at Rockefeller Music Hall, Oslo, Norway, December 1, 2005

HELLOWEEN (Live at Rockefeller Music Hall, Oslo, Norway, December 1, 2005)
Photo: Per Olav Heimstad

Helloween are damned if they do, and even more damned if they don’t. If they play their old classic stuff from the eighties, that inspired a few zillion bands out there to pick up guitars and add a bass drum, people complain and say it sounds like whatever comes out of a bull’s behind because they no longer have their classic lineup. If the pumpkins in 2005 play “their own stuff,” meaning from the “Deris era” from 1994 and on (note that Andi Deris has been the band’s singer for more than twice as long as Michael Kiske), fans curse them because they no longer play the old hymns …

Helloween’s fifth visit to Norway was indeed one of their better shows in the icy capital -– perhaps their best. That doesn’t rank the show as an unforgettable Helloween show, though. During said era, the criticism has been rather harsh because not all members look inspired on stage, and of course, due to the band’s “damned if you do …” dilemma. However, this time around, a few things were notably better.

First of all, genius songwriter Andi Deris did hit all of the high notes this night. He seems to be in great shape, though a little moving from side to side on stage would make him the great frontman he used to be before joining Helloween. But people were stunned when he easily reached up to tight trouser land during the opener’s last part, “King For A 1000 Years,” and later made “A Tale That Wasn’t Right” the highlight of the evening. Fearing that Alzheimer’s might have kicked in, it is believed this beautiful ballad hasn’t been performed live since Deris’ first tour with the band.

On the contrary; now that Helloween are back doing Keeper-stuff with their new album, people expected more old gems from the late eighties … like “Halloween” for instance, not performed live since 1988, and most likely the band’s strongest quarter of an hour, or “March Of Time;” the most underrated Keeper-song there is. Yes, both songs are penned by Kai Hansen, but so what? “Eagle Fly Free” and “I Want Out” were still in the set … a few songs from the mid-nineties could easily have been replaced, either by old Keeper-songs, or simply better Deris penned numbers from Master Of The Rings. (Got the clue now? Damned if you do, damned if you don’t …)

Apart from the ones mentioned, Helloween delivered a set with mainly long and epic songs, including the lead track from the new CD as well as “Occasion Avenue,” “The Invisible Man,” and “Keeper Of The Seven Keys” (somehow redundant as it was performed on the last tour as well). Walls Of Jericho, by many hailed as their best album, was completely ignored this year, by the way.

The sound got pretty good after a few songs. The observing reader will therefore conclude that it took a good half hour before the PA cooperated. That didn’t seem to have a negative impact on a very enthusiastic crowd, though. Damned or not, Helloween is Helloween, and the band has its diehard fans. People pulled out the air guitar, and even an experienced sailor would have had trouble walking the floor.

As for the inspiration; Michael Weikath did NOT (surprise) chain smoke and look bored, at least not compared to previous Oslo visits. The staff at Rockefeller could have given him a hard time about Norwegian smoking laws though (some are very capable of that), or maybe he just decided to look more into it now that Helloween has its strongest lineup since the first Keeper-era? Yes, that’s a fact, Sascha Gerstner on guitar and Dani Löble behind the kit prove that easily. They pull and push in the same direction as Weikath and Deris.

While the new album cover completely lacks the good sense of humor the old Keepers covers showed, this time it was incorporated into the show. When Dani’s drum solo literally kicked in, another kit was brought on stage; a small one prepared for bass player Markus Grosskopf’s attack. A hilarious move, later followed by Dani Löble on lead mini guitar during Gerstner’s solo. Speaking of which; some people claim that Mister Weikath is hard to work with, and they might be right. But, when he eventually found a talented team player in Gerstner, he has no problem putting all spotlights on the other. Not only does Sascha have his own solo slot, but he is no less featured as a lead guitar player during the set, be it old or new songs. (Weiki’s solo for “A Tale …” was invincible, though …)

To put all of this into a final conclusion: The sound was not overall on the band’s side tonight, the song selection could have been wiser, but the band showed more enthusiasm and confidence than ever before (at least in front of a Norwegian crowd), and played on par with the old Keeper lineup. Helloween needs to keep this version umpteen of the band going for a long time to come.


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