Concert Reviews

Sept 26th 2019
The Stattbahnhof, Schweinfurt, Germany
Review By: Stefan Raspl

A 30 song set in 30 cities throughout Europe for Helmet's 30th anniversary - I have heard worse excuses for touring in absence of a new album and to skip any opening acts. Calling Helmet "highly influential" is probably still borderlining an understatement - the list of bands citing them as a huge influence is as long and as it is impressive. And during their heyday in the 90s, they were a a serious force crushing concert venues: I still have very vivid memories of Page Hamilton & Co in playing the Batschkapp (Frankfurt) in support of their legendary Meantime release, sporting (back then) unorthodox crew cuts and regular wear, looking like a band of school boys, yet literally making the venue explode. Everybody in the entire place was moving, and Page, shy as ever, easily commanded the crowd in his charming, fluent German.

So how are things almost 25 years later? The Stattbahnhof is one of the smaller venues, and I'd estimate there were maybe 200+ folks in attendance, filling the place reasonably, but certainly not selling it out by far, which is a bit disillusioning. As usual, Page and his current line up, which kept stable for a number of years by now, entered the stage without much fanfare as they launched into the first cuts. Crowd reaction was a bit lacking, which was certainly not Helmet's fault: They played the material very tight, with the drummer giving his kit one hell of a beating. Page's vocals, which are cringe-worthy on the later releases, were in really good shape. Sure, pushing 60, he strictly avoids the higher shouts. But his "tough guy" voice on tracks like Meantime is still fine - no complaints there!

It was quite surprising how well the post-Aftertaste tracks hold up in a live setting. And I'll openly admit that Welcome to Algiers (from the Seeing Eye Dog album), while pretty frivolous on the record, is one of my favorites live by now. Speaking of the setlist, they played a well-balanced mixture across their catalog, as usual not forgetting about more obscure releases like Born Annoying, or the Black Sabbath cover Symptom of the Universe. The Jazz-noisefest Beautiful Love and the weird Sam Hell were cleverly integrated into the set as counterpoints, keeping the tension for the entire 1 hour and 50 minutes playing time.

I didn't take the crowed too long to warm up, and so did the band, delivering track after track. However, the interaction with the crowd was almost non-existing: I recall only 3 times total Page did any banter at all, and that was very, very brief, plus his German has obviously deteriorated quite a bit. Then again, considering the 2 hours of playing time, they showed awesome stamina: I'd know enough bands who will willingly do stage banter after every song to give everyone in the band a breather, but they just kept pushing and pushing!

All in all, Page demonstrated that he can still easily deliver the goods playing-wise with his band. And the fact that they did 30 songs, had absolutely no weak ones in their setlist, and I could _still_ give a number of favorites that I was missing speaks volumes! It's just sad to see that nowadays they don't get anywhere near the success that they deserve. Which I would attribute to some really horrendously bad sounding releases since their reunion. But that's a different story. So: If you get a chance, I'd highly recommend attending - you won't regret it!

PS: I'd like to add a big fuck-you to some of the assholes in the mosh-pit, though. From the 250 pound bully who stormed through the crowed like the literal fat kid on the schoolyard pushing the skinnys aside just cause he feels like it, to the moron who thought it's a great idea to spill his beer all over the pit so others would slip and fall - no idea what's wrong with some folks at concerts, but I hope you'll lighten up eventually...

Back to Concerts