RETURN OF THE DEAD-END DRIVE IN: Hansen & Friends – ‘Thank You Wacken!’ (earMUSIC) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Mark Ashby   
Sunday, 02 July 2017 04:30

Hansen coverFriday 5 August 2016 was a very special date for many metal fans – and especially those who favour the more power end of the genre. For it was the first, and only, time that Kai Hansen, one of the standard bearers of the German scene during his time with Helloween and more latterly Gamma Ray, took to the stage as a “solo” artist, fronting a band bearing his own surname, to celebrate 30 years as one of the most influential figures in the genre. And what better place to have such a party than on the “Party Stage” of arguably the singular biggest and most prestigious metalfest there is, Wacken?

 

Hansen himself explained the extremely logical decision to stage this special gig at this special festival: “1194 was the first time I played Wacken [with Gamma Ray]… a small festival in an unknown place in the north of Germany, near my hometown of Hamburg, with cows grazing on the neighbouring pasture. Since then, we played again and again on a more or less regular basis of every two years, watching it grow into a monster of amazing dimensions… I am happy and proud to still be playing this monster!” Such is the guitarist’s affiliation with, and affection, for the festival that he donated the advance fee for his ‘XXX’ solo album to the Wacken Foundation, a charity set up to help and support young hard rock and metal bands.

 

So, there was no doubt that this was going to a special occasion – and to mark it, Hansen also assembled a special band… and, of course, sprung a couple of surprises along the way (any of Hansen’s thousands of close personal friends who witnessed the occasion will, of course, know what they are…)

 

The set is a mixture of tracks from his then forthcoming debut album – I’ll not repeat the title – and, of course, a few well-chosen Helloween classics thrown in for good measure (surprisingly, there were no Gamma Ray tracks included, for reasons perhaps best known to the guitarist). He sets down his marker earlier with one of the new tracks, the suitably powerful ‘Born Free’: but, hey, it’s Kai Hansen, and you know what to expect, so it wraps itself around you with the comfortable familiarity of the legions of denim and leather clad hordes around you (except, of course, you’re watching this in the comfort of your living room, not a muddy field, sipping a cold one, not a lukewarm plastic glass of pisswater the eejit beside you has already spilled all over himself).

 

 

The performance is as flawless as you would expect of a musician of the experience and pedigree of Hansen, and the band – Alex Dietz from Heaven Shall Burn on bass, Eike Freese of Dark Age on second guitar, Corvin Bahn from Crystal Breed behind the keys and Gamma Ray’s Michael Ehré sitting in on drums – are tighter than a gnat’s chuff (to steal a phrase from one of the UR team).

 

Now, normally when you get sent a live DVD for review, you get sent a link to a grainy one-off stream, or even just the audio tracks: thankfully, on this occasion, UR got sent the shiny little silver disc itself, and so we were able to watch it in glorious 42” widescreen, HD and all that malarkey, which really helped to draw out the high production values of this release. The cameras are up close – closer than you’d ever hope to get at the festival itself – but are obviously not so intrusive as to impinge upon the crowd’s enjoyment of the actual show. The sound mix is spot on as well, drawing out every note to full effect and really making you feel immersed in the show: better than being in the front row, up to yer oxters in dirt, that’s for sure!

 

Packing his set with no fewer than seven songs from an album no one had heard yet, may have been a helluva risk, but it paid off on this occasion, as the audience reaction to them appears to be extremely positive, and you can actually hear people singing along to the likes of ‘Enemies Of Fun’. But, the highlights are undoubtedly the Helloween songs, especially Frank Beck’s contribution to ‘Victim Of Fate’: and the adrenaline levels hit the ceiling (well, they would if there was one in the festival arena) when, just as the sun is setting over the arena, Michael Kiske saunters out, to suitably rapturous applause, for the double whammy of ‘I Want Out’ and ‘Future World’ – and the duo absolutely nail them, as if they’d still been playing them together all these years.

 

 

Fuck all that phoney stuff that the mainstream channels broadcast from so-called “rock” festivals: this is metal played by metallers for metallers. Get yourself a copy and revel in the power and the glory of it all.

 

‘Thank You Wacken!’ is out now.

 

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