Rocking Athens, Faliro Sports'Arena, Athens, GR


the Monday 27 July 2009

Rocking Athens
Festival  27/07/2009, Greece

Heaven & Hell,
Blind Guardian, Testament, Gojira, Mencea, Descending.


  Organizing a metal festival at the end of
July in Athens is a risk, as many people living in the city would have been on
holiday and these living outside the capital would have to be dedicated and brave
enough to travel and face the hot weather there! An additional minus was the
ticket price; 60 Euros is a lot for a Greek fan, especially at a young age.
C’mon, I paid 120 € for a 3-day festival at Hellfest, with over 100 bands, one
month ago! To my surprise, the fans responded fairly good and the venue (an
indoor sports’ arena) hosted a satisfying number of metalheads. Several reasons
come to mind. Was it that Heaven & Hell have just released a brilliant
album? Was it that the Greek audience wanted to show its love to Blind Guardian
once again? Was it that people wanted to thrash with Testament or catch live the
fast-growing Gojira? The cancellation of another metal festival 20 days ago may
have, also, played a role, leaving the fans with a need of a summer gig.
Whatever the reason, 6.000-7.000 fans were gathered there for a day that proved
to be successful, despite some of the sound problems that arose, especially in
the beginning.


  Due to my late arrival to the festival, I
missed half of Gojira’s set. As they are not my cup of tea I can only comment
based on the audience’s reactions which seemed to like what they were watching.
Especially at the front rows, their fans were having a great time and from
discussions that I heard later, they managed to deliver what people were
expecting from them.


  19.30 pm and the Thrash veterans came
on-stage for a 50 minutes set where we heard a mixture of older songs (such as
‘Into the Pit’ and ‘Practice What You Preach’) plus cuts taken from their
latest album. The crowd responded eagerly and small moshpits reared their heads.
The band played as professionals, although with a -could be better-sound,
without big surprises, either positive or negative. In front of the stage, a
Thrash party was taking place, peaking during the last song (the Formation of
Damnation) where, under the instructions of Chuck Billy, a ‘Wall of Death’ was
performed. The overall show was fine, leaving the thrashers among us with a
smile on their faces and the rest of us with better chances to move forward
after the precedent holocaust!


  The relationship between the German bards and
Greek audience has always been one of unrestricted love, appreciation and
fanaticism.  No matter how many times
they have come here before or whether they have toured supporting a “weak”
album, their shows in Greece have always been sold-out and the applause at the
end of their gigs confirms just that. No reason for things to be different this
time. Shortly after 20.30 pm the Hobbit-storytellers took the stage in a warm
welcome that sounded as if it was them that were headlining the festival! Hansi
& Co paid back with a set lasting over an hour, consisting mainly of older
(and favorite!) tunes such as “Time What Is Time”, ”Another Holy War”,
“Nightfall”, “The Script For My Requiem”, “Traveler In Time” and “Lord Of The
Rings” plus a couple from their latest albums. The performance of the band was
fairly fine, especially the musicianship part. It seemed to me, though, that
they could show more enthusiasm while playing, as they made a contrast with
their audience which seemed to be in “Valhalla” from the first minute of the
live onwards. The perfect example being the version of “Bard’s Song” where the
whole arena sang the lyrics at the top of their lungs! “Mirror, Mirror” served
as the farewell song and Blind Guardian kissed us goodnight, leaving behind smiling
faces and no room for serious moaning!


  Finally, the time had come for the
headliners, and the front rows, where I managed to huddle, were becoming
increasingly crowded. The clock on stage showed 22.22 pm and “E5150” chimed the
arrival of the “GODS” in front of our mortal eyes! They took the stage
vigorously with “Mob Rules” allowing not even a moment for their fans to stop
admiring and take a breath. Tony, Ronnie, Geezer and Vinnie took us by storm
and delivered their heavenly tunes in such a way that many much younger bands
would envy. DIO’s voice still possesses that quality that has placed him on the
pantheon of the best singers of this music. Iommi’s figure still sends shivers
down the spine when watches the crowd behind his glasses and smiles
enigmatically.  And a rhythm section made
to sound out of this earth. “Children Of The Sea”, “Falling Off The Edge Of The
World”, “Die Young”, “Time Machine”, “I” (in no particular order) and short
drum and guitar solos followed, while three songs from the new album (Bible
Black,  Fear, Follow the Tears) proved
worthy founding a place in their set-list. The “Sabbath, Sabbath” cries between
the songs sent a message to all those who wish to deprive this band of its
history, plus an imaginative placard hanged by a fan that had some “nasties”
written for Mrs. Sharon on it! The band was having a great time and they were
enjoying themselves. One could tell by simply watching their faces’ expressions
and their eyes which were glowing with nothing less than pleasure for what they
were doing. The waiting for the song “Heaven and Hell” was over and the
audience’s chanting signaled the beginning of this epic which accompanied us
for the next 10 minutes incorporating the classic break with Dio, bathed in red
light, singing about hellish desires. Lights out and the screaming for more
filled the air. The foursome came back to finish with a medley of “Country
Girl” and “Neon Knights”. A few minutes to midnight, our journey from Heaven to
Hell and backwards was over, leaving us with fond memories and a secret wish to
repeat such an experience soon.

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