Averagely entertaining

There was a significant interest from the crowd when Axel Rudi Pell hit the stage. He's been around for so long he just seems to be part of the heavy rock furniture; he's someone who's always there, has always been around and releasing fairly safe and unchallenging rock music. If I'm being honest, I wasn't on the edge of my seat for this set, even the bagpipe beginning failed to brew my enthusiasm.

The hall filled up however, and the band finally kicked in and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. As I've mentioned in previous reviews regarding heavy rock and power metal, it sounds great live when the drums get a chance to boom and the guitars manage to sound a little angrier. Axel's band is no different. Even though I would argue the guitar was a little on the quiet side, it didn't diminish much from the overall power of the group. The band did look a little odd however, Axel looked good in his cool black t-shirt and leather trousers. But it was the bass player and keyboardist who looked most out of place, perhaps better suiting a New York hardcore band than Axel's backing chaps. The drummer had been stolen from Rage, whose philosophy seemed to be, 'why play the drums if you can play the drums and spin your sticks at the same time'. For all the oddities they seemed to dote on Axel, clearly loving his melodic guitar prowess. It was impressive there's no doubt, but songs such as 'Strong as a Rock,' 'The Masquerade Ball' and 'Haunted Castle Serenade (Opus #4 Grazioso E Agresso)' aren't the greatest cuts you'll ever hear.

The thing that lifted the Rudi Pell set list was vocalist Johnny Gioeli. His excellent voice, stage presence and overall professionalism kept me attentive through out the set, even though it was marred by a pointless drum solo and excessive widdling from Mr Pell himself. The crowd enjoyed the performance, and I have to say so did I, but without singer Johnny Gioeli they'd only be half the band.