Dirkschneider live at The Mod Club in Toronto, Ontario, Canada Concert Review
Date: February 28, 2018
Venue: The Mod Club
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
When a band announces its “final” tour of any kind, it’s hard to take them seriously. Ozzy Osbourne announced his No More Tours tour back in 1992 in order that he could spend more time with his family and on the basis of an incorrect diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. Once that tour was finished, Osbourne changed his mind and has been touring ever since (and for more than 25 years) including coming up with OzzFest in 1996 (and which still runs to this day), doing one comprehensive tour dubbed The End with Black Sabbath and recently embarking on the aptly named No More Tours 2 tour. You can’t say that Osbourne‘s about face on his touring retirement was a big surprise since he was only in his early ’40s when the No More Tours was underway.
KISS embarked on their Farewell Tour back in 2000 but by 2002, the group announced that it was not going to retire after all. Perhaps KISS will now never retire as Paul Stanley has openly talked about the possibility of the group continuing without him (and Gene Simmons). In 2010, the Scorpions announced that they would be embarking on their final tour in support of their studio album Sting In The Tail. That final tour did take place but the Scorpions changed their mind and kept going. The verdict is still out on Mötley Crüe and Twisted Sister as the two bands have just recently finished their last purported tours.
The truth is that I do not want any of these bands to “retire.” I am quite content having them perform even if some of the band members hit their 90s. One artist that I can actually see performing into his 90s is 65 year old ex-Accept lead vocalist Udo Dirkschneider. The man is a machine. Although Dirkschneider has yet to make any “last tour” announcement, back in 2016, he did make a “last tour” announcement in terms of playing Accept songs. At the time, I can’t say I cared that much but I did make sure to catch the former Accept singer’s Toronto tour stop for the occasion. How good was Dirkschneider and his band on that night? Well, that Toronto show in early January 2017 ended up being my concert of the year during a year when I saw some of the big heavy metal hitters such as Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Scorpions and Iron Maiden as well as some of my perennial live favourites such as Steel Panther and L.A. Guns, and some of the best new Canadian acts around such as Diemonds, Last Bullet and Tri City Villains.
I was pleasantly surprised when Dirkschneider decided to extend his farewell to Accept songs tour and come back to play some of the same markets. Dirkschneider did announce that he would be coming back with a brand new setlist of Accept classics. To me, that was good and bad news. The setlist on Dirkschneider‘s tour stop in Toronto back in early January 2017 was simply fantastic with 15 songs collectively from 1982’s Restless And Wild, 1983’s Balls To The Wall and 1985’s Metal Heart out of a 24 song set. How could Dirkschneider top that? I couldn’t help but take a sneak peak at Dirkschneider‘s revamped setlist for the continuation of his farewell to Accept songs set. Now, I expected Dirkschneider to change up his setlist somewhat but not to the extent that he had done. Dirkschneider‘s Back To The Roots II Tour had the singer digging deep into the Accept vaults for his European tour stops. Dirkschneider‘s new 19 song set was comprised of one song from Breaker (1981), two from Restless And Wild (1982), three from Balls To The Wall (1983), one from Metal Heart (1985), three from Russian Roulette (1986), surprisingly one from Eat The Heat (1989) which featured Dirkschneider’s replacement at the time David Reece, five from Objection Overruled (1993), two from Death Row (1994) and one from Predator (1996). The worse part for me was that I was not familiar at all with the albums Objection Overruled, Death Row and Predator and vaguely remembered Russian Roulette and Eat The Heat as weaker Accept records.
Nevertheless, I elected to see Dirkschneider on his “last” Toronto tour stop in February 2018 while playing Accept songs simply because like I previously mentioned, the diminutive but powerful singer had delivered my concert of the year for 2017. To prepare for the show, I purchased Russian Roulette, Objection Overruled and Death Row. I was really surprised by how good Objection Overruled was. That album is so good that its now among my favourite Accept albums of all-time. What about Death Row and Russian Roulette you may ask? Death Row was pretty disappointing overall. Russian Roulette confirmed my prior thoughts from about 30 years ago. It is one of the weaker Accept albums but better than I remembered. In any case, I was excited to see Dirkschneider play his new setlist mainly on the strength of Objection Overruled and to hear a few more obscure tracks from Balls To The Wall such as “Love Child” and “Fight Back.”
For Udo Dirkschneider‘s North American Back To The Roots II Tour venture, the singer had elected (or perhaps management elected) to bring Australis based heavy metal rockers Elm Street as the opening act. I can’t say that I was that familiar with Elm Street as my familiarity was limited to two Sleaze Roxx posts on the band back in 2016. At that time, I just thought of Elm Street as a solid heavy metal act from Australia but with material that did not compel me to seek out their records.
I arrived pretty early at The Mod Club. Although I had previously purchased a ticket for the show, I also requested a press pass / photo pass for the concert so that there would be no hassle getting in with my camera. Thank you to AFM Records‘ Dustin Hardman in that regard. As I made my way towards the front of the venue, I noticed that there were still a few spots left right at the front of the stage so I went to the washroom beforehand and grabbed a bottle of water that would hopefully last me the duration of the show. By the time my washroom break was completed, the front of the stage was suddenly a little bit fuller and I would had to settle for a spot at the front but to the side of the stage. Decibel Geek photographer Brian Ronald ended up joining me and it was nice catching up with him as I don’t think that I had seen him since the last Dirkschneider show in Toronto over a year ago. Ronald was part of the friendly Decibel Geek contingent that I attended the fourth edition of Rock N Skull with back in October 2016.
Before long, Elm Street were up. I was right in front of lead guitarist (presumably) Aaron Adie who was quite impressive with his virtuoso guitar skills. Although I really enjoyed seeing Adie play his guitar seemingly effortlessly, the sound for Elm Street‘s set from the side of the stage left to be desired in a big way. The guitar was front and heavy while I could hardly hear lead vocalist Ben Batres‘ singing and could hardly make out what he had to say between songs. Batres‘ Aussie laced English accent didn’t help matters either. Accordingly, it was a frustrating experience hearing Elm Street live with the guitar way too loud compared to the rest of the music from my vantage point. Given the sound issues, it’s hard to say that one song from Elm Street was better than the rest. I did notice that there was quite a bit of guitar soloing or shredding throughout their songs. I’ve always been more of a cool guitar riff kind of guy when it comes to songs so hearing Adie shred away too much throughout the Elm Street material made me question how much I would like their material if I could hear it properly.
The one funny part to me was when Elm Street embarked on their cover of Quiet Riot‘s classic “Metal Health (Bang Your Head).” The guitar riff is so simple that it looked like Adie was on holidays throughout the song because it seemed to easy for him to play. Batres‘ Airbourne styled vocals seemed almost perfect for “Metal Health (Bang Your Head)” and he pulled off the song quite well. Aside from that one cover, Elm Street‘s set was well balanced between their Barbed Wire Metal (2011) and Knock ‘Em Out – With A Metal Fist (2016) albums. Overall, Elm Street put on a good set which would have been a lot better if the sound had been better from the side of the stage. From what I was told, the sound was fine about ten rows from the stage. In any case, I didn’t want to leave my spot at the front / side of the stage and hoped that Dirkschneider would not experience the same sound issues as Elm Street.
Elm Street’s setlist (as per posted setlist on stage):
01. Face The Reaper
02. Kiss The Canvas
03. Elm St’s Children
04. Heavy Metal Power
05. Will It Take A Lifetime?
06. Heart Racer
07. Barbed Wire Metal
08. Metal Health (Quiet Riot cover)
09. Metal Is The Way
Elm Street performing “Metal Is The Way” live at The Mod Club in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on February 28, 2018:
While I was unwilling to give up my spot at the front of the stage, Brian Ronald made his way back towards the Decibel Geek contingent. I did get a visit from Decibel Geek editor Rich “The Meister” Dillon (whose name some of you may recognize from my prior concert reviews). Rich now is also the co-host of the relatively new rock podcast CGCM Podcast. I forget what all the four letters mean but the first two stand for Canadian Geeks.
Before long, it was time for Dirkschneider to hit the stage. Grey army camouflage surrounded the stage with a huge banner in the back with the word “Dirkschneider.” Clearly, the banner was made for a bigger stage than what The Mod Club had to offer. I suspect that Udo Dirkschneider plays to bigger crowds in Europe than he does in North America so I am grateful that he is seemingly coming out more often to play in North America in the last five years. The one change from last year’s show, aside from the setlist, was that guitarist Kasperi Heikkinen was replaced by Bill Hudson. As it turns out, I spent the entire set right in front of Hudson and really enjoyed his performance on this night.
As expected, Dirkschneider kicked things off with “The Beast Inside,” “Aiming High” and “Bulletproof.” Given that I had recently purchased all three albums to get familiar (or in the case of Russian Roulette, re-familiarized) with them, I was now quite familiar with all three songs and really enjoyed them. I was all set for a night of more obscure Accept classics when I heard the very familiar starting guitar riff to “Midnight Mover.” Knowing that this was not part of the setlist for that one European show that I posted about on Sleaze Roxx back in November 2017, I now knew that Dirkschneider would likely be playing a more “hit” friendly set for his North American audience, which was fine with me! There seemed to also be an energy surge in the audience when Dirkschneider launched into “Midnight Mover.” Clearly, this was a good move on the group’s part to play some of its more well known tracks for the Toronto crowd.
Dirkschneider performing “The Beast Inside” live at The Mod Club in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on February 28, 2018:
If you’ve ever been to a Dirkschneider or U.D.O. show, you’ll know that the group members have a little bit of choreography worked out between them. During a song’s verses, Udo Dirkschneider will be in front while guitarists Bill Hudson and Andrey Smirnov along with bassist Fitty Wienhold will stay behind him closer to the drum set until the chorus hits when all three will be side by side with Dirkschneider while providing their background vocals. It’s a pattern that gets repeated just about every song but does provide some additional emphasis to the chorus sections of the songs, which usually has most of the audience singing along as well. Aside from the myriad of tattoos all over his body, Hudson is apparently a workout machine as the man is quite built. So much that when he took off his shirt mid-way through the show, one lady made her way near the front of the stage to take some photos of him while gushing something to the likes of “He took off his shirt! He took off his shirt.”
The rest of the set was a bit of a mix. A couple of familiar tracks, usually from the Balls To The Wall and/or Metal Heart albums, followed by a few more obscure Accept songs from albums such as Objection Overruled and Russian Roulette. Hearing songs such as “Fight Back” and “Love Child” from the Balls To The Wall album conjured up images in my mind of my young self back in 1984 listening to my taped version of the album on a cassette on a terrible sounding cassette player while looking at my walls covered in rock posters and images including of course Udo Dirkschneider himself. While I did have quite the collection of albums, I must confess that probably 3/4 of them were taped cassette versions. That’s what makes the complaints from artists, etc. about people getting music free online a little surprising. Getting music for free has certainly been around for as long as people have been able to copy records on cassettes. What has really changed is the amount of potential record buying listeners and purchasers.
I don’t think that the concert atmosphere on this night reached the seemingly epic proportions of Dirkschneider‘s Toronto show in January 2017 but it was still a great atmosphere nonetheless. I must have been really into the concert because a friend that I knew got to where I was in the crowd and supposedly was tapping me feverishly on my back during “Balls To The Wall” but I never turned around. Eventually, that friend’s partner (as relayed to me after the concert) advised her that I was simply in the zone so there was no point trying any further to get my attention. Funny enough, I do remember someone poking me in the back at some point during the concert but I didn’t think enough of it to turn around.
Overall, it was another great concert from Dirkschneider with more variety compared to back in January 2017 given that more albums were represented with two songs from Breaker (1981), two from Restless And Wild (1982), four from Balls To The Wall (1983), five from Metal Heart (1985), three from Russian Roulette (1986), three from Objection Overruled (1993) and one from Death Row (1994).
01. The Beast Inside
02. Aiming High
04. Midnight Mover
05. Living For Tonite
06. Another Second To Be
07. Fight Back
08. Can’t Stand The Night
09. Amamos La Vida
10. London Leatherboys
11. Up To The Limit
13. Screaming For A Love-Bite
14. Love Child
15. Objection Overruled
16. Russian Roulette ‘War Games’
17. Princess Of The Dawn
18. Metal Heart
19. Fast As A Shark
20. Balls To The Wall
Dirkschneider performing “Princess Of The Dawn” live at The Mod Club in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on February 28, 2018:
Dirkschneider performing “Balls To The Wall” live at The Mod Club in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on February 28, 2018: