PHOTOS + REVIEW — Helloween w/ Hammerfall at Jannus Live 2023

Helloween w/ Hammerfall • May 16, 2023 • Jannus Live — St. Petersburg, FL • Photos by Randy Cook — instagram.com/horns_raised

HELLOWEEN LIVE REVIEW 

Review by Randy Cook

Helloween & HammerFall | May 16, 2023 | Jannus Live, St. Petersburg, FL

Playing just their second show in the United States since 2018, German power metal pioneers Helloween invaded the courtyard of Jannus Live in St. Petersburg, FL on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. Bringing with them in direct support for their ‘United Forces 2022-2023’ tour are fellow power metal titans, HammerFall, hailing from Sweden.

I have to say that I was a bit surprised when I saw that the gates for this show opened at 6 PM, yet I could find no evidence online of any other bands besides Helloween and HammerFall. I figured surely with the doors opening that early there were probably four bands on the bill. Alas, I was able to acquire the set times before I headed to the venue and discovered HammerFall would play a full on hour-long set, followed by an early (8:30 PM start) for Helloween which meant they had more than two full hours to pulverize our senses with the power of their metal!
I arrived at the venue solo for this adventure and made it inside with plenty of time to spare before the fun began. The one thing I immediately noticed from an already thick and early arriving crowd was the number of Latin American flags I saw on those wearing their battle jackets. Metal knows no language barrier! There was also a wide age range in the crowd, as I am always fascinated by and make note of the demographics in the crowd of the Shows I Go To.

HammerFall hit the stage exactly on time and for my three songs in the photo pit was an interesting experience. At that time of day and angle of the sun, any given band member who was not the drummer, could have been (and many times was) standing in half sun, half shadow. Some of my photos came out interesting in that aspect to say the least. Power metal very accurately describes this band as they check all of the boxes to characterize that genre. Fantasy-based subject matter, strong choruses, a theatrical, dramatic and emotionally “powerful” sound. There were many fists continuously in the air for their entire fourteen song set. Lead vocalist Joacim Cans asked how many of us “…crazy mother f*ckers had even seen HammerFall before?” He (and I) both approximated about sixty percent of the crowd had their hands in the air for that question. With myself being in that majority group of first timers it was easy for me to see how the band members feed off of and encourage crowd interaction with headbanging and fist-pumping along to their anthemic sound.

Touring in support of their latest 2022 release ‘Hammer of Dawn’, the set list contained multiple songs from the newest release only, with the rest of their time digging way deep into their thirty year catalog and playing one song from almost all of the rest of their twelve studio releases. While I was unfamiliar with their music going into the show, I can attest that they have a new fan here. They were a strong presence on stage and the song that stood out to me the most was ‘Let the Hammer Fall’. The crowd interaction of shouting “FALL” was nearly as loud as the band was. By that point in the set I was upstairs and the group of my fellow metal brethren who graciously let me hang with them in their suite area all looked at each other at one point in the upcoming moment for the next iteration and I had to snap a photo of the group. Fantastic musical start to the evening we all agreed!

I made my way back downstairs and back to the photo pit in anticipation of the reason we were all here tonight. As we were literally seconds away from the band hitting the stage, someone who had secured themselves a prime dead center, front row spot along the rail, I heard them say to their rail-mate “…this is going to be the best night of my life!” Then the first notes of Helloween hit. As I write this after the fact, my exact thoughts a day later are HOLY SH*T what a show that was! I can easily say that it was one of the most visually entertaining concerts I have ever attended in all of my concert going years and certainly is a leading candidate for my favorite show of 2023! More on the visuals later as for this evening, while the time allotment was about the same as the normal three songs up front, tonight we were allowed the first song only, but with the intro it stretched over fifteen minutes! This was my second time seeing Helloween. My first time seeing them was my thirteenth ever concert back in 1989 when they were the opening band for Exodus and Anthrax. They obviously have a very strong following and with this being their first North American tour in five years it was no surprise that the show was either sold out or very close to being so.

As with just about every band I have ever had the fortune to photograph, I am in sort of a different zone when I am in the photo pit and sometimes I do not exactly ‘hear’ the music as I am trying to capture the action on stage. For the first song of the set, ‘Orbit’ I was in more of a visual frame of mind and the music did not really hit me until I had made my way out of the photo pit and back upstairs. I made friends with yet another group of fans in a different suite and again, graciously they welcomed me into their party (literally) and I took in the action before my eyes and ears. Helloween is considered one of the most influential European heavy metal bands of the 1980s, the forefathers of power metal and their fan following on display this evening proves how solid of a legacy they have among the metal community.

With two lead singers, three guitarists, a bassist and a drum kit with SIX bass drums there is certainly an eyeful to try and take it all in on stage. During my time in the photo pit I could not see the whole stage set up with the giant pumpkin (the stage is high at Jannus) but once I made my way toward the back it was in plain sight and I thought that this was one of the most craftily constructed stages I have ever seen. The eyes of the pumpkin changed colors along with the theme of the visuals behind the band on the video screen. Every song the band played resulted in a huge roar from the crowd, with the completion of one song right into the introduction of the next one. Having sixteen studio albums to choose from, the set list spanned at least six of them with a medley mixed in mid-set that was longer than the opening song I had up front.

This is a band that I need to dig deeper into their discography as I was only familiar with a very small slice of their musical history going into this show. I was blown away by how heavy and crunchy their riffs sounded even when they slowed the tempo way down. After the fact I noticed in my photos the killer designs of the band’s various guitars and wished I would have noticed that as the action was happening when I was up front. To say that I (along with everyone else in attendance) was taken on a visual journey as the evening progressed is an understatement. The videos playing behind the band were incredible and whoever came up with the idea of the dead skeleton in a Helloween shirt playing a Helloween themed pinball game is absolutely brilliant. During that song we were taken on the visual journey that ball in play took as it twisted and turned throughout the game and the band’s and machine’s logo would flash visible here and there. While it may have been the party atmosphere around me, as even without partaking in the festivities, I went home hungry, but the amazing visuals behind the band absolutely captured and never let go of my attention.

I had pre-arranged to meet one of the Shows I Go To fam I had never met before outside the venue just before the show ended to hand out SIGT show flyers and printed show calendars promoting our site and ticket giveaways. It was great to chat with her and I even got to snap a photo of her with local concert legend “Medicine Man,” who she knew as “Concert Guy.” It was a great evening, an absolutely fantastic show (definitely this will be among my favorite shows of the year) and I encourage anyone who may be on the fence about going to this show. Do yourself a favor and buy your ticket today!

Helloween Set List
May 16th, 2023 at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg, FL:

Orbit
Skyfall
Eagle Fly Free
Mass Pollution
Future World
Power
Save Us
Walls of Jericho
Kai Medley/Metal Invaders/Victim Of Fate/Gorgar/Ride The Sky
Heavy Metal (Is The Law )
Forever and One (Neverland)
Sascha Gertsner guitar solo
Best Time
Dr. Stein
How Many Tears

Encore:
Perfect Gentleman

Encore 2:
Keeper of the Seven Keys
I Want Out


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