Alicante Airport (Spain)… trains, coaches and buses are busy carrying people wearing Def Leppard, Motorhead, Avatar, Avantasia, and Led Zeppelin tee-shirts. They’re not going on a beach holiday, but descending onto Villena.In August, there is a spectacular event that’s held for rock and metal fans from near and far – this year and for the past 6years, at the Municipal Sports Stadium of Villena (located in South Eastern Spain). The event? It is the “Leyendas del Rock” festival (The Legends of Rock).Set in the stadium grounds with a capacity of around 20,000 people and set amongst the most beautiful mountains and hills, this sports stadium, usually home to athletes, was transformed into a mega-music venue with 2 huge stages and a 3rd stage at the top of the hill, complete with a sound and lighting control unit. Fully transformed, the site was ready to welcome rock and metal bands from all over the world.I have attended this great festival for many years as a festival goer and taking photos, and I’m writing this review as an official reviewer for ROCKwell UnScene Magazine. I am honoured to have been asked by UK based music photographer Kal Ahmed to assist him. This is the first time he had heard of and attended this festival, recommended to him by one of his oldest school friends now living in Yecla (Spain), Tony Cooper.Leyendas del Rock, having had great bands in the past years such as Arch Enemy, Sabaton, Nightwish, Sepultura, Amon Amarth, Steve Harris’s British Lions, Uriah Heep, Anthrax, Steel Panther, Skindred, Nazareth, The Darkness, and Children of Bodom (and that’s just naming a few), this year hosted rock and metal groups such as Cradle of Filth,Avatar, Eluveitie, Avantasia, Hammerfall, Warcry, Apocalyptica, Rose Tattoo, Thin Lizzy, Lacuna Coil as well as homegrown Spanish favourites such as Megara, Medina Azahara, Baron Rojo and Los Barnes to name a few.
This year I have taken advantage of camping, arriving on Tuesday, partying with friends and other revellers until the gates opened at 16.00 (4 PM local time) on Wednesday 7th August. This great festival, that is rising to the level of the “Resurrectionfest” in Galicia or the “Rockfest” in Barcelona, was just beginning.
The festival was kicked off with a tribute to Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, Sabbath Judas Sabbath.
They were followed by Megara, who, despite the heat of the almost 35 degrees celsius (or 95 degrees fahrenheit) had a large audience. Megara’s show was inspired by Alice in Wonderland where dancers and musicians acted like modern characters from the story
After Megara’s pink show, the international group of Burning Witches, a Swiss heavy metal band with a touch of hard rock made up of women only, took to the stage. It’s nice to have large metal groups made up only of women. A group of guitarists and hair swingers – a photographers paradise.
And then we have the mythical metal Spanish band Barón Rojo, who performed their new songs but did not forget to take us back to our past with themes that all Spaniards know as “Los rockeros van al infierno”, “Larga vida al Rock and Roll” or “Hijos de Caín” among others.
My fellow Spanish fans could also not miss the Andalusian band Medina Azahara as they climbed onto the stage and the night fell with their legendary songs like “Córdoba” or “Necesito respirar” which never fail in their repertoire.
Obús were in charge of closing the first day of the festival. The group went out with strength and attitude to leave us all wanting more, and the audience was participating as they are another one of the great Spanish rock bands with their famous songs like “Va a estallar el Obús” and “Vamos muy bien”.
On Thursday, August 8, at about 40 degrees celsius (104 degrees fahrenheit), the truly heavier side to Leyendas del Rock began and we were treated by groups such as Lords of Black, The Lazys, Rose Tattoo, Lacuna Coil, Somas Cure, Alestorm, Cradle of Filth, Avalanche, Tierra Santa with the mainstage being headlined by Thin Lizzy.
Opening Thursday were Lords of Black
followed by a band that has been on stage for over forty years, Rose Tattoo. Their singer, Angry Anderson, as always showed brutal energy, despite his age, to surprise us with his pure rock and roll vitality. Among his songs were “Rock `n Roll outlaw”, “Sweet Love”, “Once in a Lifetime” and “Nice Boys”.
The third stage, the “Mark Reale stage”, played a young Spanish band from Madrid, Somas Cure. Full of vitality and movement, we were told that they have recorded a new album and look forward to hearing it.
The Italian band Lacuna Coil was waiting for us on the main stage next. Led by Cristina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro, they jumped to the stage with the sun still present but with a great desire to make a great show. We could see that each one was characterized in their own way. Cristina stood out with her striking beauty, wearing a red dress full of blood.
After the Gothic metal provided by Lacuna Coil, it was Alestorm’s turn to crush the stage with its folk power metal that filled the enclosure with a good brutal roll. It was a group that was highly anticipated by the public and was quite successful despite the heat that fell on us. Alestorm is a group with whom you can’t stop dancing and having a great time. We were able to hear songs like “Hangover”, “Mexico”, “The Sunk’n Norwegian” among others. They put an end to their concert with “Drink” and “fucked with an Anchor” where the audience gave everything, including me, who personally had a great time with their concert and with them, as I had the opportunity to meet them.Next…… Cradle of Filth.
At 22:30 (10:30 PM local time) in the evening, Thin Lizzy appeared on stage, truly one of the pioneer bands of hard rock. Ricky Warwick, taking the vocals, belted out the classic favourites once sang by Phil Lynott. It was a great performance visually and sounded great as well.
Thursday’s day closed with, among others, Nanowar of Steel. They packed the third stage with their fun songs giving a show worth dancing. At their concert they had a guest who many people who knew as the singer of Gigatron, Charly, since months before the Leyendas del Rock festival they released a video-clip together with the hit “Norwegian Reggaeton” where everyone danced with a smile on their face.
On the third day of Leyendas del Rock, Friday, August 9, we were surprised with a concert in Villena Square – an acoustic set by Saurom at 12:00 PM.. This would be followed by concerts in the campsite that would entertain us until the opening of doors of the third day of the festival.
We got the notice that Dee Snider was unable to make the festival due to flight issues from New York, and he was replaced at the last moment by Beast in Black. Despite this, we started the day with the Spanish group Crisix, a group of ultra Trash-Metal mates that played with a scorching sun cast upon the festival. These artists are little recognized nationally but have already been part of the poster of the German Wacken Open Air Festival.
A large part of all the people of the festival looked forward to the arrival of the Swedish group Avatar, with their freaky circus show. They offered us a spectacular scene with terrifying clowns, stately uniforms, capes and crowns on the stage that left a mark on the audience. With spectators in the role of Avatar, as there were those who also dressed like them, they began their show with songs from their last work (Avatar Country) and lifelong songs. The frontman Johannes, with his costume changes, his iconic smile and that waggling tongue, seemed to be a real crowd puller.
After the long awaited Avatar it was Delain’s turn with their new work Hunter’s Moon set to the shades of pink, red and black worn by the musicians and singer. Charlotte’s sweet voice along with Timo Somers’ guitars and his musicianship made a great staging that everyone enjoyed as the sun began to set on another day.
The audience of the Leyendas del Rock also looked forward to Eluveitie’s performance. Their folk metal, a revisiting favourite, features instruments we are used to seeing, but not normally at a Rock festivl. Eluveitie offers us a music that comes from a Mandola, a three hole flute, a bodhrán, a buzuki, a Celtic harp, a violin and a bagpipe.
It was the turn of the power metal of Beast in Black that surprised us with the replacement for Dee Snider, an amazing set for these rockers.
At 22:30 (10:30 PM local time) the Australians were making their way to the stage with Airbourne, the headliners of the third day of the festival. Airbourne is a group that have a great past, yet not fully recognized for their work and dedication. The stage full of amplifiers and spotlights shook the sports center of Villena with the intro of Terminator. It was when our ears were already accustomed to the sound, the band jumped to the stage with “Ready to Rock” and the entire audience began to jump almost relentlessly to the rhythm of their songs like “Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast”, “Boneshaker”, “Running Wild” or “Live it Up” among many others.
The third day of the festival came to end with the Austrian group Warcry on stage, a group with a great following. At the end of the day, Warcry was accompanied by groups such as Spanish bands Koma and Saurom.. Koma returned after several years in silence with his rock-punk that makes you jump and dance. Saurom, as always, gave a brutal show accompanied by, for a change, his pyrotechnics throughout the concert. They surprised us with songs not very typical in their setlist such as “El arquero del Rey”, “Sandra”, “El Laberinto de los Secretos” or “El monte de las Ánimas”. Saurom had several collaborations for several of his songs and the audience, as always, sang with them.
Alas, all good things must come to an end and the last day of the Leyendas del Rock, Saturday August 10 began. We had a brutal heat wave and a slightly lower attendance than other years. Rumors have it that the Leyendas del Rock will stay four more years in the city of Villena with concerts in the main square and in the campsite for the brave who would like to endure the Alicante heat.
The last day had performances by Saratoga,
Before Hammerfall finished, on the third stage, they started playing the Brazilian women’s group of Nervosa. Nervosa is a very strong metal group that is growing like foam and I will definitely see again.
At 21:00 (9 PM local time), it was Apocalyptica’s turn, a classic band made up of Finnish cellists. It’s a band where they barely sing, but to see them perform… they’re great. They played mythical Metallica pieces like “Master of Puppets”, “Battery” “Enter Sandman” and “Nothing Else Matters”. Usually it’s a band that plays in theaters, so at the festival they didn’t fit very well, yet they sounded great.
At 22:30 (10:30 PM local time), the headliner that would close the main stages was Avantasia. The show featured guest appearances by Eric Martin (Mr. Big), Geoff Tate (Queensrÿche), Jorn Lande and Bob Catley (Magnum), who added to the band’s musicians. Avantasia created an amazing atmosphere, with an amazing set of 15 songs that started with “Mystery of a Blood Red Rose”, “Invoke the machine”, “Ghostlights”, “The Scarecrow”, “Promised land” to name a few… The final song, I apologise I forget the name, but WOW, the atmosphere was electric and then… a huge confetti cannon went off showering the overwhelmed, ecstatic crowd.