Dirkschneider at Slimís in San Francisco, CA

Slim’s, San Francisco, CA
January 21, 2017

Words by Dan Wall
Photo y Matt Bolender

Set List:
Starlight, Living For Tonite, Flash Rockin’ Man, London Leatherboys, Midnight Mover, Breaker, Head Over Heels, Neon Nights, Princess of the Dawn, Winter Dreams, Restless and Wild, Son Of A Bitch, Up To the Limit, Wrong Is Right, Midnight Highway, Screaming For a Love-Bite, Monster Man, TV War, Winners and Losers. Encore: Metal Heart, I’m A Rebel, Fast As a Shark, Balls To the Walls, Burning
2 hours, 10 minutes.

Who would have thought that when Udo Dirkschneider left Accept for the first time in 1987 that we would still be talking about the singer and his former band here in 2017.

Amazingly, we still are. The main debate is which act, Udo’s solo act Dirkschneider, or the group that still goes by Accept, play the band’s songs better live.

I’m here to give you that answer. Both bands play the songs wonderfully. Accept, still lead by guitarist Wolf Hoffmann and bassist Peter Baltes and featuring the band’s latest singer Mark Tornillo, have added a new tint to the band’s past glories, as the group has moved towards the power metal of bands like Helloween and Gamma Ray while still hammering out the old classics faithfully live. And Udo’s group, which is also known as U.D.O. when it plays the singer’s solo material, is an absolute heavy metal machine when pumping out these 30-year old songs.

So who does it the best? Sorry to the current band, who I support and listen to regularly, but you can’t beat the original singer, who still has his menacing growl in place for these classic songs that helped make Accept an underground metal legend in America back in the 80’s.

For the uneducated, and perhaps those who think the 64-year old singer has been sitting at home in Germany counting his Euros, Mr. Dirkschneider has been very active since his departure from the band. His solo act U.D.O. has released 15 studio albums and is big in Europe and Japan. The band frequents the festival circuit overseas and can still bring in crowds of well over 20,000, while here in America, U.D.O. is merely an afterthought (even though the music his band plays is nothing but good, old-fashioned metal that any Accept fan would enjoy).

Accept, meanwhile, carried on without Udo after a brief reunion in 2005. The original band was joined by Tornillo after Dirkschneider declined an invitation to rejoin Accept, so now we have U.D.O. (the solo act,) Udo (the singer with Dirkschneider) and Accept (with Tornillo). And if you follow that, I’ll buy you a Spaten the next time I see you.

The amazing thing about this tour is that Udo says this is the last time he will play an entire set of Accept songs live. From here on out, if Accept is still playing live shows, U.D.O. (or Udo) will only do an Accept song or two live (he’d have to play “Balls To The Walls” live with any outfit or he’d be lynched) and leave the rest of the songs to that other band. So on this night, the set list was chock full of Accept classics and rare songs that haven’t been played live in years, if ever. And this show in San Francisco marked the first time in 32 years that Dirkschneider has performed in SF-the last time was with Accept on the Metal Heart tour with Rough Cutt and Coney Hatch supporting-a real who’s who of “should have been bigger” acts.

Over the years, the appearance has changed a bit-our diminutive hero who once looked like a like a snotty juvenile delinquent has morphed into a grizzled metal grandad. But the vocals, that low, gutty, gravelly growl is still there, in all of its glory, whether you like it, love it or hate it.

You can imagine that everyone in the jammed packed nightclub here (you might remember Slim’s as the venue Boz Scaggs opened in the 80’s; Tesla played its first acoustic shows here as well) absolutely loved the voice, and each and every one of the 24 classic songs on display. The biggest surprise might be just how good the other guys were-guitarists Andrey Smirnoff and Kasperi Heikkinen, bassist and band vet Fitty Wienhold and Udo’s son Sven on drums-a band so tight and solid that if you closed your eyes, you’d have no problem imagining the original band up there, rocking its metal heart out.

The guitarists nailed every riff and note-filled solo, Wienhold was a rock and the junior Dirkschneider kicked the shit out his drums. Song after song flew by, each one a highlight in itself. Especially cool was the stage, which was cut off on the sides and pushed the band together mid-stage. Every single song looked more rad with the entire group of guitarists and Dirkschneider locked together in a storming metal chorus line.

There were a few songs that stood tall above the rest, however, with a solo, riff or chorus lifting each selection to seemingly bigger heights. “Living For Tonite” started a string of massive sing-a-longs; “Midnight Mover,” a song that should have been a massive hit in the states, sounded just as good as ever-so did “Screaming For a Love-Bite”; the riff-filled “Flash Rockin” Man,” “Up To the Limit” and “Losers and Winners” were riveting; and the moody “Neon Nights” proved to be a surprise highlight mid-set. And if you know “Son Of A Bitch,” you know that the expletive-filled tune is the sauciest in Udo’s repertoire, and if you don’t, you’re an asshole (that’s an inside joke).

Amazingly, the 19-song main set proved to be merely a warm-up for the incredible encore. In all of my years covering concerts, this five-song run will no doubt prove to be one of the best all-time encores I’ve ever seen or heard. It started with “Metal Heart,” the opening cut from the album of the same name and an all-time metal classic. Then “I’m A Rebel,” a warm, glammy romp that comes from the band’s early days. If you don’t know “Fast As A Shark” and claim to like metal, forget it; it’s an absolute all-time beast of a song and the first one I remember hearing from Accept. Then “Balls to the Wall,” a song that will one day represent Accept and Udo in the Metal Hall of Fame (whenever and wherever that happens, I want to be there). The riff, the chorus, the menacing mid-song breakdown; it was all there in its glory, as the crowd went bonkers. Then just for old times’ sake, a romp thru “Burning,” the closest thing Accept ever did to making a Chuck Berry-type of metal song, to shut the whole thing down.

It all added up to one of the best shows in years, and one of the best metal shows this town has seen in a long time. It’s sad that Udo can’t bring his regular band here (it’s been rumored for years that he would tour with U.D.O., but aside from a few shows, a big tour has never happened in the states). But for one night in San Francisco, Udo Dirkschneider and his rambunctious crew of metal heads gave the metal community here a belated Christmas gift with one of his all-time greatest shows.