Rock in Rio – First Weekend Reaction

The first weekend of Rock in Rio’s nostalgia fest came and went in fairly spectacular fashion, with Queen and One Republic camping up the Friday night, Motley Crue and Metallica the Saturday and Rod Stewart and Elton John the Sunday. Judging by the euphoric reactions of the crowds in the crush at the front of the stage and the outpourings on social media, a good time was had by all.

On the Friday, a highly competent performance from One Republic was followed by the improbable combination of Queen & Adam Lambert, which was surprisingly spectacular with some truly spine tingling moments; notably those with video footage of Freddie, although Adam proved himself more than up to the task. In fact, hats off to the former Idol contestant for being one of the bravest men in rock, not only is he one of the few openly gay performers around, he has had the courage to step into the biggest gay shoes ever, and rather than it turning into a crass imitation of a hero, Adam has put his own identity onto the band, whilst maintaining respect for the past. Ok, so maybe to some it doesn’t feel quite right hearing another singer do Freddie’s songs, but they were well sung, and interestingly, Adam’s youth brings a freshness to the performance that other older acts, particularly Elton, were seriously missing.

It would be easy to critisize Roger Taylor and Brian May for continuing Queen as a band; I mean they took the easy way out and John Deacon wanted no part of it, but when you have the material and the possibility of playing to enormous crowds at the drop of a hat, the temptation must have been too great. Sure, it would’ve been far more admirable for the trio to continue with a new singer, in a new band, under a different name, with new material, but maybe they just didn’t feel up to it creatively; it must be difficult to conjure up that kind of hunger; but by getting a much younger singer involved it has given the project a little more vibrance than the previous incarnation with Paul Rogers, and in the meantime, Adam Lambert is taking the opportunity to get himself known worldwide; they even showcased one of his own tracks, the hard rocking ‘Ghost Town’, which slipped in effortlessly alongside Queen’s own material. Obviously, haters gonna hate, but he’s setting himself up for future stardom, so fair play.

Saturday was the first of the three metal days and Korn certainly rocked the Sunset Stage with a fine performance. The British duo of Royal Blood came, saw, and though they didn’t exactly conquer, put on a quality show to win over some new fans, their closing song including an off the cuff ‘Paranoid’ riff that got the crowd going.

Motley Crüe brought their R.I.P tour to South America for their first and last show in Brazil and, musically speaking, nailed it. They worked the stage like pros with plenty of movement and some entertaining pyrotechnics; Nikki and Tommy were as tight as a rhythm section can get and the walking cadaver that is Mick Mars was nothing short of superb. Mötley Crüe really are underrated, their image often overshadowing their technical abilities and their songwriting skills; that most of these songs are from the height of hair metal yet still stand up is testament to their talent. However, Vince Neil sadly let the side down. At first I thought it was down to a poor mix, the vocal being almost inaudible, but once it was sorted it was apparent that he wasn’t actually singing all the words; he’d skip prepositions, or kinda mumble more difficult sections, or just not even try, leaving it to the back up girls. Sorry, but it is definitely time for the band to call it a day, that way Nikki can concentrate on the exciting Sixx A.M project and Mick can finally get some rest – I love Crüe, but it’s time to let them go.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Metallica, last time they were here they were pushing ‘Through the Never’, so we got brand Metallica, this time round though, thankfully it was band Metallica. They gave a high quality well honed performance and rocked the Palco Mundo hard! There was plenty of power on display and you could sense their enthusiasm, although now and again they do come across as a little too contrived; kinda scripted. For instance, when James screams “Please God, help me!” in the middle of ‘One’ it’s like he’s doing it because that is what he’s supposed to say at that point, perhaps some new material will help keep them fresh, otherwise they are in danger of going down the Elton John road.

Unfortunately, Elton and many other performers are precisely that, performers, like actors reciting their lines, they are showmen delivering precisely what the crowd expect, which is perfectly ok, the crowd go home happy and Elton and co. get the adulation they so rightly deserve, as well as the pay check, obviously. What is seriously lacking though is that bit of fire that adds some real emotion to the show; there’s no hunger, no conviction. Put it like this, Elton’s drummer is a smiley white haired gentleman in a suit and tie; highly competent he may well be, but he sure as hell ain’t hungry for this. I don’t blame Elton and his more than able band, people want to see them, so they play and everyone has a good time; but as a casual observer, the only thing sending shivers down my spine was my A/C. I watched 10m of John Legend, who I don’t even like, and got goosebumps 3 times. Elton delivered the line “rolling like thunder under the covers” in such lukewarm fashion all I could imagine was the thunder as his gargantuan frame creaks the springs as David rolls him over to stop the snoring, not quite the intended sentiment me thinks.

Thank god then for Rod, surrounded by the young and eager and still pretty sprightly himself, his show was fun, energetic and well worth watching. He managed to breathe some life into old material, he gave space to showcase the talent around him and he worked the stage ceaselessly. Just goes to show that the highly lucrative nostalgia circuit needn’t be stale, as Rod and Queen proved, with a bit of young blood and a rethink of how things are done there’s life in the old dogs yet.

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