When one of your old mates who happens to be a reviewer for the regional paper asks you if you would like to be his +1 for a gig with Pretty Maids, you’d be stupid to say ‘no thanks’. After all, Pretty Maids are among the local heroes in this wee country; one of those bands who have been known outside Denmark’s borders for decades. They’ve never been hugely successful commercially, but they’ve made some pretty good albums over the years.
Anyhoo, before the Maids are let loose upon the small provincial town of Silkeborg, local outfit Black Swamp Water have the honour opening for the veteran rockers. The six-piece play a kind of southern hard rock music, but notably with a lot of double bass drum. The reason for this might be that the drummer, Kim, has a background as the sticksman of death metal combo Dawn Of Demise and has filled in for Illdisposed on a number of occasions.
Black Swamp Water’s music is not really my style, although there is sudden burst of thrash metal here and there and really, really heavy parts every now and then. The gig suffers immensely from a singer who isn’t exactly the cream of the crop and to go with that has a stage presence that is close to non-existent. Classic quote from the stage this evening: “We never played this one live before.” This is great to say if you’re Metallica or Slayer, but the news value is hardly monolithic if you’re Black Swamp Water from Silkeborg.
Now, I have to tell you about the audience here at Kedelhuset tonight. Seriously, I can’t remember when I’ve been to a hard rock or metal concert where I was among the youngest in the crowd. The amount of middle-aged guys in shirts and jeans (not t-shirts…shirts!) is frighteningly high, and the number of women who are well beyond their best years ditto.
It should also be mentioned that with 200 tickets sold on this Friday evening, the place is not exactly packed. It tells you more about Silkeborg than the band, mind you. Silkeborg is more about country and jazz music than metal, that’s for sure.
So, it is finally time for Pretty Maids. First of all, I have to say to the credit of this band, that it doesn’t matter much if you see them in front of a Wacken audience or 200 people in a little shit hole in provincial Denmark; they deliver a show, with singalong and all that. I respect that a lot.
When that is said, this is clearly the first evening of the Christmas tour, and the grand old men, Ronnie and Kenneth, and the three younger musicians along with them, aren’t as sharp as one could wish for. The same can be said of the sound, which for the entirety of the gig remains slightly undefined and muddy. Which is a shame.
‘Mother of All Lies’ opens the ball. One of the best songs from 2015’s Motherland album. The sound doesn’t do it justice, but Ronnie and the boys seem to be in good shape. The title track from the latest album, Kingmaker, and ‘Heavens Little Devil’ from the same album are next, and I have to admit that this is the second time I hear these two songs, so there’s isn’t much for me to recognise. After ‘Heavens…’, a middle-aged woman in the front shouts to Ronnie that she ‘can’t fuckin’ hear what you sing’. Ronnie channels the complaint to the sound guys who turn him up a wee bit, but it doesn’t help much.
Time for some nostalgia with ‘We Came to Rock’, before the song ‘Clay’ from the (to me) lesser known turn of the millennium album, Carpe Diem. ‘Yellow Rain’, on the other hand, I do know, and this one works quite well. ‘Rodeo’ continues the streak of well-known pearls, although still marred by bad sound.
The Pandemonium album, Ronnie exclaims, was the album that put this old band back on track some seven or eight years ago. The title track from the album is delivered with power and conviction, the most impressive song so far tonight. Less impressive, however entertaining, is the cover of Pink Floyd’s ‘Another brick in the Wall’, which follows. Then ‘Bull’s Eye’ from Kingmaker, a song that doesn’t leave much of an impression.
The ballad ‘Little Drops of Heaven’ drowns in keyboard and muddled sound. Fortunately, this leads directly into ‘Carmina Burana’, which of course means that ‘Back to Back’ is on the menu, closely followed by ‘Red Hot and Heavy’, and these two mega-classics end the set proper.
This is where the audience in the front don’t even bother shouting ‘we want more’. They simply shout ‘Future World’, ‘Future World’, ‘Future World’. And they get it. First encore is said über-classic, and no matter what, it is cool.
More cheese that cool is offered with ‘Please Don’t Leave Me’, the song that the middle-aged women in the front row have come to hear. I mean…I completely get that something has to put bread on the table, but…oh, well. I’ll shut up.
My review buddy from the newspaper tells me that he had happily forgotten that the song ‘Love Games’ even existed. I have to admit that I always liked it. I still do. Just a shame that Ronnie’s voice at this point has gotten tired. There doesn’t seem to be much air left in the geezer, sadly.
Thus ends an enjoyable evening with a band who have great songs, lots of humour, routine and experience – but the sound guys they brought with them leave a lot to be wished for, and I’m hoping that the next dates on the tour will get the band warmed up.
1. Mother of All Lies
3. Heavens Little Devil
4. We Came to Rock
6. Yellow Rain
9. Another Brick in the Wall / I.N.V.U.
10. Bull's Eye
11. Little Drops of Heaven
12. Back to Back
13. Red, Hot and Heavy
14. Future World
15. Please Don't Leave Me
16. Love Games
Ronnie Atkins - vocals
Kenneth Hammer - guitar, backing vocal
Shades - bass, backing vocal
Chris Laney - keyboard, guitar, backing vocal
Allan Sørensen - drums