HELLOWEEN - 'Pumpkins United'
Date: 02nd December, 2017
Venue: Partille Arena
Tickets: 650SEK (€62/$74)
Promoter: Triffid And Danger Concerts
Photos: Erika Wallberg
When the Pumpkins United event was announced, all I could think of was that it was going to be a spectacle. Nonetheless, I bought the tickets for it (complaining a bit that they were rather price-y). This since those “Keeper Of The Seven Keys” records meant a lot to me back in the day and it would be very cool to get to hear Michael Kiske sing the HELLOWEEN tracks one more time. On the other hand, I think Andi Deris is doing a fantastic job keeping up the HELLOWEEN spirit and I'm very happy with what they deliver time after time, which made this, in a way, a whole lot of fuzz for nothing.
But as the event came closer, more and more information started to leak out and I did my best to not read anything at all. Still, that HELLOWEEN was going to serve a three (3) hour show came as a bit of a surprise. It of course got me thinking what they could be up to for all that time but I wasn't even close on how damn cool it all turned out.
I mean, off with the lights and on with “Halloween”. First, what a fantastic song to kick of a show with; theatrical, dynamic and extensive (the last, a dream for a photographer) with all members on stage at once. The trade-off between Michael Kiske and Andi Deris worked perfectly and everyone seemed to have a very good time. “Dr. Stein” was up next and the roof at Partille Arena was almost lifted. I don't think anyone was disappointed with “Halloween” but if there's one song people know, young and old, it's “Dr. Stein”. I was surprised it came so early during the night though. Again Andi and Michael shared the vocal duties and again it worked perfectly. Then two new friends were introduced, Seth & Doc. Two animated creatures who came here and there and made a mess at the screens behind the band. In general, it was fun but towards the end it felt a little much and a little long on a few occasions. What was very cool with the animations though was the monster-machine that kept spinning and spitting out gears used by Seth & Doc and featured details from all HELLOWEEN record covers, new and old.
Then Mr. Kiske got one track on his own; “I'm Alive” the opener from “Keeper Of The Seven Keys Pt1” sent shivers down my spine. He still has a very good voice and definitely pull this off nowadays too. It's quite crazy thinking about it. I think Andi Deris is fabulous, one of the best in the genre and he has been a favorite since I first heard him with PINK CREAM 69 ages ago. Michael Kiske on the other hand is Power Metal personified. He has set the blueprint on how to sing this type of music, what the vocals should sound like and at a very high standard. To have them on stage together, that makes a mark in the history books.
And the show kept going like this, a few with Andi alone. “If I Could Fly” was perhaps expected in the set as it has worked very well on other shows and is a fantastic tune but “Are You Metal?” came more as a surprise. Then a few with Michael alone on stage. There was actually one thing that didn't sound perfect this evening (excluding the sound in general, Partille Arena is new and apparently not tuned in after Heavy Metal yet) and that was when Kai Hansen took over the vocals from Michael in “Rise And Fall”. His voice sounded very forced and he was brawling out the words mainly and I got a little nervous... Would he be able to do his tracks? Or would they strike them out of the set even? The latter would have been the worst! My concerns were baseless though. When Kai was assigned the lead microphone for a medley of “Starlight”, “Ride The Sky” and “Judas” the order was reset and he sounded fantastic in these songs. The best part of this section though was “Heavy Metal (Is The Law)”. It's damn cool when a packed out arena know a song in and out and the response with the sing-along part was really massive.
Then, over to something completely different, when the fury after the Kai Hansen tracks had set Andi and Michael took place out on the catwalk for mellow “Forever And One (Neverland)”. And here, you could really hear the mix and match between the two gentlemen's voices. Andi's dynamics and fines mixed with Michael's tone sounded fantastic and made this one of the best moments of the show. They sure wasn't kidding when HELLOWEEN proclaimed they'd give the crowd a full night out. I was kind of surprised when I watched the time and realized that close to two hours had passed while it felt like the show had just started. Yet, it felt like they were wrapping things up. Yeah, yeah, 3 hours was maybe over exaggerated? But the show kept going. And after the drum solo where Dani Löble dueled with Ingo Schwichtenberg on the screen and a heartfelt tribute to legendary drummer came the biggest surprise of all. “Livin' Ain't No Crime” was originally only released as the B-side of the “Dr. Stein” 12” single... No matter what, the crowd knew it and happily sang along to that one as well.
The show kept going and marked a few more real highlights before it came to an end. Extensive “How Many Tears” and especially “Keeper Of The Seven Keys” sounded absolutely fantastic and it worked so well with all musicians on stage. The 13-something minute track could have gone on double the time if you ask me. Sasha Gerstner, Markus Grosskopf and Michael Weikath landed a bit in the shadows though, in general throughout the show. Even more towards the end as Kai stole the spotlight with a flashy solo. He especially seemed very happy to be playing these songs again.
When the top of the third hour started to approach, the show was closed with “Future World”, followed by “I Want Out”. No surprises there but for once I was really looking forward to hearing these songs. In general, I think at least “I Want Out” is a little worn out but it worked perfectly that night. But towards the end, it showed it was a very long show. With the encores, people started to move towards the entrance but I don't think this had anything to do with the show itself. What I heard the queues to the bar and toilets had been ridiculously long, people had been waiting for about 30 minutes for a refill and I doubt anyone was up for waiting as long to get their jackets out before they could hit the road home.
For me, the show was one of the coolest events of the year. The setup worked even if they could have skipped one or two of the intermissions. But it didn't feel long, it didn't slow down at any time. The setlist was massive and absolutely fantastic, there were a few real surprises but most of the songs came as great treats and expected goodies. The band sounded awesome, even if the arena itself didn't offer an all that pleasant sound. It was loud as hell, much more volume than normal but the fabulous performance from the band still came through. It was definitely value for money and it will be very interesting to see what HELLOWEEN will do at 'Sweden Rock Festival' this summer, if the concept works as good at a festival as an indoor arena show.
01. Intro - “Let Me Entertain You” (Robbie Williams song)
03. “Dr. Stein”
04. “I'm Alive”
05. “If I Could Fly”
06. “Are You Metal?”
07. “Rise and Fall”
08. “Waiting For The Thunder”
09. “Perfect Gentleman”
10. “Starlight” / “Ride the Sky” / “Judas”
11. “Heavy Metal (Is the Law)”
12. “Forever and One (Neverland)”
13. “I Can”
14. Drum Solo (Dani Löble & Ingo 'battle')
15. “Ingo Tribute”
16. “Livin' Ain't No Crime”
17. “A Little Time”
19. “Sole Survivor”
21. “How Many Tears”
23. “Eagle Fly Free”
24. “Keeper Of The Seven Keys”
25. Guitar Solo (Kai Hansen)
26. “Future World”
27. “I Want Out”
28. Outro (“Braveheart” soundtrack)
(click to enlarge)