are, my opinions.
People will not always therefore agree with them, that is just how it is.

 I have in the past reviewed concerts by artists I really like and have admired for twenty / thirty years, who on the night have disappointed, so my reviews will tell it from my perspective on that evening, even if others see the concert differently.
When I am reviewing a festival event though, chances are there will be acts / artists playing that I may know little or nothing previously about. When that happens, often songs at the time may come across as not so memorable, so may not have that much of an impact, again that may just be at that specific time.

I do know that John Kivel is a professional record label owner, looking to promote and support the acts that he has put his time and money into, with a great deal of pride and justifiably so.
Kivel Records has some very good artists indeed that deserve a lot more attention than todays marketplace will often give them, of course this can be said of many labels.
I honestly wish John Kivel and Kivel Records artists, nothing but success.
The music industry is a tough game and many unsung heroes in many acts today, deserve to be recognized so much more than they are.

Thank you for your time.

Alun Williams
Owner / Editor
Chambers of Rock


 Get ready folks, guess what's coming ....?
Official announcement on the full lineup of
MelodicRockFest 4 on Thursday 12th December, 2013!