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l o g o t y p e b y F r e d e r i c k
last update: 03.03.2013
venue: Luzhniki Sport Hall, Moscow
date: October 17 2003
bands: Chimera, Zodiac Mindwarp, Masterplan, Paradise Lost, Aria, Helloween
Honestly speaking, many of my friends advised me not to go to the Rokfest, which came to pass on October 17th in Luzhniki Sports Hall, Moscow. Their main arguments were:
First, it was a festival of "one-day", or rather "one-evening" format. Each band would get at most 40 minutes to play. And Helloween, as a headliner, would get only an hour. Also, it was Friday, and many people couldn't come from their work to the beginning of the festival, at 5:00 PM. By the way, in the end it became clear that only a couple of thousand people came to the show. Although the Sports Hall can contain four times more. (I remember that Kipelov's (Russian metal veteran) concert two weeks before Rokfest had gathered the full Sport Hall). So, we can say that the format chosen by the organizers didn't prove too effective, alas.
Second, our editorial staff was mostly interested in two bands - Masterplan and Helloween (right in this order). But some adepts frightened us. They said that Masterplan hasn't grown to a high level yet and the band is not still a good team on the stage. While Helloween, as they said, is not the same anymore. No old spirit is left in them. The new musicians are weak. Deris has grown fat, and Weiki looks like an old tramp. Now I can say - ALL OF THIS STUFF IS NOT TRUE! And both bands have destroyed all the rumours fabricated by their ill-wishers and sceptics.
There was an additional intrigue in the fact that an "historical" moment awaited us at the Rokfest. If I am not mistaken, for the first time since the last split-up of the "Pupmkinheads" Masterplan and Helloween should play on the same stage, with an interval of several hours. It seemed unbelievable till the last moment. For it looks like the ex-colleagues don't like each other. And they are careful enough to keep their tour schedules as far away from each other as possible. But we had only to watch, compare and make conclusions.
Just a few days before the show the organizers made us a surprise. Before the official opening of the fest a Russian band Chimera doing some kind of nu-metal should play four songs. On one hand, it was a pretty good opportunity for a Russian band to present themselves. On the other hand - I can't envy the guys who leave themselves at the mercy of the public, which came to see such a representative company as Masterplan, Paradise Lost, Aria and Helloween. I refrain from judging the playing of the band, because there was a friend of mine among their ranks.
Meanwhile, the temperature in the hall grew gradually higher. People were slowly moving in. Presently there came to the stage the official opener of the fest - Zodiac. The band was, according to the organizers' booklet, super-popular at the end of 80's and now they got together again and play just for fun. And for fun of the listeners, too. It was very decent music, somewhat in the key of AC/DC, Judas Priest or rather a heavier version of Rolling Stones. But really, a bit same-sounding. But this fault of the music was rather outweighed by the tricks of the stout funny guitarist of Zodiac. The man rocked his guitar, sometimes while lying on the floor or putting the instrument behind his back. In the end he ran right in front of the people, shaking hands with everybody at the first row.
The vocalist of Zodiac did his best to show the audience that he's the real hot guy, by drawing his force from… well, you understand where from. When he became tired of clasping his balls, he varied it with the attempts to sexually violate the guitarist and the bassist (who looked like very slim Dirk Schlaechter with black hairs). Perhaps, the unlucky British guy had listened too much of "Ta-Tu" band and had really decided that "gayish" kind of humour would make the Russian audience respond the best. At the end of their show he used the microphone pole to stimulate certain bodyparts of him. Finally he naked his belly which plainly gave away his passion to barley drink and the top of his wide underpants. Then the musicians, rather content with themselves, went off the stage to give place to those who were really awaited - Masterplan.
Episode One: Masters
Many people probably expected the show of Masterplan even more impatiently than a performance of the headliners. There were a few reasons of it. First, Helloween had already played in Moscow two years ago. Second, even though the debut album of Masterplan is available in Russia, the band kept remaining a "dark horse" to us. Third, Jorn Lande. He had become well-known to us after coming to the Grapow-Kusch company. And only in half a year the vocalist of Masterplan had turned into an object of a cult. The connoisseurs had immediately dug out his earlier works with the band Ark. And to be a Lande's fan became a sign of comme-il-faut and belonging to some kind of elite amid the Russian metalheads.
Alas, but this time at the beginning it was a complete failure for Lande. When Jorn started the first thing from the set-list - 'Spirit Never Die', it became clear that the sound from the mic almost isn't there. All was drowned in the Uli Kusch's drumming. The drums suppressed everything else, not only ramming into ears but also shaking up all the entrails. But gradually the sound problems were fixed and we were able to enjoy the powerful vocals of Lande in full. Just as the masterly solos of maestro Grapow, just as the playing of the rest of the musicians. And of course, the artistry which the whole band demonstrated in full measure!
At the time of Masterplan's entry the first rows were packed very dense. Therefore during such "dancing" hits as 'Enlighten Me' and 'Heroes' it wasn't possible to move freely and headbang. The only thing that was remained was to move vertically. But for that 'Crystal Night', 'Soulburn' and 'Bleeding Eyes' were more fitting. The expectations didn't fail and these songs proved to be the magnificent numbers, just as was expected. It is that kind of Music that force everybody to release a brake - the only desire that's left is to move to the rhythm of music. But in 'Heroes', the vocals of Michael Kiske were missing, which was a pity, I think.
It was felt that the band has completely outgrown the first period of formation and has turned into a full-scale project with a spectacular show program. I don't envy Gamma Ray who are going to go touring South America together with Masterplan. The Rays will have to do their very best to sound decently after their support has played!
Despite all the enthusiasm with which the audience accepted the songs from Masterplan's debut album, when the intro to the Helloween's hit of the 90's, The Chance rang all over the Sport Hall, the public had a fit of hysteria which wasn't known before. And neither the rows density, nor sound problems, nor the light turned on by the organizers mattered anymore. And when there came the fragment from The Departed, a song from a "buried" by Weikath album 'Dark Ride', there appeared a thought that well, after this it might as well be time to go home. Because, it seemed, it is impossible to wish for anything else! Alas, while the band played their final thing, 'Crawling From Hell', they had their monitors turned off. As a result, Masterplan spent on the stage less than the promised 40 minutes. Which was a big pity both to the audience and to the musicians. Angry Jorn spent his emotions on the microphone.
Interlude: I've lost Paradise, and Aria too
After the wild playing of Masterplan, and considering the lack of interest to Paradise Lost and Aria, I spent the time of their performance doing some "public relations". Also, I was eager to share my impressions about Masterplan with my friends, just as to boast of the autographs of Grapow, Lande and Mackenrott given during the band's morning press meeting. The production conference of our site's staff has flown into drinking beer together. And then, pushing the fans of Aria aside, the "helloweeners" went to force the first rows of the hall.
Episode Two: Is it Helloween? Yeah!!!
After such a spectacular show of the band created by the ex-colleagues of Helloween, the headliners had a hard task to play at least no worse than they. But even the preparations to the concert showed that we saw the band of a highest class warming up. During the tuning time the stage was hidden behind black curtains, which went up with the first sounds of Music.
The contents of the present set-list of Helloween weren't a big secret to anybody in the hall, thanks to the Internet. (It was left only to guess which songs would fit into the hour the band had to play). So the hall began to sing along the chorus of the fist thing of the program, 'Starlight', quite confidently. It seems that while forming the set-list the musicians wanted to cause a heart attack to their fans, to make girls faint and various incidents happen in the hall. They sacrificed the WHOLE of the new material from the 'Rabbit' to the timing. So there were played only the old, time-proven, full of significance songs - the songs that every true fan of Helloween has learned by heart long ago.
So perhaps it was only to the better that only two, not eight thousand people attended the concert. Each song was performed and listened as the last and the most important in life, driving the hall into a state - no, not hysteria - a complete catharsis. I don't want to concentrate attention on the description of every song. No one of them needs any additional recommendations. I cannot even tell which number was met with the greatest enthusiasm of the audience. Perhaps, it was 'Eagle Fly Free', or 'Dr. Stein'? Or maybe 'Power'? Or rather 'Where the Rain Grows'? Or 'If I Could Fly'? I don't know… My personal dream came true during the second thing of the program, 'Keeper of the Seven Keys', which Deris announced as the "very-very short" song of the second part of the album of the same name. It was impossible to throw away a word, or a solo from the song, so the band played the composition completely. And it was about 15 minutes long, all in one breath.
By the way, I want to note that we had really awaited the show of Helloween with some fear. Even though the responses which began to come from both the Americas where the band had already played, made one rather optimistic. Indeed I didn't care at all whether Deris grew fatter or how Weiki looks in his 41 (as it proved, quite good!). The main thing I was personally afraid of was: how the frontman of the band manages the classic material of Helloween, especially 'Keeper'. For example, on 'High Live' album his singing of the old hits wasn't too brilliant. But 'Starlight' immediately proved that Andi has all the strength to communicate the whole energy of the song, so peculiar to Hansen's way of singing. Even the highs made by Kiske were possible for him. All the material was sung not just good - simply perfect! Deris made the most logical and effective solution: he didn't copy the original, but he sang it all in his own manner, pushing to the limit his personal artistic skills. By the way, judging by the same 'High Live', Deris has significantly grown artistic-wise in these seven years.
The vocalist of Helloween, looking better, and rather slimmer (!!!) than ever immediately created the proper contact with the public. And he was brilliant during the 'Power' song with the prepared move - the competition between the right and left sides of the hall. He commented the people's reaction with various grades of rising a finger putting to the zipper of his jeans, thus making us turn our lungs inside-out (who wants to be accused of impotence?).
Purely scenically, Deris simply overshadowed all his colleagues. All the eyes were fixed on him and no one else. And nobody counted, how many cigarettes has Weiki smoked (it seems, not many), how many times has Markus run from side to side of the stage or how much happiness does Sascha feel from playing in Helloween… Nevertheless, all of this has happened. The new musicians fitted the band perfectly! And the current guitar tandem Weikath-Gerstner has not only kept the high standards and traditions of guitar playing created in the middle of 80's, but gave the compositions the new colours, new kind of solos.
And the main thing: that evening we have seen a very much alive, strong as never, super-professional band. Mature and experienced enough to conform to the highest standards of a live show. And young enough by its spirit, full of enthusiasm at the same time. The monolith made of the like-minded musicians who know, what and why they are doing, and have a great pleasure doing it.
So, it seems, no matter how many times had Helloween split up. The enlightened humanity and the heavy metal society only wins from this "Star Wars", which was brilliantly demonstrated by the two bands of the highest level, which we have seen on the festival.
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© MMI Frederick Moulaert [ logotype author ]