By Carl Begai
In recent years, Primal Fear bassist Mat Sinner has crossed over from the realms of metal and become a familiar face / presence to the mainstream rock crowd in parts of Europe. As one of the masterminds behind Rock Meets Classic – which is exactly what it sounds like – he has seen what started as a grand touring experiment morph into a highly anticipated packed-to-the-rafters annual event. Boasting the Mat Sinner Band and the Bohemian Symphony Orchestra Prague as its foundation, Rock Meets Classic is gearing up for its fifth run in March / April 2014 featuring some of the finest rock vocalists/musicians the ’70s and ’80s has to offer. Previous outings with Ian Gillan (Deep Purple), Steve Lukather (Toto), Lou Gramm (Foreigner), Dan McCafferty (Nazareth), Paul Rodgers (Bad Company), Chris Thompson (Manfred Mann’s Earth Band) and Eric Bazilian (The Hooters) went over a storm, appealing to everyone from the unwashed metalheads to the husbands / wives that get out maybe twice a year, to the 65+ year-old pensioners who dress their best for the occasion. The 2014 installment of Rock Meets Classic is shaping up to be another blast for everyone involved regardless of whether they’re on stage or in the audience.
And while their names may not fill the seats to the extent the featured artists do, Sinner is equally focused on enlisting top notch musicians as members of the Rock Meets Classic backbone. No small wonder the roster hasn’t changed very much since the first run and now features four-fifths of Primal Fear
“If I’m able to give jobs to my bandmates so that they make some decent money on a nice tour, I will,” says Sinner. “And there’s a social part to it, where for example I’m not going to give the drummer position away to another drummer when I have Randy Black. I know Randy can play all this stuff, he’s got the skills, and I know he’s a big fan of some of these singers. Everybody was very, very happy with him on the last Rock Meets Classic tour. He told me he had the time of his life, so of course he wants to do the tour next year. If I can give something back to these guys, there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Bottom line, there are no amateurs in the Rock Meets Classic family, and nobody goes into the production thinking they’ve got everything locked up without making an effort.
“Every Rock Meets Classic tour is a learning experience. The music of these artists is so different and we have to learn how to sing or to play it all. If you work with Ian Gillan or Paul Rodgers, of course you’re going to learn something. They’re two of the legends in rock music, so if we play with them on the same stage it’s something really different from a Primal Fear show, for example.”
Rock Meets Classic 2014 welcomes shock rock legend Alice Cooper as its official headliner, a billing that nobody outside of the head office expected. Uriah Heep members Mick Box and Bernie Shaw, Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow, Deep Purple), Midge Ure (Ultravox) and Kim Wilde round out the roster, guaranteeing another diverse show for a wide range of rock tastes.
“It’s amazing for us to have Alice Cooper on this tour,” Sinner affirms, “but it was also amazing to have Ian Gillan and the other singers with us. Alice has never done this before, and I’ve been speaking to his manager for nearly three years about making this happen. He’s one of my favourites as a headliner that I could approach. There’s some money involved plus he wants his guitarist Orianthi with him, and he has a certain window of time where he can do the tour. So, we found a compromise where everyone is happy, and we’re all looking forward to the tour.”
Smart money has Rock Meets Classic 2014 closing the show with Cooper’s anthem ‘School’s Out’, which usually caps off his own headline set. There’s a huge catalogue of material to choose from where Cooper, Uriah Heep and Joe Lynn Turner are concerned, suggesting that coming up with individual setlists to keep things flowing over the course of the evening is a nightmare task.
“That’s also a compromise,” Sinner agrees. “I make some suggestions for every artist that participates, they get back to me about what they want to do, so it’s a back-and-forth thing for a while. Joe Lynn Turner, for example, we had about 20 songs to choose from because he’s worked with Rainbow, Deep Purple and many other artists, and he does his own thing. We had a very creative discussion about his songs for something like a month, and in the end we came up with a very interesting setlist. And there’s one song that I don’t think anyone is expecting us to do it, but it’s absolutely great.”
Five years in, Rock Meets Classic has the earmarks of a European Trans-Siberian Orchestra minus the cheesy Christmas theme and overblown special effects. There’s been a gradual yet constant evolution year after year while keeping the music at the heart of the production. Sinner and Co. have come a long way with a monstrous project that could have fallen flat with a resounding crash.
“I remember the first tour very well,” Sinner laughs. “Doing things this way was so new to me, it was very strange, but after the first tour I knew that it could be great if we did it right. There were some good ideas, but the whole show element – the staging, the set-up, the lights – I knew we could do it better. I came up with the idea to have Ian Gillan on the Rock Meets Classic tour very early on, and I think we were lucky to have him do it. He had some free time, there was great communication back and forth about his setlist and what we wanted to do, and he helped this project take the next big step… or even steps. The progress of the whole thing… the production we’re going out with in 2014 is on a world class super-professional level. We have a new lightshow, we have a new stage show, we have some new ideas where each member of the band gets their own little spot, so we’ve taken another big step with this one. We learn with every tour. This is very nice yet ambitious work for me to do. It’s a really exciting thing.”
The Mat Sinner Band is:
Mat Sinner – bass / Master Of Ceremonies (Primal Fear, Sinner)
Alex Beyrodt – guitars (Primal Fear, Voodoo Circle)
Oliver Hartmann – guitars (Avantasia)
Randy Black – drums (Primal Fear, DuskMachine)
Jimmy Kresic – keyboards (Voodoo Circle)
Amanda Somerville – backing vocals (Trillium, Avantasia)
Tiffany Kirkland – backing vocals
Kolinda Brozovic – backing vocals
Ralf Scheepers – backing vocals (Primal Fear)
Sascha Krebs – backing vocals
The Bohemian Symphony Orchestra Prague is conducted by Bernhard Wuensch.
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