Concert Review – Helloween (Espaço das Américas, São Paulo, Brazil, 10/29/2017)

What we once thought was unlikely to happen became reality and, my friends, it was one HELL of a night!

Have you ever imagined seeing Michael Kiske, Kai Hansen and Andi Deris together on the same stage? Yes, I know, we have seen Kiske and Hansen together with Unisonic before, we have seen Kiske singing HELLOWEEN classics beautifully, we have seen Hansen as a special guest on Helloween concerts, but the three pieces together feel so right that it is hard to think how it hasn’t happened before. The Pumpkins United World Tour is real now, it’s a huge celebration to the band’s legacy and I am not afraid to say that this is one of the most amazing tours of this year!

This tour was announced a year ago and the first date confirmed was in São Paulo (although the tour actually started in Mexico). I have got to say Brazilians love Helloween, tickets were sold out in a blink of an eye and the band announced a second date – again sold out. We were also informed that these two concerts were going to be recorded to a near future release in DVD, so we couldn’t be more excited. Unfortunately, guitarist Roland Grapow wasn’t invited to join the band on this historical moment (according to himself), which is really a shame.

Without an opening act, Helloween went straight to the point and got the party started at 7:30pm at the Espaço das Américas venue with the iconic Halloween, with Deris and Kiske singing together. This was enough to make 8,000 grown adults sing loud, smile, cry, jump, put their hands in the air, fall on their knees and thank for being there (I am not exaggerating, Brazilian fans are really this passionate and intense). After the song, both vocalists thanked all the fans and Deris remembered that 10 years ago they recorded a live album and DVD in São Paulo (Keeper of the Seven Keys – The Legacy World Tour 2005/2006) because Brazilian fans were the loudest in the world, so they wanted to do it again. The duo also introduced us to their two friends, Doc and Seth, the funny animated pumpkins on the screen who were responsible for “choosing” the night’s setlist, focusing on classics but also giving a space to songs released after the 2000s.

Photos by Leandro Anhelli – http://www.anhelli.com.br/

It was incredible to see Kiske and Deris singing side by side but the night wasn’t only about them. Kai Hansen, Michael Weikath and Sascha Gerstner were playing heavier and louder than ever, and in perfect harmony. Weikath was in his usual “low profile mode” on his corner of the stage, but as technical and impressive as always, while Hansen and Gerstner were moving all the time along the stage and interacting with the fans in the front row. Markus Grosskopf smiled all the time and alongside Dani Löble didn’t miss one beat at all. The whole team was clearly happy and connected.

When it was time for Hansen to take over the microphone on a medley of Starlight, Ride the Sky, Judas and Heavy Metal (Is the Law), the PA system died not once, but twice. On the first time, the musicians took some minutes to notice as the crowd kept singing in support as if nothing wrong was happening, until a sound technician came in to the stage and asked them to stop. They left and after some minutes Hansen apologized and said they were going to start over. When the sound failed for the second time, they left the stage for a little longer, 20 minutes or so, which made us think of a worst case scenario like a cancellation or something. Luckily, the team managed to fix everything and the band could hit the stage for Kai’s moment to shine.

Photos by Leandro Anhelli – http://www.anhelli.com.br/

Right after that, Deris and Kiske returned to the stage. Kiske joked that in all these years they have seen many things on the road, but never a PA that failed twice. Then, they gave the fans a moment to calm down a bit. Deris said it was a moment for a ballad, especially for the girls (he said the same thing before when they played If I Could Fly) and they made a beautiful duo singing Forever and One (Neverland); however, Kiske mentioned guys also love ballads, and all the fans shouted a loud “YEAAAH” in response.

There is no such thing as an ordinary concert for Helloween and they even know how to make a drum solo an emotional moment. Lights out on stage, Dani started with some beats and then images of a happy and precise Ingo Schwichtenberg – the original drummer, dead in 1995 at the age of 29 – were projected on the screen. Dani started to follow Ingo’s beats as if they both were on a very technical drums battle. It ended up with Ingo “playing alone” and many of us crying, clapping and shouting his name in a very loving tribute. It’s worth to mention that on the previous night the screen didn’t work for some time and unfortunately the fans couldn’t see such beautiful moment.

Power, How Many Tears, Eagle Fly Free, Keeper of the Seven Keys, Future World and I Want Out made a killer final sequence, with KOT7K being the highlight of the show undoubtedly. After 3 amazing hours the show was over, but we had energy left for more. Some great songs were left out of the setlist, including the recently released single Pumpkins United, but well, that’s okay. And despite the technical difficulties, I did not see one single person complaining; quite the contrary, everybody went back home with a big smile on their faces, and that feeling of being part of something really awesome and unique. To finish this review, if I can leave a piece of advice for you all, my metalhead friends, I’d say: please go see this concert if Helloween come to your town/country on this very special tour! You will remember this amazing night forever with a smile on your face and possibly tears of joy in your eyes.

Setlist
Intro: Let Me Entertain You (Robbie Williams song)
Halloween (with Michael Kiske & Andi Deris)
Dr. Stein (with Michael Kiske & Andi Deris)
I’m Alive (with Michael Kiske)
If I Could Fly (with Andi Deris)
Are You Metal? (with Andi Deris)
Rise and Fall (with Michael Kiske)
Waiting for the Thunder (with Andi Deris)
Perfect Gentleman (with Andi Deris)
Starlight / Ride the Sky / Judas / 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)
I Can (with Andi Deris)
Drums Solo (Dani Löble & Ingo Schwichtenberg ‘battle’) – Ingo Tribute
Livin’ Ain’t No Crime / A Little Time (with Michael Kiske)
Why? (with Michael Kiske & Andi Deris)
Sole Survivor (with Andi Deris)
Power (with Michael Kiske & Andi Deris)
How Many Tears (with Andi Deris, Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen)
Eagle Fly Free (with Michael Kiske)
Keeper of the Seven Keys (with Michael Kiske & Andi Deris)
Future World (with Michael Kiske)
I Want Out (with Michael Kiske & Andi Deris)

Band members
Andi Deris – vocals
Michael Kiske – vocals
Kai Hansen – vocals, guitars
Michael Weikath – guitars
Sascha Gerstner – guitars
Markus Grosskopf – bass
Dani Löble – drums

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Album Review – Clawfinger / Use Your Brain (1995)

Use your brain and listen to the cult album by this distinct Swedish act, presenting an austere and impactful fusion of Rap and Heavy Metal.

Rating4

use-your-brainA few years before Limp Biskit, Slipknot or any other band considered part of the Nu Metal scene from the 90’s/2000’s started, there was already a Swedish band called Clawfinger playing a very original mix of Rap Metal, Hardcore, Rapcore, Funk Metal and even Industrial Metal in a very aggressive, politicized and anti-racist way. Although the band was formed back in 1989, it was just in 1993 that they launched their debut album called Deaf Dumb Blind (which included a very controversial song called “Nigger”, but again, in the most anti-racist way possible), and a couple of years later, in 1995, they launched their most interesting album in my humble opinion, titled Use Your Brain. If you hate Rap by all means and/or if you’re too narrow-minded to accept it mixed with Heavy Metal, don’t even bother listening to it. However, if you enjoy heavy music no matter what, then Use Your Brain might be an amazing addition to your day-to-day playlist.

Use Your Brain starts at a high note with my favorite song from the album, Power, which talks about exactly the opposite of most songs with the word “power” in their names: power can be really harmful to anyone who doesn’t know how to use it properly, which happens to the majority of the people that have it anyway. “Power to the one who doesn’t want it / Do you want it why do you want it”, screams lead singer Zak Tell, accompanied by some excellent heavy riffs by Erlend Ottem and Bård Torstensen and keyboards by Jocke Skog. The song is followed by Pay the Bill, which keeps the energy level up, and Pin Me Down, a more rhythmic track with strong lyrics that ended up becoming one of the band’s biggest classics.

ClawfingerThe next song is called Wipe My Ass, a good example of how the band was able to unite Rap and Metal in a very solid way. The only thing I don’t understand is why sometimes I find this song with a different name, “Waste My Time”. Well, it’s probably due to the “beautiful” expression used in the original name, but honestly, who cares about that? Anyway, the next two tracks, Die High and It, are just average songs, especially the second one which is quite bland compared to the rest of the album. Fortunately the next song, called Do What I Say, takes the album back on track with its simple but strong riffs and amazing lyrics about the emotional and sometimes physical (and endless) war between parents and their kids, acidly declaimed by Zak Tell and his hostile vocals. I normally don’t add a huge chunk of any lyrics in my reviews, but this one is so good that deserves to be appreciated almost in full. Besides, although this song might have been recorded over 20 years ago, it still sounds fresh and contemporary, just to show you how parenting will never, ever be an easy task to anyone.

“I‘ve paid to raise you good
Done everything I could so don’t you dare to say
That I ever cared about you anyway
I gave you good food to eat
I kept you on your feet
I gave you all my good advice
Not once did I hear you
thank me for all that I’ve done
You don’t know anything
About my suffering
I went through a lot of pain
Just to get you where you are today
If I ever hit you
It’s because I have to
You have done something wrong
And you deserve the punishment, you’ll have to pay”

The rest of the album doesn’t have anything too special: Undone is considerably tasteless, while What Are You Afraid Of doesn’t do any good but at the same time it doesn’t harm the album. Things get a lot better with Back to the Basics, especially the eerie sound the band created with the guitars and keyboards working together; Easy Way Out with its addictive chorus and the groovy drums by Ottar Vigerstøl; and Tomorrow, a very good Rap Metal track that powerfully ends this very original and catchy album, with highlights to the rumbling sounds generated by Ottar and bassist André Skaug. In addition, the front cover is absolutely precise in summarizing the content of the music in the album (despite being fairly simplistic), and that “less is more” type of art is most probably the reason why I love it so much.

Use Your Brain_remastered

Use Your Brain 2004 Remastered Edition

The 2004 remastered version of the album also includes 3 bonus tracks and 3 bonus videos, so if you’re interested in buying it I suggest you go after the remastered one (which by the way is a lot easier to find in any webstore). Clawfinger released a statement around August 2013 saying they split up, which was a bummer at that time based on the quality of their music, but fortunately it seems those Swedish metallers are back in action and ready to deliver us another blast of their venomous music, going against the sea of boredom that dominates the scene nowadays. Hence, Use Your Brain (which can be enjoyed in its entirety HERE) is far from being a true masterpiece, but it’s an extremely enjoyable album with meaningful lyrics crafted by talented musicians and, above all, an excellent option to expand your horizons in the world of heavy music and a lot better choice than most of the crap the media makes us swallow every single day. In other words, use your goddamn brain at least once and enjoy the austere music by this unique band hailing from Sweden, alright?

Best moments of the album: Power, Pin Me Down, Do What I Say and Back to the Basics.

Worst moments of the album: It and Undone.

Released in 1995 WEA/MVG (Warner Music Group)

Track listing
1. Power 3:14
2. Pay the Bill 4:20
3. Pin Me Down 4:10
4. Wipe My Ass 3:13
5. Die High 2:34
6. It 5:21
7. Do What I Say 4:25
8. Undone 4:11
9. What Are You Afraid Of 3:47
10. Back to the Basics 2:27
11. Easy Way Out 2:39
12. Tomorrow 4:09

2004 Remastered Edition bonus tracks & videos
13. Better Than This 3:36
14. Three Good Riffs 3:56
15. Armageddon Down 3:36
16. Pin Me Down (Video Clip) 4:10
17. Tomorrow (Video Clip) 4:09
18. Do What I Say (Video Clip) 4:25

Band members
Zak Tell – lead vocals
Jocke Skog – keyboards, vocals
Erlend Ottem – lead guitar
Bård Torstensen – rhythm guitar
André Skaug – bass
Ottar Vigerstøl – drums