U.D.O. did something last year that few if any bands around the world did. It held a live, in person concert. That concert, held in Bulgaria, became the band’s forthcoming live DVD, Live in Bulgaria: Pandemic Survival Show. According to information provided about the concert and its resultant recording, the show “happened in full compliance with the corona virus hygiene regiment” and “is by far one of the largest to happen worldwide during the pandemic” though “Up until a few days before the concert in Plovdiv, it was not clear whether it could take place at all.” To that end, the fact that it happened at all is a welcome miracle. While the concert itself does offer engagement and entertainment, it is not a perfect presentation. The one downside to this special occasion is its set list. This element will be discussed later. Luckily it is not enough to doom the recording. The band’s performance makes for most of the recording’s enjoyment. It will be discussed shortly. The concert’s production puts the finishing touch to its presentation. Together with the band’s performance, the two elements pair to make this recording worth watching at least occasionally (even with the issues raised by the set list).
U.D.O.’s forthcoming live recording Live in Bulgaria: Pandemic Survival Show is an interesting presentation from the veteran hard rock band. The band’s seventh live recording is at least somewhat entertaining. Most of the concert’s entertainment and engagement comes from the band’s performance at the famed “Ancient Theater.” The band’s performance is minimalist in almost every sense of the word. There is no pyro, There are no special effects in terms of video monitors, etc. Rather the band presents itself just performing 22 songs from U.D.O’s own catalog and that of Accept, the former band of front man and U.D.O. namesake Udo Dirkschneider. The special effects are limited to flashing and color-changing lights. The rest of the show is left up to the band – Dirkschneider (vocals), Andrey Smirnov (guitar), Dee Dammers (guitar), Sven Dirkschneider (drums), and Tilen Hudrap (bass). There’s no running around stage for the elder Dirkschneider, but even considering that he still belts out every song with the power of a front man half his age. What’s more audiences will love the way he openly steps back throughout the concert, and lets Smirnov and Dammers take center stage. At times, it even looks like he’s acting as a cheerleader for the highly polished musicians as they take the spotlight. Speaking of that duo, Smirnov and Dammers show at times, such focus on their parts, and so much fun at others. That mix of concentration and lightheartedness will itself pull audiences in even more. Meantime, the younger Dirkschneider looks so relaxed throughout the near 150-minute concert as he keeps time in the up-tempo and even slower moments. That confidence and relaxed nature does not go unnoticed, and will certainly add to audiences’ enjoyment. That is because his band mates obviously feed off of his energy. Much the same can be said of Hudrap and his performance. All in all, the performance that the band presents in this concert makes for plenty of enjoyment in itself. It does plenty to make the concert worth viewing and/or hearing (since the recording is presented on separate CD/DVD and CD/Blu-ray platforms). While the band’s performance forms a solid foundation for the recording, the set list that the band presents detracts from the concert’s presentation to a certain point.
The set list that is featured in Live in Bulgaria: Pandemic Survival Show is limited in its presentation. While it runs approximately 22 songs deep (not counting the separate drum and bass solos), the songs are pulled from approximately six of the band’s 17 total albums and from three Accept albums. What’s more the set list leans heavily on U.D.O.’s 2018 album Steelfactory, with six of its songs featured here. Meanwhile, Animal House U.D.O.’s debut 1987 record, gets three nods. The other U.D.O. albums represented here are: Mastercutor (2007), Timebomb (1991), Solid (1997), Man and Machine (2002), and Rev-Raptor (2011). That leaves approximately 11 other albums from U.D.O. unrepresented here. Again considering that the concert reaches almost two-and-a-half hours in time, one would have thought that the band would have tried to pull more from those albums. The Accept albums represented here are: Balls to the Wall (1983), Restless & Wild (1982), and Metal Heart (1985). The band limited the Accept representations to two songs from Restless & Wild, two from Metal Heart, and the one lone song from Balls to the Wall. Clearly the Accept songs and albums were from Dirkschneider’s brief time with the band, so that is understandable. That leads back to the discussion on the rest of the set list. Considering that it was unknown if the concert would even happen, one would have thought the band would have tried to give audiences even more of its catalog in order to make the experience even more special. Instead, audiences essentially got a continued performance in support of its now three year-old album Steelfactory and a handful of other songs from the band’s catalog. It does leave one wanting for more, but not in a good way. Thankfully, this one concern is not enough to doom the recording, as much as it does detract from the experience. The concert’s production works with the band’s performance to put the finishing touch. That includes those who handled production in post.
Thanks to the concert’s production, those who can and do overlook the concerns raised by the concert’s limited set list will agree that they get the best seat in the house. The audio is expertly balanced throughout the concert. Believe it or not, this actually is a concern with some concert recordings out there. There are live recordings out there that force listeners to constantly adjust the volumes on their televisions and computers, leading to frustrations among audiences. There are even some recordings that clearly — for one reason or another – use the audio to favor certain members of given groups or others. Thankfully, this recording’s production does not fall victim to those trappings. Those responsible for balancing the audio on-site and in post are to be commended for their work. In the same vein, the camera work makes the experience personal for audiences. Viewers are taken right up alongside the younger Dirkshneider at times, right to front and center as Smirnov and Dammers take on the classic arena rock, dual guitar poses at other moments, and even right into the audience at still others. The transitions from shot to shot do so well to immerse audiences into the concert, which is its own compliment to those responsible for the production. Those responsible for editing the various shots together and even the director deserve their own credit for their work here, too. No one shot is too long or even too short. It all serves to really heighten the energy in each song, and in turn make the performance all the more enjoyable. When that enjoyment brought on by the production (video and audio) is considered along with the band’s performance, that collective makes the concert experience that much more enjoyable for audiences. To that end, audiences will find the recording worth watching at least occasionally, considering all of that along with the concerns raised by the limited set list.
U.D.O.’s new forthcoming live recording Live in Bulgaria: Pandemic Survival Show is a presentation that while enjoyable, comes up somewhat short of expectations. The band’s performance herein is itself fully engaging and entertaining. It gives audiences plenty of reason to take in the concert. While the band’s performance makes the concert experience enjoyable, the set list detracts from the enjoyment created by the band. That is because it is so limited, even running 22 songs deep. It pulls from six of the band’s approximately 17 albums, as well as a trio of albums from Udo Dirkschneider’s former band, Accept. That leaves 11 of U.D.O.’s albums unrepresented here, so it would not be correct to call this concert – which could have been the band’s last for the foreseeable future – career-spanning. It really does detract from the experience, but does not doom the presentation. Making up for the negative that is the set list is the production. The concert’s production gives audiences the best seat in the house. That includes the work put in during post production. The audio is expertly balanced while the video fully immerses audiences what with the various shots and their equally well-balanced editing. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the recording. All things considered, they make the recording a presentation that while not the band’s best live recording, still worth watching at least occasionally. Live in Bulgaria: Pandemic Survival Show is scheduled for release Friday through AFM Records.
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