DIRKSCHNEIDER - 'Back To The Roots' tour
Date: 13th January, 2017
Venue: Concord Music Hall
Ticket: $32.5 (€30.5)
What Udo is trying to do with this touring setup is once and for all distance himself from ACCEPT, and in order to put the lid on this, he is touring the US playing all the hits from the time he was behind the mic of that most influential German band. This is something I wanted to see happening along time ago, simply because the LPs under the U.D.O. name are very good, so they deserve more ‘air-time’ in concerts. Adding to this the fact that ACCEPT are also active, and with Mr. Mark Tornillo handling the vocals are doing an equally fine job, so it is about time to stop all the rumors and the never-ending questions whether a reunion with Udo will happen.
Ok, even this is an absolutely logical move, it still feels kind of sad knowing that this would be the last time to hear all this classics from the original voice. Whether we like it or not, the voice that introduces a classic-to-be song is bound to be the best version out there no matter how good is the replacement (there are so many example out there, so I won’t go down this path).
The show was set on a Friday night, so the fear of getting hammered by the vicious combination of winter and the brutal Chicago evening commute would have been an issue, if the DIRKSCHNEIDER touring package contained bands which don’t get to the US often. In this instance (and I think for the entire tour), the promoter is free to add a couple of local bands to make this package a better deal, although if you’d ask me, having a set full of ACCEPT hits would suffice. With that in mind, we decided to fight the Friday commute on our terms, something that meant losing almost all the supporting bands, so I will right away apologize for missing their sets.
By the time we arrived, the Concord Music Hall was well-filled (the balcony area was closed) with mainly old-time ACCEPT fans, so the average age must have been well above 30s. Although this is totally understandable, it's also sad because there are not that many occasions a younger metalhead can get a hearty slice of Metal history, especially here in the US. Anyways, the atmosphere was really good and the groovy Thrash by COLD BEARDED KILLERS sounded like a very good warm-up for what was about to follow. Yeah, “Psycho” and “Cold Bearded Killers” were heavy and fast enough to help us reestablish the blood circulation in our bodies after getting hammered by the brutally cold wind-chills.
Right on schedule, the lights went off 15 minutes before 10pm and a taped intro marked the time to enjoy for the last time the ACCEPT hits served by Udo’s voice. This intro was something like a potpourri of newscasts talking about “the original voice of ACCEPT” and of soundbits from trademark song excerpts. This was enough to get the crowd going while watching one-by-one the band members entering the stage and taking the classic feet-wide-apart poses. And then, Udo joined them and the set kicked off with the German groovy anthem “Starlight”. They say that you shouldn’t trust what the internets [sic] are saying but in this occasion whatever you have heard about how great this band sounds, is absolutely correct. Yeah, the screeching vocals by “I-am-drinking-tea-with-steel-nails” Udo, the solid guitar duo and the Teutonic Metal tight rhythm section led by the crashing basslines were the best representation of this old-school sound. It was also fun watching the young line-up breaking some ACCEPT-like onstage moves, delivering the classic Metal goods at the proper package. “Living For Tonite” and the faster “Flash Rockin’ Man” made my life inside the photo-pit kind of difficult, since these songs are impossible to leave you standing still. “Are you having a good time?” Udo asked in the middle of “Living For Tonite” and even though it was early on the set, we got a loud “Yeah” response from everyone inside the venue. The awesome opening lines delivered by the led-light lit bass in Fitty’s hands marked the time for “London Leatherboys” which got the audience singing along before bringing another hard hittin’ groover, titled “Midnight Mover”. Ok, I was in a teenager mode and I had a perfectly reason for this because the last time I had heard this from Udo’s voice was around the mid '90s. And for this I have to also acknowledge the young(er) part of the band which was following the original recordings to the T.
Udo is not the most talkative person onstage (I guess this is something almost all the German Metal singers have in common), so he kept the spoken words to the minimal by saying “thank you very much” and asking if we had a good time, but this also meant more time for music. And man, did we get a hearty scoop of ACCEPT classics that night; from “Breaker” and “Head Over Heels” to the slower ballad-esque “Winter Dreams” and “Neon Knights”, everything was delivered with a top-notch music playing. By the way, it amazes me how Udo handles this slower numbers using his rare soft voice (!), so I guess he is not always having his tea with stainless steel spikes in it... One complaint that I had was the low volume - at least in the beginning of the DIRKSCHNEIDER set - something that is not common for this venue. Fortunately this was fixed during “Wrong Is Right”, so the guitars were as loud as they should be.
As expected, the crowd-chanting activities started with the usual suspect “Princess Of The Dawn” but to be honest I was expecting an even louder response from the Chicagoans, even though I am saying this having a European crowd as the basis for comparison. Still, the audience did really good in the full of attitude “Son Of A Bitch” with lyrics that even though sound naïve and simple, are extremely relative, especially nowadays with all this political and economical turmoil happening all around the world.
One more thing that I had read about in other DIRKSCHNEIDER live reports (check the related links on page left) was Udo's endurance considering the length of this tour and of the setlist which contains two dozens of songs, reaching two hours of playing time. There are not that many bands out there able to pull this off and for that long.
After the less popular “T.V. War” and “Monsterman”, it was time for the band to say the first goodnights of the night, after another sing-along hit, “Loosers And Winners” (you’ve got to love the naivety of lyrics in the chorus). As you can imagine, we were heading for a powerful ending that started with “Metal Heart” and the (yet-another) trademark chanting following the Classical music inspired riffs. By the way, I love how close to the original was Andrey Smirnov’s guitar tune during the solo break somewhere in the middle of this Metal hymn. The party simple-as-hell “I’m A Rebel” pumped fresh fuel in our tanks and then having the audience delivering the intro to “Fast As A Shark” was a nice treat. If you get the chance to see this set, then make a mind note to listen with your heart Udo’s scream after the intro in this tune; this is a goosebumps moment for sure. The same goes for “Balls To The Wall” which also sounds relevant these days, especially when once considers how we have been absorbed in our online universes, paying less attention what is happening all around us; yeah, I hope the time is close to what these lyrics are saying: “One day the tortured stand up / and revolt against the evil”.
There were quite a few who thought this was the end of the set, but no, the band had one more to drop the curtain on the highest of notes: “Burning” put this (what I consider as) historical show in the books, and contrary to what I said in the beginning about Udo’s choice to do so, it felt a bit sad not having the opportunity to listen this voice singing these songs. At the same time, moments and shows like these are pure memories-making material, so if you have the chance, get to see the ‘Back To The Roots’ set.
02. “Living For Tonite”
03. “Flash Rockin' Man”
04. “London Leatherboys”
05. “Midnight Mover”
07. “Head Over Heels”
08. “Neon Nights”
09. “Princess Of The Dawn”
10. “Winter Dreams”
11. “Restless And Wild” / “Son Of A Bitch”
12. “Up To The Limit”
13. “Wrong Is Right”
14. “Midnight Highway”
15. “Screaming For A Love-Bite”
17. “T.V. War”
18. “Losers And Winners”
19. “Metal Heart”
20. “I'm A Rebel”
21. “Fast As A Shark”
22. “Balls To The Wall”
(click to enlarge)