Last time around, the club shows in North America were characterized by the sparseness onstage. In fact, there was no amplification present on an otherwise bare stage. Not so this time, as ACCEPT have gone with a vintage look, balls to the wall Marshall stacks, 4x3 cabinets floor to ceiling, flanking drummer Stefan Swarzmann (even a trio underneath the riser) and steel ramps either side.
Openers HELL went on a quarter of an hour before the announced 8pm start. Although Nuclear Blast labelmates, a 45 minute set was enjoyable nonetheless. Tonight was old school German metal, beer drinkers in denim & leather with their old lady (or more likely, their progeny) in tow. An unattached woman in the crowd was about as likely as Udo Dirkschneider showing up!
With steam/pressurized fog in place of flames, the band kicked into 'Hellfire', Swarzmann behind see-thru, acrylic drums. A raucous start, bassist Peter Baltes is either on the ramp, trading notes with guitarist Herman Frank, or atop the riser, in front of the drummer, clapping along to introduce 'Stalingrad', which is followed by 'Restless & Wild'. Seriously? So early? Yep, making for a powerful opening.
Afterward was the first opportunity for Mark Tornillo to interact with the crowd. Still a man of few words, as are all the band, there's little time for chatter in a two-hour, career spanning set. Only three tracks from Stalingrad are aired, the one-two introductory punch and later, about midway through the 21 songs, 'Shadow Soldiers'. Here's hoping 'Hung Drawn & Quartered' makes its way into the running order before too much longer.
In quick succession, it's the pink bathed 'Living For Tonite', which is the first real chance for the crowd to sing along, 'Breaker', ends with the four band members abreast, center stage, 'Son Of A Bitch' (there's something right about a New Jersey native delivering that vitriolic roll of obscenities. “We don't care what you say...” is tame by comparison!) and 'Bucket Full Of Hate', which locks into that melody that bangs the head that doesn't bang. If that doesn't get the noggin nodding, you must be dead. The tune ends with guitarist Wolf Hoffman spotlighted, for a short solo, although he's saving the best for later.
Onstage, it's pretty obvious the guys are having fun, but more importantly, they've been able to parlay the initial intrigue of the Tornillo era into a pair of excellent albums. How often does a reunion take place that produces quality new music and is not simply a rehash/cash grab for playing old tunes. Not these guys! 'Monsterman' precedes the aforementioned, mid-tempo 'Shadow Soldiers', the first real let up in 40 minutes.
Spotlit in blue to start, the lights go red as Hoffman's solo gets more aggressive, eventually segueing into 'Neon Nights', Baltes on the riser and the guitarist below, leading the charge. The hits keep coming, 'Bulletproof', 'Losers & Winners', 'Aiming High' and 'Princess Of The Dawn'. 'Up To the Limit' sees streaks of light, like a simultaneous barrage of missile trails, shining from behind each speaker stack, a giant banner of the album's war eagle emblazoned artwork hangs from the rafters.
'No Shelter' is face-melting, followed by its Blood Of the Nations partner 'Pandemic', during which Herman Frank walks off to get a replacement guitar. As they finish, the stage goes black, just the familiar Tyrolean intro to 'Fast As A Shark' plays, before the band returns for this last song of the proper set. For the encore, a heretofore unseen lion's head, a mascot that's occasionally adorned logo artwork and t-shirts throughout the years, has popped up over Swarzmann's gong, the beast's eyes glaring red lights. 'Metal Heart', a red lit 'Teutonic Terror' and the 'Balls To the Wall' finale send the crowd away happy.
Already can't wait to see it again!
More photos can be found in a gallery here.