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RockTember IV: Grand Casino Amphitheater, Hinckley, MN, U.S.A. Day One - September 9th 2016

jeff kunze
Jeff Kunze

kai hansen

RockTember is easily my favorite event of the year; two days of hard rock and Metal from all the bands you watched daily on MTV back in the day and the Amphitheater provides a great venue for fans to get together and rock like its 1985.

Day one featured Autograph, Jackyl, Stryper, Queensrÿche, Tom Keifer and Vince Neil and on the bill for Tuesday were Gabbie Rae, Vixen, Slaughter, Scrap Metal, Dokken, Ratt, Loverboy, and Night Ranger.

kai hansen
Can I have your...

Only Steve Lynch (guitar) and Randy Rand (bass) are left of the line-up that put Autograph on the map. Former Jailhouse singer, Simon Daniels, fronts the band and did a fantastic job handling the material.

The set featured 'Blondes In Black Cars', 'Loud And Clear' and a new track off their recently released EP called 'You Are Us, We Are You'. They still have one of the biggest signature hits of the 80s in 'Turn Up The Radio', and that got the fans engaged as they sang the chorus like it was an anthem. A solid performance to start the day.

kai hansen
Minnesota Chainsaw Massacre

Jesse 'James' Dupree brings plenty of intensity when Jackyl hits the stage. With a countdown from five the band launched into 'Blast Off', a song of the new album 'Rowyco'. They instantly drew people in and put on a hard charging set laced with 'I Stand Alone', 'Dirty Little Mind' and an alcohol fueled 'My Moonshine Kicks Your Cocaine's Ass'. They closed with the classic 'The Lumberjack' featuring Dupree wielding his beloved chainsaw.

He began to cut into a wooden chair brought on stage and by the end of the song he had set the chair on fire using fuel from the chainsaw and swung it around until he smashed it on the stage floor. It was a wicked adrenaline rush watching their performance because you never quite knew what they would do or say next. The way the crowed reacted to them and how many of those fans lined-up to meet them after the set leads me to believe they may be on the bill next year and in a much higher slot.

kai hansen
Strypes on a tiger don't wash away...

Stryper, still featuring the original line-up, hit the stage next and they sounded very tight both musically and vocally. Oz Fox and Michael Sweet traded off vocals and guitar solos seamlessly and the rhythm section of Tim Gaines (bass) and Robert Sweet (drums) held everything together. The set touched on many of the band's albums with songs including 'All For One', 'King Of Kings', No More Hell To Pay', 'Surrender' and a cover of 'Shout It Out Loud' by Kiss.

The unmistakable riff of 'Soldiers Under Command' ripped across the crowd and got it instant reaction. The song takes on an entirely new intensity in a live setting. Michael Sweet announced to the crowd that Stryper will be celebrating the 30 Year Anniversary of 'To Hell With The Devil' by playing the album front to back while wearing the outfits they wore when they first supported the release. They closed the set by playing three hits off that record, 'Calling On You', 'Free', and 'To Hell With The Devil' in a medley. Certainly a teaser for the upcoming tour.

kai hansen
It's only 'Rÿche'n'Roll but we like it...

The Todd La Torre fronted Queensrÿche opened their set with a track from the 'Condition Human' album called 'Guardian' and it crushed. This was my first opportunity seeing Todd and he certainly filled the vocal position like he had been there from the start.

With a shorter set time they stuck with the big hits of 'Empire', 'Silent Lucidity', 'Jet City Woman' and 'Eyes Of A Stranger' and had time for a couple of the older classics like 'Queen Of The Reich', 'Take Hold Of The Flame' and from the 'Rage For Order' album, 'Screaming In Digital'. A good overall set that went over very well.

kai hansen
Cinderella Man

The man that stole last year's Rocktember was back again. Tom Keifer and his band left their mark once again by playing another emotionally inspired set that dazzled the crowd. I loved the obscure opener 'Once Around The Ride', a surprise song that I've not heard him play before. The set leaned heavily on Cinderella's first release, along with the opener, we were treated to 'Nobody's Fool', 'Shake Me', 'Somebody Save Me' and 'Night Songs'.

'Solid Ground' and 'It's Not Enough', from his solo record, were squeezed in among other Cinderella hits including 'Heartbreak Station', 'Shelter Me' and 'Coming Home'. Tom's wife Savannah Snow once again joined him on 'Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)' but the highlight of the set was yet to come. They launched into the cover 'With A Little Help From My Friends' as they did at last year's performance but the song shifted into the Prince classic 'Purple Rain'. Anything Prince related goes over very well in his home state of Minnesota and the crowd really appreciated the ode to him. The fan favorite 'Gypsy Road' closed a spectacular set.

kai hansen
Dana Strums along...

The one and only Vince Neil closed out the first day. By now you know exactly what you're going to get from Vince, as he hasn't detoured from his standard solo set in years. Maybe 'Piece Of Your Action' was a slight change but everything else was predictable. Fans do love Motley Crue and they still love that Motley catalog. Kicking in with 'Dr Feelgood' and rolling through 'Home Sweet Home', 'Same Old Situation', 'Looks That Kill' and 'Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)' seemed to keep everyone's attention.

Vince's backing band is Slaughter's current line-up, Dana Strum (bass), Jeff Blando (guitar) and the most entertaining drummer in rock, Zoltan Chaney. Even in a short set Vince left the stage so his band could play 'Whole Lotta Love' and 'Heaven And Hell' before he returned and closed the night out with 'Kickstart My Heart', 'Girls, Girls, Girls' and 'Wildside'. Fans want songs they know and can sing to and Vince provided the opportunity for everybody to belt out those old Crue songs once again.

It was a great day one with a lot of good performances and a ton of great music being played. I was already looking forward to day two.

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