Just got back from Cleveland, and boy, are my arms tired. It takes a certain breed to travel roughly 600 miles, round trip, by Greyhound bus only to spend a total of 18 hours at the destination–a third of which was spent sleeping. But given the right motivation, I have done so on occasion and will do so again.
Last nite, the occasion was the nearest stop on Accept’s North American reunion tour, in support of their new album, Blood of the Nations. Spending seven hours on a bus for two days straight was well worth it for 70+ minutes of Teutonic Terror!
The Agora Theater in Cleveland is one of the Northeast’s legendary concert venues. It first opened in the mid 60’s and has moved twice, the latest due to a fire in ’84–mere months after Accept played there on the Balls to the Wall tour. A couple old-schoolers in attendance still have their t-shirts from that gig at “the other Agora;” one of them could even still fit in it!
I didn’t catch the name of the local opening band, though with the service charges and exchange rate, it mighta been cheaper for me to buy my ticket from them inside the front entrance than to have bought it online beforehand… Nevertheless, the five-piece played a suitable brand of 80’s-style traditional metal, bringing to mind the likes of Dio, Priest, Maiden etc. Couple of these guys looked like they had been played metal in the 80’s, as well. A good choice to open for Accept.
On the other hand, touring partners King’s X made for an odd pairing. Never been much of a King’s X fan, and there’s no way I’d pay 30 bucks for a ticket and cross the border to see them headline–unless it was a “co-headlining” tour, as was the case with this shindig. There were a fair number of fans who came to see ’em, but those of us in camo shirts had seen more than enough by the time they came back for an encore.
Once they had cleared the King’s gear from the stage, the distinct lack of amplification stuck out more than Dug Pinnick’s hairdo. Whereas Pinnick and Ty Tabor had seven cabs between the two of them, Accept provided very little to power their trad metal attack. A Peavy half-stack was set up stage left for Wolf Hoffman, Peter Baltes had a smallish bass amp–no more than a 10-inch cab–and Herman Frank was to be playing through a 100 W practice amp with one of those Crate mini-heads. Needless to say, the backline was dominated by Stefan Schwarzmann’s sizeable double-bass kit on a moveable metal riser. With such a low-key setup, we were worried that their sound wouldn’t reach the back of the room. Then again, I was up on the rail, so I didn’t worry too much.
When Accept played the Agora in ’84, their nine-song set consisted of five tunes offa Balls to the Wall and four from Restless and Wild. (A high-quality bootleg of this concert is available online; I played it on Smokin’ Green last week…) Though they completely neglected the Breaker album, released three years prior, they revisited it this evening in the form of “Starlight,” the title track, and surprise entry “Son of a Bitch,” one of the great metal fuck-you anthems that wasn’t written by the Subhumans…
The band deftly sprinkled new songs into the set, breaking down the 20+ year barrier between “Teutonic Terror,” “No Shelter” and the likes of “Metal Heart,” “Restless and Wild” and “Fast as a Shark,” with its children’s sing-song intro piped over the PA. The Metal Heart album got some love with “Up to the Limit” and “Living for Tonight,” and they even squeezed in “Monsterman” offa Russian Roulette. During a brief break before the encore, the crowd called for “Balls,” and yet I was the only one doing the “Whoa-oh-oh-oh” chant. Didn’t anyone ever listen to The Final Chapter!?
Alas, the band returned with another newbie, “Pandemic,” followed by “Princess of the Dawn” and the ever-popular Kugeln an der Wand. (That said, I’m not sure whether Google Translate knows the difference between testes and sports equipment…) As it turns out, the only song they played from their highest-selling record was the title track.
What really struck me about this show was the amazing amount of energy expended by these middle-aged men, prancing around on stage like a buncha teenage kids. Hoffman now sports a shaved dome and Baltes will soon be entering Skullet Country, but they still party like it’s 1989–without that blowhard David Reece, mind you. As for Mark Tornillo, the new new guy fits the band snugly like a rubber ball in the hand of that guy with the leather briefs. His voice and diminutive stature recall a slimmer, S&M biker version of Udo, sporting leather pants and matching vest. While the guitarists had to switch from wireless to patch chords a couple songs in, he had no problems with the wireless mic, and made full use of the roomy stage.
Well, the setlist wasn’t quite perfect, but not too long ago, if you told me I’d be front row for Accept in 2010 on this side of the Atlantic, I woulda asked you to pass the koutchie on the left hand side. Needless to say, I was giddy like a school girl on prom nite, waiting patiently through King’s X and “Bawitdaba” by Kid Rock on the PA. So what if he drives a Harley instead of a Volkswagen–Mark Tornillo is the real deal, and I think this gig will have usurped Sleep Plays Holy Mountain as my number-one concert of the year. I’ve still got a couple months to make that decision, tough one it may be…
P.S.: Smokin’ Green gets FUBAR tonite with music from Cowtown and some Southern Ontario staples, including a band that was featured in the latest movie. Be sure to tune in from 1 till 3 am at 88.1 fm on yer radio, channel 947 on yer TV or www.ckln.fm on yer computer!