HELIX - 30th Anniversary Concert Review
July 19, 2004, 15 years ago
Special Report by Martin Popoff
A plush, gorgeous theater in Brantford, Ontario was the past-classy venue for what would turn out to be one of the best put-together multi-media concerts ever mounted, certainly on a budget anyway, although the budget for this must have been pretty damn big.
The unstoppable Brian Vollmer was the man of the hour, Vollmer and his heroic pipes forming the lone vestige of the glory days band left in the present-day incarnation. But this was much about that huge Canadian icon rock history, Helix having hit the tour trail back in '74, and then hitting Canadian gold and platinum in the mid-80s with hits like 'Wild In The Streets', Deep Cuts The Knife', 'Rock You' and 'Heavy Metal Love'. What is most impressive is that the band played back up to big-ass bands all over North America and Europe, including Kiss, Whitesnake, Quiet Riot, Motorhead and W.A.S.P. They never got the sales, but they lived the life to the fullest - ALL of the rest, they got, and they have the footage to prove it.
Back to rock... this unique event felt like a family reunion, both offstage and on. Upon entering the lobby of the theater, one was confronted with the band's own booty - meticulous scrapbooks all laid out on tables, surrounded by a few dozen tour shirts, all the gold and platinum awards, fronts and backs of every regular and promo Helix release, tour posters... you name it. We came out of there with the opinion that this was one of the most well kept collections, by band members, of the paper goods of their legacy, anywhere in the world.
First up for the concert proper was a one hour documentary on the band. Swiftly moving and emotionally moving at once, this film featured footage from the band's archives which again, one thought, who else ever remembers to shoot this stuff? What other bar band even had a movie camera in 1978? There's the band with Gene, with Eddie, with Robin Williams, Del Shannon, Richard Pryor, Lemmy, Coverdale... it just went on and on (note: I think some of this was in the additional footage: more on that later).
Onto the concert proper and the sound projected proudly in beautifully acoustic hi-fi fashion. First you got the current incarnation of the band (see the DOZEN award-winning site www.planethelix.com for more), playing both old and new, and let me tell ya, Vollmer's still got the moves and the voice that made the band such a fierce live act during their Walkin' The Razor's Edge ascendance to stardom. Then, like clockwork, the band would wind up, a screen would descend with more excellent archival footage centered around some old member of the band, returned. Mere minutes later, the screen would recede, the curtains open, and there you had it, Helix '79 or '80 doing classic rapid-fire epic 'Billy Oxygen' or the bruising, circular-riffed 'Breaking Loose'. Bam, bam, damn impressive. Quite soon you had Brent Doerner and Greg "Fritz" Hinz from the classic line-up up there, and they, together with Brian, looked great, rocked hard, and once more, demonstrated why headliners were drop-dead scared at following this band. Vollmer even broke out his patented somersault, hopefully captured on camera, as there were enough of them, this momentous night having been filmed for DVD release.
A sampling of what we heard would include all of the aforementioned, plus 'Dirty Dog', '(Make Me Do) Anything You Want', 'The Kids Are All Shakin'', all, like I say, with pure, stinging guitars, expert mix, perfect volume, and Vollmer's vocals just flowing out of the guy. All told, you had about a dozen old and new Helix members ushered out for a song or two or three, and all of them came out for the 'Rock You' closer, aisle-dancing crowd (that Fugley's must be one rough bar) and band reliving that huge crowd participation hit to close what was flawless execution of a complicated concept.
Damn inspiring it was, as is Brian Vollmer's positive attitude, boundless energy, sense of humour, and ageless roar. Check out www.planethelix.com for one of the most detailed band histories you'll see on anybody, for tons of rare photos, and for all sorts of Helix albums you probably won't find anywhere else. The band and the man with a plan deserve your support (and surprise, a new album called Rockin' In My Outer Space has just hit the bricks). If you missed this (and chances are, given the western Ontario venue, you did), get the DVD when she surfaces. Quite possibly a live CD will also come out of this once in a lifetime show, as well as some sort of proper release for the documentary.