GIG REVIEW: HELLOWEEN Pumpkins United Tour Live at Concord Music Hall, Chicago, IL
People always say when you experience a major life-changing, hell even world-changing event, you never forget where you are on that day. There’re tons of events like this we can talk about, but I want to single out the early-era Helloween fans right now and guess that you, too remember where you were when you read that the Pumpkins United Tour was actually happening. A lineup straight out of my dreams… I certainly remember; I read the article while I was at my desk at work, silently freaking out hoping that one day they would announce North American dates. Once they did, I set a reminder on my phone to purchase tickets to the Chicago show the SECOND they went on sale. So, where were you on that fateful day?
Helloween fans have had a rough ride (a Dark Ride – if you will – I’ll see myself out) thanks to band member drama happening throughout the late 80s and early 90s, the band lost vocalist Michael Kiske, guitarist and vocalist Kai Hansen, the original drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg committed suicide and the band went through several drummers before finally finding Dani Löble. Terrible puns aside, it was really a tumultuous time for the band, and it is honestly quite impressive they managed to release so many solid albums. The addition of vocalist Andi Deris in the 90s brought some stability and consistency to the band, and well, the rest is heavy metal history. Helloween became one of the largest and most recognizable bands in heavy and power metal. Still though, there was conflict in the fanbase over which vocalist era was the REAL Helloween. Was it Hansen on Walls of Jericho? Was it Kiske’s Keeper of the Seven Keys legacy? Or was it Deris on 1994’s Master of the Rings and onward? Fans get into some heated debates over which Helloween is the best (I’m a Kiske fan myself, fight me) and just a few years ago, the thought of a union of ALL THREE vocalists for the band seemed like a far off, completely unreachable dream.
Well the future is now, folks. Kicking off in 2017 with a little over 60 shows slotted, Helloween’s Pumpkins United Tour set aside some huge egos and long-time drama to give fans around the world the best of all three eras. Nearly three hours of music, with only brief breaks of classic album art themed animations here and there, this really was a must-see tour.
I attended the September 10th date, at the Concord Music Hall in Chicago, IL. The line of black shirts stretched down the street for what seemed like forever, but everyone was in good spirits, especially two guys in their truck getting drunk, blaring classic Helloween for everyone to sing along to. Getting through the line was rather slow for anyone needing the box office, because for whatever reason, the venue closes the box office until the doors open. The show started relatively on time, however there were some technical difficulties in the beginning that made things a little awkward. Like true professionals, Kiske and Deris smiled and laughed their way through it all and no one cared.
I wish I could truly explain what seeing this tour meant to me. Staring up at the feet of my childhood heroes, inches away from Kiske, inches away from Hansen, belting out some of my favorite songs as sharp and polished as if it was 1988… I felt like I was dreaming… or dead. No Helloween fan ever expected to see ‘Halloween’, ‘Ride the Sky’, ‘Dr. Stein’, ‘Future World’, or ‘Keeper of the Seven Keys’ live, the way they were originally meant to be heard with Hansen and Kiske… I mean, it was just stunningly perfect. It was one of those nights I felt like if I died on my way home, I would die happy.
I’m not just focused on the old stuff. Andi Deris is a hell of a performer too, and his duets with Kiske on the classic songs were remarkable. The way they played off each other, built each other up with stage antics, smiles, points, hugs – I felt as if these guys really put aside their professional differences and deserved egos and absolutely killed it. At one point in the show, Kiske literally fell off the stage and still recovered like a champ. Each musician had their moment to shine, but I think one of the more powerful moments of the night was the tribute to the late Ingo Schwichtenberg. They played a video of his drum solos, then Löble came on stage and played along with Ingo in the video – it was a powerful and beautiful moment.
All in all, I’ve seen Helloween live with Deris, I’ve seen Kiske performing with Avantasia, unfortunately I’ve never been able to see Hansen’s Gamma Ray live, but seeing these three legends on one stage, playing some of my favorite songs of all time… absolute perfection. The band is traveling the world for the rest of 2018, so if they are coming anywhere near you – DO NOT PASS UP THIS CHANCE. Get on a train, a plane, a boat, sell a kidney – just get there!
Full Pumpkins United Line-up:
Michael Kiske – lead vocals
Andi Deris – lead vocals
Kai Hansen – lead & rhythm guitar, backing vocals, lead vocals
Michael Weikath – lead & rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Markus Grosskopf – bass, backing vocals
Sascha Gerstner – lead & rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Daniel Löble – drums