Journalist: Shayan Mujtaba
1) Michael Krohn - Vocals
2) Livio Aiello - Bass
3) Jan Arne Kristiansen - Drums
4) Eivind Staxrud - Guitars
5) Arne Sæther - Keyboards
The legendary Norwegian Rock band Raga Rockers, one of the four major in Norwegian Rock history alongside Jokke & Valentines, deLillos and DumDum Boys. They have been around since 1982 with 12 studio albums, 4 live albums and 2 compilation albums with multiple albums hitting the top 10 on the VG lista (Norwegian record chart).
On Friday 12th October 2018, they made a special and a memorable appearance at the Samfunnet Aud. Max theater during the Uka I Ås festival 2018. For those of you who are not familiar with this band (including myself) but are huge rock fans in general, it was a treat to watch a local band play that has been around for decades who still perform with such intense energy and proficiency after 36 years.
Guitarist Eivind Staxrud has certainly invigorated the band, revitalized them and was certainly the most energetic and enigmatic presence on stage. Not to take away credit from the other members though since Eivind is the youngest and joined the band in 2010. Drummer Jan and sensational vocalist Michael certainly performed their duties and gave a phenomenal live performance.
I entered the Samfunnet at around 21:30 and made my way backstage to the Aud. Max theater, the doors to the theater at this point were still closed. But I could hear the band rehearse, from behind closed doors. Perhaps they were doing their final sound checks.
The night was still young, people were hanging out talking in the hall way, having a drink or two, excited about the concert that was about to take place in a few moment’s time. I cannot think of a better way to kick start your weekend with one of the best Rock acts in Norway.
I was surprised but extremely happy to see a few older people who showed up at a rock concert. Perhaps Raga Rockers were one of the few bands the grew up listening to and they were really excited to see them live. This clearly is an indication that Rock is not dead, it may not be as famous as it was back in the late 70’s and early 80’s, but certainly the spirit of Rock has not diminished and us old metal fans or head bangers as we are usually referred are still alive and kicking.
The band came on stage at approximately half past 22:00 and the first song didn’t make a very good impression on me as the sound quality was not up to high standard. Bass and Keyboards were barely audible, and certainly Eivind’s guitar had way too much overdrive, making other members of the band less audible. It was quickly fixed though in the next song and the technician came to balance the equalizer so other members could be audible as well.
Over all in my opinion, Eivind’s guitar still had too much volume and it seemed like the band was pretty much dependent on his performance. It could have been better, but I guess getting the right sound at a rock concert is not an easy job. But all in all, the band certainly gave a 100 percent in their performance and for me the stand out performer was definiltey Eivind with his amazing playing, technical fluency very Hendrix inspired style solos and just amazing energy. The third song they played on their setlist (I don’t know the name) but it was one of the best and most unique tunes that was played that night. It had very middle eastern and Arabic styled riffs accompanied with an amazing solo.
The 5th song on the setlist (again I don’t know the name) had a very catchy tune, something you could bang your head to and just hum even if you did not understand the words. This is the beauty of rock and roll, you don’t necessarily have to understand the words that are being sung by the vocalist, because it could in a language different than your native language. But there’s so much more going on, there’s bass, the guitars (rhythm and lead) and drums that just make you tap your feet and to the incredible beat of the music.
Jan certainly played at a very steady pace and kept the groove throughout the concert, hitting the crash cymbals and playing those awesome triplets with such ease and precision. Arne Keyboards were barely audible throughout the concert and there were very few songs, where he could be notably heard. Especially when Eivind stopped playing, Arne’s instrument could be heard but that was about it. So, it was kind of bothersome for me to get over the sound as I was not able to fully hear the band to their true potential.
Apart from the uneqaulized distribution of sound, the other disappointment I faced at the concert was that the hall was not full and jammed packed with head bangers. I think a band this talented and one of the true genuine Rock acts in Norway deserves a wider audience. The cool thing about them is most their songs are short and commercial, very reminiscent to early style Judas Priest and Motorhead which means they are radio friendly. Rock usually is not played that much at Radio stations and it has always been that way internationally as well. But for someone like me who has never heard the band before, I became an instant fan and I would love to hear them perform live again. Their music is very cool, with amazing riffs and even more sublime in their performance live.
A lot of bands sound good in the studio where there’s a producer and a lot of the sounds can be manipulated by state-of-the-art equipment in music industry today, only a bands true ability is measured live and Raga Rockers certainly have delivered the goods by giving an amazing performance, one that I will remember for a long time.
The 21st song that they played on the setlist (again I wish I knew the name) had just a mesmerizing melody, a rock ballad in its true sense, amazing vocals and one of the few occasions where you could hear Arne’s sweet keyboard audibly. It was a song that reminded me a lot of Roxette kind of musical style, a band that I listened to a lot in my childhood days.
Finally, after the 21st song, Michael introduced his bandmates and then himself, signaling that the time is nearly over and they moved on to play the encores after that. Typical fan favorites “Noen å hate” and “Slakt” to finish off an incredible night of music. To anyone who has not heard the band before, I urge you to at least give them a chance as in my opinion they certainly deserve a wider audience because their music is amazing and they have some very proficient and talented musicians, Eivind the heavily Hendrix influenced guitarist being my favorite and Michael the vocalist being my second favorite.