Svante goes to Hell
Go to Hell, white boy
I got an invitation to Hell. Is that a bad sign?
Ok, I drove for 15 hours in my new Ford (or Fjord as Tony Ashton put it) and ended up in the middle of the night at the Rica Hell Hotel in Hell 35 km outside of Trondheim. It was straight to bed after the long drive but when I got up in the morning the first person I met in the elevator was Tony Ashton (what a guy)! Tony claimed to recognise me from our brief meeting in Brixton a year and a half ago. Cool, I don't know if it was true or if he was just being nice but this really set me off in a brilliant mood for the weekend. We exchanged a few words before I went out to get my passes for the weekend.
When I got back to the hotel I got a phone call from CtC editor Lennart Hedenström. Lennart and I and Ole Johan from GAZ (the Gary Moore online fanzine) met up in the lobby of my hotel and watched the stars arrive. Peter Green came and so did Gary Moore's entourage as well as many of the other stars of the weekend. The cool thing about the Rica Hell Hotel is that this is the hotel where most (all?) of the stars of the festival lives during the weekend and the hotel is also the home of the main event of the festival, the "Rica Hell Blues Night Extravaganza", six hours of jamming and concerts in every public space of the hotel. Oh, and this is a first class hotel so that makes the stay even nicer...
The first event was the Gary Moore concert in a hangar at the military airfield in Hell. A very unusual but cool place to have a concert at. The wierd thing was all the soldiers being at the concert often standing together in big groups. This reminded me of the videos I've seen from concerts in the former Soviet Union where they usually use soldiers as concert security. Every time a military police stopped us from going backstage or whatever I wanted to tell them "hey, I am Swedish and I am a civilian, I don't have to follow your orders". But it's something about soldiers that makes me think they don't understand jokes.
I had a press pass and was going to take some pictures of Gary Moore and to do this I had to sign a paper that I would promise to only take pictures during the second and third songs and not use a flash. Anyone who took pictures after these songs anywhere in the hall would get a visit from some Swedish representative Gary had running around the venue. I have no idea what Gary was afraid of. Ok if we don't get to stand in front of the stage and block the audience's view but not be allowed to take pictures from out in the hall is pretty wierd. I'm not a big fan of Gary's latest offerings and I'm not a bigger fan after his exercise in ego mania. And Gary, how could you miss the chance to play "Cold day in hell" when you were playing on a cold day in Hell? No, Gary played his usual set of some blues tunes and some wierd new stuff that seemed to confuse the blues festival audience. Good stuff some of it but not blues which was what this festival was about.
The Friday night after the Gary Moore concert gave us the oppurtunity to go bar hopping in downtown Hell. First off was a concert with Juicy Lucy (Micky Moody, Paul Williams, Henry Spinetti, Andy Pyle) at the Quality hotel. The second we entered the room Gary Moore's manager told us we were not allowed to take pictures of Gary who was extremely drunk in one corner of the room. Well, if the manager is reading this I have one thing to tell him: I was there for Juicy Lucy and not for the drunk guitarist in the back of the room. And I don't think anyone is interested in pictures of a drunk Gary Moore anyway. Gary's manager kept his eyes on anyone in the room carrying a camera while we enjoyed Juicy Lucy. Gary enjoyed his wine and fooling around with his female "assistant".
I had never heard Juicy Lucy before. Micky Moody is of course one of the great forgotten blues guitarists out there and Paul Williams really surprised me with his great vocals. Micky Moody mentioned a new album about to be released which I am really going to keep my eyes open for. I just hope they are as good on record as they are live.
Unfortunately this evening was badly planned so we had to leave after 30 minutes to run over to a pub where Bernie Marsden was playing "unplugged" together with American guitarist Michael Roach. It sounded pretty good but the place was so packed that we couldn't see anything so we went on down to the hotel where Tony Ashton would play with his trio. The bad planning was that all of these concerts started within 30 minutes of each other so we couldn't see a full show with any of the artists.
Off to the Stjordal Hotel. Ashton sounded great but you could hardly see him because of the big crowd. The crowd loved Ashton and his band featuring Pick Withers (the first drummer in Dire Straits) and some pretty good bass player that I unfortunately forgot the name of. Tony was dressed in one of those overalls car mechanics have when they work and for some special songs he whipped out a knitted cap. Ashton is probably the funniest entertainer in the music business today and the crowd in Hell was really enjoying themselves. Very funny but also a great improviser and keyboard player. I just love the way he switches between his Hammond and the piano, sometimes several times in one solo. The only ones who could have something to complain about Ashton's perfomance would be his band mates as even when the bass player or drummer has a solo you can't keep your eyes off Ashton as he jumps and bops to the music.
The word went around before the festival that Tony Ashton wanted Jon Lord to come along to Hell to do some jamming but this didn't happen. When I listened to "Malice in Wonderland" by PAL in my car on the way home from Hell I thought that the Hell festival would be the perfect place for a little PAL reunion. Jon, think about it. Bernie and Tony are already there.
On the next day on our way to the "Blues and Barbecue" event we met Guy Pratt in the hotel restaurant. I asked Guy if he had heard about the rumour that Roger Waters was supposed to go back to Pink Floyd and Mr. Pratt said that he had heard the rumour but that there wasn't anything like that planned. In fact he said that nothing at all was planned for Floyd except maybe a "send off gig" on new years eve 1999 in Hyde Park. And Waters is not supposed to be on that one. When I asked Guy why he wasn't on the Whitesnake tour he said: "well, that's because David couldn't afford me". I thought he was joking but Guy explained that Coverdale had asked Pratt to join the tour but they quickly realised that Whitesnake's budget wouldn't cover to pay a top session man like Guy Pratt. He assured me that this was cool for both of them and there was nothing unusual about this. Apparently Gary Moore has more money than Coverdale...
The "Blues and Barbecue" at Hell station was sadly partly destroyed by heavy rain. Well, destroyed for me but apparently not for the blues fans in Hell who equipped with umbrellas and rain coats happily stood in the rain to listen to an outdoor concert with Dana Gillespie and her band. Me and everyone else who wasn't dressed for the rain went inside the old railway station building to watch an art exhibition of Tony Ashton's works. Yes, this could have been called "The Tony Ashton Festival". With three shows in two days, an art exhibition and with Tony designing the official festival artwork Hell was Ashton-land this weekend. Ashton's paintings are as filled with humor as his music and performances. Some of the pictures showed cars which Tony had given new names like "Strange Rover", "Ford Angular", "Larda" and "Knee Type Jaguar". On the paintings of these cars was actual car parts glued to further heighten the car theme. The painting were for sale for 750 - 4000 NOK. Great stuff each and every one of them but sadly nothing I could afford. Ashton also sold a CD single called "Grosse Freiheit" he just made together with old Whitesnake guitarist Mel Galley.
Saturday evening arrived and with that the "Rica Hell Blues Night Extravaganza". Ashton played another trio gig in the restaurant. This time we got to see a little bit more of Tony than we did in the crowded hotel last night, but just barely. Tony and the boys played the same set as the night before but Tony improvises a lot so that didn't really matter. Tony, being the king of strange stage outfits, wore a pyjamas so he looked like he came straight from bed. Lennart commented that he must have the same tailor as Ian Gillan. Probably true. Or at least the same stylist.
Blues here, there and everywhere in the hotel but everyone was looking forward to the concert with The Hell Blues Band featuring Bernie Marsden on guitar, Tony Ashton (yes, that guy again!) on piano, Hammond organ and vocals, Colin "Bomber" Hodgkinson on bass and vocals, Henry Spinetti on drums and a brilliant harmonica player called Mark Feltham. The concert was announced as "with special guests" and everyone was guessing who these guests would be. Peter Green was in the hotel as a non-playing special guest of the festival and Gary Moore had stayed the extra day in Hell.
The biggest surprise about Bernie Marsden's Hell Blues Band for me was seeing and hearing Colin Hodgkinson. I wasn't very impressed by his work in Whitesnake which were where I had only seen him before. But either he was held back by Coverdale or he has been practising a lot since he left Whitesnake. But I can tell you that after this concert I know that Colin is a hell of a bass player. Very technically skilled and very good at providing solid blues bass backing in this kind of band. And he is a good singer too! Colin sang several songs including one tune where he was alone on the stage playing a song with just his bass and his vocals. Lead and rythm guitar parts and all. Very impressive.
After an hour or so of very good blues with loads of good solos from Bernie, Tony, Mark and Colin it was time for the guest star. Peter Green decided he wouldn't play but we got Gary Moore instead. This was a very different performance from the show we saw the day before. This was a smiling Gary trading solos with Bernie and Tony. Gary stayed on the stage with the band for just about exactly one hour both as a front man and as just a guitar player in the background. The final encore was a smoking performance of "Going Down" with guitar solos to keep you satisfied until next year's festival.
The time was now almost 1.30 AM and although the blues extravaganza would go on until 4 AM we felt that nothing could top this brilliant performance by the Hell Blues Band so we decided to round off the evening and the weekend. To do this we went down to "Rica Hell's Juke Joint" and listened for a while to Paul Williams and Micky Moody from Juicy Lucy who did an almost unplugged (mostly acoustic but Moody used an electric guitar for a couple fo songs) tribute to Robert Johnson. Once again Mickey proved what a good guitar player he is and I really wish I had the oppurtunity to hear more of this guy than I do these days.
All in all this was a great weekend. It was definately worth the long trip and if the line-up is right I might go back next year. Hell is a pretty small place where everyone knows each other and with nice and talented musicians like Bernie Marsden, Micky Moody and Tony Ashton coming back every year this makes for a great atmosphere. With all the people knowing each other and the Norweigian people being the nice people they are everything runs smoothly and there's no misunderstadings. Festivals are usually a good place to be confused at but not in Hell. If they just fix up the schedule so we don't have to miss so much great artists this will be the greatest festival ever.
Don't forget to check out Lennart's report of the event.
Big thanks to Knut Morten Johansen for everything, Angelika Wichmann at Rica Hell Hotel (Ok, I *will* book my room earlier next year!) and Lennart and Ole Johan for being great company on the festival. Big respect to Tony Ashton for being... Er, Tony Ashton!
Unauthorized copying, while sometimes necessary, is never as good as
the real thing (with apologies to Ani)|
(c) 2005, The Highway Star