AXEL RUDI PELL Gig Review
Support Acts: Madmax
London Underworld, 22nd April 2012
Review by Yiannis (John) Stefanis
Sunday night gigs are a real pain in the proverbial nowadays. Sure, as an eighteen year old, sleeping a couple of hours before heading to work was not an issue but, two decades later, you realise that it takes a good couple of days before you start recovering. So how come I am writing a review of a Sunday night gig, therefore? Simply because the man who was playing London that night was no other than the German axeman Axel Rudi Pell – a Ritchie Blackmore enthusiast who, since the release of his debut album “Wild Obsession” back in 1898, has been providing us with top class quality melodic Hard Rock/Heavy Metal anthems. The purpose of tonight’s show was the promotion of Axel’s much anticipated fifteenth studio album “Circle Of The Oath” – if the long queue outside the Camden venue was anything to go by.
Tonight’s show had only one opening act, the Münster-based Hard Rock/Heavy Metal quartet Madmax who, surprisingly enough, were first formed eight years before Pell’s outfit, taking a ten year hiatus during the period 1989-1999. Equally attracted by the works of Scorpions and Thin Lizzy, Madmax proved to be a very worthy opening act, enjoying one of the best sounds I have ever experienced by an opening act at this venue and soon winning both the attention and the appreciation of Axel’s audience. The slow rhythmical tunes of “Burning The Stage” provided a good introduction to the band’s classic-sounding material and by the time the sing-along belter “Welcome To Rock Bottom” was introduced, the crowd had already been won over. Michael Voss proved to be in possession of a deep soulful voice, but is also a very skilled guitarist, providing songs like “Metal Edge” and “Wait For The Night” with some really impressive leads. Why on earth he chose to break the set’s momentum by performing an 80s sounding guitar solo only god knows but both the Scorpions-sounding “Fall From Grace” and the more flamboyant “Love Loaded” re-established order in the performance. The crowd cheered enthusiastically to the question “Are you ready for Axel??!!”, but the band left the stage only after performing 1987’s “Night Of Passion” – a song that both the band and the crowd seemed to enjoy in equal measure.
For the last fifteen years Axel Rudi Pell has been recording music with the support of some of the best musicians in Metal and though I was quite eager to see them all displaying their skills, it was singer Johnny Gioeli who I put under the microscope throughout the show. His studio performances have always been of the utmost quality but would the Italian American bard manage to re-create his wide-range vocal parts equally successful in a live environment? With only a few minor exceptions, Johnny’s vocals were simply outstanding! From the moment the first notes of “Ghost In The Black” were heard, Johnny proved why he deserves to occupy the space previously engaged by iconic frontmen such as Jeff Scott Soto. Johnny moved constantly around the small stage of the Underworld like a fierce demon, allowing Axel to perform his magic during “Welcome To Rock Bottom” and “Metal Edge” by standing to the side of the stage – almost in total anonymity! The venue was filled with screams when Johnny asked how “my friends in London are doing tonight” and again after the band introduced the first medley of the crowd-pleasers “Masquerade Ball” – “Casbah – “Dream Dead”, incorporating snippets of Led Zeppelin’s all-time classic “Whole Lotta Love”! Following a tremendous solo by the mighty Mike Terrana, the band produced the second medley of the night, this time merging parts of Deep Purple’s classic “Mistreated” in between the wonderful “Mystica”. The same-titled “Circle Of The Oath” was another new track that was well-received by the audience, followed by the catchy sing-along Rocker “Fool Fool” and a keyboard part, courtesy of Mr. Fredy Doernberg, whose equipment was somehow miraculously squeezed into the area normally reserved for the press! The last song of the main set was my personal favourite, “Carousel”, which Johnny and the band performed somewhat faster than the original, but which still sounded great. Following the crowd’s warm reaction, they left the stage for the first time. The band’s return was announced by the mighty “Tear Down The Walls”, followed by a warm rendition of the four minute classic “Nasty Reputation”. The band’s second exit from the stage convinced some of the crowd that the show was over, however these were the same people who missed a killer rendition of “Rock The Nation” – the perfect ending to what was proved to be a very enjoyable show.
I am not really sure who decided to host an Axel Rudi Pell show at the London Underworld, but what became fairly obvious quite early on was that someone hadn’t done their homework! Such an energetic band needs a lot of space, especially with so much equipment, so many people missed their chance to see Axel performing his magic, either because he was behind a column or because many had to stand way back in the venue where you can’t see very much of anything at all. What the venue lacked, though, the band provided in passion and skill, making this a night to remember! I really hope it is not too long before someone decides to bring Axel back to London, this time at a more fitting venue!
Madmax Set List:
1. “Burning The Stage”
2. “Welcome To Rock Bottom”
3. “Metal Edge”
4. “Wait For The Night”
5. “Guitar Solo”
6. “Fall From Grace”
7. “Love Loaded”
8. “Night Of Passion”
Axel Rudi Pell Set List:
1. “Ghost In The Black”
2. “Strong As A Rock”
3. “Before I Die”
4. “Medley: Masquerade Ball” – “Casbah – “Dream Dead” (Included snippet of “Whole Lotta Love” from Led Zeppelin).
5. “Drum Solo (Mike Terrana)”
6. “Mystica – Mistreated (Deep Purple cover) – Mystica”
7. “Circle Of The Oath”
8. “Fool Fool”
9. “Keyboard Solo (Fredy Doernberg)”
11. “Tear Dow The Walls”
12. “Nasty Reputation”
13. “Rock The Nation”
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