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Helloween: O2 Academy, Brixton, London

dave bonney
Words: Dave Bonney, Pictures: Lorraine Golbourn
22nd November 2017

helloween pumpkins united

It's been a year since Helloween announced that Kai Hansen and Michael Kiske would re-join the band, without anyone making way for them, thus transforming the band into a seven-piece, not including the 'live' keyboardist. Never mind a septet - they're almost an orchestra now.

The last time I saw this many people on stage, seven of them were dwarfs. Yes it's panto season, and maybe tonight's show should have been called 'Kai Hansen And The Seven Sinners', instead they've called it 'Pumpkins United', but Hansen is definitely the Cinderella in this most anticipated show.

The world tour kicked off in South America two weeks ago, but after the first two shows in Mexico, the band released a statement as reported in these very pages, that Kiske was suffering from voice problems, but rather than cancel any shows, they stripped down the setlist to accommodate the unfortunate situation.

From South America the band headed over to Europe, and reports from Germany over the weekend were favourable, with the band back to fulfilling their mammoth three-hour set, with Kiske's voice apparently holding up.

helloween pumpkins united

Given that Helloween are held high by many as the founders of Melodic Speed Metal and Godfathers of the genre, I'm a little surprised to find there are still tickets available at the box office for their only UK show on this tour. That's not to say it was sparse inside, far from it.

As I made my way into the sloping hall which is a godsend to those vertically challenged people like myself, as you can pretty much get a decent view from anywhere you choose, the place was packed with manic pumpkinheads eagerly awaiting what's in store for them.

Apologies for using Robbie Williams and Helloween in the same sentence, but as they insist on using 'Let Me Entertain You' as their intro tune, what is one supposed to do? Perhaps the Queen song of the same name might have been a better choice.

helloween pumpkins united

The atmosphere was electric as the lights dimmed and the curtain dropped, with the band exploding into the thirteen-minute epic 'Halloween' and just like the words, "there's magic in the air".

This was just one of an incredible nine songs culled from their 'Keeper Of The Seven Keys' parts I & II albums, and with Kiske sharing his original vocal parts with Andi Deris, coupled with the triple axe attack, it instantly appeared that this was a winning formula.

Before 'Dr Stein' carried on in the same format, Kiske was bemoaning his follicly-challenged barnet and reminiscing of his long golden locks, claiming he looks more like Rob Halford these days, which I guess Rob would take given the seventeen year age gap.

A short intermission with clever projector animation leads into a furious 'I'm Alive' with Kiske holding his own with the voice sounding really good.

helloween pumpkins united

'If I Could Fly' was accompanied by high-flying birds on the rear projector, and Andi Deris' wonderful vocals soared as high as them. 'Are You Metal?' had Deris asking the audience the question, one he surely didn't need to ask. 'Kids Of The Century' and 'Waiting For The Thunder' led into 'Perfect Gentlemen' which saw Deris kitted out with a top hat and cane, telling the crowd they were perfect, just like him.

The Kai Hansen show then takes over proceedings with a rapid-fire assault through 'Starlight', 'Ride The Sky', 'Judas' and 'Heavy Metal (Is The Law)' with barely a breath in-between any of them. Hansen's voice may not be able to hit the heights of either Kiske or Deris, but his vocals on these original early classics suit them far more than his compatriots'.

Hansen battled it out with Michael Weikath for shredder of the night, and Sacha Gerstner for dodgy barnet of the night. There's a good chance he won on both counts.

helloween pumpkins united

The pace so far could never carry on as it was, and so it proved, as the kitchen stools were brought up on stage and more animation leads into the ballads 'Forever And One (Neverland)' and 'A Tale That Wasn't Right' bringing a sea of light from the obligatory lighters and mobile phones, Gerstner at last getting some of the spotlight, with the crowd in fine voice.

'I Can' gave way to another intermission which in turn brought us to the dreaded drum solo, only this time in the form of a very original 'drum battle' tribute to the departed Ingo Schwichtenberg, with Dani Loble and a virtual Ingo on the projector screen battling it out, a very clever and very poignant moment indeed.

'Livin' Ain't No Crime', 'A Little Time', 'Why?', 'Sole Survivor' and 'Power' seamlessly came and went, as did the singers, which I suppose with a set this long gives the guys a vocal respite of some sort and keeps the audience on their toes, wondering what's happening next. And that's the thing about this show, it's a visual experience at its finest.

helloween pumpkins united

'How Many Tears' kicks in faster than Michael Schumacher off the starting grid to end the main set, and after a lengthy interlude waiting for the encore, the band eventually come back on, and 'Invitation' leads into 'Eagle Fly Free' with Kiske handling vocals, after which he came back out from backstage and 'treated' everyone to his Elvis impersonation.

He then tells the crowd he's just been told there's a curfew... maybe leave the Elvis impressions out next time then Michael. Next up was 'Keeper Of The Seven Keys', and Kiske's voice is really starting to suffer at this point, however he struggles on admirably and finishes the epic with Deris.

A Kai Hansen guitar solo that was introduced by what bizarrely sounded like Benny Hill, led into the second encore and 'Future World' and 'I Want Out' saw the release of giant pumpkin balloons and tikka tape to wrap this extravaganza up.

helloween pumpkins united

If truth be told, if it was just the songs you were interested in, then they could have probably wrapped it all up in two hours but without the genius projector intermissions adding to the visual experience this production just wouldn't have been the same.

Where do they go from here then? Well in the immediate future, back over to Europe and then onto Japan and the U.S. but after that, who knows, a Pumpkin United album would be nice.

Maybe they can do this every panto season, as this really was a pumpkin head's pantomime paradise.


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helloween pumpkins united

helloween pumpkins united

helloween pumpkins united


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