By Mark Gromen
“Ahead Of The Pack, Never Look Back,” sang Mark Tornillo on one of the tracks off Restless & Wild, which was supposed to be aired in its entirety for Wacken 2014, half those tracks having long been staples of the live show anyway. The band would have preferred to adhere to those decades’ old lyrics and stormed through material from Blind Rage, due for release a fortnight later, but apart from the hard charging opener “Stampede”, this was more about the past than the future. Odd, when a gig in front of more than 75,000 is just a warm-up. Yet, two days later, they played to 10 times that amount, at the massive Woodstock festival, in Poland.
Bounding onstage, all smiles and with a bounce in their step that shames most bands half their age, Accept launched into the live, world premiere of the aforementioned newbie “Stampede”, signalling this ain’t a nostalgic act, even if a good portion of the night’s set (by Wacken organizers’ demand) recalled yesterday. The stage mimicked a similar orange to what adorns the current artwork. Peter Baltes seems to have sipped from the mythic Fountain Of Youth, the floppy head of curls prominently on display, yet no signs of aging: neither lines on the face, nor loss of energy onstage. “Stalingrad” followed, another hymn penned since Baltes and guitarist Wolf Hoffmann (looking fit & lean, showcasing some wicked leads and throwing in some windmills, for good measure, along the way) reunited and recruited Tornillo.
Philosophical musical statement declared, it was the initial foray into the 80s, with a purple lit “Losers & Winner”, as ski cap wearing Herman Frank briefly took the lead. The stage was a clean, futuristic steel construction, colored lights visible from behind the slats. The wall of speakers either side of drummer Stefan Schwarzmann saw the brand name of each guitar cabinet replaced by an Accept placard, featuring crossed guitars. “Monsterman”, although they played it last tour, was still a bit of a surprise. “London Leatherboys” begins with a jump step and sway as the bassist and Hoffmann lock into synchronized stage movements, ultimately with a foot up on the monitors, shaking their heads to the music. Bathed in blue and a blitzkrieg of strobes, The clickety-clack. runaway locomotive beat of “Breaker” sees the trio of stringed musicians front and center, Flying Vs held vertically as the Bassist headbangs madly.
Under white lights, at the front of the stage, Baltes bangs out the bass line to “Shadow Soldiers”, which Tornillo dedicated to “all the troops around the world who keep us free.” Speaking of the singer, his intro to “Restless & Wild” was the most I’ve heard him speak during an Accept show, this being my tenth (lost count) since the reformation. It began a string of five successive selections from that titular disc. Been ages since I heard “Ahead Of The Pack”, one of the concessions to the Wacken bosses, the stage turning a deep crimson, before a nitro-fueled “Flash Rocking Man” showed speed knows no age limits. Wow! Baltes still jumping off the drum riser ramps, before joining the guitar tandem center stage. The addition of Tornillo briefly makes it a quartet up front.
The purple of royalty shines down on Hoffman, who kicks into the signature riff of “Princess Of The Dawn”, as Baltes plays cheerleader, getting everyone to clap along. Although approaching midnight, the throng needs no coaxing to scream the title/chorus. If you think they sang loudly for that, the a cappella Tyrolean rhythm (hi de, hi do) which begins “Fast As A Shark” is practically deafening (if that’s possible, sans instruments/amplification). Tornillo conducts the sing-song melody as if a classical maestro, before punctuating with the opening scream. Although an hour into the event, like a bobble-head figurine powered by the Energizer Bunny, Baltes is still banging his head.
Restless & Wild obligation out of the way, it’s on to the records that followed, including another pair from the Tornillo era: “Pandemic” and “Teutonic Terror” (which began with Baltes standing alone,offstage on the runner/wing of the gigantic stage). They sandwich “Metal Heart”, the colorfully lit, but lone choice from the album of the same name, which saw the crowd sing along to the guitar melody, as well as the “Whoa Whoa” passages. The same happens with “Balls To The Wall”, which sees the singer and Frank swaying in unison. The song ends with another onstage lightning storm of strobes. Has anyone left yet? Although dark, the Jumbotron visuals indicate the grounds remain packed to the gills. Most North Americans would probably be shocked by the closing “Burning” (appropriately tinted in crimson lights), but it’s a sonic fury and whiz-bang finish that keeps people talking.
90 minutes and there’s STILL so much they DIDN’T play, new and old. Hopefully the Blind Rage tour will fill in some of the missing pieces!