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Gig of the Year 2017: Helloween ‘Pumpkins United’, O2 Academy Brixton

Words & Pictures: Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media

Excited much? Hell yes… Helloween, Pumpkins Reunited, the band members that matter the most to me, all together on stage once more and for me particularly, the opportunity to see Helloween with all three of its former vocalists singing on stage.

‘Pumpkins Reunited’ offered Brixton Academy as the venue for the sole UK date of their globetrotting tour and it’s one I am extremely grateful for as this was MY gig of the year in 2017. Heck, this was probably one of the top 5 gigs I’ve ever attended in a ‘gig going’ career that spans almost 30 years. 

Not long after the band released their ‘Live In The U.K.’ album which saw Helloween playing arenas and destined for the big time, Kai Hansen left for a variety of reasons and formed Gamma Ray. Vocalist Michael Kiske stayed on for two more albums after Kiske’s departure but the magic that Hansen had brought with him was missing and the band struggled to maintain the fan base from the ‘Keeper of the Seven Keys’ era.

With Andi Deris brought on board as vocalist, the rather stunning ‘Master of the Rings’ was released and Helloween spent many years rebuilding their reputation and fan base with the many excellent albums that followed. Naturally though, the fans have wanted to see the old members perform together once more and the tour finally brings about something we almost dared not dream about.

With no support and a three hour set on the cards, the Academy in Brixton played host to perhaps the best show of 2017 and for this reviewer at least, one of the top five gigs of my life.

A stunning backdrop and huge video screen showcasing some of the ‘crazy’ German humour and pumpkin cartoons, a giant inflatable pumpkin base around the drum riser, three vocalists (yes three..) paved the way for a 24 song set list covering every era of the band.

With a tongue in cheek intro tape playing Robbie Williams’ ‘Let Me Entertain You’, which got everyone singing along like a rowdy crowd at Oktoberfest, the band kicked off with ‘Halloween’. A bold move when your opening song is a thirteen minute epic. With Deris and Kiske sharing vocals, complimenting each other perfectly, the triple guitar approach of Hansen, Weikath and Sascha Gerstner allowed each one solos spots and a sound that rattled the rafters of the capacity filled Academy.

Dr Stein and some amusing visuals to accompany it followed, the crowd singing along like their lives depended on it. From that point on, Kiske took the lead on some songs, Deris on others, depending on the point in the career that the band wished to focus. The old school fans almost wet themselves with excitement when Kai Hansen took to the microphone to provide the vocals for the pre-Kiske era with ‘Starlight’, ‘Ride the Sky’, ‘Judas’ and ‘Heavy Metal (Is the Law’).

With a drum solo providing the perfect opportunity for Dani Löble & the late Ingo Schwichtenberg (via the magic of the video screen) to have a battle of the drummers, it was a touching tribute to the former member of Helloween.
The rest of the show perfectly balanced the Kiske era and Deris era albums with each vocalist looking and sounding like they had always been destined for their careers to culminate in the ‘United’ series of shows. It’s further borne out by the way the classics are presented. As ‘Eagle Fly Free’ faded into ‘Keeper of the Seven Keys’ there were only two logical choices for songs to close the show. ‘Future World’ and ‘I Want Out’ saw band, crowd, lighting engineers, sound engineers, bar staff, security and the people in the box office all come together for ten minutes of perfection. No other show this year has managed to achieve that sort of harmony, hell, it’s the sort that could generate peace in the Middle East with ease!

I think I may have enjoyed this……

SETLIST: (The Intermissions segue to cut cartoon scenes on the video screen) 

Let Me Entertain You (Robbie Williams song)
Halloween (with Michael Kiske & Andi Deris)
Dr. Stein (with Michael Kiske & Andi Deris)
Intermission
I’m Alive (with Michael Kiske)
If I Could Fly (with Andi Deris)
Are You Metal? (with Andi Deris)
Intermission
Kids of the Century (with Michael Kiske)
Intermission
Waiting for the Thunder (with Andi Deris)
Perfect Gentleman (with Andi Deris)
Intermission
Starlight / Ride the Sky / Judas (with Kai Hansen)
Heavy Metal (Is the Law) (with Kai Hansen)
Forever and One (Neverland) (with Michael Kiske & Andi Deris)
A Tale That Wasn’t Right (with Michael Kiske & Andi Deris)
Intermission
I Can (with Andi Deris)
Intermission
Drum Solo (Dani Löble & Ingo ‘battle’)
Ingo Tribute
Livin’ Ain’t No Crime (with Michael Kiske) (partial)
A Little Time (with Michael Kiske)
Intermission
Why? (with Michael Kiske & Andi Deris)
Sole Survivor (with Andi Deris)
Intermission
Power (with Andi Deris)
How Many Tears (with Andi Deris, Michael Kiske & Kai Hansen)
Encore:
Invitation
Eagle Fly Free (with Michael Kiske)
Keeper of the Seven Keys (with Michael Kiske & Andi Deris)
Encore 2:
Future World (with Michael Kiske)
I Want Out (with Michael Kiske & Andi Deris)
Braveheart (Movie Soundtrack)

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