The impending arrival onstage of German heavy metal band on stage is heralded by the arrival of one of the biggest drum kit I have seen in ages. Daniel Löble’s kit is a thing of beauty, entirely finished in white. Even the cymbals are white.
After the band’s traditional intro tape they arrive on stage and launch straight into Are You Metal from the latest 7 Sinners album. As well as Drummer Löble the two surviving members of the classic line up, Guitarist Michael Weikath and Bassist Markus Grosskopf are joined by guitarist Sascha Gerstner and lead vocalist Andi Deris in this latest line-up.
Since their heyday in the 1980’s when they released the stunning two part Keeper Of The Seven Keys Helloween have had mixed fortunes. The follow up album was titled Pink Bubbles Go Ape and it bombed, both critically and commercially. The follow up Chameleon fared no better and internal conflict within the band led to the departure of the ‘voice’ of Helloween, vocalist Michael Kiske.
Kiske’s replacement was present frontman Andi Deris, which for those of you not paying attention, means that Deris has fronted Helloween for 17 years. So why some still think of him as the new boy escapes me.
The band don’t keep us waiting long for the first of the Keeper era songs, and the place erupts as the Deris introduces Eagle Fly Free.
Helloween are obviously loving what they are doing. Deris is by far the most engaging front man we have seen this weekend, and his connection with the audience is palpable. The band stay with the Keepers era for Time Marches On before returning to the new album for Where The Sinners Go.
Andi asked us for some help with the next track of the evening, as he put it himself “my predecessor was not a bad singer”, so he enlisted our help after we promised to sing along with the next musical trip back to Keeper Of The Seven Keys, and one of the finest power metal songs ever, I’m Alive. Like we needed any encouragement to sing….
After the exertions of I’m Alive the bend went off stage and left us in the capable hands of Daniel Löble for a technically amazing drum solo. Now these solos used to be a slightly boring part of every metal gig, but overused and unloved they more or less died out. Tonight we were reminded exactly how good a drum solo could, nay should be. Ok, so it still dragged on a bit but we can let him off, just this once.
The band returned to the stage for Handful Of Pain before another classic in the form of I Want Out, which included some of the most heartfelt audience participation I have heard for ages before the set was brought to a close with a visit to Heloween’s pre Keeper discography with Ride The Sky from Walls Of Jericho.
Of course there was going to be an encore, and what else could it be apart from another song from Keeper. We sort of knew what to expect but the placer still erupted for the amazing slice of cartoon silliness Dr. Stein.
Helloween was, for me, the set of the weekend by absolutely miles. They were just so far ahead of anyone else in terms of stage presence, fun, killer tunes and getting the audience involved. Andi Derkis was on absolute top form here tonight and the band were polished, tight and completely comfortable doing what they do best.
Helloween had delivered something for everyone tonight. Although their set obviously drew heavily on the Keeper years it was by no means a tribute show with tracks from the new album being included and, more importantly, standing favourable comparison with the classics. This is a band who deserve to be viewed as much more than some nostalgia act, and hopefully on the strength of performances like this they will get some big festival shows which will introduce a new generation of fans to their music.
Were it not for the Pink Bubbled debacle and the resulting turmoil Helloween could well have been huge, I mean Iron Maiden huge, they were THAT important in the mid 80s. Those days may be behind the band now but they are still capable of turning in a stunningly good live performance.