|Review: Helloween - Rabbits On The Run 2003|
|Rabbits On The Run 2003|
Venue: Le Medley
City: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Show date: October 11, 2003
Guests: Hanker, Beyond the Embrace and Jag Panzer
Review online: October 31, 2003
Reviewed by: Pierre Bégin
for:Rabbits On The Run 2003
It's been 16 years or so since Helloween last visited us! It was a return in town that the die-hard fans would not miss by any reasons. There were more than 1,500 fans; it was a sold-out, jam-packed venue where the legendary German band and three North American opening acts gave us a metal night that we will not forget.
Quebec City heavy metal band Hanker had the glorious burden (!) of breaking the ice and heating the crowd. This was a very special night for them for many reasons; they were playing before a large number of power metal fans in their own province, they were performing for the first time on the same bill as Jag Panzer, with whom they are often compared with in reviews, and one of their main influence and all-time favorite band Helloween, and finally they also played before their new record company Skyscraper Music. Knowing that and being a die-hard fan (hey, I'm not their webmaster for nothing!) (-; I was really nervous for them just before the show.
But, as soon as Hanker climbs on stage and having yet to play a single note, the crowd began to scream loudly HANKER! HANKER! HANKER! It was so amazing, I've got shiver!! The band hits hard, right at the beginning, with the fast paced "Ad Patres", opener of their latest opus "Snakes And Ladders", followed by the best track from "The Dead Ringer", the excellent "You Won't Live Eternally". No time to lose with this short 30 minutes slot, the band hits with their mandatory "Disturbing The Brain" from their debut album "In Our World". Singer Pascal Cliche makes the crowd sing and they respond noisily. The band pauses to introduce their next song, "Let Me Out" from their upcoming album, saying that it will be released this spring on Skyscraper Music. It was the first time that I heard it. It's an excellent mid-tempo heavy song with a memorable chorus. The band finished their too short gig with "Hail to You", with a loudly and impressive sing-along part near the end. Hanker's performance was excellent, and the crowd's reaction throughout their set was brilliant! To date, this is the most important half hour in the history of the band.
Next on the bill is a U.S.-based thrash/death metal band, Beyond The Embrace, a three down-tuned guitars, 6 members band, which reminds me of Testament (recent era), mostly due to the vocals. Shawn Gallagher growls and sings similarly to Chuck Billy from Testament. It was a bit hard to distinguish the three guitars line and the lead guitars but the overall sound was decent. They did a fair 45 minutes set and the band was energetic on stage and received a good response from the crowd. Nevertheless, I think this band was a bit off-topic with the three other bands. Moreover, I really don't dig extreme vocals. Beyond The Embrace would fit better with such bands as Testament, In Flames and Pantera.
Veteran U.S. power metal band Jag Panzer was next on the bill. They played for about one hour, with excellent songs such as "Iron Eagle", "Black", "Shadow Thief", "Chain Of Command", "Tyranny", "Viper" and "Take To The Sky". This was my third time seeing the band and this is by far their best gig. Singer Harry "The Tyrant" Conklin's performance was top notch; he hit every single note and had a lot of power in his voice throughout the gig. Chris Broderick is a guitar-hero, his leads are amazing and I was hypnotized by his guitar fretboard when he led! He received some well-deserved cheering after some wonderful leads. It seems so easy for him! The band also received very good acclaims by the crowd throughout their set. Finally, I talked a bit with guitarist Mark Briody at the end of the show (the band was near the stand of CDs and t-shirts, talking with fans) and I can tell you that Jag Panzer is a cool down-to-earth band.
And finally, after a too long 30 minutes of waiting, came the legendary German band that everybody had been waiting for so long. They hit hard, right in the beginning, with "Starlight" and "Murderer", two very old fast tracks from their first mini LP album released in 1985. Wow, what a start! Singer Andi Deris introduced the next song as being a "short" one, and the opening intro of the beautiful 14 minutes long "Keeper Of The Seven Keys" echoes through the venue! Wow, what a surprise, this is one of the highlight of their set! It was so great to hear the crowd sings the beautiful chorus!
Helloween carry on their set list with such classics as "Future World", "Eagle Fly Free", "Hey Lord!", "Forever And One (Neverland)", "Dr. Stein", "Sole Survivor", "I Can" and "Where The Rain Grows". They played three tracks off their newest album "Rabbit Don't Come Easy" and one, "If I Could Fly", from "The Dark Ride". It was a very good and solid set list, minus two songs off their latest album: "Open Your Life" with its bored power metal cliché chorus and "Back Against The Wall", an okay song but which could easily be replaced considering Helloween's great material. I learned that many tracks that are usually played at Helloween concerts were left behind due to legal issues about playing ex-members Uli and Roland's material. But that didn't bother me because Helloween have so much great material and I think it is always fantastic to hear bands playing different tracks live.
The crowd went nuts when the band played "Eagle Fly Free". This song is so great and is still one of my favorite Helloween track. In the middle of "Power", singer Andi Deris divided the crowd in two and made a long but interesting noisy competition between left and right. We could see how high we were with "Andi's noisy-dick-meter"; (-: he simulates each side performance with his hand! It was hilarious!
For the encore, new guitarist Sascha Gerstner came out with a cool sounding sitar guitar and played some oriental leads. The rest of the band joined in and started the excellent "Sun For The World" from their latest album. They finished their amazing two hours set list in beauty, with the high speed classic "How Many Tears", featuring a cool little amusing interaction between the two guitarists during the mellow interlude part.
Andi Deris is amazing on stage. He is so charismatic, always smiling and he never leaves the stage, doing funny things mainly with his hands during some lead passages by the musicians. He sings very well, even the hard-to-sing Michael Kiske songs era. Sure, Andi doesn't have Michael's high piercing register (who does?), but he is a wonderful frontman, excellent songwriter, and sing very accurately. He talked a lot with the audience and even tried some sentences in French, much to the crowd's delight. He said that his grandfather was French. Andi really succeeded in being accepted by Helloween fans as Michael's replacement, which was not an easy task. He is nowadays one of my favourite singers in the metal world.
Newcomers guitarist Sascha Gerstner (ex-Freedom Call) and skinsman Stefan Schwarzmann (ex-Accept, U.D.O. and Running Wild) played extremely well and melt very well with the rest of the band. Helloween seem united, and there is a good chemistry on stage between the musicians. Bassist Markus Grosskopf always has a smile on his face, and it seems so easy for him to play the tough basslines that many Helloween songs have. Michael Weikath has a nonchalant and unique style, and makes some funny faces with Andi. I knew that guitarist Micheal Weikath smokes but hell, never like this! He burns the cigarette by both ends! (-; I don't know how he manages to play so well, with this eternal burning tobacco. Sometimes, he holds his cigarettes in his right picking hand while shredding, and does some vocal parts!
The stage design was however non-existent. Helloween has such colorful booklets and sleeves; I expected at least a curtain with "Helloween" on it, and maybe the cover of their latest album. The sound was overall very good, not too loud and well equilibrated. The crowd was thunderous, and sang along with Andi throughout the gig.
It was an excellent metal evening in Montreal. It was my first Helloween concert ever and I was really pleased by their performance. Only 30$ CAD to see three long careers and professional bands like Helloween, Jag Panzer and Hanker on the same bill is a very inexpensive and wonderful experience. Helloween seem very happy by the overreaction of the packed venue, and this give hopes that we won't have to wait so long before seeing them again! (-;
Hanker set list:
Helloween set list:
Photos by Pierre Gauthier, courtesy of Capital of Metal
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