Dirkschneider Relives The Classics And Makes Us All Kids Again
It’s was the fall of 1985 when Accept was introduced to me, only the second metal band to Twisted Sister that I was exposed to. “Metal Heart” was an album that captured me like no other, one that became so intertwined into what I declared “true metal” that I knew every single nuance of every single song. “Bound to Fail” became a bit of a theme song and “Teach Us to Survive” was one of the most daring songs of its time. Six months later a label company “rushed” “Russian Roulette” hit the streets and in as much as I read how disappointed the band was with it at the time of its release, it remains one of my favorite albums of all time, an underplayed, near forgotten masterpiece. I can expound upon what Accept has done to improve my life with such brilliant music, but suffice to say they have been in it for 31 of my 46 years and are ingrained in my very own “metal heart.”
But heroes don’t last forever, they sadly grow old and fade away. Despite whatever differences that Udo Dirkschneider and the rest of Accept have had over the years, being graced with “two Accepts” is never a bad thing. In defiance of father time, both bands – Accept and U.D.O. are putting out some of the best music of the respective career now, a testament to how brilliant of songwriters each band has.
When Udo announced that there would be a massive world tour to bid fairwell to Accept material in terms of his own career under the moniker Dirkschneider, I couldn’t have agreed more. U.D.O. – the band – has amassed a huge arsenal of material in the last 30 years and in the rare times that he has brought the German metal machine to the U.S., over half of the material is Accept. I get it, its “what the people want.” However, so many overlooked classics lie within the U.D.O. discography, many of which rival Accept. It is high time to start letting those shine live before Udo decides he has had enough. I’m fairly certain “Balls to the Wall” is to Accept as “I Want Out” is to Helloween in terms of being completely played out.
North America is finally given a chance to bear witness to this monumental tour, so I embarked on the 1.5 hour trip into New York City for the first night. First nights are always a mixture of shaking off the rust and getting some of the freshest performances and this is precisely what I witnessed at Stage 48 in Hell’s Kitchen. It was a cool January evening and as I waited in line for doors to open, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the puerile pussiness of NYC folks that seem to be all too accustomed to warmer temperatures and Manhattan curfews. A mere 15 minutes past the time for doors and cries of “worst concert experience ever” left me wondering just what kind of “metal” crowd this was. Standing in line in 20 degree temps has zero to do with the concert experience, so when these losers looked to me to join in, I reminded them that surely they’ve felt colder temps and that there is no crying in metal.
Starting off the night was New York’s own Black Dawn, introduced by Eddie Trunk. Black Dawn has been kicking around for the better part of 25 years, with the last full length “Age of Reason” issued in 2004 and last release in 2014 via the EP “Until We Meet.” The band offers a Pantera-esque groove style metal that successfully warmed up the crowd of predominantly older fans. Given they were the only opener for Udo’s 2 hour performance, I got a good 45 minute taste and the band was impressive.
I’m not a huge fan of Matt Kotten’s style of vocals, but for the band’s style it worked fine. Kotten and Tom Kelly’s twin guitar attack and memorable solos sounded really good over the rhythm team of Shawn Cox and Enzo Di Paolo. I’d definitely be down with checking out these guys again. The crowd reaction was pretty special for an opening act.
Catching a glimpse of the set list for Dirkschneider, “Starlight” and “Living for Tonite” served to remind me just how incredible this night was going to be. The last time I saw Udo singing just Accept stuff was back at a place called The Sting in Danbury, CT when Accept was touring with Dokken in support of the Predator album in 1996. Ironically, that was also a “farewell tour” that started with “Starlight” and “Living for Tonite.” As the intro that combined the beginning of “Metal Heart” the song along with clips of Udo in interviews and announcements began (if you have the “Back to the Roots” live album, you’ve heard it before), it was the beginning of a special night.
The riff of “Starlight” kicked in as the Russo-Finn guitar axe duo of Audrey Smirnov (Everlost) and Kasperi Heikkinen (Conquest/ex-Amberian Dawn) entered the stage with bassist Fitty Weinhold (who pretty much ranks up there with Mat Sinner in terms of legendary status in my book) and Sven Dirkschneider, Udo’s son. What happened next was a straight line to my heart – Udo came out in only the third time I’ve ever seen him live and he sounded excellent. The set list was a dream – a transport back to my youth when metal was new and exciting.
The band played such classics as “Midnight Highway,” “Fast as a Shark,” “Restless & Wild,” “Midnight Mover,” “Breaker,” “Neon Nights,” “Screamin’ for a Love Bite” and nearly forgotten classics like “T.V. War,” “Monsterman,” “Winter Dreams,” “Son of A Bitch” and “I’m A Rebel.” It was that Accept set I always wanted to hear.
From my vantage point right in the front under Udo’s nose, it was such an honor to witness the legend. The only thing that would have brought greater magic to that night would be having Wolf Hoffmann playing those god-like solos. No disrespect at all for Smirnov an Kasperi - they represent the best guitarists Udo ever had since the great Mathias Dieth, but Wolf is the best guitarist ever and his soulful play was sorely missed.
The turnout was great and the crowd was hot, performing all the sing-a-longs you come to expect. I wish the mix was a little better, but this is the usual product of Stage 48. I could hear Fitty loud and clear, but most of the time Smirnov and Heikkinen were nearly non-existent. As it turns out, a visit to the balcony late in the show proved the sound was better from the back.
When it was over, it was all just another memory. Even though we won’t be hearing Udo singing Accept songs again live, I welcome seeing U.D.O. performing an entire set of its own classics which need to be heard and respected just as much of the Accept classics. This show was a testament to an extraordinary career and it allowed me to transport back to my youth to relive some of the greatest metal ever created with the original voice and second generation world class musician in Sven. I’ve often said Udo is God…and it is not a joke.
Carl Frederick is a staff writer for Metal Underground.com. From the early to mid-90's, Carl published his own fanzine called C.R.O.M. In 1997, he released a compilation entitled "CROM: The Resurrection of True Metal," which featured songs from bands from around the world, including the first U.S. release of any kind for bands like Italy's Rhapsody (n/k/a Rhapsody of Fire) and Brazil's Angra. Follow Carl on Facebook and Twitter: @CROMCarl.
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