Nowadays there are still some principles for the somewhat more romantic of the wider metal scene. There are some bands that – rightly or wrongly – have laid the foundations to what we call European power metal. The phantasmagoric “Pumpkins United” tour of the “reunited” Helloween kicked off in South America and continued in Europe, in order to conquer the world.
As soon as it was confirmed that Helloween wouldn’t, unfortunately, visit our country (Greece) during their “Pumpkins United” tour, I immediately decided to travel to watch them live in Bulgaria. This special tour includes all current members of the band with the addition of Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen. Even Ingo Schwichtenberg, the original drummer of the band, who passed away in 1995 and left a big gap, is a part of this tour: Helloween honor Ingo with a drum solo, without using a hologram and stuff, with Dani Löble adding some parts. When we arrived in Sofia, the temperature was ten degrees Celsius colder than in Athens, at least it wasn’t snowing like the previous days. A morning walk in the center of the city and Vitosa Street was absolutely necessary – the Christmas decorations were very beautiful and the city was much cleaner than Athens. I arrived at the venue around seven o’ clock (the doors would open at 19.30) and finally, around eight o’clock, after the intro (which was Robbie Williams’ “Let Me Entertain You”), the show began, with the band members entering the stage under the epic sounds of “Halloween” – it is an outstanding selection of the band to begin with that song, and every fan that grew up with albums like the “Keepers” feels a thrill of emotion. “Dr. Stein” is the second track, Kiske’s performance is triumphant and already with the first songs the clouds of “pre-recorded vocals” were dissolved. The band chose then to continue with “I Am Alive”: Kai Hansen has now the leading role and the three guitars sound perfect. One of the highlights of the show were the small intervals with the animation videos of Seth and Doc on the video wall, which stood at the background and it worked as a special scenery, which reflected the characteristic graphic arts and the humor of Helloween. Andi Deris was smiling as he always is, playing with the audience as he always does, and performed with much comfort all the songs of his era, but also the songs from the ‘80s – the lyrical “If I Could Fly” and “Are You Metal?” (yes, we are!) came next and I found the time to catch a beer. Thus, Deris and Kiske sang alternately all the big Helloween classics and songs like “Kids of the Century”, “Perfect Gentleman”, “Why”, “I Can”, “Power” and “Waiting for the Thunder”. The setlist covered all the Helloween eras, from the first EP (“Helloween”) to the “My God-Given Right” album. Being a grown-up who listened first to the “Keepers” albums, I felt I was traveling back in time. It was a great pleasure for every metalhead to listen to “Starlight/Ride the Sky/Judas” (“Walls Of Jericho” era) and “How Many Tears”. Of course, time didn’t stop and all became older, however, the magic is still present and it is still awesome to listen to such metal classics, after so many years! Another amazing thing with this “reunited” line-up is that the three guitars work so fantastically well (the sound is full of powerful riffs), and what is more, the rhythm section is solid and impressive (the drums sound like a bomb and the bass-lines of Markus Grosskopf are incredible). On this solid basis, Deris and Kiske performed brilliantly, especially when they were both on stage, singing in a duet. I never felt that they were competing each other, to show for example that the one is better than the other, they proved a perfect complement to the music of Helloween. I was also impressed by the excellent vocals of Kiske – they guy sings wonderfully after so many years! In my humble opinion, he is one of the most significant singers in heavy metal music – as he said towards the end of the show, “I lost my hair, not my voice too”. Time of some beer again, and I am back for the first encore: on “Eagle Fly Free” we felt that we were eagles flying in the sky, we came into a state of a heavy metal nirvana. I personally felt my legs lighter, I felt wings growing on my back! Following this, Helloween played their almost 14-minute opus, “Keeper of the Seven Keys”: the shiver I felt could shake the waters of the Seven Seas! Then, we had the second encore, during which I had a bittersweet feeling, realizing that this amazing experience would come to an end … The Grand Finale included two other classics – “Future World” and “I Want Out”. These two Helloween hits were the best way for the band to say us goodbye, with big pumpkin balloons and confetti. After almost three hours we left the venue thrilled, exited and with a nostalgic feeling. Generally speaking, we understand now that the decision of the Helloween to embark to this “Pumpkins United” tour was brilliant. We were lucky enough to witness a triumphant evening, with which Helloween showed how to organize a worthy “reunion”. All the musicians enjoyed every minute of this live show and all the fans got what they were expecting for so many years with anticipation – the full “Helloween package”!
It was a wonderful night, the best live gig of 2017 in my opinion. I am sure that if the “reunited” Helloween played in Athens, Greece, all hell would break loose! What remains now, is that a miracle happens and some promoters change their minds, in order the Greek fans to enjoy what they are dreaming about: a “Pumpkins United” live show in Greece!
Sakis “Dio” Sofianos