So, here we are for the very first (hopefully of many) Frontiers Festival. The venue in question is one of the finest I’ve visited, the Live Club in Trezzo sull'Adda situated on an industrial estate halfway between Bergamo airport and Milan. Frontiers seem to have pulled a bit of a master stroke. Sure its only bands on the Serafino Perugino Frontiers label, but what a line up it is. Probably one of the finest melodic rock line ups there has been...ever! In the history of AOR line ups…EVER!!!
On arrival the allocation of tickets is poor. This is the only criticism I have over the whole festival. Even arriving an hour before the gig started, I would say a good 60% had yet to enter by the time the very first band - State Of Salazar hit the stage. There were a few disgruntled punters, but that was soon washed once they say the venue and atmosphere. Visitors were from all over the world - Italy, Greece, Spain, Sweden, Germany, UK etc. It’s a bit like Field Of Dreams, if you get the right bands, then they will come!
State of Salazar were ok, but Frontiers missed a trick here by having a few of the bands having albums in the pipeline a few months ahead. All the songs are new to the crowd, and whilst the audience responded well, there just seems to be a spark missing. Based on first impressions, SoS have a bright and promising future ahead of them (6/10)
With Dalton however, the ante was definitely upped. Not seen by these eyes before (or many others probably), Dalton were a very nice surprise indeed. So a couple of them look too old to be away from their day care centre but Dalton play a style of AOR that’s very hard not to like, and with songs like ‘Hey You’, ‘Love Injection’ (oo-er Missus!), and ‘You’re Not My Lover’, have the melodic loving audience wetting themselves - their album will be on a lot of peoples want lists come the Autumn (7.5/10)
Three Lions were here representing the first of two back to back Blighty bands. I have to admit that the debut album is a bit of a belter, and today their live performance kicks the album into a cocked hat! Three Lions (Bailey-o, Burns-o, and Morgan-o) came with 2 added cubs, and it made for a rounded and fuller experience. If Dalton were good, then Three Lions pissed all over what came before and truly set a marker not just for Snakecharmenr but for the rest of the remaining bands, AND the next two days - yes they were that good. Opening up with ‘Holy Water’, Three Lions make their statement and a lot of people immediately take notice. 'Twisted Soul' was fantastic, a 70s Classic Rock Vibe with a killer riff from Burns, and ‘Kathmandu’, to me anyways is Three Lions' ‘Stargazer/Heaven & Hell’, and sees Nigel Bailey wringing every note possible out of those velvety pipes - I suppose that’s what 20 beers the day before does for you. ‘Don’t Let Me Fall’ has them playing a special version - Jap x with the album version and was a rather nice alternative. ‘Hellfire Highway’ followed, ending with the excellent ‘Trouble In A Red Dress’. Me, I'd have had them swap with Snakecharmer and play the whole album, but I’m not Serafino. This is one band I would ask back next year without a doubt. (9/10)
Where Three Lions mantra is 'We have upped our game, so up yours" the gauntlet from the UK lions (+2 cubs) was cast firmly on the stage for Snakecharmer, who come out of the blocks faster than a speeding sloth. It’s undoubtedly the 'all star' cast of the day when you have the likes of Moody, Murray, Wiseman, Ousey and Wakeman peddling their classic rock wares. When you look at the rest of the bands around them, Snakecharmer seem to be outcasts and their brand is not as pink and fuffy as the rest of the melodic rock line up that’s here - not just today, but for the whole weekend. It’s plain to see from the off that the Snakecharmer guys are old hat at plying their trade, Ousey’s vocals are outstanding, considering he is a waif of a bloke and he takes every opportunity to present his soulful vocals. Let’s face it, 90% of the audience are here for the Whitesnake songs, and they will be coming, but first it’s a chance to show off the debut album. Songs such as the excellent ‘Guilty As Charged’, ‘My Angel’ and ‘A Little Rock and Roll’ are well received, but for me the place partly emptied for a retreat to the bar when Moody does his slide guitar solo, and it’s the same solo (pretty much) as my first ever gig seeing Whitesnake in 1982! The crowd do come alive for the classics – ‘Slow And Easy’, ‘Here I Go Again’, and ‘Fool For Your Loving’ and they are given a nice slant by Ousey. Despite having a great singer, Snakecharmer seem a little souless and there’s definitely that spark missing to set them on their way (7/10)
W.E.T. are one of the best melodic rock bands plying their trade today. Today’s set weighs heavily on their latest album, and there’s good reason for that. W.E.T. absolutely make use of the fact that they have another bonafide quality singer stood alongside JSS on guitar, because in Erik Martensson they have a guy whose higher register takes JSS's vocals to a new and higher dimension. Add in the vocals of the other three, and its harmony hairspray, I mean heaven. Jeff Scott Soto commands the stage like a General, plying his trade with supreme confidence - hair flicks, karate kicks all applied with style. Which is not said of his clothing style! That said, it’s not about the clothes – it’s about the music, and W.E.T. have great songs in abundance. It’s great that there’s whims/projects for Serafino to occasionally get off the ground and more importantly become a touring/ live entity. Right from the off, the first thing that hits you are the harmonies, with ‘Walk Away’ getting the full treatment. ‘Learn To Live’ again highlights how good a singer Martensson is, but we find out more of this tomorrow. ‘Comes Down Like Rain’ is a poignant tribute to Marcel Jacob, and JSS shows off his sort Journey period with the very Journey-esque ‘If I Fall’. W.E.T.s set is over all too soon for this AOR faithul crowd, but they definitely leave their mark on the audience (7/10)
Hardline are one of those bands plying their trade with just one original member. Hardline would definitely not be Hardline if it were not for two people- original member Johnny Gioeli, and the Frontiers go to guy for keys, production, writing and a set of pipes that deserves its own platform, the extremely talented and diminutive Alessandro Del Vecchio. Over the 3 days you're hard pushed to find someone as excited to be on stage as Gioeli - he's a freakin whirlwind, never stopping, running around the stage like a kid living the dream. I never thought that Gioeli was the best rock singer in the world, but fair play to the guy he is a different league live. The set weighs heavily on Hardline's debut album, and quite rightly so, but it’s a Frontiers fest, so ‘Fever Dreams’ and ‘Danger Zone’ get an airing from the new album. Ale and Anna Portalupi are two of the smallest musicians playing anywhere in the world today, what they lack in height they make up in kickass playing. At one point Gioeli makes the mistake of engaging Ale in a sing off. Bad move! It was probably the first of many resounding applauses for DelVecchio over the weekend. We all want to hear the debut, and Hardline don’t let us down – ‘Dr Love’, ‘Life’s A Bitch’, ‘Taking Me Down’, and one of the best melodic rock anthems ‘Hot Cherie’. Due to limited time, I could have done without keyboard, drum and guitar solos. That said they were still pretty good (7/10)
My co-conspirator is not the biggest fan of the Modern Day Tesla. Or should that be Jeff Keith. He (Jeff) has more of a whine to his vocal style these days, but I’m firmly planted with with the rest of the audience, I think they are almost as cool as they day I saw them originally (4/9/87 to be precise). Jeff Keith enters with a certain swagger. I can’t fathom if that swagger is due to a drink too many or some other reason. When he says "It’s great to be here", I don’t have any confidence he knows exactly where he is. Tesla let the songs do the talking for them. Opener ‘I Wanna Live’ fits in perfectly with Tesla’s more classic output the past 30 years, and Rude and Hannon complement each other, with Lucketta and Wheat pounding the band forward. A little book appeared for Keith for the 2 new songs ‘MP3’ and ‘Ricochet’. ‘MP3’ has a real dirty riff from Hannon, and both songs show a potential fruitful relationship ahead with Frontiers. Tesla give the baying crowd more bang for their Euro with the second half of the set, with crowd singalong fave ‘What You Give’, followed by the likes of ‘Signs’, and the stand out moment for everyone, ‘Modern Day Cowboy’, which is Tesla’s must play song. The encore is short, but makes up for by playing ‘Coming Atcha Live’, an excellent way to end the inaugural day 1 of Frontiers festival. I would have preferred a couple of more songs such as ‘EZ Come’, and ‘Edisons Medicine’ but you can’t always get what you want. Despite that, everyone, me included went back to their respective hotels, extremely happy and looking forward to day two (8.5/10)
Pics Courtesy of Sam Compton