Live | Rock Hard Festival Impression of Day 2 – Amphitheater – Gelsenkirchen [Ger]

18 May 2024

On Saturday, May 18th I was once again in the car towards Gelsenkirchen. A whole weekend of Rock Hard Festival was out of the question for me due to all kinds of obligations. But at least I didn’t want to miss the Saturday with bands like Vandenberg, Forbidden and KK’s Priest.

So, off to the Amphitheater – Gelsenkirchen for a day of atmosphere and music. Since the Rock Hard Festival has been cooperating with WDR Rockpalast for years, there are also live streams of all gigs. You can find them here. If after reading this report you feel like seeing the gigs, you can. Always cool anyway.


Anyway, back to the Saturday edition for a moment. Since we arrived in the afternoon, we had to miss Wheel, Air Raid and Baest. When the Finns of Waltari take the stage at 3:40 p.m., the Amphitheater is already quite filled up. Singer/bassist Kärtsy Hatakka and his men bring their unusual mix of avant-garde metal, alternative metal, progressive metal, extreme metal, crossover. And it’s fair to say it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. At least not mine. Once again, my brain gets confused rather than drawn into Waltari‘s unusual world.


Fast forward to Dutch pride Vandenberg. A week before this gig it was announced that bassist Randy van der Elsen had left the band and that former Moonkings bandmate Sem Christoffel would fill this spot from now on. The band looks relaxed and is looking forward to playing around 50/50 mix of Vandenberg and Whitesnake songs. The audience is there in large numbers and especially the Whitesnake classics are sung along loudly [smart move Ad]. Singer Mats Levén is in great form and ‘our’ Ad Vandenberg is also having a great time. Except for a few problems with his gear, because sometimes the guitar dropped out. Probably a transmitter that did not want to cooperate.

Sem clearly feels great to be on the stage too, and keyboardist Leny van de Laak should make sure there is less of a void at the moments when Ad is performing his solo’s. Through the mix he was barely audible and really only really evident in the mix during the intro chords of ,,Here I Go Again’’.

Vandenberg world hit ,,Burning Heart’’ was unfortunately not played due to lack of time, but I must say that this gig was qualitatively very entertaining. I hope the current line-up of the band remains stable, because then it will probably all be even more tuned in to each other.


Primordial I also had to miss due to other obligations so we fast forward to the San Francisco Bay Area-based thrashers of Forbidden. The next band to take possession of the Rockhard stage. Since their formation, Forbidden have broken up and reformed twice with numerous lineup changes. After breaking up for the first time in 1997, Forbidden reunited in 200, went into an indefinite hiatus in 2012, but reformed in 2023. The current lineup of the band is Norman Skinner (vocals), Craig Locicero (guitar), Matt Camacho (bass), Steve Smyth (guitar) and Chris Kontos (drums).

Fair is fair, the band is in absolutely great shape and fires their music at the audience with a pretty high level. No less than 7 songs come from the band’s 1988 debut album ‘`Forbidden Evil’‘ and 3 from the 1990 `Twisted Into Form’ album. And those songs are still rock solid, even in 2024. A cool performance!!!


Saturday’s headliner is KK’s Priest. Former Judas Priest guitarist KK Downing is on the road with his band as part of the “Return of the Sinner European Tour 2024”. He is here to promote their album release ‘The Sinner Rides Again’. Although I must confess that KK’s Priest’s own work with 6 songs may come off a bit sparse, the other 8 songs are good old Judas Priest classics. Although ,,The Green Manalishi’’ is basically a Fleetwood Mac track.


A sizeable LED screen graces the stage background with visuals and with ,,Hellfire Thunderbolt’’ the band kicks off. Vocalist Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens [who, of course, has also been a part of the mighty Priest] is on the roll, singing as if his life depends on it. KK’s own work flames like mad, but the response of the audience when Priest classics are played is a bit bigger. That is allowed, because Mr. Downing has always been one of the pillars of that phenomenal band and has every right to play these songs. When done at this high level, no one will complain about it.
KK’s Priest is on fire!!! We get to enjoy super beautiful versions of ,,Beyond The Realms Of Death’’, ,,Breaking The Law’’ and probably the ultimate Priest song ,,Victim Of Changes’’. At least in my opinion.

So is there nothing to complain about this performance?? Well, the fact that only one encore was played is a pity, because the boiling audience would have liked to hear one or two  more songs.


I’m glad I made the drive to Gelsenkirchen. A cool line up, friendly people, nice metal market, plenty of food and drinks. What more could a metalhead want!!!

I hope we can be there again next year, to celebrate this Rock Hard Festival party again.

All photos by Raymond Helebrand



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