The Rock’n’Roll Traveller comes to you from the other side of the globe this time – from “down under” Australia! Greece’s own metal warriors FIREWIND took their axes to the continent of kangaroos and koalas, in an attempt to impress the Aussies with their musical skills.
How could I resist, I had to go and see it with my own eyes!
After a long, but very comfortable flight (thumbs up to Emirates, you rock!) I arrived in Sydney late on October 29th, to get one day off to go see some sights and meet a few koalas.
On the day of the show, October 31st, I went for an early walk in the sun, to try to locate the venue, Manning bar. It was right in the middle of the university campus, lots of young people everywhere. It was fairly big too so it would be interesting to see how the audience would receive the band – especially considering that this was their very first Australian tour.
Later that afternoon, after having spent a few hours at the hotel writing postcards (I’m still old-fashioned that way) I went back to Manning bar and found that the preparations for the evening’s show were already taking place. And there was a familiar face, Gus’ guitar tech Jimmy. Just as I approached the stage to say hello to him, the rest of the band walked out on stage. It was nice to see all those familiar faces so far away from home.
As it was still many hours until the show, we just spent that time in what was the “backstage” area, trying to get the Wi-Fi work. Wasn’t a good Wi-Fi type of day, to put it that way…
After sound check, I figured that the guys would probably like to have the backstage area to themselves, so I grabbed my stuff and just went outside to take a look around the premises.
The merch had just arrived, especially made for the Aussie dates, so that was cool to see. I was still curious about the attendance – was it going to be a success or a disaster? When the opening acts played, it wasn’t looking good – but by the time it was Firewind’s turn to hit the stage, it was as if someone pushed a button and people showed up from out of nowhere. But most of all, what did strike me the most, was their enthusiasm! They welcomed Firewind with open arms, as the long awaited heroes who had finally made it to their remote part of the world! 🙂
Firewind’s set was about 90 minutes long, packed with every song that the Aussie fans could possibly desire, and then some. The classic “hits” like Mercenary Man or the encore Falling To Pieces, the impressive instrumentals, SKG and Fire & The Fury, solos from Gus G and Bob Katsionis, nicely embedded into the show without ever getting boring or overdone.
Everything just very well thought through and perfectly timed. The reaction of the crowd was really touching for me as a spectator, because it looked just like the that moment when friends who have been away from eachother for too long, meet again. In this case it was a first time ever but it was love at first sight from both sides. The band loved Australia and their fantastic crowd, and the crowd welcomed them with open arms. Things were looking good. If it continued like it had started, this Aussie tour would definitely be remembered as a triumphal procession…!
Next stop was Brisbane, a flight that took about 1,5 hours – and when I arrived in Brisbane that early afternoon, it was just as nice, warm and beautiful as in Sydney the day before. When I walked down to the Hi-Fi I immediately saw one of the Firewind tour-posters on the wall next to a hot dog-stand. This place was smaller than Manning Bar in Sydney. Downstairs, you had a bar and an outdoor terrace, where I decided to have a cold Coke (I definitely needed all the caffeine I could get!) and just watch the activity on the street.
I didn’t go to see the guys in the band that afternoon, cause I was meeting up with a friend of mine from Melbourne, that I was going to stay with after the Firewind shows were over. He missed his flight, so he showed up later that afternoon. The jetlag was beginning to get to me, and I desperately had to get something to keep me up and going, so I found a Beroca instant drink at the 7 Eleven across the street from the Hi-Fi. Met two huge Gus G-fans in there who noticed my pass, and started talking about their hero with little twinkles in their eyes.
There were three opening acts that night, and I heard the first one all the way down on the street (where I deliberately chose to stay until they were done!). The first band was not my cup of tea at all. One of those brutal metal acts that I would not appreciate. The band playing right before Firewind were good musicians, there’s no doubt about that, but unfortunately, they didn’t do my jetlag any favors, so to speak. I had a hard time not falling asleep, as the tempo of their songs was WAY too mellow for my sleepy self.
I seem to recall that the last song they played before leaving the stage to Firewind, was a ballad that lasted several minutes, 70’s style. No offense to the band, but I was desperately waiting for some ACTION on that stage and thank GOD it was time for Firewind shortly thereafter!
One thing that crossed my mind several times before when seeing Firewind after a few opening acts (not just in Australia, but in general, anywhere else in the world as well) is that there IS a huge difference between a band that is known for touring a lot and has done so for the last ten-fifteen years – and bands on a more local, or national, level. You just can’t compare. There’s a HUGE difference. It’s no exaggeration saying that the place was filled with a completely different energy and vibe once Firewind entered the stage. The Hi-Fi came alive and this jetlagged Swede suddenly found it a lot easier to stay awake!
The crowd was smaller than in Sydney, but just as enthusiastic. My only complaint would be the light-tech who kept the band in darkness on that stage throughout the whole show. Doesn’t happen that often (last time I remember it happening was in Dublin, Ireland two years ago I think). It’s annoying, cause sound and lights should work together and create the perfect symbiosis. When you hear a solo, you automatically expect a spotlight on that musician. I don’t know if there was a technical problem or if the light tech just prefered a dark stage but the gig would have been perfect if it hadn’t been for that little detail.
“The new singer” (it’s a little silly calling him that, as he’s done a bunch of gigs with Firewind the past year already) Kelly Sundown Carpenter, impresses me more and more for each show. He’s just belting it out, effortlessly, it sounds freaking killer! Not many live-singers that can do that night after night.
After the show, I just went to say hi (and “see ya tomorrow“) to the guys, and just headed back to the hotel to get some sleep – which I DESPERATELY needed.
The next day, we’d have to spend 2,5 hours on a plane to the next stop on this Firewind “down under” tour: Adelaide.
Adelaide is what I remember as the Party Central of this mini-tour of Australia. It was a university town, and the club, Fowler’s Live, was, once again, in the middle of a campus (with some sort of hippie-outdoor festival going on right next door). Went there in the afternoon, another hot day, just to see what was happening over there. Found drummer Jo Nunez setting up and trying out his drums, and the usual, general activity that goes on around that time of day.
The club was pretty cool, went around taking photos, when a guy who was working at the club asked me and my friend Clint to “follow him”. I wasn’t sure whereto, but tagged along. Turns out he was taking us down to the band’s reception room, so to speak. He was proud to say that unlike many other places, there was actually a backstage area that could be used for guests AND still give the band their own, private dressing room. Usually it’s one or the other.
There was not much happening down there, so while Clint went outside to have a smoke, and Jimmy pretty much decided to get a well-deserved nap, I also fell asleep for a while on the comfortable couch. There were people from the local crew walking in and out of the “reception room” and one of them was a light-tech who was very happy to share his travel- and gig stories. Australian people are just very cool, did I mention that? 🙂
Some fans were on their way down, they had purchased the VIP-package and were very eager and happy to meet the Firewind-guys and get their records and stuff signed.
The guys, and girl, from the opening act, joined us on the couches in the “Green Room”, really cool people and most of all – huge Firewind-fans themselves who were incredibly honored to open for their heroes! The guitarist even wore his Firewind t-shirt proudly on stage during their set. I liked them, they were young and hungry, had pretty good material and put on a good show. Finally a band that didn’t make me fall asleep…!
Firewind impressed – once again – and got the Adelaide rockers go absolutely nuts! I should know, because as I was trying to do my usual filming to immortalize these shows, I suddenly felt like a ball in a pinball machine..! Somebody was trying to start a mosh pit but was quickly cooled down – not today buddy. Regardless, the Adelaide Firewind-fans were definitely hardcore. Another successful show to add to the list.
Notice that I’m not saying much about the band’s performances here, because it would all sound pretty much like I was repeating myself. One of the reasons why I even decided to go to Australia – after having seen these guys every-fucking-where in the world, is that they never ever suck. They just don’t. Believe it or not. I can buy a ticket to anywhere and always KNOW that these guys are going to deliver the goods, because they always do. They are fantastic musicians, each in his own right, and when you put them all together, they are simply unbeatable.
Third city conquered – one last to go: Melbourne. Everyone had high expectations on that one, especially since Melbourne has quite a large Greek community. And boy, there was no doubt about THAT – which I was about to experience on that last day of the tour, Sunday, November 3rd, 2013 at the Corner Hotel. And no, it was definitely not a hotel at all – it was a very cool music venue. Someone explained to me that bars and clubs are often referred to as “hotels” in Australia. I never knew that and I guess it makes it slightly confusing but at least I know that’s the way it is. 🙂
As we were in my Australian friend’s home town, he drove to the place and then fell asleep in the car – it had been a few pretty hectic days. I went inside and tried to figure out the best place for my filming. Somehow it feels like maybe someday it will be cool for everybody, including the band, to have half-decent footage of these shows.
There was a lot of activity that day at the Corner hotel. Two opening acts, sound checks, merch, meet and greets… It was the longest line of VIP-guests I’ve seen in a while! Holy cow! The signings and photos took a while to finish but I saw smiling, happy faces everywhere after that!
The last Firewind show on this Australian tour, was without a doubt the most memorable one. The place was JAM PACKED, people were so excited and full of expectations, and yeah, you could hear a LOT of “malaka”talk around the place, plenty of proud Greeks in the crowd, guitarists, singers, rockers – you name it, the word was definitely out on that Melbourne gig!
I decided to go to the front and the barriers, cause there was nowhere else to stand if you were my (short) size.
Of course, I got one of those very VERY excited, fist-throwing, sweaty dudes right next to me, which made my video clips perfect for those who love to et seasick in the comfort of their own home, but I’m not complaining. He was doing the right thing – going wild at a great gig! It was just me who was being boring with that annoying camera. 😉 However, he understood what I was doing, so much to my surprise, he backed off. Thanks dude. 😀
The show was great – I mean really REALLY great. I think that the band wanted to make it extra special and extra memorable – not only for the crowd but also for themselves, and they succeeded. Check out all the happy faces in this video where Bob grabs my camera to show everybody Corner Hotel from the band’s perspective – and it’s a pretty cool view!
After the show, it wasn’t over for those who bothered to stick around. The band came out to hang out with the fans, it was a great positive vibe and once again – the band and their followers had a fantastic evening that will be remembered for years to come!
I’m glad I was able to be a part of this memorable, great tour and hope that you enjoyed it too.
– Daniela P.