Summer Breeze Brasil 2024 Day One Recap - “Never Wear Leather When You Are Playing On Stage In Brazil!”

April 30, 2024, a month ago

Words by Jonathan Smith | Photos by Joel Barrios

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For the better part of 3 decades, the Summer Breeze Open Air festival has been a staple of the German metal scene. Having begun in 1997, arguably when metal had hit the proverbial wall in the nations that had originally birthed the genre, one might even suggest that it was tied inexorably to its resurgence in the late ‘90s. Now regularly boasting attendance levels in excess of 40,000 and drawing the greatest known acts on both sides of the Atlantic, it might have been deemed an inevitability that this massive affair would find a twin in the western hemisphere, which began just last year when it came to Brazil. 

Featuring such noted acts as Blind Guardian, Avantasia, Bruce Dickinson, Evergrey, Stratovarius and many others, it was an instant hit that drew thousands upon thousands of attendees from South America and beyond, all but begging for a sequel, which would come to fruition beginning on April 26, 2024.

With four stages (appropriately dubbed Hot, Ice, Sun, Waves) primed for a marathon slough of rock and metal excellence, the masses assembled in the late morning with the opening foray coming from the Ice Stage courtesy of Swedish rockers Nestor. A rather unique fold that was originally conceived in 1989 but was never to field an album until 2022, they brought a very retro character to the open air in Sao Paulo. One might dub it the revival of the most AOR-steeped albums of the ‘80s such as Rainbow’s Bent Out Of Shape or Saxon’s Innocence Is No Excuse, with consonant melodies and infectious grooves that all but turned the calendar back a good 40 years. 

These earworm anthems went over with a bang in the audience, which proved quite large for the first band of the festival, with noteworthy bangers from their 2022 debut like the title anthem “Kids In A Ghost Town”, “Stone Cold Eyes”, and “1989” drawing the loudest response, though entries like “Victorious” off their upcoming sophomore album Teenage Rebel and their auspicious rendition of Whitney Houston hit “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” were no slouches either.

At noon attention would shift to the Hot Stage for the arrival of American power/thrash crusaders Flotsam And Jetsam, and it is without even the slightest hint of hyperbole that they delivered an annihilating set. The Brazilian heat had already steeped the air in Sao Paulo at this point, and about halfway through their 10-song set lead vocalist Eric A.K. couldn’t resist joking that he would never wear leather again when playing in Brazil. 

But the climate’s opposition aside, the crowd was a sea of moving bodies as this longstanding thrash machine pummeled the airwaves with a succession of high-octane numbers, mostly consisting of classics from their seminal early albums Doomsday For The Deceiver and No Place For Disgrace respectively. “Hammerhead”, “She Took An Axe”, and the closing performance of “No Place For Disgrace” would prove the brightest highlights, but a dark horse entry from their more recent era “Iron Maiden” (a tribute song to the band with the same name) and especially a more stylistically appropriate, sped up version of “Suffer The Masses” were also moments of note.

Back on the Ice Stage at 10 minutes past 1 PM it would prove the hour of the local hero as ex-Angra helmsman and Brazilian-born metal star Edu Falaschi took the sonic reins. It naturally goes without saying that a veteran act playing to the masses of their homeland would be a guarantor of a raucous response and that the resulting set would be dominated by consequential odes from its lead personality’s tenure with Angra, but Edu brought things to a whole new level. The elaborate stage set; consisting of two massive statues at each side to accentuate the epic power metal vibe and a massive LED screen acting as the backdrop showing corresponding images for each song, would bring a highly theatrical quality to the performance.

Whether it was the crackerjack performances of noted Angra anthems like “Waiting Silence”, “Millennium Sun”, or the sea of light-inspiring power balladry of “Heroes Of Sand”, the crowd couldn’t get enough of what was being served up, and even the recent entries off Edu’s latest solo album “Sacrifice” and “Eldorado” received an ocean of cheers in response, though the coup de grace would be the high speed closing rendition of Angra classic “Nova Era”.

The Hot Stage would bring back the North American contingent with more of a southern flavor at 2:30 PM courtesy of Kentucky hard rockers Black Stone Cherry. They proved to be their usual, larger-than-life selves, with guitarist Ben Wells and bassist Steve Jewell Jr. being in a constant state of motion, jumping and frolicking about to maximize the visual aspect of their performance. They likewise proved to be a marvel of professionalism as they battled several technical issues, to the point where Ben said between songs: “We love to play here in Brazil even though today we had every possible technical glitch that there is.” 

The heat also proved a growing issue as the band was completely drenched in sweat by the close of their performance, but they took it all in stride as they delivered solid performances of noted bangers “Again”, “Like I Roll”, and “White Trash Millionaire”, with drummer John Fred Young making a manic ruckus of a drum solo amid their rendition of “Cheaper To Drink Alone”. All the setbacks notwithstanding, their set went over well, and the crowd remained engaged and singing along undeterred.

Concurrently over on the Sun Stage, NWOBHM icons Tygers Of Pan Tang were keeping the metal side of this extravaganza raging. Pummeling riffs and resounding melodies as only an early ‘80s outfit of this level of gravitas could deliver were the order of the hour, as their one-hour set was replete with classic entries from their seminal era spanning from 1980 to 1983.

Though the crowd surrounding them had a high concentration of onlookers who were born well after these songs originally came to light, the most boisterous responses would come from early classics like “Euthanasia”, “Gangland”, “Slave To Freedom”, and “Suzie Smiled”. Nevertheless, this British veteran outfit has also seen a noteworthy resurgence in recent years in a studio capacity, and entries from their latest album Bloodlines in “Fire On The Horizon” and “Back For Good” were also greeted with a respectable roar, proving that there is no need for old cats to learn new tricks.

The Ice Stage would be the site to rekindle the thrash flame at just 10 of 4 PM with the arrival of one of the originators of the craft, namely Bay Area icons Exodus. Being their usual merciless thrash machine selves and reminding all why they’ve been a staple of the genre for better than 40 years with each song, they were greeted with a correspondingly ecstatic audience, with massive Exodus flags waving amid the sea of animated souls. Audience engagement was a key part of the show, with Zetro even taking time to note a personal friend being in the first row, and both he and guitarist Gary Holt revving up the crowd to an explosive level of cheers, which reached their peak when Holt briefly played the intro to Slayer’s “Raining Blood” as a segway to usher in a killer performance of “The Toxic Waltz”. 

Drummer and founding member Tom Hunting was also a force to be reckoned with from behind the kit, showing zero signs of slowing despite his recent cancer scare. Whether it was highlight performances of classic entries like “Bonded By Blood”, “Piranha”, and “Brain Dead”, or the occasional recent thrasher like “Blacklist”, this was one of those performances that had zero low points to speak of.

 Back over at the Hot Stage at just 10 after 5 PM, the clock would stay affixed in the ‘80s, but shift from the thrashing Bay Area to the more rocking throes of Los Angeles courtesy of Sebastian Bach. The ex-Skid Row frontman showed no signs of age in his performance, singing phenomenally and nailing notes that would be the envy of current-day Vince Neil. Though his set would consist primarily of classic entries from his former band, he would kick things off with a towering rendition of “What Do I Got To Lose?” off his most recent solo album, and the crowd was definitely there for it. 

At about the halfway point of his set he would return to his solo album for an equally auspicious performance of “Everybody Bleeds”. On stage antics were also in the cards, including a brief snippet of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” being played just prior to the last song of the set, and Bach joking about the incredibly long and flowing hair of his bassist, quipping that he gave him the job based on his “badass look.” Yet when the rubber hit the road, it would be the obligatory classics in “18 And Life”, “I Remember You”, “Slave To The Grind” and “Youth Gone Wild” that would bring down the house in Sao Paulo, despite the lack of any walls or a roof being present.

The ‘80s flair would continue to flow unabated over at the Ice Stage at roughly 6:30 PM courtesy of L.A. mainstays Mr. Big. Despite the nearly hour-and-a-half allotment given to them as one of the later attractions of the day, they would deliver an abridged version of the mammoth 23-song set list that they’ve been featuring during their current tour. Nevertheless, the band was in top form throughout their 16-song showing, with helmsman Eric Martin’s voice being fully recovered from some recent issues despite months of constant touring, and the rest of the band blended their backing vocal parts with the seamlessness of a barbershop’s quartet while keeping the virtuosity of their instrumental performances front and center. 

Indeed, it was tough to not obsess over the wild solo performances turned in by bassist Billy Sheehan and guitarist Paul Gilbert even when witnessing the infectious odes surrounding them. All the same, stellar performances of original numbers like “Take Cover” and “Never Say Never” were matched with auspicious covers of Cat Stevens classic “Wild World” and Talas’ “Shy Boy” proved to be highlights, though it would be the closing performance of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” and their own smash hit ballad “To Be With You” (preceded by an introduction of each band member) that would top off their set.

With dusk now hanging in the air and the headliners due to make their mark upon this massive event, the Hot Stage would see its audience swell to capacity with the arrival of KISS bassist and co-helmsman Gene Simmons’ solo band. Apart from a gig in Wisconsin a couple of days prior, it would be his first performance since KISS’ 2023 farewell tour and a telltale sign that even elder statesmen of the fine art of hard rock can never truly retire from the road. He would tap the services of Sebastian Bach’s guitarist Brent Woods in a live capacity (marking his second performance of the day), as well noted drum impresario Brian Tichy at the kit and backing vocals, leaving little question as to the quality of the sound accompanying Simmons’ pipes.

Gene’s vocal performance was matched by his humorous onstage banter with attendees in the first row, particularly the young women, making for an entertaining show that was almost as much a standup routine as it was a concert. The lion’s share of the songs were classic KISS entries, with the likes of “Shout It Out Loud”, “War Machine” and “Detroit Rock City” making seismic waves, while covers of Led Zeppelin’s “Communication Breakdown” and Motörhead’s “Ace Of Spades” turned plenty of heads.

Concurrently over on the Sun Stage, starting at around 8:30 PM, New York hardcore titans Biohazard would close off the first day of festivities. In like fashion, the show that they put on was bursting at the seams with energy, with vocalist/bassist Evan Seinfeld and the rest of his crew running around the stage, jumping and working the crowd to levels of sheer insanity as they plowed through their gruelling 14-song set. Guitarist and co-vocalist Billy Graziadei was an equal part in audience engagement, speaking fluent Portuguese to the crowd and conveyed his love of Brazil, noting also that his family was among the crowd of onlookers. 

The performance itself was a master class in pummeling grooves as only the ‘90s could deliver, as both Billy and lead guitarist Bobby Hambel pounded the ground with their axes, causing a virtual earthquake that kept the audience animated. Socially conscious anthems of unrest like “Urban Discipline”, “Wrong Side Of The Tracks” and “Down For Life” were the mere tips of a massive sonic iceberg that repeatedly slammed the airwaves as if it were The Titanic, and a well-placed cover of Bad Religion’s “We’re Only Gonna Die” would send the flags of discontent only higher still.

When all was said and done, Brazil’s second installment of the Summer Breeze metal fest was a smashing success after only the first of three days. One can only wonder how the second and third days could hope to top what had already transpired, but even in the sweltering South American heat, where there is a will, there is sure to be a way.

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