Pertille Arena – Gothenburg, Sweden – 02 December 2017
Helloween’s new tour aptly called “Pumpkins United”, is without a doubt the Power Metal event of the year: after almost 30 years, the former singer Michael Kiske and guitarist Kai Hansen have come back to the band.
The two, together with the guitarist Michael Weikath and bassist Markus Grosskopf, who were still in the band, and drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg, who sadly committed suicide years ago, released the two Keepers of the Seven Keys albums in the late ‘80s, defining what will be later called Power Metal.
The fans hoped to see a reunion for years and last year the news finally arrived, a world tour of this extended line-up (the previous version of Helloween with the addition of Kiske and Hansen): the response has been, as expected, great and the band sold out almost every venue they played, many of them large arenas they couldn’t normally play. In Sweden, they played in Gothenburg at the Partille Arena, an indoor arena with a capacity of almost 5,000 people.
When I arrived at the venue, the queue was already long, with many excited metalheads eager to see the show; in the almost two hours from when the doors opened to when the band got on stage, people kept flowing into the Arena filling it completely.
At 8 o’clock sharp, the lights turned off and amid the crowd’s screams, Helloween finally got on stage and started playing the anthemic “Halloween”. I might be biased, this song is the one that introduced me to metal, and hearing it played by the band in its almost original formation was an amazing moment, but I cannot think of any better way to start a reunion show. Kiske shone showing how, miraculously, he preserved his voice almost exactly like when he recorded the song; not an easy job considering the extremely high notes he reaches here. Hansen and Weikath traded solos skilfully thrilling the audience, while the third guitarist Sascha Gerstner, provided a solid rhythmic section. Andi Deris, the band’s singer for the last 23 years, sung the song together with Kiske and even though his voice is quite different from Kiske’s, the outcome was brilliant.
The song was followed by “Dr. Stein”, another old anthem, that set the course for the night: the show was surely a celebration of the whole band’s history, but the focus was on the oldest music, the songs that included the old members.
After the second song, the lights turned off and on the large screen used as a backdrop was projected a short cartoon: those kinds of intermissions, portraying the funny interactions between two manlike pumpkins, worked as an introduction to some songs and have been used quite a few times during the show. The cartoon was followed once again by an old classic, “I’m Alive”, and then Kiske left the stage to leave Deris to a more recent song, “If I could Fly”.
For the rest of the show, the singers kept alternating when not singing together, going on to cover the whole band’s career with songs like “Are You Metal?”, “Rise and Fall”, and “Perfect Gentleman”.
Another very special moment was, for sure, when Kai Hansen moved the microphone stand to the centre of the stage to sing some songs from Wall of Jericho, the band’s debut album: on that album Hansen was also the band’s singer, before leaving the vocal duties to focus on the guitar work, and so it had been more than 30 years since the last time he had sung with the band.
He played a long medley of “Starlight”, “Ride the Sky”, and “Judas”, followed by “Heavy Metal (is the Law)”, songs fast and powerful that prompted the crowd to go even crazier than before.
A few songs later the band left the stage, only the drummer Daniel Löble stayed behind his drums, and a video of Ingo playing a drum solo was projected; Löble then started to play a solo of his own alternating his playing with the one from the video in the closest possible thing to a drum battle with someone who died more than 20 years ago. The celebration of the old drummer was an emotional moment and the crowd erupted in a long applause as it finished.
The show then resumed with, once again, older and newer songs to end up with another song from the debut, “How Many Tears”, this time sung by all of the three singers.
After a brief pause the band got back on stage for the encore, first the anthem “Eagle Fly Free” and then the long and beautiful, “Keeper of the Seven Keys”.
The band left the stage again but, wait, there was a second encore with two other old, much loved, songs: “Future World” and “I Want Out”. During the last song, probably the most famous by the German band, big balloons were launched into the crowd together with confetti, of course, both were orange like the pumpkin used as a symbol of the band.
The show finished after three hours of celebrating the history of Helloween, a beautiful concert that all who love Helloween and Power Metal cannot afford to miss.
All photos © Davide Sciaky