Helloween / Rage
20 October 2003
Mean Fiddler, London

A medley, a guitar solo and a drum solo in a support set? Hmmm, things do not bode well for my review of Rage`s set tonight. As we enter the Mean Fiddler vocalist/bassist Peavy Wagner is saying good evening to the crowd and the aforementioned medley of Sent By The Devil and Firestorm follows. Now most Rage songs aren`t particularly long anyway and surely it would make more sense to have picked one of those two to play rather than haphazardly weld them together.

I`ve tasted Rage`s extensive back catalogue at various times in the past and my usual reaction is that it`s just too saccharine sweet for my tastes. Occasionally they do posses some bite however and Down from the Unity album briefly raises my hopes. Rage had certainly set out their stall tonight, with two huge Sounchaser backdrops covering the amps on either side of Mike Terrana`s drum kit and with the band being afforded full lighting, only the Helloween backdrop peaking out behind hides the fact that Rage are not in fact the headline act tonight.

Just as things were looking good Victor Smolski launches into an extensive guitar solo. I fully appreciate he`s a great guitarist, but with about 16 albums to draw from, a solo has no place in such a short set. To compound matters, following a run through of Soundchaser and Set This World On Fire, it`s Mike Terrana`s turn for a drum solo. Apparently this occurs at practically every gig Terrana play`s and tonight it completely takes the wind out of an already struggling set.

Rage`s most famous song, Don't Fear The Winter follows, but I`ve already seen enough and head for the bar as one further tune is played.

It`s a new look Helloween tonight and quite frankly one with seemingly a new attitude too. Last time I saw the band at this very venue on the Better Than Raw tour it had been a fairly flat affair, tonight however was at the other end of the spectrum.

Delving right back to 1986 and The Walls Of Jericho album for openers Starlight and Warrior was a welcome surprise and Andy Deris, who`s resemblance to a young Peter Stringfellow was uncanny, has no problems replicating Kai Hansen`s vocals. It`s apparent immediately that Michael Weikath is much more at ease with his new guitar partner Sascha Gerstner, formerly of Freedom Call, indulging in some Status Quo style synchronized guitar swinging during the later tune.

Deris then announces that it`s time for a short song from Keeper 2, 14 minutes short and the Keeper Of The Seven Keys in all it`s glory follows. The lightning is atmospheric throughout the evening with different base colours chosen for each song. The purple for Keeper certainly goes with the purple patch Helloween have hit with their latest guitar pairing. Prior to the song title refrain, new drummer Stefan Schwarzmann climbs his kit as Deris encourages the crowd to lead the singing. Unhappy with their first attempt he comments it wasn`t enough for a piss, second attempt is better, but barely able to aim, but third attempt it`s the mark.

Continue with Keeper material Future World and Eagle Fly Free follow and both Schwarzmann and Markus Grosskopf shine during their respectable drum and bass solos in the later.

Hey Lord represents the first tune from the Deris era. Weikath, obligatory cigarette hanging from mouth, has in recent years seemed quite disinterested on stage, but tonight he was clearly enjoying himself and also appears leaner and healthier. His cool slips however, when during the song`s crowd sing-a-long section his enthusiasm gets the better of him with a failed attempt to climb the speaker stack, sheepishly walking away apparently hoping nobody noticed.

Helloween have developed a knack of writing ballads that I automatically skip on cd, but thrive in a live set and Forever & One (Neverland) is that ballad tonight. Swaying arms and lighters held aloft may be a bit cheesy, as was Dr Stein later in the set, but it`s certainly enjoyable.

Deris comments that a lot of people wonder what the hell the latest album title Rabbit Don`t Come Easy is all about, then puts it down to Weiky going ape shit. Actually, he informs us, it means Pussy Don`t Come Easy in Spanish. Open Your Life is the first song played from that album and showcases the song writing talents of Gerstner and quite frankly he seems the perfect foil for Weikath, cheerio Roland!

Without wanting to comment on every single song played, you can read the set list below, this Happy Happy Helloween vibe continues all the way to closing number How Many Tears, via a large section of Deris-era material.

Helloween have weathered a personnel crisis and come back not only with possibly their strongest post Keeper album, but also their seemingly most cohesive line-up to date.

Helloween Set List:
Starlight / Murderer / Keeper Of The Seven Keys / Future World / Eagle Fly Free / Hey Lord! / Forever And One (Neverland) / Open Your Life / Dr. Stein / If I Could Fly / Back Against The Wall / Power / Sole Survivor / I Can / Where The Rain Grows / Sun 4 The World / How Many Tears