ARIA/U.D.O.
TsSKA Ice Palace
Moscow April 30, 2001

All hail the show's promoters, the T.C.I. company!!! For the first time in the recent few months (or years?) I see people who do learn from their mistakes. Their organisation of last year's Aria/Rage tour was nothing but a disaster, but this time they managed to handle everything right. High-quality work (at least according to Russian standards) was obvious in everything - the gig was not rescheduled, it started a decent half an hour after the announced time so everybody managed to get in before U.D.O. hit the stage, there were no jams at the doors and the number of policemen inside was relatively tolerable. The only wrong thing was the choice of venue. As soon as Herr Udo played the first couple of songs it became clear to me that you can't produce a good sound in a place primarily intended for ice hockey. Thank god, the band sounded much better than Rage a year ago, but the vocals were still too low in the mix and the people who were not very well acquainted with U.D.O.'s repertoire were obviously having trouble with enjoying his performance. Things could have been much better if Udo and his men had played a greatest-hits package, but they apparently thought that this was their third gig in Moscow and high time to perform some vintage material. "Run If You Can", "Midnight Highway", "Break The Rules", "Recall The Sin" - I was really glad to hear these tunes live but those less familiar with Udo's career were far from happy with the set list, especially given the fatal absence of "Metal Heart", "In The Darkness" and "Fast As A Shark". What did set the crowd on fire was the classic "Balls To The Wall" and a new tune called "Shout It Out" interpolated by the theme from "Moscow Nights" - a song that has a status close to the national anthem in this country. Having seen U.D.O. twice before I couldn't but compare the shows, and my opinion is that their previous gigs were a bit better. Anyway, what I saw on April 30 was still a four-plus show, very powerful and energetic, with both the musicians and the crowd really enjoying what they do. Thanks to Udo for coming here again and let's hope we see him return to Moscow many more times, but with a performance in a more suitable venue.

After a 25-minute break the lights went out again and Aria took the stage. The crowd's response to their appearance was overwhelming - I've never seen anything like that with my own eyes before, only in videos. The people in the audience seemed to know every word in Aria's songs and they sang along all the time, sometimes as loud as singer Valery Kipelov did. Of course, this phenomena can be explained - "Russia's most popular heavy metal band, veterans of the scene", etc. - I know it all and many of those who are reading this review know it too (I hope) but it was still a sight to see. Aria actually sounded BETTER than U.D.O. (don't try to call me ignorant, I was standing right at the portal and I was totally sober, so I really mean what I'm saying), though still far from an ideal. The vocals were low again, and the second guitar handled by Sergei Terentyev was noticeably distorted, but at least you could hear the vocals and all the instrument clearly. I've seen a posting on an Internet message board after the show saying that German technicians took revenge on Aria by f**king up their sound. An original way of taking revenge, IMHO, by making your "enemies" sound better than your own band! Speaking about the set list, Aria played three songs from their latest album "Chimera" and a plethora of classics from various periods of their career. Among the surprises was the appearance of Udo for a duet on "Calm", a song he recorded with Aria during "Chimera" sessions, and the performance of "Antichrist", the tune that the band dropped from live shows several years ago due to some trouble happing every time they performed it. The musicians played their parts excellently and the drummer, who has been recently criticised for "lack of talent", did not make a single mistake during the entire show (I was listening to him attentively all the time). Valery Kipelov's voice was great as usual, though the singer, who has just recovered from a serious throat disease, obviously had a hard time singing. The only drawback was the horrible performance of a ballad called "Take My Heart", which was ruined by a sort of background noise - I wish they did not play the tune at all, but fans seem to love it a lot. Of course, they didn't perform all my favourites either, but what they did play was more than enough to make me happy. At a certain point the lights went off at the stage with only few of them still working, but it didn't stop the band from performing their legendary hit "Street Of Roses" and closing down the show with even more powerful "Will and Mind". I've seen Aria live many times in the past five years, and this performance was not their best, but I still enjoyed it immensely, and the same is true for the majority of the audience.

A short digression before I sum it all up. The news of the Aria/U.D.O. tour caused an unprecedented polemics on the runet, and fans of the two groups were arguing harder than I could ever imagine. The argument reminded me more of clashes between fans of two competing football teams than of a discussion involving metalheads. Having attended the show I actually see no reason to argue - both bands put up excellent performances and both received a fair share of attention from the crowd. Aria and U.D.O. stayed on stage for 1 hour 20 minutes each, so the whole argument about that "headliner-opener" thing and "disrespect to the man who did so much for metal" turns out totally senseless. Actually, Ozzy Osbourne once played before Motley Crue at a festival here in Moscow, and nobody in the audience took it as an insult.

OK, the verdict: great show, two fantastic bands, great performance, and a terrible venue - you can't do away with a fly in the ointment no matter how hard you try.

-- Maniac

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