This year’s Radio City South Park festival had a considerably more international and stronger line up than last year with bands such as Def Leppard, Accept, Helloween, Extreme and Masterplan. The festival was a success as the number of visitors reached about 11 000, which is a clear improvement from 2014.
The progressive power metal band Masterplan was the opening act on the main stage and entertained the audience with a well performed set. I am not too familiar with the band, but I have heard some songs before. I usually have a problem with bands that have only one guitarist, since the live act often suffers when there is no rhythm guitar during the solos, but that did not annoy me with Masterplan. The singer Rick Altzi is known to me because he was the singer on Thunderstone’s 2009 release “Dirt Metal”, and it was interesting to see him live. After a somewhat tentative start, the band got going with a little heavier sound than the regular power metal bands.
The power metal theme continued when Stratovarius entered the main stage. As always, the band delivered a professional set including old hits like “Eagleheart”, “Black Diamond” and “Hunting High and Low”, but also “Unbreakable” and “Dragons” from the newest album “Nemesis”. I would not mind if the band would drop some of the old hits from the set, because I have heard them so many times live that it is getting hard to appreciate them anymore. Not bad in any way, but nothing sensational either.
Next up on the main stage was Accept, with one of metal’s finest bassist-guitarist duos; Peter Baltes and Wolf Hoffmann. It is always truly enjoyable to see these guys live and I often find myself smiling during their gigs. Of all the classic metal bands, Accept probably has the best live act nowadays. This time’s highlights were “Pandemic”, “Teutonic Terror” and of course the legendary “Balls to the Wall”. What I also like about their live shows is the fact that they leave out unnecessary chatting between the songs and play as many songs as they have time for instead. Top-notch and definitely the best act of the first day.
Teräsbetoni was the following band on the tent stage and played the whole debut album “Metallitotuus” as a special ten-year anniversary. There is no denying that Jarkko Ahola is an incredible singer, and the band treated the tent audience to an entertaining set including the old hits “Taivas Lyö Tulta” and “Orjatar”. Impossible to take seriously but fun to watch.
The last band to enter the stage on Friday was Extreme. This band apparently had some hits in the 90’s, but they are pretty much unknown to me. However, people seemed to at least know the words to the song “More Than Words”. There were some good songs in the set, but it felt like they do not really have enough decent material to play a longer gig. Now there were long guitar solos to kill some time and I really do not like that. Furthermore, the songs in the end of the set sounded more like country than rock, which does not really work at this type of a festival. Other than that, Extreme performed very well, but I still think that Accept should have been the last band to play on Friday instead. Also, I kind of wanted the set to end prematurely since I was about to freeze to death. But at least it did not rain.
Well look at that. Rain. However, I managed to stay dry the whole day, so I should not complain. I cannot understand how people wearing t-shirt and shorts survived the day as it was windy and probably no more than 12-13°C when the rain had fallen for a while. But everything is possible with alcohol, as they say (no, no one really says that).
The strangest act I saw of the whole festival was Viikate playing some Motörhead songs, in addition to their own songs. The twist here was that the band had made Finnish lyrics to the songs. They should not have done that. In fact, they should not have played Motörhead songs at all, because it did not sound good. I could barely recognize which songs were Viikate’s own and which were covers because they all sounded the same. So why play covers then? And nobody wants to hear Motörhead songs that do not at all sound like Motörhead. Strange and unnecessary.
After this it was time for the young and talented Santa Cruz on the tent stage. Even though the genre is not really my cup of tea, I think they have something good going on. The singer impresses me with his high notes which surely are difficult to manage live. The band has good energy and a cool vibe. Some of their songs tend to get a little humdrum, but that is the only thing that kind of bugs me. The audience seemed to enjoy the set which contained songs like “We Are the Ones to Fall” and “Wasted & Wounded”.
Next up on the main stage was good ol’ Amorphis. The band played the first gig of the festival summer and performed very well, as usual. Amorphis is without a doubt one of Finland’s best live bands. However, I found the set of songs a little dull this time.
1. Hopeless Days
2. The Wanderer
4. Silver Bride
5. The Smoke
6. Silent Waters
7. Towards and Against
8. Against Widows
9. You I Need
10. My Kantele
11. House of Sleep
I was really happy to get to hear “Towards and Against” since they have not played it many of the times I have seen them, and it is also one of my favourite songs of the band. The rest of the set had a little too much of a greatest hits feeling to it for my taste. I was surprised that they did not play any song from “Tales From the Thousand Lakes”, as they have played the whole album on some shows in the winter and will also do so at least at Tuska Open Air later this summer. However, the most shocking thing is that Tomi Joutsen has actually cut his hair shorter. Unreal.
I have seen Helloween at the exact same spot some years ago, and I did not like it much that time. This time was completely different, but I cannot put my finger on why. The new song “My God-Given Right” sounded far better live than I thought it did when I watched the video of it earlier, and it was a really good gig on the whole, with songs such as “If I Could Fly” and “I Want Out”. It annoys me that the band walked off the stage towards the end and expected to get cheered back to play a couple of more songs. This does not work at festival gigs (except for headliners), and some people got confused and started to walk away. Just play another song instead of wasting time on these kinds of things, Helloween.
Last band to enter the tent stage of this year’s festival was the Swedes in Eclipse. This was a surprisingly good performance and nice way to round off the night in the tent. I had not heard anything of these guys before, but they have some kind of a little heavier glam rock going on. Eclipse treated the tent people to an energetic and well-played set, and they probably got some new fans as well.
The headliner of South Park this year was Def Leppard. I must say that I was hit by nostalgia when they opened with “Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)”. I remember that song well from my childhood, and it was probably one of the songs that got me into rock music. The nostalgia, aside, Def Leppard’s performance was excellent. Most of the songs pretty much sounded like they do when you here them on the radio. The vocal harmonies are still in great shape and really raise the performance. Even though I have never actively listened to the band, I still recognized many of the songs; “Animal”, “Love Bites”, “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, “Let’s Get Rocked” and “Photograph”, to name a few. What a hit machine. Def Leppard certainly brought the festival to a close with dignity.
All in all, South Park was a really positive experience. The only thing to complain about was the placement of the portable toilets. It must have been some kind of a miss in the design since there were lines even though there were unoccupied spots. Apart from that, it was a great festival and I look forward to see what next year’s selection of bands will be like.