ACCEPT – SLAVES TO METAL, LIVING FOR TONIGHT, UNDER BIG APPLE’S NEON NIGHTS
By Mark Gromen
Blind Rage? No, more like precision, pinpoint aggression. Just what you’d expect from German engineering! Returning to the Gramercy Theater, where on May 8, 2010 this incarnation of Accept shocked the world (“What, no Udo?”) launching one of metal’s greatest musical reformations. There’s a reason this jaded journo, attending concerts for more than three decades, has seen these guys a dozen times since that NYC kick-off. Dying Breed, indeed!
Under the watchful eyes of the snorting/charging beast that adorns the Blind Rage artwork, an orange backdrop spanned the stage. This was my first opportunity to hear seven inclusions from the new disc, opening, as they did at Wacken, with the hard hitting first single, “Stampede”. While no one was trampled, the sold out crowd (assembled from across the Eastern seaboard, this being the lone area show, as opposed to the trio in California and Vegas) was almost uncomfortably packed, shoulder-to-shoulder (balls to the wall?). Talk about the proverbial bull in a china shop…there’d be some collateral damage, no doubt.
“Stalingrad”, just one of the three aired from the album of the same name, the second since Jersey’s own Mark Tornillo joined the German contingent, saw enthusiastic drummer Stefan Schwarzmann playing from a standing position, come the titular chorus. Make no mistake, the stars of he show remain Peter Baltes, the bassist with boundless energy, and guitarist/keeper of the Accept legacy, Wolf Hoffmann. Tonight’s set was sort of packaged with a heavy dose of material from the trio of Tornillo era up early and classics appearing late, stylistically, you’d be hard pressed to notice any difference though. The band looked and sounded great, several friends commenting on the tone and clarity of Hoffmann’s guitar.
“Losers & Winners” lets Herman Frank strut his stuff, taking a rare move to center stage and demonstrating some overhand technique. Wolf acted as cheerleader, getting a clap-along going to start “London Leatherboys”. He and Baltes lock into the patented swaying stage movements. Nice to hear “Starlight”, but since this is a warm-up for Europe, not sure it and the the rarely heard “Ahead Of The Pack” will survive until next Spring’s North American tour, as both were re-learned for the Wacken set. Here’s hoping they make a return engagement. “Dying Breed” and “Final Journey” fly by. The mid-tempo “Shadow Soldiers” appears to be a Tornillo staple, before “From Ashes We Rise” ends the predominately new-song portion of the evening.
“Restless & Wild” might describe Baltes’ onstage demeanor. An hour into the set, he’s still headbanging madly, as Tornillo is atop the drum riser, back-to-the-crowd, staring right into Schwarzmann’s face. The aforementioned “Ahead Of The Pack” sees the two guitarists together, for the first time. A powerful orange beacon drowns the stage for the cannonading drums of “No Shelter”, multiple white lights pulsating down on the crowd. During the portion where the tempo drops, Baltes and Hoffmann are alone center stage, trading licks. An audience choir of “whoa whoa” kicks off “Princess Of The Dawn”. Wives, don’t worry, the backstage was fat, old, bald guys. As the AC/DC stomp of “Dark Side Of My Heart” pumps from the speakers, I wonder which pounds louder/heavier: Accept, or the older crowd’s headache/hangover, the next morning.
Speaking of punishment, what about “Pandemic”? Wow! Mark and Wolf toy with each other. As the stage goes black, a familiar Tyrolean melody fills the sweaty hall, the vinyl ultimately scratched beyond repair, punctuated by a maniacal scream. It’s the classic intro to “Fast As A Shark”, which closes the proper set.
For an encore, the now shirtless Tornillo led the boys back onstage, under purple lights, for the title track, the only option off Metal Heart, a favorite album in America, but then again, this was an overseas exercise. With legs splayed wide, Hoffmann alternated side-to-side, silently directing the still boisterous throng in another (albeit longer in duration) “whoa whoa” sing-along. “Teutonic Terror” followed and “Balls To The Wall” capped the evening. Great set, great band. Can’t wait for next Spring and a full scale domestic tour!