Helloween @ Concord Music Hall, Chicago (US)

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HELLOWEEN - 'Pumpkins United'

Date: 10th September, 2018
Venue: Concord Music Hall
Ticket: $55 (€47)
Promoter: n/a


I am not always a supporter of ‘reunite’ tours, simply because there is a good chance that such events have strictly ‘making-a-profit’ intentions. Of course, this is totally fine, but as a fan, they make me turn away and hope for a regular tour to get my fix for the same band. However, and in this case (this is a huge ‘however’), because in the case of HELLOWEEN the story is way different especially for those fans who grew up during the pre-Deris days. In fact, and in full disclosure, when HELLOWEEN parted ways with Kiske I was pissed off, even though the two albums following the second “Keepers” were bizarre to say the least. So, when the ‘Pumpkins United’ tour was announced, I could not hold my excitement knowing that I would be able to see the lineup which made me a HELLOWEEN fan some decades ago. Did I expect things to be as they were back in the late ‘80s? Hell no, and in fact I am far from being the same person I was back then...

There was a huge line outside Concord Music Hall, something that I was absolutely expecting as this was a sold-out show. There was a wide spread of ages but if one looked carefully, he would have noticed that the majority of the metalheads had quite a few grey hairs. Again, this was expected but in hindsight it was a bit disappointing because shows like these can create new fans.

The Concord Music Hall stage is mid-sized, so hosting seven gentlemen was a challenge, and on top of this, the kind of low ceiling made the cartoons projected at the back be 3/4 visible. Sure, this is a mishap, but having on 1:1 scale Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen was an undisputed goosebump moment. Of course, and seeing Kai and Weikath on the same stage was another image I will never forget, because along with crazy-bassist Markus Grosskopf were 3/4 of the HELLOWEEN I grew up with (R.I.P. Ingo).

Reading the above lines, you can imagine how challenging was trying to sing every single lyric line of “Halloween” and take decent photos. And to top things off, the way they had arranged the songs to host the voices of Andy and Michael was super sweet and I think this gave a couple of breathers to both of them as some of these songs are extremely demanding. Ok, fine, I will admit that Michael did not hit all those crazy-ass high-pitched notes like he did in the mid ‘80s, but no one with a working brain would be expecting that, right? If I am not mistaken, Derris was lending a singing-hand for those tough-to-reach parts.

Watching the band in a spitting distance, I got the impression that they also understood the significance of playing all these Power Metal hymns with almost all the original members on the same stage, and this is why they were smiling all the way. The pictures on the back showed the infamous crazy doctor and it became apparent it was “Dr. Stein”’s time. Everyone was singing and everyone was sweating his arse off as things have become ridiculously hot. In fact, Andi acknowledged this after greeting the Chicago audience (there were some who had followed the band from Las Vegas – how cool is that?), before following the rest of the band off stage. Alas, the screen went black and it was funny to hear Kiske joking about this, but who cared as “I Am Alive” was next. Did I mention how challenging the vocals are in this one?

The setlist had a lot of ground to cover with three singers representing the different eras that put HELLOWEEN on the map and set the blueprint for how German Power Metal should sound, so after the shivers-down-your-spine start, it was time to fast forward to the latest era starting off the highly underrated “The Dark Ride” record with the groovy and a bit moody “If I Could Fly”. Of course and seeing Kiske for the first time live meant a lot to me, but that does not mean that Andi was some short of a stand-in. On the contrary, his contagious smile, his onstage antics and, on top of everything, his powerful singing was a great match to Kiske and, in full honesty, it would be amazing for HELLOWEEN to continue as a seven piece act and get in the studio to make a full length release. Ok, I would prefer another song from the Deris days instead of “Are You Metal?” but judging by the audience’s reaction and loud singing-along, I was among the few feeling like that.

One could say that the cartoons shown at the back, between some of the songs, were killing a bit of the momentum, but this was an almost 3-hour show, so having those short-breathers in between made a big difference to keep the performances top notch. And both the old and the new(er) songs were doing exactly that, proved also by the pairing of the following; “March Of Time” and the groovy “Perfect Gentleman”. Then, it was time for Kai to get behind the mic and that meant only one thing; going back to the “Walls Of Jericho” dates. Oh my, Kai pushed himself to the limit trying to match the ridiculous high-pitched singing in the “Starlight” / “Ride The Sky” / “Judas” vocal chord-destroying medley. You may be as nitpicking as you like, but for me, the pitch did not really matter, especially when noticing the passion in Kai’s eyes. I guess following this ‘80s triplet with “Heavy Metal (Is the Law)” was the most logical thing to do.

The emotions-triggering songs were far from done, and the next one made me feel more watery than a metalhead would like to... Yeah, “A Tale That Wasn’t Right” was part of my childhood during times when music was a big moral boost and a safe place to turn to when things looked impossible to my young eyes. Michael did a great job on the vocals but it did not matter as the singing-along was the ultimate support. Ok, “Pumpkins United” was not the best follow-up but at the same time it’s a hopeful song, meaning that these pumpkins may return to the studio and come out of it with another scene-shaking album. Drum solos are usually a long break but the moment Ingo’s face showed up on the screen, things went back to being emotional. Yes, this was a fitting way to have his presence in spirit and pay homage to the time he spent creating all these Power Metal hymns.

If the set would end with “A Little Time”, I would still be a happy concert-goer, but there were plenty of Pumpkin Metal ahead (yup, you read that here first). Deris was in high spirits giving us some good laughs before visiting his first song with HELLOWEEN. “Sole Survivor” went down great and did a great pair with “Power”. And then, it was another killer trip down the memory lane which was soon filled with a boatload of emotions, sweat and a loud singing-along that got me a hoarse voice afterwards… But hey, how could I not be singing along “How Many Tears” and the epic “Keeper Of The Seven Keys”? This is how the set ended for the first time and I think I saw Kiske fall off the stage, but seeing him getting back on his feet, it shouldn’t be something serious (phew). Kai returned onstage for a bit of soloing before pushing the excitement to the red with “Future World” and “I Want Out” and gave me for the ziillionth time the goosebumps showing the cover of the “I Want Out – Live” album which I used to spin on the turntable, wishing to see HELLOWEEN live someday.

This was a show I will never forget but know that I am a biased witness having spent lots of hours listening to these songs from this lineup during my childhood. So yes, Metal does trigger emotions, and when this happens, it’s purely magic!

HELLOWEEN setlist:

01. “Halloween”
02. “Dr. Stein”
03. “I'm Alive”
04. “If I Could Fly”
05. “Are You Metal?”
06. “March Of Time”
07. “Perfect Gentleman”
08. “Starlight” / “Ride The Sky” / “Judas”
09. “Heavy Metal (Is The Law)”
10. “A Tale That Wasn’t Right”
11. “Pumpkins United”
12. Drums Solo
13. “Livin’ Ain’t No Crime”
14. “A Little Time”
15. “Waiting For The Thunder”
16. “Sole Survivor”
17. “Power”
18. “How Many Tears”
19. “Eagle Fly Free”
20. “Keeper Of The Seven Keys”
21. Guitar Solo
22. “Future World”
23. “I Want Out”

HELLOWEEN - 'Pumpkins United'

Helloween @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Helloween @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Helloween @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Helloween @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Helloween @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Helloween @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Helloween @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Helloween @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Helloween @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Helloween @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Helloween @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Helloween @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Helloween @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Helloween @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Helloween @ Concord Music Hall (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

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