Accept was one of those bands that I totally missed out on as a young, fledgling metalhead in the 80’s. Sure, I was a fan of songs such as “Balls to the Wall”, “Up to the Limit”, and “London Leatherboys.” Accept was a band that I just didn’t give a whole lot of attention but after hearing the full album “Metal Heart” for the first time in 1987, it was too late. I had already missed my chances to see Accept. Even with Accept resurrected with new vocalist Mark Tornillo, they still continued to skip over Atlanta (except for a ProgPower performance) making it so that I couldn’t even see them.
I longed to see those great Accept classics performed live and I pretty much gave up hope on ever seeing these songs done in any fashion. When I finally heard that legendary Accept vocalist Udo Dirkschneider would be storming US shores with his band Dirkschneider, you bet your sweet ass that I wasn’t going to miss this. Variety Playhouse had maybe a hundred or more people and while it may not sound like a lot, this was a crowd of diehards ready to have their faces completely melted off with a two hour set of Accept classics.
The energy in the room was absolutely electrifying as the houselights went out to a loud roar. Dirkschneider (featuring U.D.O members Andrey Smrinov (guitar), Kasperi Heikknen (guitar), Fitty Wienhold (bass) and son Sven) kicked things off with “Starlight” and Udo stormed the stage like a bull released from the pen. The minute he unleashed those first lyrics, it was without a doubt standing proof that big things do indeed come in small packages. Dirkschneider’s 2 hour powerhouse set featured such classics as “London Leatherboys”, “Restless and Wild”, “Head Over Heels”, and “Son of Bitch.” “Up to the Limit was the real show stopper for me as this is my all time favorite Accept song. I just lost my goddamn mind like I was 16 years old again and didn’t even care how ridiculous I looked doing so.
Udo’s band was so amazing to watch and the connection that these guys had to these songs not only sounded but felt every bit as passionate and real as what I’ve heard from Accept. You can tell when a band is playing songs because it’s a job and when they are playing songs because they love them. These guys without a doubt love these songs and it showed song after song as they worked the crowd, had fun together on stage, and acted as the perfect front line of battled behind their fearless leader, Udo. Udo has such a commanding presence and finally getting to see him live, I can only wonder why he’s not held in a much higher regard up there with other great frontmen like Bruce Dickinson, Ronnie James Dio, and Rob Halford.
Dirkschneider closed things out with “Losers and Winners” but it was the encore that absolutely brought the house down. “Metal Heart”, “Fast as a Shark”, and “Balls to the Wall.” Seriously? That fucking encore alone beat out a lot of full shows that I have seen. The sheer energy, the attack, and the attitude was absolutely tireless and at 64 years old, Udo himself looked and sounded like he could go for another hour at least. As the band took their final bow, the very vocal and very appreciative crowd chanted “UDO! UDO! UDO!” as Udo smiled and bid everyone a good night.
It’s still surreal to me that I got to see Udo doing these classic songs. In my opinion, I equate this experience with what it’s like for me to see Geoff Tate vs. Queensryche with a new singer. Sure, the band may have a great singer that sounds as good as the original but what that singer will never have is that personal, deep rooted connection to each and every song. It’s one thing to hear them done well and it’s a whole other ball game to hear them done exceptionally, passionately, and to feel the heart, the sweat, and the blood poured into every single note and every single lyric. Udo and company without a doubt did just that and proved that much like Coca-Cola, you can’t beat the real thing.