Irving Plaza, New York City, New York, USA, Sunday, 16th September, 2018
Set List: Halloween/Dr. Stein/I’m Alive/If I could Fly/Are You Metal?/Kids of The Century/Perfect Gentleman/Starlight/Ride The Sky/Judas/Heavy Metal ( Is the Law)/A Tale That Wasn’t Right/Pumpkins United/Drum Solo/Livin’ Ain’t No Crime (partial)/A Little Time/Where The Sinners Go/Sole Survivor/Power/How Many Tears.
Encore 1: Invitation/Eagles Fly Free/Keeper of The Seven Keys.
Encore 2: Kai Hansen Guitar Solo/Future World/I Want Out.
When I first heard Helloween were venturing onto US soil again, I was ecstatic. When I realized the shows were a year away, I figured this was a disaster waiting to happen as I have had the unfortunate experience of forgetting about shows that long in advance. My saving grace was my commitment to covering the Irving Plaza shows and the fact that I l really like this band.
I caught their prior show in Los Angeles, so I already had a taste of this current line up and the set list. However, for me, there is nothing like a show in New York City. Not only because it is the city of my birth but has an intense electricity that exists at concerted here. We have the reputation of being a tough crowd, and we are, but when we are thoroughly satisfied, we make our appreciation well known.
I first came across Helloween in 1987 when they were fresh to the US market. Working for record labels gave me access to newly signed artists, upcoming tours and videos to preview. Helloween were one of the bands to land on my desk. The band’s name and the fact that they were cute intrigued me enough to investigate them further.
After contacting their representing label, and learning of some tour dates, I decided to see what they had to offer. Intrigue went to very impressed rather quickly. Thirty-one years later I am still impressed enough to rush home after Iron Maiden’s UK tour to catch The Pumpkins United tour stateside.
When I learned of the current lineup changes, I was ecstatic. I have seen several incarnations of the band and have been charmed by the additions of Andi Deris and Sasha Gerstner who are both forces to be reckoned with. Still I have missed Kai Hanson’s and Michael Kiske’s energetic contributions. My main question was how would the addition of two vocalists work in this assembly? The answer is it did and very well.
They have a similar vocal style yet are each unique in their manner. The camaraderie between the now seven musicians, is genuine and the energy between them translates into an impeccable performance. Whatever issues that may have existed are long since behind them. This should serve as a professional lesson to others. (Do you hear that KISS?)
Original members Marcus Grosskopf and Michael Weikath have been a mainstay throughout the band’s history. Grosskopf’s bass runs give Maiden’s Steve Harris competition and a style that rivals bassists such as Wyse, and Glover. His intense rich bass sound is most notably present in such songs as 'Eagles Fly Free'. Weikath, whose polished guitar flair is sharp as a tact; is still one of the band’s principal songwriters.
His stylish elegance and power ripping bravura; provide a soundtrack to his emotionally charged lyrics. The haunting 'A Tale that Wasn’t Right' which is one of my favorite tracks from the 'Keeper of The Seven Keys 1' album, is also a passionate crowd favorite.
The Pumpkins United set list travelled through the band’s history with selections to please a constellation of fans. Their catalog is quite diverse. It goes well beyond the typical power metal sound they have mastered. Their music is multi-layered creations that are unique to them. Opening with the iconic 'Halloween', each choice was accompanied by a creative video wall display. Most of the band’s well-known selections were represented.
Songs such as the amusing 'Dr. Stein', the driving melodic 'I’m Alive', the Helloweenesque 'How Many Tears' and 'Power” were among the assortment of the evening. We witnessed the astoundingly beautiful ballad 'If I Could Fly' and of course the grinning, energetic Kai Hansen asking us 'Are You Metal?'. I believe he received the response he sought loud and clear.
When hearing the opening chords of certain songs, it is difficult not to visualize the image of drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg. The tribute to the original drummer was a magnificent heartfelt representation of how talented he was and what a contribution he made to the world of drumming. Current drummer, Danny Loble is equally talented and a perfect addition to the current crew. I am glad they found this gentleman and I am sure this thought is shared universally.
At the end of the main set, the band did not one, but two encores, and I am sure the multitude would have stayed for ten. The first encore was dedicated to 'Keeper of the Seven Keys II' including the epic masterpiece 'Keeper of the Seven Keys' brilliantly penned by Michael Weikath. The second encore began with an impressive guitar solo by Mr. Hansen which steered into the Hansen created 'Future World'. The evening rounded out with 'I Want Out'. Its song that had a video in heavy rotation when MTV knew what an actual music video was.
Helloween are musicians that love what they do and know how to reach their fan base without pretentious pomp and circumstance. They are stripped down, raw firepower. Their passion and determination are what resulted in their capability to remain a constant in the music world. The ability to continue after thirty- plus years through band member changes, record contract and management angst and the loss of a beloved friend proves that they are survivors as well.
It doesn’t matter how much time passes between tours, the fans love them, and the devotion well deserved.
By Dawn Belotti