Live Review: Adrian Hextall Photographs: Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media
Good lord… it was wet. As far as the eye could sea, water everywhere. What is it about festivals and standing knee deep in water? i’d not even taken any wellingtons to keep my feet dry. What’s that? I’m standing in the sea? I’ve just walked across the beach? I’m not in a field but on the southern coast of Spain in Fuengirola to experience Rock the Coast Festival? Right then, I’d better stop moaning and get on with it… Average temperature, 26 Degrees Celcius ! Wonderful.
Without a drop of rain for the entire weekend and temperatures that make the average Brit shrivel we flew into Malaga, picked up the hire car and headed down to the coast for a couple of days of classic rock and metal.
Located in between Malaga and Marbella, Fuengirola is a popular holiday resort. Packed with the usual enticements for Brits, Irish Pubs, Full English and Full Irish Breakfasts on the menus of restaurants, and more San Miguel on tap than the average man needs in a lifetime. Basically the perfect location for your average metal fan who might struggle to adapt to foreign climes.
To give the whole event a slightly unique feel, the stages are split into 2 key areas. At the top of the hill, an old castle stands overlooking the town and in the main courtyard, 2 days of up and coming new acts as well as some reinvigorated classics played. Down near the sea front, a double stage allowing a one on, one off approach to the main music of the weekend ensured that a mere 5-10 minute gap was all that occurred before another band was performing.
A large standing area in front of the two stages allowed those that wanted to get up close and personal.
A warm up show in the castle courtyard from Wardruna got the ball rolling on Thursday evening but the festival started properly on the Saturday with the main stage playing host to folk/pagan metal band Arkona who came in from Moscow to entertain what was already a healthy standing audience. Lead singer Masha or “Scream” as she’s known, dressed in typical folk metal attire got proceedings off to a flying start. Mixing folk music, metal, growls and smooth vocals it was a loud awakening for those that had arrived a day earlier to sample the sights and sounds of the town.
At just 4 Euros a time, the local icy cold beer was great value. It’s the small things that make a festival work and affordable drinks in a hot climate are a must. Full marks to Rock the Coast for getting the most important thing right from the off.
We then hit the first memorable moment of the weekend. Wolfsbane vocalist, solo artist and former Iron Maiden front man Blaze Bayley performing a celebratory set of songs from his tenure with the Irons, ‘The X-Factor’ and ‘Virtual XI’. With British band Absolva supporting Blaze, they put on a fantastic show reminding us just why Steve Harris settled on Bayley when Bruce Dickinson decided to take some time out. The highlight, a stunning version of ‘The Clansman’, one of the tracks the Maiden still play to this day. I doubt I’ll get to see this set again any time soon so this was a real winner.
Graveyard, touring in support of latest album ‘Peace’, play a mix of blues, doom, psychedelia and more. It felt odd to watch a band playing music more suited to a nighttime, indoor show but they seemed to get a decent reception from the crowd, especially those that were looking for a bit of grit and spice in their festival mix. Maybe they’d have been a perfect fit for the post headline slot. A fog laden stage, great lighting and a midnight window, now that would have been pretty cool.
Heading up to the Castle stage, one band that suited the sun and the cold beers were Murcia’s Hitten. Growing up in the 80s, it’s impossible not to have an appreciation of classic arena (I refuse to use the word hair) rock. Hitten play exactly that. With the same amount of stage presence that Bon Jovi had back in the mid 1980s, Hitten delivered a set that resulted in me purchasing both of their albums upon my return home. 2016’s ‘State of Shock’ and current release ‘Twist of Fate’, make for a night of anthemic rock and with a live show to match, this is one band I’ll be looking forward to seeing again.
Wintersun, another band I’d like to see in darker stage lit surroundings, brought their particular brand of epic / folk / growl metal to the main stage and again kept the metalheads happy. They’re easy to spot, they wear all black in the blazing sun in nigh on 30 Degree heat, all for the love of the music!
With Bloodhunter and Alkaloid played the Castle stage we stayed on the ground waiting for a German act who rightly sit in the ‘inspirational’ category. Having toured for the last few years as Dirkschneider, performing hits from Udo’s time in Accept, we get what some of us have hoped for for some time now. U.D.O. playing a career spanning set of songs including personal favourites ‘Animal House’ and ‘They Want War’. The sort of Teutonic metal that Germany is famous for and even if Udo is getting on a bit, having been performing for 50 odd years, his voice (unique as it is) sounds as strong and powerful as it did when I first heard Animal House 30 years ago. Another festival highlight and a show to remember for some time to come.
Tarja then played their set under the hot Spanish sun with lead singer Tarja Turunen looking particularly stunning in a tight black leather outfit that had to be a tad on the hot side to wear and certainly caused a few of the blokes in the crowd to swoon ever so slightly! One full memory card of photos later [cough] and we then watched Tarja deliver a set mixed set from her solo career with just the Gary Moore cover of ‘Over The Hills And Far Away’ reminding people of her Nightwish roots. When you have 7 solo albums, you kid of have the luxury of being able to focus on your own work and fair play to her!
A quick trip up the hill and we then caught the end of the set from Blaze’s band, Absolva.
Playing metal with high quality vocals, this is what Metallica might sound like if Mr Hetfield had a smoother voice. Solid heavy and a great reminder of just how talented brothers Chris and Luke Appleton are. Old school is the new black! You heard it here first.
Food then managed to beat a need to watch U.F.O. bow out with a 50th Anniversary set, and aside from the fantastic quality of grub on offer, special mention goes to the facilities. Most UK based festivals think that a decent toilet requires VIP access, not so Rock the Coast who simply offer, hot water, a proper sit down option and a flush-able loo all for the princely sum of a Euro!
As the day wore on and the sun began to set behind the grandstand, which worked brilliantly as a sun shade for the main stages as well, Scorpions huge stage set lit up and the main headliners on the first day got the party started.
Without needing to turn the spotlights on the locals, who were all in fine voice, the Scorpions delivered a fantastic set of classic hard rock anthems. The cynics amongst us will bemoan the fact that the show is getting a bit samey as the show ‘has’ to feature a certain number of songs and the visuals all look familiar from the shows I’ve seen at Hellfest, Ramblin Man Fair and Stone Free festivals over the last 3-4 years. Personally I don’t care. I’m going to see the band perform again at Bloodstock Open Air 2019 and I’ll enjoy every minute.
They truly are the perfect headline act. Appealing to rock and metal fans alike with enough well known songs that even your Nan would sing along to a couple. She was probably singing along to ‘Send Me An Angel’, ‘Wind Of Change’ and ‘Still Loving You’ and loving every minute, as was I!!
The closing act for the first day (for us lightweights) was Europe. A tough as to come on and win over the crowd following a massive headline set. Europe of course have the benefit of being able to deliver more of the same. The huge wall of video screens may be missing but with the Peter Pan of Swedish Rock front and centre, their 35 plus years of hard rock was simply sublime.
Tracks like ‘Walk The Earth’ and ‘War of Kings’ deserve to be in their set alongside the classics and hopefully in years to come will be treated with the same reverence as ‘Rock the Night’ and [cough] “that song”. You know, the one they have to play and the one they have to close with. Which of course they did!
Roll on Day 2.