O2 Academy, Manchester, Wednesday, 4th May, 2022
Set List: Taped Intro/Brotherhood/Any Means Necessary/The Metal Age/Hammer Of Dawn/Blood Bound/Renegade/Venerate Me/Last Man Standing/Hero's Return/Riders Of The Storm/Crimson Thunder/Let The Hammer Fall/Glory To The Brave/(We Make) Sweden Rock.
Encore: Hammer High/Hearts On Fire/Taped Outro: Dreams Come True.
A night of classic European power metal with two legends of the genre on their 'United Forces Tour'. Hammerfall’s return is an anniversary of sorts, as it’s 12 years to the month they last played this same venue!
Where does the time go? Sweden’s finest take to the stage amid a chiming bell as they dive straight into a new track 'Brotherhood' from the latest album 'Hammer of Dawn' that had great blasting riffs. Vocalist, Joacim Cans all decked out in leather and denim, sounded crystal clear and the song bounced along with a great hook. Yes it featured the word 'hammer' as did a few of their tracks: cheesy maybe but they know how to rock, so who cares?!
The guitars squealed their leads, breakneck solos over the military drum beats, they have great tunes and every album they’ve released is a winner. “Good evening, Manchester, it’s been a long time since we did this: 27-months.” Joacim informs the crowd, “There’s one rule, have some fun. We’re going to play new sh*t, old sh*t and some sh*t in-between”. The crowd cheer! “You may know this one”. They launch into “Any Means Necessary” with the chugging guitar courtesy of lead guitar player, Norgen who incidentally has a guitar shaped like a …yep.... hammer!
This type of metal may not be fashionable for some reason but Hammerfall take no prisoners in delivering solid catchy power rock. They finish with a rousing double tap of 'We Make Sweden Rock' from the 'Dominion' album which by this point, the crowd are fully fledged Hammerfall fans, even those who weren’t at the start followed by the anthemic 'Hearts On Fire'.
Hammerfall played like a headliner and delivered like one too.
Set List: Taped Intro: Orbit/Skyfall/Eagle Fly Free/Mass Pollution/Future World/Save Us/Where The Rain Grows/Kai Hansen Medley: Metal Invaders/Victim Of Fate/Gorgar/Ride The Sky. /Heavy Metal Is The Law/Forever And One (Neverland)/Straight Out Of Hell/Best Time/Dr. Stein/How Many Tears w/Skyfall (Reprise).
Encore 1: A Tale That Wasn't Right/Power/Keeper Of The Seven Keys.
Encore 2: I Want Out.
Helloween are playing their second tour with the returned Michael Kiske, in support of the first album since his return.
Credit to the band, they didn’t fire Andi Deris but went with a double lead vocalist that in most parts it works too. The fast paced 'Skyfall” from new album 'Helloween' opens proceedings with Andi Deris who strides the drum riser sharing vocal duties with Kiske who strangely, did two verses then went to sit down in the wings! This curious behaviour continued as 'Eagle Fly Free' intro rang out and Deris disappeared stage left.
It wasn’t until mid point the two came together and remained onstage. After Deris sang 'Where The Rain Grows' alone it was a throwback to early Helloween with a 'Walls Of Jericho' medley. 'Metal Invaders / Victim of Fate / Gorgar / Ride the Sky' reminding us that Kai Hansen is actually a good singer with a fine head of hair as someone next to me commented, “Did Kai buy his hair from 'Littlewoods'. Maybe alluding to a wig?” I laughed.
Helloween, now with three guitarists are a tight compact outfit since the riffs just bounce around! Marcus Grobkopf, Bassist and Drummer, Daniel Loble keep the rhythm rolling along nicely. Which is exactly what anthem 'Dr Stein' does: it bounces and rolls and gets the crowd jumping along to a classic riff courtesy of Masters Weikath and Hansen and Gerstner from 1988. Coincidentally, this gig is the first one in Manchester since that year.
Encore time and Michael Kiske sings alone the power ballad, 'A Tale That Wasn’t Right' from 'Keeper of The Keys Part 1' beginning to some gentle picking from Guitarist, Michael Weikath with the crowd singing and clapping along to the laid back first verse. Kiske has lost none of his vocal skills in the intervening years, reaching the high notes in the chorus with ease.
Another Deris solo song 'Power' followed before the epic 'Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part 2' which surely stands shoulder to shoulder with 'Stairway To Heaven' and 'Hallowed Be Thy Name' for such a description. IT has everything and sounds brilliant live the band really fill out the sound. Maybe it’s my imagination but the lines “disease, disease ,disease my friend, for this whole world’s in devil’s hands” and “mankind live on you’re free again” take on poignancy after the last two years.
Each member of the band is name checked by Sascha Gertsner and one by one they leave the stage, leaving him soloing alone in a single spotlight. At that moment I wonder if Helloween are going to be playing Arenas next time they visit UK? They deserve to.
A final blast of 'I Want Out' with Deris and Kiske sharing vocal duties, where I paid close attention to see who would hold the long “leave me alone” note. You know for guys in their mid 50’s they did it just fine with that. Then finally they’re done - a 2 hours set that goes well past curfew.
Helloween triumphed tonight and UK festival promoters should get them for next year somewhere.
By Mark Bedford
Photographs By John Mather