The announcement of the coming of Helloween in Greece in 2021 had filled me with excitement, but also with relief that I would finally enjoy the grand return of the band with Kai Hansen and Michael Kiske back together up close. Not only was this particular concert canceled due to COVID, but it never took place until today. And now, one year later, I am lucky enough to be in the beautiful capital of Bulgaria, Sofia, and to experience what I longed for, since it is something very important and big. I know that many soured and disagreed with the current lineup, that their last self-titled album was not what they would have expected from the band, but we are talking about the patriarchs of power metal and that alone is enough for someone to go to their concert. After all, if someone had told me that I would be watching Helloween for the first time with these guys in it, there was no way I would have believed them!
Arriving at the stadium I saw people of all ages, from small children to those who have never left what they love (yes, that’s how I would describe the adults)! It is more than magical for the bands of the 70’s-80’s to still manage to ‘unite’ the older with the new fans. So, after grabbing my souvenirs from the merch stand and got beers in hand, I headed to the ‘battlefield’ where I knew it was time for something dreamy!
The amazing Armeec Arena was already packed with thousands of fans, which then may not have been completely full in terms of the standing area, but it gave us the opportunity to get very close to the stage! The opening act of the evening was Hammerfall. I wouldn’t say that the Swedes need any introduction, since their mark in the field of heavy metal is quite big now, and of course they proved it by putting the stadium on fire early on. For 45 minutes they managed to excite us by playing tracks both from their recent record (Hammer of the Dawn) and their classic hits, with frontman Joacim in a crazy mood and the sound really perfect to the point where you could listen to each member crystal clear and think about what could have happened next. That was a very good warm-up and everything started getting ready for the big name of the evening!
The huge banner rises to the sounds of Skyfall and the seven-member Helloween team ‘is being spread ‘ on stage. I was really trying to realize how it is possible to see Hansen, Kiske and Deris singing together, but also the other legendary ‘guns’ of the band, Weikath and Grosskopf to be all one! Their presence was so impressive that you couldn’t take your eyes off of any of them throughout the concert and the stage was befitting of the size of such a band. There were many moments where I found myself transfixed and looking at how everyone moved individually and the way they alternated in the parts of the stage as well as the voices that came out of them. I say this cannot be done by 50-60 year old people with such ease!
The setlist contained songs from the last album of the band, but also many from the history of each period of the respective singer. I absolutely loved how all 3 were given space and time to sing the tracks that stuck in the minds of the fans and how perfectly they played with the crowd and kept them singing and dancing along. O.K. in Forever and One we may have cried but that’s not bad at all! When I saw that Hansen was left as the only singer on stage to play several of the Walls of Jericho tracks, I thought that can’t be happening. Kiske and Deris offered big thrills in the tracks they sang together. Grosskopf smiling and dancing drove us crazy with his classical basslines and Weikath faithful to his work and his perfect solos. But, I want to give a special mention to Sascha Gertstner, who not only complemented the trio in an exquisite way on guitars, but proved that through the years he has become an integral member of a band that has so many big names in it, making us applaud him proudly! Of course, we shouldn’t forget Daniel Loble, where through the elevated giant pumpkin he was in, was running the band’s engine with his drums. What could go wrong when so many different members with distinct history manage to combine so magically leaving egos and complexes aside? Well done again well done!!
We are coming to the end of a magnificent concert without any exaggeration and I understand that I will go home having experienced something that will surely be difficult to describe in words over the years. And that’s not because Helloween are the best band out there in the music we listen to, but because quite simply, both themselves and their peers who are still in the field, continue to deliver shows and spectacle of Oscar standards and fill stadiums and stadiums for plate. Who knows, maybe in the future and since all of them will no longer exist (I wish this would never happen), maybe we will see newer bands leaving their mark in the space and in music in general in their own way. Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery.
text & photos: Kostas Mouzakitis
SETLIST: Skyfall, Eagle Fly Free, Mass Pollution, Future World, Power, Save us, Metal Invaders / Victim of Fate / Gorgar / Ride the Sky, Heavy Metal (Is The Law), Forever and One, Guitar Solo ( Sascha Gerstner), Best Time, Dr. Stein, How Many Tears,
Encore 1: Perfect Gentleman, Keeper of the Seven Keys Encore 2: I Want Out