Better Than Raw Tour
The hour, 16:40. I was on my way to Tompkins Square Park, the one chosen by the guys on the board to meet and introduce ourselves before the concert. Helloween was playing their first and only show in the United States in almost ten years, at Coney Island High at 21:30, and I could barely wait to see them live. This would be the prime of my lifetime: at last, my first chance to meet the greatest band in the face on Earth. I had already met Michael Weikath, my supreme idol, before, at the hotel where they were staying, and thanks to him, my entrance to the show was secured: he included me on his guest list, and I could not believe how nice he was in person.
In order to get to Tompkins Square, I took a subway and arrived at Astor Place at around 16:45. It was two blocks away from the local, and five from the park. I then started walking through 8th Street, heading for the meeting place, and passed by by Coney High. There were three guys waiting and walking around. One was a blond, long haired guy, kinda cute, with a shirt of "The Time Of The Oath". I first thought he was the well known Helloween Webmaster, Tony Webster, and wanted to approach them, but I felt a little shy so I did not speak to him nor to the other boys. The second one was a fair guy with short hair, a black cap, and a black leather jacket; he was also wearing a "The Time Of The Oath" shirt. The third was a brown haired boy, with glasses, but I could not see anything else because I was already crossing the street in front of them. I then stopped at the park and waited around. There was nobody there with the descriptions the guys posted in the message board days ago. I walked and waited for about fifteen minutes and then headed back for the local. To my grateful surprise, there were more people, and among them, Michael Weikath! I stepped into the circle and exclaimed: "Hi, you the guys from the message board?". Weikath smiled and petted my head, then he greeted me and I said to the people: "Do you know who I am?". The second guy from the three I saw before answered: "Yes, I know who you are. You are Hilda, right? I'm Officer Metal.". "Tony? Nice to meet ya.", I answered. Then I got to meet Cyclonus, a big, nice guy, when Weikath had to leave and walked in to rehearse with the rest of the band, which were previously there and already began to rehearse or the show. This was at 17:00.
After that I conversed for hours with the board guys. The line to enter was starting to form and we had to wait more than two hours for Coney High to open downstairs. In the meantime I talked with Tony about "Don't Spit On My Mind" messages and made funny comments. I was remembering that one fella mentioned once that Coney Island High was a "hole in the wall", and the guy who said that turned to be the first guy I saw, the blond, whose name was Harmon. He flew from Atlanta with a friend of his to see Helloween, as I and Tony did, from Madison and Cleveland respectively. Tony also commented that some time ago Chris Skaryd, from Future World was there with his brother, but they were probably hungry and left for a while. When Chris returned, I decided to take a picture of us all and someone took a couple with my camera. More people formed in the line, and in front of the local, and a security guy came out and said we should stay away from the front and wait, since they would open at 19:30 and there were one hour and a half remaining. Harmon, his friend, and I went to the side, but still in the front, and waited there for an hour. Timmons, his friend, was a really nice guy. We both knew some japanese and began talking some funny things about Helloween in that language. I also mentioned: "Soo desu, watashi wa Maikeru Vaikato ga ai desu, to dai, dai, dai suki desu!". What is: "Oh yeah, I love Michael Weikath and like him very, very, very much!". I guess I couldn't wait to see them playing in front of me. Well, I also got to meet a puerto rican guy, who posted as Joe, and while we were waiting we talked a little bit in spanish too. Well, more than a talk it was just an expression I said. The security boys kept going and coming and closing the portals so loudly, and I freaked out the last time and kicked the doors, while saying: "concha sus madres," what is "motherfuckers". We could also hear the Helloween guys while rehearsing and Andi singing "Sole Survivor", and sang along.
By the time there were only thirty minutes left, two lines formed. Tony, Chris, Cyclonus, and the other guys decided to stay in the second line and I went along. Harmon, Timmons, and Joe didn't follow us. Tony said that that was the "official" line to enter the show, and that the other people would be allowed in later. He was a little concerned about Harmon, who was in the first line and asked me to go and tell him to join us. I did, and Harmon said that the lines did not matter, and that we would be allowed in before, since we waited for longer. He was really determined to make it to the first row. I stayed with them then. After some minutes the gates opened at 19:30 and we entered. I was the second one to enter the local. It took a while, since the admission guys were looking for my last name in the guest list and could not find it for some time. But they did and I stepped inside without paying a dime. Once in, I looked at the stage and I was shocked: I must say, it was really, a hole in the wall! It was extremely small! I was amazed by the fact that Helloween was playing in such a tiny place, but I did not care, as I had my first row place for sure. I had some time to look at the equipment too: Uli's drums were in there, and on top of them, a cute, cute, little pumpkin with a Santa's hat. On the sides, Helloween "Better Than Raw" t-shirts were also on sale, but it was too bad I did not have money with me. After some minutes, Harmon, Joe, and Timmons joined me and we waited, as more people came in. Sadly, we could not find Tony nor Chris, but we made it to the first row, and I was right in the middle of the stage. Some time after, Markus came out, and the persons began to scream and ask him for his autograph and pictures. I took the digital camera I bought specially for this day, and took some shots of Markus. Then Jörn Ellerbrock came out and he made a nice pose for me: I had met him before too and told him I would take tons of pictures of him and the band. Afterwards, Weiki made his appearance and I went mad. I got some nice shots of him too. But they had to leave soon because the opening band, Click, had to play before them and they were setting the stage and getting ready. I won't say they sucked (although I do think so) but their songs sounded all the same and I could not understand a word, so loud was the noise. Harmon was right beside me and he gave me something to stuff my ears with. It was terrible, the place was so crowded that some idiot guy behind me was also putting his hands where he shouldn't, and the sound was loud and harsh. Click played for about 45 minutes and then it was the turn of the masters to enter and rock the stage at 21:30. People were booing and saying shit about the opening band, calling Helloween, and singing the classic "Happy Happy Helloween", so the guys didn't make people wait anymore and came out.
"Deliberately Limited Preliminary Prelude Period In Z" played, the crowd was frenetic. First came out Uli and Markus, and then Roland, Jörn was already there, and then Weiki appeared, and finally Andi. I was crazy: Andi and the other guys were just two inches away from me, and I got to see them and hold everyone's hands! I didn't tire myself of taking pictures, and then Michael and Roland played an introductory solo, starting "Eagle Fly Free" right away. And what a start, we were all singing along, and everyone did his best: the solos from Mikey, Roland, Markus and Uli were fantastic, and Weiki posed for me when he stood in front of the stage for his turn in the solos. The next song was "Dr. Stein" and we started jumping and cheering, and Roland kept his nice tongue hanging out and always smiling. He was a hell of a funny guy. When "Dr. Stein" ended, they finally spoke. "Thank you so much! Well, hello...!", said Andi. "It's good we're back in here, isn't it? Yeah, I know... Well, some places I know, some places I don't...". Then Roland: "Maybe it needs more lights, doesn't it?". Then Weiki started talking about the following Christmas and Andi said: "It's been quite a while, but we've played in here. I think, uh... Nine years, right? Was this a welcome back? Thank you... Well, no... You people know maybe that we've got a brand new album, all right? 'Better Than Raw'... We played a song out of that long, originally written by the man behind the drums: Mr. Uli Kusch!". Then Uli proceeded to play a nice, short drum solo, and Andi exclaimed: "And we have now 'Revelation'...". By that time Roland stepped in front of me and started playing the intro; I was extremely excited and took more shots of him. Also, Weiki was in a funny mood, since he began to unbutton his shirt, joking. I got to take a picture of him while doing that. The song was good, but the stage and the crowd started getting rough around the middle of it. People started pushing the guys (including me) against the front part of the stage and lifting some other boys as well. A girl beside me was screaming and pushing an imbecile the crowd was lifting, and so was the security man. Then I realized that a huge guy was behind me and this other idiot also started putting his hands where he was not supposed to. The band could hear us screaming, but they continued playing; what else could they do? It was a relief when at the end, Andi started holding everyone's hands. I loved to hold him so many times! He was a great guy. He then thanked and announced the next song: "Well I think we come to the 'Pink Bubbles Go Ape' album... Well, actually it's the favorite song of mine written by the man over the guitar, Mr. Roland Grapow...". And Roland made a little demonstration of his excellent guitar playing before Andi finally started: "All right! 'The Chance'!". Then Roland again walked in front of the stage and played the intro for "The Chance". During the song, Roland threw guitar picks and so did Weiki; I couldn't grab one right away and was looking at Michael with the intention to get his attention. He looked at me, and he knew I wanted a pick, so he grabbed one and gave it to me in my hand. Even though the stage was tiny, and I found it a place difficult to move in, Markus ran from side to side, and smiled at the crowd. He was also throwing handfuls of picks. After "The Chance", Andi introduced the next song: "The first single of the new album...", and the crowd was yelling: "I Can"! "Right! I think, uh... You guys don't know it anyway, huh?". The people replied "Yes!", and Andi: "Oh, ok, some of you do. All right... 'I Can'!". Weiki and Roland played the intro and the crowd went mad once more. During the song, Roland was very nice to me; he just kept smiling and hanging out his tongue and so one of those times I also hung my tongue out, and he laughed and petted my head too, messing my hair. Then he walked around, grabbed one of his picks, and put it in my hand too. The following song started straight away, and it was "Sole Survivor". Things were again rough, as the people began to push against each other, and I could not listen to a great deal of the song, as I was more concerned about my own safety. When "Sole Survivor" ended, Andi paused and announced the next: "Well, we'll come up with this song which is probably the fastest and the hardest...". The crowd knew that this only could mean "Push", and started screaming: "Push! Push!". After that, Andi asked: "Are you ready for 'Push'?", followed by the guitars of Michael and Roland starting the song. The guys looked pretty agitated and everyone was covered with sweat. Poor Andi was completely wet but nevertheless, continued singing and dancing. Michael grabbed a beer and drank from it while playing, and of course, he never stopped smoking his classic cigarette from time to time. I wanted to keep something from him after the show, so I started looking at his beer bottle. He got closer to where I was but to my disappointment, he gave the beer to the girl beside me! I was pretty upset for that, but I forgot the whole thing when he grabbed another beer and looked at me, like asking "Do you want it? You get it!". So he drank a little and offered the rest to me. That was one of the greatest moments for me during the show. Roland's solos were also magnificent, and the crowd was visibly happy. Markus started holding hands and throwing more picks too, and when the song ended, Andi thanked again and the crowd was asking for "How Many Tears" and "Keeper Of The Seven Keys". However, we would not have "How Many Tears" until the end of the show. Andi spoke once again: "All right. We come to a song we've recorded in the last live album... The album is called 'High Live', originally recorded in Spain, and I tell you, well, these people, they'd be dead now. Well, we'll, we'll try a little game on our own, this is, maybe worse, maybe not, depends on you, it's left against right...". The people knew immediately he was talking about "Power" and began to yell, asking for it, and then Andi asked: "Could you guys do that?". We replied: "Yes!". And Andi: "All right, we'll lay an eye on you and if we see it's getting embarrassing we'll stop it, ok?". We laughed and then Weiki said: "It's not singing, by the way, huh?". Next, Andi started: "All right, the song is called 'Power'!". Weiki and Roland commenced the song, and the crowd was still full of energy to yell and shout. Well, I had another reason to yell and shout as well, since the people were getting rough again and pushing, crushing my knees and the other guys' who were in the first row against the front of the stage. Furthermore, they were carrying more idiots again, who wanted to make it to the best spots and they almost kicked my head, thanks God they didn't. During "Power", Andi stood in front of me and divided the small audience into left and right sides, and when the time came to do the encores he shouted: "Try it!", and the crowd sang along, when Andi exclaimed: "One more time!". We sang louder, and he said: "Not too bad...". The crowd shouted yet louder, and Andi continued teasing us: "You can do better than that, come on!". Markus and Uli were making a great demonstration of their instrument playing now, the people continued singing, and Andi spoke again: "We have to make a decision, left or right...". We kept singing, and he said: "All right, I think the right people is a bit louder.". I happened to be in the right, and that was a great feeling after he pronounced those words. He then put his microphone in front of us, the right side, and shouted: "Come on!". After we sang together, Andi offered the mic to the other side while saying: "On the left, please.". And the left side sang this time, but the right side was still louder. Then he called Roland, I believe to have a bottle of water, and thanked him, giving then the mic to the right side again. After some seconds, he seemed very happy, and said: "All right, now it works... Now everybody please!". The crowd continued, now together, and Andi asked for one more. We sang at our best, and he ended with a "Thank you very much!", singing the last part of "Power" afterwards. I believe the next song was "Where The Rain Grows" and I was happy, thinking what would Tony feel right now that the main theme of his page was being played. The song was really cool, and I could not stop taking pictures of Michael, Roland, and Andi while they played.
Andi was making some funny moves and dancing, while "comparing" Roland and Michael in their guitar playing. Weikath's solo was amazing, and the guys continued giving away picks and holding hands. One time, I held and extended my hands to Andi so many times, smiling, that he also smiled, and petted my head too while holding my hands again. That was awesome, I never felt so good in my life. And I also was happy thinking in the guy behind me, as I knelt if front of the stage rather than having my knees crushed and so I might say I also put the heels of my boots where I was not supposed too, hehe... Ok, next was "We Burn", and before starting, Roland confessed that all of his guitars were in Brazil, and apologized for any inconvenience that may cause. But that was funny, as he did seem to be enjoying his own confession. The crowd laughed, and he and Weiki began to play. I loved Mikey's introductory solo, so speedy and powerful; meanwhile, Roland was drinking some cherry Gatorade and Markus a bottle of water. Roland drank a little and then offered kindly his bottle to the crowd. I got to have it after a couple of guys drank from it, but I did not keep it, but left it in the front of the stage, keeping my Weiki beer instead. After "We Burn", Andi presented the band to the audience, with each one of them making a demonstration of their musical talents. "Wake Up The Mountain" made its appearance then and, my friends, that was one of the best songs. I was with Weiki's bottle in my hand and I didn't stop raising my fist and the bottle respectively when we sang along with Andi: "One more to count in, wake up the mountain!". Andi was smiling at everyone, and then he said: "Thank you so much! Good night!". Of course we knew they were not going already, but we still heeded the call: "Helloween! Helloween! Helloween!". Then Andi stood in front of Uli's drums, with his back facing the crowd, and the latin spells of "The Time Of The Oath" arose. It was a moment of suspense, and Harmon, who was still beside me, watching my back, went mad, as this was his favorite song from the setlist. The electric guitars and the sound effects were fantastic. I really enjoyed singing along with Andi this one. Again, Roland and Michael stood in front of the stage to play the solos, and I was paralyzed, watching them so close. The only thing I could do was to take pictures and more pictures. Luckily, Michael was aware of me and made some nice and funny poses, so was Roland, as I was hanging out my tongue to him again, and took a perfect picture of him holding out his. There were still two more songs after "The Time Of The Oath", so Roland walked to the front again, with his blue Fender, and proceeded to play an intro for "Future World"... However, he was so close to me I got to "play" some strings of his guitar for a while, then he smiled at me again and pointed at me with his index finger, giving me a "bad girl" look while laughing. He then started the intro for real, and the people went crazy like hell, so went I... The song was so fast and energetic, I was on my knees, but anyway, I just kept moving my head back and forth, and to the sides violently. I think my long hair was a mess after that, not to mention the people behind me. Roland kept distributing picks and holding hands, and I was looking at at him, but he just smiled, as he already gave me a pick. The crowd sang along with what was left of their throats, and finally Andi announced the last song of the show and my very favorite: "How Many Tears". Although Andi's voice and style were different from the Kiske's live versions, he sang it pretty good, and with a great feeling. He could not reach the high pitches, but it was cool anyway. What was awesome was when it was Michael's turn to play the greatest solo in the show, right in front of me, and the music sounded so beautiful that I even forgot to take more pictures of him even though he was few inches away. I was amazed... I think it was the most beautiful song I've ever heard live, and I could not do anything but just look at Weiki. At some point I decided I had to have that shot and took out my camera, focusing then on Mike. To my surprise, the only thing I saw on the little screen was a big hand, and then I looked out just to find out it was Roland's! God, that was so funny! He then looked at me laughing with his tongue out, so he got the shot instead of Weiki. The last two minutes of "How Many Tears", I managed to stand straight in the front of the stage, holding my beer, and Andi was thanking and saying goodbye to everybody while Uli, Markus, Roland, and Michael were playing their ending tunes, with great drum work from Uli. Meanwhile, Andi was holding his last hands, and when he held mine for the last time he gave me a hug. I was excited to tears, and gave him a kiss saying: "You are the best!". He smiled and then thanked the audience once more, saying they loved us and promising they would be back. Uli left his drums, and Jörn his keyboards, and walked to the front, joining Markus, Roland and Michael, and of course, Andi, to thank the audience together. Too bad I was so close to them that my digicam could not focus on all the guys to take that historical picture, so I had to be realistic and limit my picture for Weiki and Andi. However, Roland and Uli still held hands for a little while after the show, and luckily, they went near me, and I got my only shot of Uli Kusch; a milestone, since I could not see him during the concert, as his drums covered him completely. I think it was a nice picture, because he just looked at me and gave me a beautiful smile too. Once the guys left the stage, the people was still waiting for them to come back, and chanting the "Happy Happy Helloween" over and over. I then jumped back to the floor and reunited with my partners. What was nice is that all night long, since during the show, Harmon and I began to get closer to each other sentimentally, and so, we held hands, and after the show, we crowned that perfect night with a kiss. We then tried to find Chris and Tony, and actually, they found us. After that, we all together started chatting about the show, and the band. Harmon, Timmons, and I were noticeably tired, so we had a seat and continued talking. I could see Tony and the other guys with their shirts, so I took the last picture of the board people, the one I consider the best, which turned out pretty good. A few moments later, Markus came out and the rest of the crowd asked him for autographs and pictures. Harmon and I could get one shot together with Markus, and after a while I decided I was too tired, dirty, and hungry, so we left the local around midnight.
What else can I say? Helloween ruled. Those two days I spent in New York were the best of my life. I never felt this way before; they surely impressed me even more when I met them. I will never forget those moments of glory and happiness. Sometimes I feel depressed when I remember everything of what happened during the show and before the concert, because all that is left is the memory (and Weiki's beer, hehe), but I always look forward to see them again, some time, somewhere.
It was also nice to meet the guys from the board. Thanks to them, my stance in Coney High was pleasant and friendly. Helloween, the guys, and New York were the greatest experiences I've ever had in my life. And the moments during the concert, close to Harmon too, were the peak. Everything was perfect, and the time I spent in there will always live forever in my heart and my mind, until the end of time.
I would only like to thank all the nice people I met, Tony Webster, Cyclonus, Joe, Timmons, Chris, and very specially, to Helloween. Uli, Jörn, Markus, Roland, Andi, and Michael: you all were the coolest persons on Earth, thank you so much for existing and giving me a chance to meet you. Harmon and Weiki: I love you both! Hehe...
Metal will never die! Keep rocking!