DIRKSCHNEIDER - First & Last: Book-end Tour Dates

April 10, 2018, 7 months ago

Mark Gromen

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Rarely does one have the opportunity to see the first and last shows of the same tour, such is the routing. However, six weeks ago, Udo Dirkschneider kicked off his latest North American jaunt at the Gramercy, in NYC only to end at the Trocadero, in Philadelphia, on April 8th. During the time The Little General was making a big circle throughout the continent, I also took in concerts by Sabaton, Kreator, Exodus, Michael Schenker, Nightwish, Judas Priest, Saxon, Black Star Riders, Heavens Edge, ex-Danger Danger frontman Ted Poley, Watain, Destroyer 666, At The Gates, Carcass, Mayhem, Monster Magnet, Repulsion, Incantation and a few others (as part of a festival): March Metal Madness, no doubt!  

90 minutes before doors, each of the band members was seen strolling through Chinatown, undisturbed. No real last-night-of-the-tour hijinks, although Sven "Son Of Udo" Dirkschneider did make two appearances while Aussie traditional metallers Elm Street were onstage: the first, banging a cowbell, during "Heavy Metal Power" and then, with the aid of a roadie, started to dismantle the drum kit, piece by piece (while it was still in use!) on their cover of Quiet Riot's "Metal Health".

The crowd, a couple of hundred, was almost exclusively over 40. Final night or not, Dirkschneider delivered the same set of Accept classics (plus a few deep cuts), beginning with a rumbling "The Beast Inside". As when first witnessed, wouldn't have picked any of the initial trio (alongside more robust "Aiming High" and "Bulletproof") to be so prominently placed in the running order, but then again, this is the second time through North America with a full set of Accept material, so lots of the "golden oldies" had already been aired. 

Speaking of which, "Living for Tonite" is a big sing-along, the crowd volunteering the titular chorus, even before it's needed. Also featured four across the front of the stage, for the first time. Purple lit "Another Second To Be" sees a solid tandem of Bill Hudson (guitar) and Fitty Wienhold (bass) stage right, as Andrey Smirnov goes crazy on the fretboard. Bathed in red, "Fight It Back" is greeted by strobes, the gang of four reconvenes, at stage's edge, the two guitarists bookending Fitty and Udo. Hudson, with cream colored Strat, isn't used to being second fiddle and struts his stuff, during the solo. Slower "Can't Stand The Night" begins with blue stage, the band backlit. It gives Udo the chance to utilize his rooster crowing vocal and ends with all but Hudson offstage. He alone starts "Amamos la Vida".

Smirnov, in black jeans (knees ripped out) and shirtless military inspired jacket, unveils a zebra striped guitar. The four part harmony is red lit. Udo throws his arm around Hudson's shoulders and the quartet does a little side-to-side sway. More synchronized stage moves, guitars lifted vertically, for "London Leatherboys", another opportunity for audience participation. "Up To The Limit" sees headbanging, onstage and off, as Smirnov moves center stage, with a dexterous display of hammer-ons. Four across the front, beneath a storm of strobes, to begin the chugging "Breaker", Hudson given the closing flourish, as everyone but the Dirkschneiders vacates the stage. Everyone switches sides of the stage during "Screaming For A Love-Bite", the crowd now in full voice. "Love Child" and "Objection Overruled" (where Hudson goes to town) follow quickly, Udo and the burly bassist shoulder to shoulder.

Solitary, on the blue tinted stage (even Sven had disappeared from behind the kit), Smirnov starts the proper set closing "Russian Roulette" (aka "Wargames"). Eventually Udo returns, then the rest. Upon its completion, the stage goes dark, fans repeatedly shouting "Udo!" Under copper lights, Hudson, Smirnov and Wienhold stand abreast, beginning the encore with "Princess Of The Dawn", Andrey in the lead. Probably 90% of the lyrics were handled by the fans, including the "whoa whoa" refrain. An extended, nearly a cappella rendition, the dying notes segue into "Metal Heart", complete with synchronized guitar and bass maneuvers. Rather than the pre-recorded, record scratching intro, the proto-thrashing "Fast As A Shark" was announced with the mention of "hi dee hi doe" and Udo squelching some unnatural squeal. Plenty of strobe on that banger, with Hudson taking the lead. During "I'm A Rebel", the younger Dirkschneider (in fine German fashion) sipped a beer, while his bandmates sang the titular phrase. "Balls To The Wall" closes out the night and tour, with the promise of a return, once the new U.D.O. album is released, this August. Wise move, this Accept-only stretch, building intrigue for what the band does next. Hurry back!

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