HAVE I ALREADY SEEN THE CONCERT OF THE YEAR?
Date: January 10, 2017
Venue: The Mod Club
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
It seems hard to believe but the first concert of the year for me may well end up being my concert of the year. The funny part about this is that about four years ago, I went to see U.D.O. play at The Mod Club and my final thoughts in my concert review were that I would probably not go see him play live again if there was no other band that I wanted to see. With the opening band being Phear, who were unknown to me, there was no other band that I wanted to see on this year’s Dirkschneider tour stop in Toronto. You may be thinking, “What made you change your mind to attend the concert this year?” It was definitely the lure of hearing Accept classics from the group’s original lead vocalist Udo Dirkschneider. Unlike the U.D.O. show that I had seen about four years prior, this time, Udo Dirkschneider was focusing on Accept material in his lengthy Farewell to Accept or Back To The Roots tour. Given that Accept‘s Balls To The Walls and Metal Heart albums were two records from my formative metal years, I simply could not pass on the opportunity to hear Dirkschneider play so many Accept songs, especially since it might be the last time that I would hear him sing those songs. I concede that another motivating factor was the fact that there is always a bit of a lull in the wintertime in terms of concerts that I want to see in the Toronto area.
Uncharacteristically, I decided that I would arrive at the venue as early as possible to snag a good spot in front of the stage. Even if I was the first person waiting for the doors to open at 7:00 pm, I still would not be guaranteed a front row spot since whomever paid for the “meet and greet” with Udo Dirkschneider would get early entry into The Mod Club. As it turns out, Dirkshneider reportedly had about 40 people do the “meet and greet” at about $50 per person. What the people who did the “meet and greet” session apparently received was a quick photo with Dirkschneider (while he was sitting); the chance to shake the man’s hand; early entry into The Mod Club; and, an autographed poster from Dirkschneider, his son Sven and long-time bassist Fitty Wienhold. Now although I wasn’t happy about all those people gaining early entry into The Mod Club, I think the “meet and greet” sessions are easy income generators for bands in this ever difficult music market. That being said, I have yet to do one “meet and greet” but apparently a lot of people are willing to fork out the cash to do them so more power to them.
The first thing that struck me upon arriving at The Mod Club was how small and intimate the venue was. I remembered it a lot bigger and the stage looked pretty darn small for a band of Dirkschneider‘s stature. Although I was somewhat delayed getting into the venue due to a ticket issue, there was only one two of people in front of the stage, which included my good friend and rival website Decibel Geek editor Rich Dillon (aka as The Meister) along with his faithful buddy and Decibel Geek contributor “Wallygator” (where do they get these names?). It was also a bit of a Rock N Skull reunion as Decibel Geek photographer Brian Ronald was also there and it was fun to catch up briefly with everyone. So despite the delay getting into the venue and the people having paid for the “meet and greet” session getting early entry, I was still within one row of the front of the stage.
The first and only opening act turned out to be local Toronto area based Phear. I had not heard of that band before. As the group was setting up, I was wondering who would be handling the lead vocals since there was no mike stand in the middle of the stage and both guitarists (presumably Tyson Emanuel and Graham Stirrett) were going to be at the ends of the tiny stage while the bassist (presumably Chris Boshis) looked like he would take centre stage. As the four band members launched into a power metal guitar based song (which turned out to be “Don’t Scream”), all of a sudden, lead vocalist Pat Mulock appeared and took centre stage. What was odd about Mulock was that he had a glove on that had I believe three green lasers emanating from it. Unfortunately for Mulock, his vocals were clearly drowned out by the music from his four bandmates, which was a real shame because the guy seemed to have a great set of pipes. It was very hard to make out what Mulock was singing.
Mulock was not shy about addressing the crowd advising that Phear are known for their lasers and lights, which explained his glove with the lasers emanating from it. After the first two power metal songs, Mulock advised the crowd that the band’s original “lights” guy Paul had recently passed away and they were dedicating their next song “Bloodline” to him while giving a shout out to Paul‘s widow (I believe her name was Esther) which I thought was a nice gesture from the band. The surprise of the night was when Mulock advised that the group would be playing a cover song that was 13 minutes long. For some unknown reason, I was thinking that it would be Helloween‘s “Halloween” song but it turned out to be Iron Maiden‘s classic epic song “Rime Of The Ancient Mariner.” Again, it would have been awesome if Phear‘s vocals were louder in the mix for this show but in any case, it looked like he was holding his own while tackling a very tough song to sing. Anytime you are singing a song first sung by Bruce Dickinson, you have your work cut out for you. While I am usually not a big fan of cover songs in a live set, it was really cool that Phear chose to cover that Maiden classic, which I understand will be appearing on their next forthcoming EP.
Phear closed off their set with another original entitled “Regan’s Dream.” While Phear‘s brand of metal might not be my first “go to” type of music, I really enjoyed their set and upon listening to a few songs from theirs via YouTube (with Mulock‘s vocals more discernible in the mix) while writing this review, I now wish that I had purchased whatever music they might have for sale at the show. In any case, I would have no objection to seeing Phear play live in the future.
01. Don’t Scream
02. Motives Unknown
04. Rime Of The Ancient Mariner (Iron Maiden cover)
05. Regan’s Dream
What occurred next was unexpected to say the least. My friends Rich and “Wallygator” were also unhappy with not being able to hear Mulock singing throughout Phear‘s set so they both elected to give up their spots right in front of the stage, which Brian Ronald and I were more than happy to take. Wow! Front row in the middle of the stage! How good is that? As I waited for Dirkschneider to hit the stage, I met one concert goer who advised that head seen a whopping 85 shows in 2016. That made my 27 concerts plus one rock festival (Rock N Skull) in 2016 seemed like such a trivial and paltry number. Of course, to see 85 concerts in one year requires having a much wider taste in music than I possess but in any case, that 85 total was impressive any way you look at it.
It’s hard for me to opine on how the crowd was beyond one or two rows behind me but let me tell you, it was a very enthusiastic audience, at least for the first few rows surrounding the stage that welcomed Dirkschneider and sang along and head banged throughout the night with lots of gusto. In other words, it was an amazing atmosphere within the first few rows from the stage. As Dirkschneider hit the stage with “Starbreaker” and “Living For Tonite”, it really felt like the audience was living for tonite. I already knew that Dirkschneider would be playing 20 to 25 songs on this night — which was amazing when you compare that to let’s say headliner Airbourne who only played 11 songs when I last saw them play live — but what struck me as I heard Dirkschneider play the first few songs is that we were all in for an evening with some deep and little played Accept cuts. This is especially considering that the current version of Accept with Mark Tornillo on vocals has more and more material to choose from with their last three studio albums and another one on the way so the last chance of hearing little played Accept songs from back in the ’80s may well rest with Dirkschneider‘s current Farewell to Accept tour.
The amount of songs played from the classic Accept albums with Udo Dirkschneider on vocals was truly impressive. There were five songs played from 1981’s Breaker album (“Starlight,” “Breaker,” “Son Of A Bitch,” “Midnight Highway” and “Burning”), five as well from 1982’s Restless And Wild (the title track, “Fast As As Shark,” “Neon Nights,” “Flash Rockin’ Man” and “Princess Of The Dawn”), another five from 1983’s breakthrough Balls To The Wall record (the title track, “London Leatherboys,” “Head Over Heels,” “Losers And Winners” and the beautiful ballad “Winterdreams”) and a whopping six from arguably my favorite Accept album, 1985’s Metal Heart (the title track, “Midnight Mover,” “Up To The Limit,” “Wrong Is Right,” “Screaming For A Love-Bite” and “Living For Tonite”). Throw in two songs from 1986’s Russian Roulette album (“T.V. War” and “Monsterman”) and the title track for 1980’s I’m A Rebel album, and you have an amazing set for anyone who grew up with Accept back in the ’80s!
In terms of my own Accept discography with Udo Dirkschneider on vocals, I only have the three presumably biggest selling Accept albums from the ’80s (Restless And Wild, Balls To The Wall and Metal Heart) and the live album Staying A Life but I still knew all the songs played except “Midnight Highway.” What struck me when listening to Dirkschneider play “Midnight Highway” and “Burning” was how the band quickly evolved from an old school rock n’ roll band to a real metal band. There is definitely a real old school rock n’ roll (’60s?) vibe to those older Accept songs that is not present in the material from Restless And Wild onwards.
Dirkschneider playing “Restless And Wild” live at The Mod Club in Toronto on January 10, 2017:
Dirkschneider playing “T.V. War” live at The Mod Club in Toronto on January 10, 2017:
The enthusiasm of Udo Dirkshneider‘s band was truly remarkable. It seemed like bassist Fitty Weingold and guitarists Andrey Smirnov and Kasperi Heikkinen were having a ball onstage and the two guitarists especially were always smiling. Udo‘s son Sven Dirkschneider seemed all business behind the drum kit and although he seemingly never smiled, I thought that he handled himself well behind his drum kit. It was also really cool to see the man himself, Udo Dirkschneider, seemingly enjoy himself so much on stage. I had read in an interview in the last year or so from Udo that he had gone to see the current Accept version play live but he opined that they “lacked emotion” or something to that effect when playing the classic Accept songs from back in the ’80s. I didn’t really understand what he meant at the time but after witnessing Dirkschneider‘s impressive performance on this night, I think I now get what Udo was trying to convey. There was a real sense of passion from Udo and his band when they were playing the Accept songs on this night that is hard to describe unless you are there in person.
Udo was also seemingly more talkative than he had previously been the last time I saw him at The Mod Club. He showed a good sense of humour too as people from the audience would be screaming for him to play “Balls To The Wall” but Udo would cheekily respond “I don’t know that one” or something to that effect. Udo also teased the audience asking if they wanted more songs and noting at one point that people had to work the next morning (as the show was on a Tuesday night). Given the very high number of songs played by Dirkschneider, I didn’t expect him to talk that much to the audience and it’s really not his style it seems.
It’s hard to describe unless you’re there but the energy and enthusiasm from the crowd seemed off the charts for this show. It was also really cool to see some of the audience react when Dirkschneider would pull out an old little played Accept song from the past such as the gorgeous ballad “Winterdreams.” My favorite Accept songs that were played on this night were definitely “Up To The Limit,” “London Leatherboys” and “Midnight Mover.” Perhaps the oddest moment of the concert was the rather big mosh pit that surfaced when Dirkschneider launched into “Balls To The Wall” towards the end of the night. it was funny to see the faces of Smirnov and Heikkinen who both looked surprised to see that mosh pit during the slower portions of “Balls To The Wall.”
I was not the only person to think that I had just seen a really special performance as it seemed that the words “concert of the year” were being thrown around by a multitude of people after the show and subsequently on Facebook. Have I already seen my concert of the year for 2017? I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case. Whatever the case, I know that the bar has been set very high by Dirkschneider for any other concerts that I will be seeing in 2017.
Dirkschneider playing “Losers And Winners” live at The Mod Club in Toronto on January 10, 2017:
Dirkschneider playing “Balls To The Wall” live at The Mod Club in Toronto on January 10, 2017:
UDO plays Toronto on his North American tour as he plays the Accept classics one last time before retiring them from his set list forever. I apologise for a …
02. Living For Tonite
03. Flash Rockin’ Man
04. London Leatherboys
05. Midnight Mover
07. Head Over Heels
08. Neon Nights
09. Princess Of The Dawn
11. Restless And Wild
12. Son Of A Bitch
13. Up To The Limit
14 Wrong Is Right
15. Midnight Highway
16. Screaming for a Love-Bite
18. T.V. War
19, Losers And Winners
20. Metal Heart
21. I’m A Rebel
22. Fast As A Shark
23. Balls To The Wall