>> WINTER PARADE <<
Release party 29.06.2002 at Kronestua, Tynset.
I am sure many of you frequenting the Rock Of Norway website will have heard the buzz surrounding Winter Parade, Norwegian rockers signed to the German melodic rock label MTM Music. Last weekend, Winter Parade celebrated the release of their full album, "Midnight in Paradise", by means of a gig at Kronestua, Tynset, home town to three of the band members. Through hooking up with bassist P.B. Riise and drummer Terry Follin on an earlier occasion and having lived with a pre-release CD-R of the album for some time, I was quite excited to get the chance to experience Winter Parade in concert mode.
Meeting up with the band while they were setting up their gear, it was pretty obvious from the get-go that Winter Parade were hell bent on presenting the audience with a spectacular show: While Kronestua matches any Norwegian pub/dancing concept, it's still hardly Madison Square Garden, but by the size and the amount of lighting the band attempted to cram into the venue, you could easily get a little confused! Then again, bassist P.B. pointed out that the band were quite happy to be "shooting sparrows with cannons" when playing Kronestua. (Norwegian expression suggesting artillery, not church law!)
Having played Kronestua previously as a cover song band, new to this particular evening was that the band would be presenting some of their own material as well. Singer Bjorn Westum willingly explained that playing only original, as yet unreleased material might be hard on the audience, whereas interspersed with well-known cover songs, the Winter Parade tunes would be a little easier to grasp. Bjorn's enthusiastic ramblings about how the last Journey album ("Arrival") really grows on you with time, furthermore goes to show that Winter Parade are not only musicians, but also real fans of the melodic hard rock-, AOR- and classic rock genres!
After a lengthy soundcheck which included Terry cursing himself for recently changing the head of his snare drum (it did have a slightly bizarre "clank" to it), the band members went home to shower and hustle up their best stage attire, whereas I, Rock Of Norway "assistant for the occasion" Eirik and lighting man Kaare went for a bite to eat. ...P.B. joined us after a while, and offered a walk down memory lane, assisted by Kaare: Tynset may only be a small town, but its hilarious rock history includes rather well-fed Jesus Christ Superstars photographed from unflattering angles (crucified, I might add) and acrobatic rock front men getting tangled in their own hair while lowering themselves via ropes onto the stage (no, the band wasn't playing "Stonehenge" at the time).
Anyway, come 11 o'clock, the band opened their set with an enthusiastic, BIG sounding version of Winger's "Easy Come, Easy Go". Blessed with a powerful, clear mix courtesy of sound man Harald, Winter Parade would have given Winger a serious run for their money, and singer Bjorn's creative variations of the melody line worked like a charm. Competent, energetic takes of Wild Horses' "Whiskey Train" and Thin Lizzy's "Got To Give It Up" followed, before guitarist Dice Jacobsen launched the cool opening riff of Foreigner's "Lowdown and Dirty", which again emulated the huge original version to near perfection. Bjorn's voice is very well suited to this soulful, but slightly gritty vocal style, while Mr. Howe, P.B. and Terry created a gorgeously loomy backdrop for the tune.
Another Wild Horses cover, "A Matter of the Heart", showed that pure AOR makes up a fair percentage of Winter Parade's sound. I only listened briefly to the "Bareback" album when it came out in the early 1990's, but I truly don't remember it as this supremely melodic! Very AOR and very, very good! Deep Purple's "Black Night", on the other hand, was more vintage 1970's in sound, and gave Mr. Howe ample opportunity to play a mean organ - also, I might add, Mr. Howe's favourite era when it comes to keyboard playing! Whitesnake's "Fool For Your Loving" continued the slight vintage trend, letting loose Dice on some beefy riffing and a Mr. Westum very happy to wail Coverdale ...uhm, -style! :-)
A laid back version of Deep Purple's "Soldier of Fortune" mainly starred Westum on soulful, excellent lead vocals against a lush, piano/synth driven backdrop, masterfully created by Mr. Howe. Closing set #1 was a rollocking Thin Lizzy-medley, where Dice looked extremely happy to be blazing riffs and solos east and west, backed by classy, rapid fire drumming from Terry. ...Terry, I might add, came off stage DRENCHED in his own sweat: High energy sticksmanship and too many thousands of watts worth in stage lighting add up to a VERY long walk in the desert!
As an intro to set #2, the audience were treated to a snippet of "Stand Up and Shout" from the "Rock Star" soundtrack. Against some larger-than-life drum fusillades courtesy of Terry, singer Bjorn went for a frighteningly authentic full wail, which I guarantee you would have had soundtrack singers Matijevic and Soto looking very worried, indeed! Seguing into Bon Jovi's "It's My Life", Mr. Westum was equally at ease, demonstrating how much his voice has developed lately.
"This Game of Life", introduced as the first Winter Parade original of the evening, had people up on their feet spontaneously, and the atmosphere of the big riff and soaring melody against the massive lighting and the cheering, jumping people, is an experience I won't forget anytime soon! Kronestua manager Gjoran may not be the biggest rock fan of all time, but I hope he had an eye on the crowd reaction from whereever he was standing at the time: This was an audience who heard the tune for the first time! ...Oh, and applause to Dice for the gorgeously melodic solo!
The warm Winter (paradox, anyone? ;-) Parade atmospherics were then traded for a fascinatingly eerie and rich rendition of Magnum's "Vigilante" - downright brilliant, if I may say so! Winter Parade's own "Save Me Tonight" followed, and is even sweatier and more energetic than its studio counterpart, reminding me of a more melodic Extreme or Mr. Big circa their debut album. A lush, but heavy Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again" succeeded this. At this point, I was spoilt enough to expect classy Coverdale imitations from Westum, but credits should furthermore be extended to P.B. for competent, workhorse backing vocals and tight, solid bass playing throughout the show.
Album closer and one of my personal favourites, "Steamin'", was up next, and the live rendition was equally chock full of those AOR keyboard stabs, the wonderful guitar/keyboard interplay, as well as Westum hitting all the right notes. The CD's title track, "Midnight in Paradise", impressed even more, improving on the studio version in its more powerful, raw nerve-like live incarnation.
High energy Van Halen covers "Ain't Talking 'Bout Love" and "Jump" saw Kronestua erupting (hehe) into a near frenzy, and during the huge, godzilla-like rendition of Deep Purple's "Perfect Strangers", the atmosphere was simply electric!!! Any band who can play classic hard rock with this kind of energy and authenticity, have my total, utter respect and admiration! The audience then demanded encores of both "Jump" and the Winter Parade original "This Game of Life", but was deprived of the latter. The show still ended on a high note, though, and the band were cheered by both friends, family and new acquaintances in the audience.
Consensus among those present seemed to be that they wanted to hear more Winter Parade tunes live, and the band stated that this will happen on future gigs. For this particular evening, however, I believe the band chose their repertoire wisely, since only a few people outside the band had heard the album prior to the release party. (Hey, that's logical, isn't it? ;-)
In the week that has passed since the release party, Winter Parade have gotten favourable reactions to their gig from local/regional papers Arbeidets Rett and Oestlendingen. On the CD release front, the band got a set-back in terms of MTM's Norwegian distributor (EMG) going belly-up, but amends to the situation are being worked on as we speak. Meanwhile, the German radio station Munich's Hardest Hits declared "Midnight in Paradise" album of the week, and the review at New Zealand's Heart Of The Rock website could hardly have fared any better for the band. (Mighty words from an editor who rarely loses his cool over the keyboard.)
Me, I've had the fortune of meeting five down-to-earth and sympathetic guys who, as I see it, collectively are sitting on a time-bomb of immense musical potential: I should probably watch the big words, since music journalism is full of them and I've applied each and every one of them to death already. Just don't be surprised if Winter Parade make many friends in the time to come, also outside the melodic rock community. Ambition is really what this is all about: It has brought them this far - how much further do Winter Parade want to go?
Finally, thanks a lot to P.B., Terry, Dice, Bjorn and Mr. Howe for putting me and Eirik completely at ease and treating us to a comprehensive look into the workings of a rock band. Big thanks to the extended Winter Parade family for being allround sympathetic and friendly people, too! We'll be back! :-)
Keep yourself updated on all things Winter Parade on the band's official website.
Photography and words by Geir Aamo, tall standing sidekick: Eirik Gronseth