The Dark Ride Tour
After waiting for about two months since the concert date was announced, the day of Helloween's gig in São Paulo had finally come. Obviously, everybody was very excited. In 96, on the "Monsters Of Rock" festival, was the first time for Helloween in Brazil. In 98, on the "Skol Rock" and "Radio 89" festivals, it was the first time they played in Brazil without a lot of other bands on the same day. In both cases, there was a reason to sell a lot of tickets. This time, however, it was much better. It was the first time for Helloween in Brazil as the headliners, without festivals or Iron Maiden. A full concert, only them, without even an opening band. A tour that included five Brazil cities.
The amount of people expected was huge, then. Even so, the line formed hours before was amazing. Whoever arrived at the main entrance, had to walk at least three blocks to get to end of the line. And it kept growing. Obviously, many people tried to step in the middle, no one wanted to miss that concert, and everybody wanted to enter as soon as possible.
There was a lot of "The Dark Ride" t-shirts, some from the other albums, and some from other bands. However, the great amount of dark pumpkins on the line showed how the new album was accepted among the fans. On the line, there was discussions about the expected setlist, what the band would play, what each one would like to hear. There was confusion at the beginning of the line, because Roland and Weiki appeard briefly to greet the fans, but right after they already came back inside.
At 20:00, with some delay, the line began to walk, and people started to come inside. After a while, the line outside was still huge, and people began to worry about missing the beginning of the concert, which would start at 22:00. Nothing to worry, though, because everybody was already in at 21:30.
When all the people entered, there was about 6600 people inside. The tickets were sold out, and the band even confirmed an extra gig due the success. However, anyone who went on the Bruce Dickinson concert, responsible for the greatest audience of that place, knew that the place wasn't totally full. Indeed there was a lot of people there, but it was easy to walk around, which was almost impossible during the Bruce Dickinson concert, that had more than 7000 people. There was less tickets than it should be.
While people were expecting, very excited, some songs were played, from releases and upcoming concerts related to Laser Company. Songs of Hammerfall, Vain Glory, Avantasia, Rhapsody, Savatage, Children Of Bodom and Dark Moor were sang along by the audience. Too bad that, although all the songs played were very good, they weren't entirely played, at kept repeating itselves, which annoyed people who was there and had to listen to Rhapsody's "Holy Thunderforce" more than five times.
Almost exactly at 22:00, lights went off and the security procedures were shown on the screen. Everybody knew what that meant. Everybody started to sing "Happy Happy Helloween", some lights were moving through the stage, and smoke was being released on it. After a while, the beginning of "Beyond The Portal (Intro)" was heard, and it was almost overwhelmed by the screams from the audience. Soon as the intro ended, the whole stage appeared and Roland Grapow, Uli Kusch, Michael Weikath and Markus Grosskopf showed up playing their intruments, while everyone was celebrating the fact of seeing for the first time a headlining concert from the creators of power metal.
Andi Deris, with all of his simpathy, greeted everyone, and right after the riff from "Power" was heard. Obviously, everyone went nuts by the fact that the band was starting with one of the greatest hits. I don't know exactly if the sound quality was poor or if the brazilian audience is too good, but the audience almost overwhelmed Deris, everybody was singing along. The mixing was kinda bad during the concert, but the audience was also very excited that night.
The band was also very excited, happy, and wanted to satisfy the brazilian fans. Soon as the first song was over, one of the best tracks from the new album, "Salvation", started. Again, everybody was singing along, even though it was a very recent song, fact that must have been quite surprising for the band. Comparing to the first song, apparently the sound quality was better, Deris' voice was louder.
Andi was very happy, and thanked the fans with an "Obrigado". Next he said "I see that many people here sang along with me on the song of the new album, so probably you all know the tracks from 'The Dark Ride'..." and then asked "Let me see your hands!". Everybody started clapping their hands to join Markus on the bass introduction for "I Live For Your Pain", which was also played perfectly and everybody sang it.
Right after, the great singer announced the next song: "And this next song is about a man who likes to cause pain! You can call him dialing 8 and double 0...". Everybody knew what that was about, and screamed along the title "Mr. Torture", also from the new album. This song was very expected, since it was one of the favorites from "The Dark Ride" for many people. The performance on this song was somewhat strange, and it was played a little downtuned, comparing to the studio version. But everybody liked it anyway.
Soon, Andi started talking again, and remembered that "This next song, I'm sure you are going to like it, because I remember that you screamed along like crazy maniacs on the 'Monsters Of Rock' festival in 98.". And the crowd went absolutely nuts when he announced "This one is from the 'Keeper Of The Seven Keys'... This one is about a crazy bird in the sky... You know what I'm fucking talking about? Do you? Yeah? Eagle... Eagle... Fly Free!". Obviously, there's no power metal fan who can stay calm when such a classic is announced. Everybody jumped and screamed, from the beginning to the end. The band's performance was great, specially on the solos, and Andi also deserves some merit for going beyond his limits and reached some good high notes, without trying to sound like Michael Kiske. It was one of the best performances from the singer during the concert.
While the audience was still very excited, Andi spoke, with a dark voice "Well, we now come to a song that it's probably the reason why 'The Dark Ride' is called 'The Dark Ride', because it's such an evil tune... Written by the most evil man on stage, Mr. Roland Grapow.". Soon, Roland himself went to the microphone and screamed "Yeah, Brazil, don't you think I'm evil?" and then started joking around, when someone showed him the finger and he said "Hey, there's a guy over there that's picking at me, and that guy is a fucking asshole! São Paulo, I love you!". Everybody laughed and Andi announced "Now we come to 'Escalation 666'...", song that had an excellent performance by Roland on the backing vocals and it also had an audience who accepted a song with more downtuned guitars.
Next, Andi introduced the next song, mentioning how Brazil is "too hot" while Germany is "too damn cold" and telling a story that, according to him, was very common on Germany. "Well, it's Monday morning, you have to go to work, damn cold, and when you try to start your car, it goes like this...". Then the audience heard the sound of a car engine starting, and then going dead. Apparently the sound failed at first, because Andi even laughed. He kept telling: "Fucked up, you try again, but still goes like this.", the same sound was played again. He then concluded, proud: "But since in Germany we have Porches... Yeah, it goes like this!". Finally, the audience heard a car engine starting and the singer announced what everybody had already deduced, the title of the next song, "Steel Tormentor", an excellent choice from "The Time Of The Oath" album, that made the audience very excited.
Without any pause for breathing, the riff from "The Departed (Sun Is Going Down)" was heard, and the song, specially the chorus, was sang along by everybody. The live version of this song also had extra solos, and Andi asked the audience to clap their hands while he introduced the band. "On the drums, Mr. Uli Kusch! To my left, the guy on the guitar, Mr. Michael Weikath! To my right, Mr. Roland Grapow! On bass guitar, Mr. Markus Grosskopf! And finally, the man on the microphone, myself, Mr. Andi Deris!". It was kinda funny he introducing himself.
The music was concluded, and right after one of the greatest surprises of that night started: the classic "I Want Out", which Andi rarely sang on previous tours. Although some old fans didn't like this version, Andi deserves some credit, because instead of trying to imitate an awesome singer like Michael Kiske, he chose to sing with his own style, personality and a lot of feeling. An excellent surprise.
After this "medley" almost without time for breathing, the intro sounds from "Revelation" were heard. Before the music started, Roland asked the audience to sing along with him. A funny thing happened on that moment: Roland screamed for too long, and most people thought that he wanted them to sing together, but he actually wanted them to sing after. Since only a few people realized that, he showed himself to be quite dissapointed right after. Next he said: "Hm, that's not good... Yesterday we played in Buenos Aires and it was great!". And then, the old brazilian spirit of always being better than Argentina awake, and the next scream satisfied Roland enough for him to start the very heavy "Revelation", that made everybody bang their heads as much as possible. The band was perfect, it was one of the greatest moments of the concert.
Soon as the song was finished, the solo performance by Roland Grapow started. While everybody was expecting a fast solo, he played a slow and nice melody along with Uli Kusch, with a lot of classical influences and feeling. Then it came the Malmsteenish shredding, showing the awesome player that Roland is. Finally, he concluded with his classic metal version of Paganini's "Caprice #24", also recorded on the b-side "Grapowski's Malmsuite 1001 (In D-Doll)" and his solo song "The Winner".
At the end of the solos, Roland asked for the audience to clap their hands once again, to follow him on the intro of the next song. On the first shot, he made a sleepy face, and said that it was not enough. Then everybody improved the clapping and Roland said "If you want to hear the next song, you have to scream my name!". Right after, everybody was screaming "Roland Grapow! Grapow! Grapow! Grapow...!". The guitarist smiled and concluded "Yeah, you deserve 'Future World'!", and started playing one of the most popular songs of the setlist. Deris' performance was great, but it wasn't necessary, because the audience sang everything by themselves, showing that, more than just a classic, this song is an anthem.
Without being announced, the next song, "Mirror, Mirror..." slightly disappointed the audience, that, knowing the "High Live" album, was actually expecting "Dr. Stein" and didn't like the new song. Even so, most people sang along, specially on the chorus.
At this point, someone threw a cap on the stage, and Andi kept it on his head until the end of the concert, showing his simpathy. He also goofed around and, when Markus was banging his head during a solo, he grabbed Markus' head and pretended to shake it, like it was a basketball. He even laughed when someone threw a shirt on the stage and he lifted, joking: "Anybody wanna buy t-shirts?".
Finally, the singer announced the last song, "This is 'The Dark Ride'...", and the carnival sounds introduced the great title track of the most recent album. The band's performance on that song was just fantastic, just like the studio version, with all the dark changes on Andi Deris' voice. The only complain about this song is about Michael Weikath, who was kinda bored during the solo and let Roland do all the main stuff. Despite these details, the band finished their performance on a interesting way, during the last chorus at the end of the song, when the members left the stage one by one, until Andi was left there alone, and then walked away too, asking for the audience to keep singing.
After a few minutes, the band went back for the encore. Roland appeared with a Symphony X t-shirt and started a solo based on "In The Hall Of The Mountain King", that excited the audience while the rest of the band came in, for the awaited "Dr. Stein", a very expected song, which was very well played and obviously sang by everyone. Great song, great performance, great response.
Right after the song, Andi took a Brazil flag from the audience and satisfied the fans, kissing it and wearing it on his back. Then, he announced the last song of that night: "How Many Tears". Many people there didn't believe that the band would play such an old classic, but they did, and although everybody was very tired after two hours of concert, almost everybody was jumping even more than the usual, excited with one of the best songs from the "Walls Of Jericho" album. Andi did a good performance, better than the previous concerts on Brazil. The funny moment happened with Michael Weikath, who got scarred in the middle of the solo with a t-shirt someone threw right on his face. He became quite irritated, wnet to the microphone and said "Oh, thanks for this, really...". Then, he got the shirt and asked the same person to throw it again. This time, when the shirt was in the air, Weiki band over and hit it with his head, smiling.
At the end of the last song, the band started to play their intruments randomly. Andi and, for everyone's surprise, Weiki, whose voice is hardly heard on concert except on backing vocals, thanked the brazilian fans and said goodbye, screaming some more. Roland screamed, did some solos, threw his guitar to the air and thanked the audience, very happy. The best surprise was the intrument change: Markus played the drums, Uli got the bass and Andi took Weikath's guitar. Markus somehow even looked like Ingo Schwichtenberg due to his hair. Weiki screamed on the microphone, another surprise, and Andi concluded introducing the keyboard player Jörn Ellerbrock. Andi Deris, Roland Grapow, Michael Weikath, Markus Grosskopf, Uli Kusch and Jörn Ellerbrock thanked the fans together and unfortunately left the stage. And the fans, despite their wish for that night to never end, had to leave too.
Well, what else can I say? The band's performance was more than excellent. The few failures only added some more good mood to the band. The sound quality was somewhat poor, and that was bad for those who didn't know the lyrics, because Andi's voice was too low sometimes. Well, it's also due to the brazilian audience, which is too excited. The brazilian fans now hope that the band realized how popular and respected they are on South America and got convinced to include Brazil more times on their tours, to play someday on stadiums and open places, that support more than just 7000 people. Helloween is an excellent band, very nice, and, the most important thing, shows pleasure at being on stage. Worth every dime spent and probably convinced a lot of fans to be at the extra gig, which will probably be so great as that was.