Helloween / Gamma Ray
8 January 2008
Shepherds Bush Empire, London

An early star time and me having to go home to collect our tickets (doh!) meant we missed openers Axxis, however I have seen a copy of the set list as below.

Axxis set list:
Doom Of Destiny / Tales Of Glory Island / Little War / Take My Hand / Angel Of Death / Little Look Back

Hard to believe it’s now 20 years since Kai Hansen played his last gig for Helloween. Therefore this combined tour has been a long time coming. With a large Gamma Ray backdrop behind him, drummer Daniel Zimmerman wandered onto the stage to be greeted by huge cheers as the Welcome introduction was played. The chug of Gardens Of The Sinner was soon upon us with Kai Hansen beaming centre stage. New World Order was up next and, during Hansen’s guitar solo, Henjo Richter and Dirk Schlater headed up onto raised sections either side of the drum kit. A rather quiet “woah-oh” sing-along in the middle section of the song was quickly doubled in volume, with a comment of “I can’t hear you” from Hansen.

One of guitarist Henjo Richter’s compositions was up next with Fight, from the Majestic album. Hansen explains that Richter is wearing “John Lennon remembrance glasses” tonight following eye surgery. Whether I believe this involved removing Richter’s eyeballs, as Hansen contested, is another matter!

It was then time for some material from the new Land Of The Free II album, though it was difficult to convince a friend they weren’t playing a Maiden cover during From The Ashes. Surprisingly the other selection from Gamma Ray’s latest album is not Into The Storm, but the mid-paced Empress. Whilst there is a reserved respect for what seemed to be a less familiar song from the crowd, the Russian themed mid-section got a few singing along.

The epic Rebellion In Dreamland led us to the cheese fest that is Heavy Metal Universe. Complete with its usual sing-along and ode to You’ve Got Another Thing Coming, Hansen succeeded in getting the entire balcony to stand on their feet. Heading back to the days when he fronted Helloween himself, Ride The Sky went down a storm, before some fun bouncing to the start of Somewhere Out In Space.

Returning for a deserved encore with Send Me A Sign, bassist Dirk Schlachter had removed his leather waistcoat for a bit of posing as the band finish on top of the raised platforms.

Gamma Ray set list:
Intro (Welcome) / Gardens Of The Sinner / New World Order / Fight / From The Ashes / Empress / Valley Of The Kings / Rebellion In Dreamland / Heavy Metal Universe / Ride The Sky / Somewhere Out In Space / Send Me A Sign

You can’t help but feel there’s an element of competition on this tour and having Gamma Ray play before them certainly meant Helloween needed to be on their game. Live performances I have seen during the Deris years have been unpredictable and it was pleasing to see Helloween up for the challenge tonight.

The band’s latest album cover had been recreated on stage, including a large devil character and a roulette wheel which span during the intro tape. There’s no easing us in, with the full 13 minutes of Halloween opening the show. This brought back memories of being the first live Helloween song I had heard, whilst running across the Donington racetrack in 1988 due to our coach being stuck in traffic.

Of course, whenever Andi Deris sings a Michael Kiske era number its going to be a challenge due to Kiske’s higher range. Third song March Of Time was such a test and despite Deris’ Tenerife tanned face making it look like his head was about to explode, the frontman did remarkably well. Between those two, interestingly, Hansen penned numbers, Sole Survivor reminds us that Deris had a major part in bringing Helloween back from the brink with the Master Of The Rings album.

Still on the topic of Deris, his more commercial past rears its head in his songwriting of both As Long As I Fall and the soppy If I Could Fly, which also appeared later in the set. Whilst these represents my least favourite area of Helloween’s sound, they were well received by the crowd. Although A Tale That Wasn’t Right is a ballad, it somehow steers clear of such cheesiness and restored the quality of the set.

Unfortunately that wasn’t to last as its drum solo time. Helloween are renowned for their bizarre sense of humour and they certainly managed to uphold that reputation. A box appeared to the right of drummer Daniel Loeble containing Deris, Sascha Gerstner and Markus Grosskopf, dressed as dwarves complete with beards. In a chipmunk style voice Deris argued that drum solos are boring because they can’t play tunes. This was disproved by Loeble by playing the famous riff to Smoke On The Water on cylindrical toms suspended above his elaborate drum kit. The dwarves joined in until the second verse, when Weikath appeared with a toy gun and shot them. All very bizarre. At this point you’d hope that the drum solo was over, but it dragged on for a further 5 minutes, featuring playing not vastly different from what you’d expect in a usual fast Helloween song.

Thankfully things were back on track with the excellent and epic The King For A 1000 Years, which was opened with Gerstner playing a twin necked guitar. From a modern Keeper album to the middle one, as Eagle Fly Free followed to the delight of the crowd. Grosskopf, who doesn’t appear to have aged over the last 20 years, clearly enjoyed his moment in the spotlight during his bass solo mid song.

Sadly, due to time constraints the excellent Paint A New World from Helloween’s latest album had been dropped from the set, but The Bells Of The Seven Hells represented said disc well. After If I Could Fly and a brief stage exit, Deris returned in a top hat and shiny red jacket to lead Helloween through a medley. I’ve said it before, but I’m not a fan of medleys. They always leave me unsatisfied when I’d prefer any one song played in full. This one took in I Can, Where The Rain Grows, Perfect Gentleman, Power and Keeper Of The Seven Keys.

Anyone with half an eye on Blabbermouth knew what would happen next, as Helloween returned to the stage with Gamma Ray for a run through of Future World and I Want Out. A few football like pumpkins were thrown into the crowd and even the always reserved Michael Weikath seemed to be enjoying himself – I’m sure I saw him smile. Oddly an old man wandered onto the stage during Future World but none of us could work out why or who he was?! Watching Hansen trade vocals with Deris and solos with Weikath was a fantastic way to end what had been an excellent metal event. Let’s hope Helloween are still on this form when they appear at Bloodstock Open Air in the summer (and hopefully leave the drum solo and medley behind!).

Helloween set list:
Intro (Crack The Riddle) / Halloween / Sole Survivor / March Of Time / As Long As I Fall / A Tale That Wasn’t Right / Drum Solo / The King For A 1000 Years / Eagle Fly Free / The Bells Of The Seven Hells / If I Could Fly / Dr. Stein / Medley (I Can / Where The Rain Grows / Perfect Gentleman / Power / Keeper Of The Seven Keys)

Helloween with Gamma Ray:
Future World / I Want Out

Gamma Ray