Lights go out as the stage behind a big, black curtain is illuminated by a giant screen in the back. Silhouettes of the band members step out of the shadows. Then with a big bang, the curtain drops, and the happy Germans scatter around as two iconic figures take the stage. Two people no one ever expected to see together, let alone sharing the same stage. The crowd gets wild as they scream together “It’s Halloween!”
Where do I even start?
I was already blessed with an unlikely reunion of one of my favorite bands once when Faith No More decided to rock the stages together again. A band that so profoundly changed my perception of music together again, and I had the chance to see them. Twice! I believed that was the extent of miracles one person is entitled to and I was grateful for it.
But boy, was I wrong.
Faith No More maybe changed the way I listen to music, but it was HELLOWEEN who made me fall so madly in love with it in the first place. Ever since I first heard their 13-minute epic “Halloween” I knew this was the sound that moves me, to laughter and to tears. But as you already know, that Helloween was long gone before I was even born or able to utter any words.
I guess you know the story surrounding their classic double album “Keeper of the Seven Keys” and the subsequent break-up of the classic line-up that threatened to take the metal throne. If you don’t, you can read it here. But the band did not lose momentum even after Michael Kiske, the voice that helped Helloween soar so high parted ways with the band. You might say they gained even more momentum when Andi Deris took the helm.
But even with all that, the fanbase was divided between those who loyal to the band and those who could never get over the original members falling out. And even the former, including myself, always wondered what it would sound and look like if the band members made their peace and hit the stage for old times’ sake. Last night, those dreams came true.
If you were one of those people complaining it was all for the money, I’m sorry but you’re wrong. And if you’d heard and seen the incredible chemistry between the band members as they tore through the classics that made Helloween who they are, you’d realize that it did not matter. Not to the band, not to the people who sang, cried and jumped along to their timeless tunes, now made better with an extra singer and an extra guitarist.
Sofia, Bulgaria is beyond a doubt my favorite place to visit for a concert thanks to the incredible people there. I’m willing to bet no band has ever left Sofia disappointed. Even low-tier bands that usually get around 500 people anywhere else get at least twice as many people in Sofia. And the people are not there to casually watch a show, they are always there to give everything they’ve got. That’s not something you get to see too often.
It’s no wonder then that Helloween would fill up one of, if not the biggest arena in Sofia, Armeec Arena. We have Bulgarian Live Music to thank that everything ran smooth, albeit with a little delay that no one seemed to mind about. Right from the start, the merchandise stand was packed with people as if they were handing the t-shirts out for free. No wonder, since the arena itself was packed front to back, left to right. Helloween is very popular in Bulgaria, but I’m not sure even they expected to fill up an arena this magnitude.
But you’re not here for the statistics, you’re here for the impressions. So enough exposition. The thing that made the biggest impression is the chemistry between the band members, past and present. It was incredible and everyone could feel it. It was especially heartwarming seeing Michael Kiske and Andi Deris getting along like the best of friends, even though fans have pitted them against each other in a pointless dick measuring contest. Last night we saw that both singers have something special that earns them the place on that stage and in the band’s history. Of course, saying anything about Michael Kiske’s incredible voice or Andi’s showmanship would be redundant. But I have to say that seeing Helloween for the fifth time, this was hands down the best vocal performance Andi Deris has given compared to any previous tours I’ve witnessed. He sang through classics like “Sole Survivor”, “How Many Tears” and “I Can” with incredible ease.
Andi joined Kiske for a couple of old tunes, and Kiske returned the favor singing some of the songs that were recorded with Andi on vocals. Hearing “Forever and One” and “Why” sung by both singers was something you don’t expect you’ll ever experience but once you do it just feels so natural. And even though I expected Kai Hansen would join the band for their old tunes exclusively, he played through the entire set and songs recorded after he’d left the band. A round of applause for that. We even got a tribute to late drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg during Dani Löble’s drum solo. The concert lasted incredible three hours, something even younger bands have a hard time pulling off. And if you ask me, I could have gone for another three.
The only possible complaint I have is that the sound was pretty messed up at the front of the stage, due to the drum drowning most of the other instruments except the vocals. Fortunately, I decided to retreat to the back near the mixing board where the sound was just fine and I could enjoy the rest of the show. It took me a while to grasp what was going on. I was in a sort of a trance the other half of the show, unable to process the fact that this is actually happening, right here, right now. I guess that’s normal when you’re witnessing the concert of your lifetime.
Then, reality slapped me as soon as “Eagle Fly Free” echoed throughout the arena and Kiske’s voice soared through the roof. This is really happening! The same could be said about the other 13-minute epic “Keeper of the Seven Keys”, which I’ve never heard in full live before this show. And I’m glad I haven’t because this was the right way to hear it. Ending their show with two hit singles, “Future World” and “I Want Out”, the band bid their farewell as giant pumpkin balloons and confetti filled the hall, adding to the already impressive visual appeal of the show.
As hard as I’m trying to stay objective, seeing your favorite band reunite can mess up your inner chemistry. We live in a time where nostalgia pays well, and I for one am glad younger people are getting a chance to see bands like Guns N’ Roses, Dokken and Helloween together again for whatever reason. And as far as Helloween is concerned, while I’ve had my doubts, they demonstrated that what the members have is a real passion for the music, big bucks or not. Before the show, I was not too happy about the speculations that the band might continue in this extended line-up. But now, I’m kind of secretly hoping they will at least record one more album together. For old times’ sake.