Udo Dirkschneider will be 65-years old this year. 65. Undoubtedly, Udo is part of the golden generation. At his age, he should be enjoying a fine brew with his mates while savoring the warm breeze of Wuppertal nights. But, no, he’s not. He’s hitting the road, with long-time friend and bassist Fitty Wienhold, his son and drummer, Sven Dirkschneider, and a stock of young-gun guitarists in Finn Kasperi Heikkinen and Russian Andrey Smirnov. What, pray tell, has Master Dirkschneider thinking he can still rock through a 30-date tour? Two things, actually. He can. And he’s closing the door—officially—on performing songs by his former act Accept. That’s right. At 64, soon to be 65, Udo still has the stamina and the voice to slay songs like “London Leatherboys”, “Metal Heart”, and “Neon Nights”. And he’s pretty much had enough of Accept while Accept are still a living and breathing band. In fact, Udo’s quoted, saying, “I also wanna stop to be compared with… Now Accept is still on tour, and they have a new singer, and they are doing also ‘Balls to the Wall’ and they are doing also ‘Metal Heart’, they do ‘Princess of the Dawn’. And I don’t wanna be always compared and have to say, ‘What do you think about this and this and this?’ This is also another reason. I wanna close the Accept chapter. I mean, it was a great… I mean, in a way, I was creating this band, you know. Sometimes you have to say, ‘Okay, that’s it.’”
So, what does Udo sound like? In short, awesome. What does his band, without guitarists Wolf Hoffmann and Herman Frank, sound like? In short, awesome. Going into the Dirkschneider show at Philadelphia’s famous Trocadero venue felt like any other show. Dinner in near Chinatown, lots of discussion about the well-publicized setlist and his guitarists, two relative unknowns from Finland and Russia. Lots of questions abound, actually. Would Udo come out from behind the drum riser on “Balls to the Wall” like the video? Would Udo be wearing camo? Would Udo’s voice hold up after the first 30 minutes? What about the first hour? Most of our questions were answered the halfway through opening track, “Starlight” (off Breaker). Yes, Udo was in camo. A camo vest and pants. Yes, Udo’s voice was on point. And, yes, his guitarists were more than capable of picking up Hoffmann and Frank’s slack. In fact, they looked absolutely comfortable on stage, interacting with the rest of the band (as well as the audience), and performing Accept songs as if they’d written them.
Apart from raging through gems like “Neon Nights”, “Restless and Wild”, “Princess of the Dawn”, and “Breaker”, Udo and team were willing to break up the set with instrumental performances, highlighting Wienhold’s bass prowess, Heikkinen’s six-string abilities, and Smirnov’s sleight of hand. I gather they allowed Udo a brief respite from belting out “Flash Rockin’ Man”, “Winterdreams”, and crowd-pleaser “Son of a Bitch”. But, really, Udo looked and sounded tireless. As the first hour merged into the second, he kept asking Philadelphia, “Are you ready for more, Philadelphia?!” and “Are you sure, Philadelphia?!” While the Trocadero wasn’t at capacity—the upper level was closed off—the crowd, mostly the older set who were twentysomething when Metal Heart landed in ’85, didn’t let up. They sang with Udo. They sang when Udo prompted them. And they pumped fists as if they were still in the prime of their youth. All night long.
Of course, most were waiting for the Encore Set. Sure, “Living for Tonite”, “Midnight Mover”, and “Screaming for a Love-Bite” had the crowd excited, but we all know which songs we wanted to hear. As Udo masterfully segued into “Metal Heart”, “I’m a Rebel”, “Fast as a Shark” (replete with the audience singing the German traditional), “Balls to the Wall”, and “Burning”, it was clear these were the hits everyone was waiting for. While I must say, it was awesome to not have a pit to watch out for, Philadelphians of the younger type felt it was necessary for ‘Fast as a Shark’. It immediately split the crowd and killed metal-as-a-community vibe. Nevertheless, Udo, after the song ended, breathed, “Unbelievable”, in his German-accented English.
It’s understandable Udo is doing this tour to close out the Accept chapter once and for all. He’s got enough solo songs to live off for a good long time, but I can’t imagine him never singing ‘Balls to the Wall’ or ‘Metal Heart’ again. Maybe this is how legends are made. By making controversial decisions on things that matter to people. Actually, no. Udo was a legend before this tour and he’ll be one long after. Hail Udo Dirkschneider!