Live review | Heroes Of Rock – Ons Witte Kerkje-Ommel (Asten, NL)
March 20, 2022
After a hiatus of little less than two years, Covid restrictions are lifted in The Netherlands. Slowly but surely the concert-landscape is returning to form with venues and bands reviving their preliminary planning or rescheduling. Refraining from live experiences for two years, excitement kicks in and blood starts flowing again, slowly building towards the main events. At least, for me it is.
AN INTIMATE EVENT
Based in the south of The Netherlands, in the tiny village of Ommel, today’s concert is a rather special one. An intimate event celebrating some of rock’s finest tunes recorded, performed by Dutch iconic vocalist Bert Heerink (Vandenberg, Kayak) together with guitarist André Becker (Pink Floyd Project, Falco). Their Heroes of Rock project hits Ommel’s Witte Kerkje (White Church), one of the smallest churches in the area, restored by its new owners Boris en Janneke. Challenged by the pandemic and numerous lockdowns they managed to restore the original church and create an intimate vibrant living room-like setting for performers and speakers. With Heroes of Rock the first post-pandemic gig coincides with the start of F1 2022 season. A red carpet welcomes the audience and keeping it personal, there’s coffee and tea served at the entrance. Quite the setting and welcome for an acoustic rock performance.
ROCK CLASSICS, ANECDOTES AND ONE-LINERS
Mandatory for a church are good acoustics. Preserving the initial arch of the church Ons Witte Kerkje lends itself perfectly for today’s intimate gig. Amplification is minimal and the sound resonates impressively. With the initial wooden balcony in front of the chapel restored, the sound is organic and vibrantly resonating. With the original choir loft closed with a glass window, minimal effort is needed to fill the room. The outcome is a warm overall sound benefiting the intimate setting and up-close and personal performance by Heerink and Becker. Delving from the wide catalogue of rock classics the duo manages to surprise friends and fans today.
Opening with Peter Frampton’s ,,Show Me The Way” both performers radiate joy. The interaction is excellent and transfers to the audience instantly. Held together by anecdotes and one-liners, the show keeps a high momentum and personal touch. Short stories about their shared love for the specific artists and music, initiated Legends of Rock. Bert emphasizing the surprise finding many of the original performers have passed on, the setlist consists of many highlights. One of them is his personal favorite Scott Walker of The Walker Brothers, with the singer mentioning sitting in a bar late at night when he sat down right next to him, much to his surprise. ,,The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” is his homage to his hero and is the step up to more stories about him living in the US.
Touring festivals and playing with high class acts like REO Speedwagon and Journey, and challenges of going onto the stage after these AOR giants raised the bar. Losing some of his vocal finesse, Heerink surprises performing Journey’s ,,Faithfully” and ,,Don’t Stop Believin”. Flexing his voice in different angles than Perry obviously, he manages to maintain the song’s strong appeal. He comes out on top, crushing possible prejudice (Yes, mine).
Impressive is his rendition of Kayak’s classic ,,Ruthless Queen” which needs max capacity when it comes to switching registers and tone. Much like the vocalist André Becker also reveals his challenges rearranging the songs on their setlist, especially the Kayak classic. Admitting he needs sheet music to keep up with the many chord changes he pulls off an impressive performance. His tone is impressive and his fine-tuned feeling to keep the songs intact as well as providing appealing arrangements to maintain their high-octane appeal and radiate their potential is constantly displayed.
PINK FLOYD AND VANDENBERG
Gripping back to their collaboration on the Pink Floyd project they perform an intimate acoustic highlight with ,,Time” for which both exchange vocal duties frequently. Becker’s voice perfectly adds to that of Bert, adding a layer as well as filling the rough spots. His skills he reveals on ,,Wish You Were Here” that he performs solo. The arrangement is finger licking and during its announcement Bert refers to its qualities being stripped from the dense layers, keyboards and sound effects in Floyd’s sound. The song gains appeal being performed in such dismantling frail arrangement. Arrangements that provide constant challenges Becker mentions, gripping back to the less obvious songs in their catalogue.
Closing the first set Heerink recalls his days of working on the assembly line. Blue collar knuckle busting boosting productivity he remembers receiving the phone call from management. “Tug away your overalls and get ready to tour…” as Vandenberg’s ,,Burning Heart” hit the airwaves all over the USA. It was the start of his long spanning career and needless to say, it is a pleasure to hear the original vocalist singing the hit. Bert has to work hard to keep up with the song penned for a higher and wider register, but backed by Becker he handles his duties well. Not spotless, but no one will blame him. The magic is near…
WINE AND CRAFTBEERS
During the second set Becker provides a perfect example of his challenges rearranging. Starting the opening lick of a contemporary classic being strongly reminiscent to an even bigger hit. Setting it off the audience instantly recognizes the chord and starts singing along to Bryan Adams’ massive hit ,,Summer Of 69”. Becker and Heerink cut it short after the chorus bursting into laughter explaining the intended song was from the same era but by another A-grade vocalist. David Lee Roth’s ,,Living In Paradise” is the hit they intended and he even stops the show when it is finally called out by an attendee. It adds to the lustre of the concert that gains momentum with the participation of the crowd that enjoyed wine and craftbeers during the intermission.
The threshold for singing along is lowered and participation with both performers increases. The laid-back atmosphere does the rest and we even see people getting up from their chairs jumping to Van Halen’s ,,Jump”. Survivor’s hit ,,Eye Of The Tiger” has Bert telling the story of Jimi Jamison’s unfortunate passing, causing the schedule of their collaboration in a writing session to be cancelled. The song fits the profile of the event and the timeless classic fuses enthusiasm.
Another highlight is Foreigner’s less surprising ,,I Want To Know What Love Is”. Being befriended with original singer Lou Gramm the story of them and Ronnie James Dio on a sailboat in California reveals just how much Heerink fitted in. Him being hinted by Lou to join Foreigner as his replacement, admitting being diagnosed with cancer, came to early. But, as Heerink rushes to state: “their new vocalist (Kelly Hansen) is amazing, and luckily Lou recovered”.
AN EVENING TO REMEMBER
The mutual respect towards others is transferred frequently and it hints the admiration towards their personal Heroes of Rock. Though some of the songs are expected to receive Becker’s acoustic make over, it is the ‘moments of wonder’ that catch us by surprise, like the crowd pleasing ,,Anyplace, Anywhere, Anytime” from German Nena and Kim Wilde. Switching vocals and sung in German and English the song comes to life vibrantly, much like A-Ha’s rendition of the Everly Brothers’ classic ,,Crying In The Rain”. The song is stripped to its bear essence and bridges the gap between rock and pop as much as it bridged the gap between contemporary music and pop when A-Ha re-recorded it.
Bert Heerink and André Becker’s Heroes of Rock gig was not only a warm welcome after the countless lockdowns of the last 2 ‘concert-less’ years, but also met my expectations as to what was to be expected from both musicians. Bert himself pulled the concert and worked hard to keep up with the bar they clearly enjoyed measuring themselves against. Not shying away from the unexpected and high level of vocal performances requested, nor intimidated by an audience within an arm length, him and Becker made this an evening to remember. Becker provided the perfect chords and licks, and backed Heerink’s performance with clear and warm fuzzy second vocal layers.
Their long-term relationship as performers pushed the envelope on musical interaction transcending the needed acoustic intimacy to the listener. On top the room resonated and echoed powering the Heroes of Rock.
Header photo taken from AB-Facebook page
Live Photos by Edwin van Hoof