Metal Heaven: Accept plays epic Two-Hour Set at Saban Theatre

By Erik E. Wrath 
(photos by Adrian Mejia)

September 7th 2017, Saban Theatre, Beverly Hills CA: German classic metal legends Accept were in town for a very special show, to promote their latest Nuclear Blast release ‘The Rise Of Chaos’, and of course, to present an assortment of classics from their illustrious career spanning nearly five decades. For this event at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, Vicious Rumors were chosen as the support act. LA metalheads came out in large numbers to enjoy an evening of the finest old-school metal.

This was my second time at a heavy metal show at this venue. While it might seem an odd location for such an event, both times have been surprisingly pleasant. We were greeted by a friendly staff, no intrusive pat down, and a spacious lobby. The theatre is well-appointed with comfortably spaced seats (yes, seats). Also on the plus side, other than an usher showing us to our fourth row center seats, there is virtually no security in the hall – at both shows one could wander up the isles for a better view. The only downside was the gentlemen’s room was out of order so we had to rely on 2 single-occupancy bathrooms. A good chance to make friends!

Vicious Rumors opened the show at 8 PM promptly. I was eager to see their entire set as I am a newly minted fan of this stalwart metal outfit. I researched them only the day before, and perhaps being a bit thrown off by the name, I was idly curious to get a heads up on them. After cranking ‘Digital Dictator’ I know I had some serious catching up to do and proceeded to cram 32 years of history into 32 hours. This band shares the roots of thrash metal with Testament, Death Angel, Megadeth, etc.

They blasted out of the gate with tight old-school Bay Area thrash with plenty of operatic vocal displays from Brad Allen. This guy could really hit the high notes and his wild-eyed, high-energy stage presence fit the uptempo songs perfectly. The songs were consistently built over the solid rhythm section of Tilen Hudrap on bass and the particularly impressive drumming of Larry Howe. Larry seemed “in the zone” – really attacking his kit with ferocity. On second lead guitar, Gunnar DüGrey is a fine young shredder. The overall mix was surprisingly good for an opening slot.

Of course, this is founding member Geoff Thorpe’s career band, and he brought it this evening. Geoff’s leads are skillful, but more importantly, interesting, and delivered with a sincere love for this music. To his credit, he gave Gunnar plenty of spotlight solos and nearly every song in their short set showcased some type of harmony guitar section. Geoff also contributes backing or accent vocals on most songs.

I really appreciated the catchy riffing and genre-defining lyrical content this band served up, and they stayed true to their sound throughout the set. I was somewhat disappointed at the lack of attendance, at least at the beginning of their set – the hall was sparsely occupied. As I had a fourth row center seat, it felt like watching a dress rehearsal for a real show from my point of view. To their credit, it didn’t diminish the effort these guys put into their performance. I cornered Geoff in the lobby afterwards and he accepted my compliments (and a CD of my band) very graciously. I can only hope they are back soon for a headlining set of more amazing material from their catalog. I will be there and you should too. In the meantime, if you aren’t familiar with them, go educate yourself. I recommend the two recent live albums,’Live you to Death’ and ‘Live you to Death 2 – American Punishment’.

Mark Tornillo – Accept

After a short changeover, Accept took the stage 9 pm sharp to a nearly packed house. Set pieces evoking an industrial landscape were in place, with the shroud coming off the kit on the last note of the intro music to reveal drummer Christopher Williams dramatically pounding on his kit. The rest of the band took the stage to a great roar from the enthusiastic crowd – especially going nuts when a confident Wolf Hoffmann, wielding his trademark flying V, tore into the opening lines of ‘Die by the Sword’, a riffy toe tapper from their new release, ‘The Rise of Chaos’. It was game on as vocalist Mark Tornillo led the band immediately into ‘Stalingrad’, the titular song from the album of the same name, and the classic ‘Restless and Wild’. This was not a dinosaur band phoning it in! Co-founder and bassist Peter Baltes then slammed into ‘London Leatherboys’, grinding the swaggering signature bass line out with a bouncy stage move, with Wolf joining him in unison and then the band dropping in to great effect – a highlight of the show, at least for me. Peter was fronting the stage all night, his mop of curly hair flying, obviously having a great time. Uwe Lulis provided solid rhythm guitar all night, occasionally in the spotlight for a couple of leads and harmony lines with Wolf, always with a slight smile on his face. In fact the whole band, including Chris back on the kit, was engaging the crowd and the crowd loved it. I pulled a muscle fist pumping and clapping like a fool!

Many might say, “No Udo?”. I say “No problem”. Mark Tornillo fits the job description to a tee, with a similar timbre to his voice and a better handling of the high end. He is a seasoned and expert front man, having started out with TT Quick back in the day. If you haven’t enjoyed his efforts with Accept in the studio do yourself a favor and go get some. My personal favorite is ‘Stalingrad’, one of my favorite metal albums ever. He was unflagging this evening, retreating from center stage only to let Wolf and company take the lead breaks to the next level.

Peter Baltes (L) and Wolf Hoffmann (R) – Accept

The night belonged to Wolf Hoffmann, founding member and lead guitarist extraordinaire. I have never seen someone enjoying themselves so thoroughly while playing so flawlessly. It’s hard to describe; the charisma, the history, and the sheer love of his craft that exudes from this man. His shaven head and lean form only accentuated his stage moves and various expressions as he mugged his way through both classic and new material. He was completely engaged in entertaining the fans for the entirety of the 2-hour and 5-minute performance.

After the opening salvo, the band romped through a mini-set off the new album. The material sounded great loud and live, the upbeat ‘No Regrets’ a standout. They then continued with a variety of selections from their extensive catalog, all crowd pleasers. There were many outstanding moments, including Peter and Wolf playfully exchanging solos. By the time they closed the set with ‘Fast as a Shark’, it was hard to believe they had kept up this quality of entertainment for almost 2 hours. Of course they weren’t done – coming out again for a heartfelt encore, closing with ‘Teutonic Terror’ and ‘Balls to the Wall’, Tornillo strutting about shirtless – a brave move for a 63-year old but he absolutely could pull it off.

The sound was very well mixed, and loud. Unlike many venues that seem to struggle with live sound, often over-emphasizing the low end resulting in a muddy mess, this mix was crisp. The snare drum was big and powerful, which gave a great backbone to the mix. The guitars, bass and vocals where all in the “right” place. The only issue was the occasional floor tom was too loud, resulting in a blasting woof that overwhelmed the mix. Luckily it was only apparent in a few accent fills throughout the night. To quote my friend as we were leaving, “Wow, I think that’s the best metal show I’ve ever seen”. I might have to agree with him. Accept return to The Rose in Pasadena Saturday, September 30th.

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Accept Set List:
01. Die by the Sword
02. Stalingrad
03. Restless and Wild
04. London Leatherboys
05. Living for Tonite
06. Koolaid
07. Carry the Weight (live premiere)
08. Analog Man (live premiere)
09. No Regrets (live premiere)
10. Final Journey
11. Shadow Soldiers
12. Neon Nights
13. Princess of the Dawn
14. Midnight Mover
15. Up to the Limit
16. Objection Overruled
17. Pandemic
18. Fast as a Shark
19. Metal Heart
20. Teutonic Terror
21. Balls to the Wall