REVIEWS

UDO – BACK IN THE BURGH – BRINGING THE METAL BACK TO THE ROOTS – CONCERT REVIEW

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For years, Accept fans around the world wanted a full on reunion; or at worse for Udo to do a full tour of nothing but Accept songs. For the last 32 years Accept and Udo fans around the Pittsburgh, PA area have just wished for a SHOW of ANY combination of Accept or U.D.O. solo material! We’ve made that wish for 32 years for a reason…it’s how long it’s been since Mr. Dirkschneider last stepped for in the ‘Burgh for a show. Last night (March 4th) was exactly 34 years to the DAY that Udo and Accept debuted on stage in Pittsburgh (opening for KISS at The Stanley Theater). They made things quite interesting for KISS that night when they blew the roof off the place. Would tonight be as glorious as it was those 30 plus years before? We were about to find out. This time Pittsburgh was getting NOTHING BUT ACCEPT songs…from the METAL HAMMER HIMSELF…Mr. Udo Dirkschneider!!! So after all this time could we even think the term “disappointment”?

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Well, when the first 7 words screaming out of the sound system introducing you are “I AM THE GOD OF HELL FIRE…” ; I guess you could say your mouth just wrote a check your ass better be prepared to cash…and a check cashing they did. Udo and his band came to rock and they did not disappoint. After the “Crazy World of Arthur Brown” introduction tape of “Fire” played out, the Dirkschneider band took their places and the droning intro of “Beast Inside” kicked in. For a few moments the band played and then you could hear Udo’s vocals though there was no Udo… where was he? Upon the words, “I’m like a killing machine” there he was… in all his camo-Udo glory! Gone were the Accept guys from so long ago, but in their place was some shreddin’, slammin’, screamin’ sons of bitches. The dueling 6-string co-tandem of co-lead & rhythm of Andrey Smirnov and Bill Hudson II were simply put…on point. Lest we forget those holding the backbeat, Sven Dirkschneider on drums, son of Metal Lord Udo and longtime U.D.O. bassist, Fitty Wienhold. Now Fitty on the surface may have looked a tad long in tooth compared to Hudson, Smirnov, and the drumming Dirkschneider, Wienhold held his own and THEN SOME. Don’t EVER count an old dog out just cuz of his age folks cuz if ya did, where’s that leave the PROUD 66 year-old Dirkschneider?

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I’ll tell you where…in the hallowed halls of one of the greatest hard rock/metal vocalist from the beginning of NWOBHM to where we are now. While Udo may not be able to jump and rock a wrecking ball like he did back in the day, that man’s vocals have withstood the test of time. And Lord knows, he put those vocals to the test tonight. Usually you get a band or artist from back in the day, you’re lucky to get a 75 minute set from them, but Udo, who hasn’t been in Pittsburgh since 1986, left the stage after a TWO HOUR VOCAL and GUITAR ATTACK that could still be heard screaming in my head this morning. This was Dirkschneider’s farewell to the “Accept” era of his career, not his solo material. I’m happy that about 150 true metal heads got to experience the Accept tunes sung by the original singer, but it’s truly a shame there weren’t more of what I know are thousands of PITTSBURGH METALHEADS in attendance! The set was fairly split with all (but the first 2 Accept albums), but even the most hardcore of Accept fans would have been hard pressed to pick a better set list than what fans were treated to last night. If you take the time and re-listen to those songs from the best German import since Jagermeister, keep in mind most of those songs are from a band that started in ’79 and recorded a good portion of those for release in ’81-85.

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The songs hold up as much today as they did in the infancy of heavy metal all those years ago. Accept was truly a band way ahead of its time and tonight the small but loving crowd got a giant dose of heavy metal reality served up hot! While Accept my have never been a stadium or arena act in America, there is no doubt their influence was STAMPED on American metal. In Europe Accept were huge and Udo STILL IS, but here in the U.S., most notably by the casual metal fan…”Balls to the Wall” was the only song that most of those listeners and even some non-metal fans knew. IF you were a casual fan last night you got a lesson in METAL and soon heard what you missed back in the day; not to mention it was almost 2 hours before you heard “that” song. This truly was a display of the extensive catalogue that Accept had put out from 1983 to 1994 (I’m not including the first two albums that weren’t included last night). Usually in the course of a 2 hour show you have the “piss” break, last night…not a one piss break on the books; now being in my mid-50’s I needed a piss break or three, but after 30 plus years, I waited to well after the show. The reality of the Accept cataloger is there are still a dozen or half dozen other tunes that could have easily entertained even the most remote fan. The 20 song set showcased everything great about those Accept songs, both from a musicianship and vocal standpoint. Those tunes ain’t easy to pull off for the unsuspecting. Udo still hit each and every note from the lowest to the highest of highs; I should state, he did so with ease. At 66 years of age, you’d be hard pressed to find many front-men that could physically perform the way they did in their heyday let alone find a vocalist of said age who is able to pull off those notes, let alone for 2 hours. Well, Udo handled the last part with ease, the physical part, well, that’s what the band was for. There was rarely a time during the set that the musicians stopped headbanging and pulling out all the showmanship stops. All Udo needed was that voice and the intensified look as he sang them…there was no need to jump around or prance around, he drew it from INSIDE. I will say in my personal opinion, it would have be major cool to have a wrecking ball in which to swing during the encore. Hell, at the merch stand, Dirkschneider had a few of those wrecking ball riding pictures adoring some shirts and pullovers. Now Udo’s voice, insanely in shape, but…. There was some chatter prior to the start of the show from those who were weary of the dual guitar assault that was Hoffmann/Fischer or Hoffmann/Frank previously and IF it was going to be as blistering or even close to being duplicated. It didn’t take long for Hudson to show off his guitar skills that seemed to be a throwback to the 80’s showmanship days of yore and the more standard “metal” showmanship of Smirnov that proved both be of a crowd wondering, ”Wolf WHO?” moment or several. The band seemed to be enjoying themselves and immersed themselves into the songs. I was more impressed from the very beginning of the show of the drummer. Prior to the show I had NO IDEA was Dirkschneider’s son, Sven. This kid slammed and pounded out each beat of those songs like those drums were taking money out of his inheritance…relative or not, Sven crushed it and showed he is more than worthy to take the throne! Of course after going through the set-list at the end of the night and discussing it with some new metal-head friends, they seemed only dismayed that “Restless and Wild” had NOT made it to the set. I didn’t care that “RaW” wasn’t there, but damn…”Son of a Bitch” off the “Breaker” album would have been LOVED by this old timer; hey after all, I’m not the one that hasn’t been to Pittsburgh in 32 years. Though the first two Accept albums (“Accept” and “I’m a Rebel”) were all but ignored, they drew a few from all the others. “Fight it Back”, “Breaker”, “Love Child” and “London Leather Boys” were just a few of the tunes. The opener from 1994’s “Death Row” album, “Beast Inside“ flowing seamlessly into “Aiming High”, Bulletproof” and “Midnight Mover” before the band even took a breath was spectacular.

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The mid-set began with “Fight it Back” allowing veteran Dirkschneider guitarist, Smirnov to fry the frets with the opening riff and Udo to unleash the screams. Mid song you knew what was coming, MORE guitar fireworks with Smirnov and Hudson trading lead parts for an epic display of guitar fireworks. Things slowed down a bit with the dual power ballad-ness of “Can’t Stand the Night” into “Amomos La Vida” showing that the lungs of leather have a little lace in them. The band picked it up with “London Leatherboys”, then it was a full on band assault musically with “Up to the Limit.” But it was “Breaker” and the speed and thrash that brought things back to a headbanging boil! The sparse, but respectable sized Sunday crowd got to clapping and fist pumping with 1985’s, “Screaming for a Love Bite.” Again, Accept was never a one or even a two or three trick pony, the band’s songs were not for the weak, showcasing dual guitars and iron clad vocals all being driven by the double bass pounding drum and intense bass, “Love Child” brought it all to light with once again, Hudson and Smirnov trading licks and S. Dirkschneider making that drum set sound like an 8 armed monster. They kept it going on the fast track with 93’s “Objection Overruled” that had every head and fist in the place pounding (including the door guys!). Then it was to show how ahead of the game they were in 1983 with “Russian Roullette”. This was a one helluva display of full on band syncing as one… Finally, the appreciative fans in attendance last night were treated to a full on metal grand finale of sorts with “Fast as a Shark”, “Metal Heart” with audience hitting the chorus of METAL…HEART!, “Princess of the Dawn” before dismounting with a free for all of “Balls to the Wall” for an insane 4 song encore. After all the years of performing “Balls to the Wall” you’d think you’d see some look of disgust or some sign of autopilot, but last night…it was balls to the fucking wall. Maybe it’s that he knows he’s putting all the Accept tunes to rest one last time and HE is enjoying them as much as we are. No matter…I just hope after last night, Mr. Dirkschneider and ANY band he happens to be fronting doesn’t stay out of the ‘Burgh for another 30 plus years. Sweet Lou.

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