U.D.O. – “Live in Bulgaria 2020 – Pandemic Survival Show” CD / LP / DVD (AFM Records)
Battle Helm Rating
Even in the world’s worst crisis for many a year, few can stifle the scream of ex Accept vocalist Udo Dirkschneider! Going solo in 1987 with his own band U.D.O., some 17 studio albums later and there’s little in the way of flagging with this legendary singer, despite being close to 70 years of age, as he proves on yet another monster live release just why he’s still as much of a sought-after headlining name as he ever was. Filmed in front of 2.500 crazed fans at the Roman Amphitheatre in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, the camaraderie is evident and indeed overflowing across the 25 tracks – even with COVID restrictions in place. Like old friends meeting up again, the crowd needs no prompting to sing along to Dirkschneider’s trademark cat purr vocals, and when they’re not doing that, the Bulgars just roar, whistle and applaud their hearts out. Expectedly drawing from a range of U.D.O. and Accept classics, there were also a number of songs rarely played live as a special treat on this pandemic show. While the likes of ‘Fast As A Shark’ and ‘Balls To The Wall’ need little introduction, I was impressed by the power ballad ‘One Heart, One Soul’ (taken from 2018’s “Steel Factory”) which resonated in my Accept heart, from Udo’s sultry vocals to the heavy, crunching twin guitars of Andrey Smirnov and Fabian Dee Dammers also exuding plenty of epic Teutonic melodies clearly taken in also by the Plovdiv faithful. Going back further to the title track ‘Man And Machine’ (from their 8th studio album released in 2002), clearly demonstrating the heavy power riffing, marching beat anthem led by Udo’s stirring purr in building to the air punching almighty chorus shout out, it’s the stuff to move mountains through its honest emotion and open arm embrace in bonding with massive crowds across the world that’s made Dirkschneider’s name. Unable to resist, if ever I could, ‘Princess Of The Dawn’ is particularly touching here, with the crowd chanting ‘Udo! Udo!’ and woah-ohing to the melodic note intro before cueing an en masse clap, singing along to the all too familiar lines of ‘..the guardians of God.. play the pawns.. beg for mercy – hail the queen Princess of the Dawn..’ – yes, we’ve all heard it a million times before, but here among the 2,500 rabid U.D.O. fans, with ample guitar work fuelling this classic, it really brings a true meaning to ‘special’ in this one-of-a-kind show.