Firefest is festival in Europe that came about after the end of another festival called The Gods of AOR. Firefest started in 2004 and it was bigger and even better than the Gods festival. Jeff Scott Soto performed at the Gods festival in 2002, and even released the show on a live CD/DVD. Jeff got the call again to do the festival in 2008 and he said Yes, obviously or this discussion would be ridiculous.
It wasn’t easy for Jeff because at the time of the festival, he was in the middle of rehearsals for the Trans-Siberian Orhcestra’s annual Winter Tour. TSO rehearsed 12 hours a day and Jeff was probably exhausted, but he jumped on a plane on a Friday in the U.S and landed in London by Saturday morning. He had to rush to Nottingham and meet his band. Luckily, it was his band so it was Howie Simon, Gary Schutt and Dave Dziaklak, but they hadn’t played in over about year and had like an hour to rehearse and get ready for the show. Did they pull it off…well, of course they did! They are professionals. It is a great show and another great live album from Jeff.
But…I have a major problem with this release and it isn’t the quality of the show as Jeff sounds amazing and the band is tight and all is good. It is the fact that this setlist is almost identical to Jeff’s last live release ‘One Night in Madrid’. Every song on here was played at that show in this order. The only difference is that the Madrid show had more songs (and was a totally killer show). I feel like I just reviewed this show and not really sure what new I can say about it. I could basically cut & paste that review here, delete out the songs that aren’t on here and BOOM!…the review and you probably wouldn’t know the difference.
So what I will do is walk through the little differences between the shows so I at least give you something different. Like the Madrid show, this one kicks off with the opening track “21st Century” from his latest album ‘Beautiful Mess’, but the big difference is when Madrid goes in to the next song “Colour My XTC” you get the whole song while her you get a small prelude portion before going in to the great “Soul Divine”. One of the highlights on this and the other live show is “Our Song” from his latest album. Jeff sounds amazing on this one and the band nails the song. A power ballad with a lot of Jeff’s powerful vocals. Such a great song.
Back in 2003, Jeff did his first ever solo tour and at the stop in Madrid, the energy from the crowd was insane and he said that if he made it back he would record the show for a live DVD and CD. It took 6 years before his next solo tour brought him back to Spain and he delivered on that promise and now we have ‘One Night in Madrid’. The tour was in support of his latest solo album ‘Beautiful Mess’ and the show as on April 18, 2009 at Sala Heineken in Madrid, Spain.
This time the band was not his usual cast of characters, but a brand new band consisting of Jorge Salan on lead guitar, Fernando Mainer on bass, Edu Cominato on drums and BJ on keyboards and acoustic guitar. Now, of course Jeff Scott Soto was their singing as it is his tour. I have the CD of the show and it is a 2CD set and includes 22 tracks including solos and the ever popular Funky Medley. Let’s go ahead and jump right in to another great show by Mr. Soto.
The show opens with a radio being changed from station to station and each stop was a classic Jeff Scott Soto song. Then a voice comes on says, “That was then…this is now!” and the show starts with the lead song from ‘Beautiful Mess’ called “21st Century” and it sounds great. Jeff really sounds on point and the band captures the essence of the song. The guitars sound fantastic, the backing vocals are all perfect and I would say this new band clicks pretty well together. And if you need further proof listen to “Colour My XTC” from his Talisman days. The bass on this one is key to make it work as Marcel was a beast on bass and Fernando holds his own on this one, really great job.
We get more of Jeff’s solo work the classic “Soul Divine’ off ‘Lost in the Translation’. A true highlight of his career. Then we go in to the 2nd track from ‘Beautiful Mess’ with “Our Song” and the crowd is clapping along. It is the softer side of Jeff and then goes more power. On the album it had an irritating electronic drum track, but here it is raw and real drums and so much better. Then it is back to the rock with “Drowning” another from the ‘Lost in the Translation’ album. The guitars on this one are badass, some great riffs and real heavy. A real barn burner with this one.
As I had mentioned previously, 2004 was going to be a big year for Jeff Scott Soto. His introduction to Neal Schon during NAMM in January 2004, was the sign. Schon played on and co-wrote a song on his solo album, ‘Lost in the Translation’, which we are reviewing now and it led to a new band later that year and the Journey frontman shortly after that. Before we get ahed of ourselves, let us focus on the solo album first. And there is a live album to come out before Schon’s stuff as well.
‘Lost in the Translation’ is Jeff’s third solo album and what a step up from the prior two. He still had his good buddies playing on it – Howie Simon and Gary Schutt on guitar duty and Glen Sobel on drums and a guest appearance by Mr. Schon himself. It was a solid line-up, a solid album and would see Jeff head out on a full world tour that would last for 35 gigs and hit 4 continents that would run from August to November of 2004. Jeff was hitting his stride, finding his footing and the world was learning who he was. I know I did because it was this album and Talisman’s ‘Cats & Dogs’ where I discovered the greatness that is Jeff Scott Soto all thanks to Andrew McNiece at MelodicRock.com. Also, note the cover photo and under his right arm is Jeff’s autograph. This is one of the 5 albums I had him sign when I met him back in April 2022. Really Cool!!
The first track and single is “Believe in Me”. It was co-written by Jeff along with Neal Schon. I told you they began a great relationship…fruitful already. And let me tell you, it could be a Journey song. Not a ballad either, one of the rocking tracks. The opening guitar riff is cool as Schon shreds it. Jeff’s vocals are so smooth and melodic and you know what, he would sound great singing Journey songs…maybe that will happen!! (maybe real soon). You had Glen Sobel on drums and Jeff on bass and everyone sounded tight and laid down a great rhythm. A totally stellar track and very radio friendly even though no radio around here played it!
My Sunday Song #62 is the song “In The Air Tonight” by Phil Collins. The song is off the album, Face Value, and was released as a single on January 8th, 1981. The song is one of Phil’s most recognizable and most popular songs and it reached #2 in the UK and #19 in the US on Billboards Hot 100.
What makes it so recognizable is the drum work throughout. The slow build up to that drum beat that comes screaming in and there throughout the rest of the song. Who hasn’t been in their car and when that part comes up, you air drum and everyone around you looks at you like you are a nut…and also wondering why you aren’t holding on to your steering wheel.
The song’s popularity even increased when it was used in the pilot episode of Miami Vice in 1984. That helped it remain a part of pop culture forever. The creepiness of the song and the dark overtones worked nicely in the episode and showed how well music and TV could work together.