Heart of Steel: Concert Reviews

Helix 30th Anniversary Party
July 17th, Brantford, Ontario, Canada
Sanderson Center

Reviewed Celtic Bob
Photos by Celtic Bob and Norm

Simply amazing.

The show of a lifetime.

Something that can NEVER be recreated.

My review of this stunning show is going to start earlier in the week when I first arrived in Ontario from Newfoundland on an early Sunday morning. A few hours after landing, a call came in on my friend's answering machine welcoming me to Ontario and requesting that I call back. The message was from none other than Brian Vollmer whom I met a few weeks earlier in St. John's. I called him back and he invited me to visit his home in London.

Late Tuesday afternoon I made my way down the 401 to London with only a printed sheet from mapquest and a bottle of water. Here I was driving on the freeway through T.O., close to rush hour, with the new Alice Cooper CD on (gearing up for the following week's show). Shortly after supper my 2 and a half hour journey ends and I arrive at Planet Helix. Brian and his lovely wife Lynda take me on a sight-seeing tour of London and the surrounding country - what a beautiful place it is. After the sight-seeing trip we head back to Planet Helix where we sit and relax on the back deck and have a chat. After relaxing a while, Brian and myself take his dog on a short walk around the neighbourhood.

The next morning Brian is up bright and early and off to Tim's for a coffee well before I get my lazy ass out of bed. Once I awake, we jump in his car and off we go!! We stop at Tim's for a coffee (neither of us seems to function without that shot of caffeine in the morning), then off to do Helix-related stuff. We did make a stop at Rainer and Cindy Weichmann's where we picked up the master copy of the upcoming EMI CD "Rockin' You for 30 Years" (from their mailbox) and listened to it in the car while running around London. It sounds really good, to say the least. After that, we grabbed a bite to eat then headed back to his place. I got to watch the DVD that was to be played at the upcoming show on Saturday. The DVD itself is an hour-long documentary made up of old film footage from Brian's personal collection. There are also recent interviews with past and present members. It really shows the band's history and is a very well done documentary. The closing segment is really funny and sums up the footage perfectly. It is great to see recent interviews with past members like Brent and Fritz as well as band founder Bruce Arnold.

Shortly after finishing viewing the DVD Brian gets a call saying the new CD's are ready to be picked up so Brian and Lynda head off to get them and I follow behind in my vehicle. They turn off for Brantford to get them and I carry on eastbound on the 401, as I have other commitments to attend to.

Ahhhh, Saturday morning!!!!! The show is in a few hours and I’m psyched. My buddy “Norm” got up stupid early and drove down from Ottawa and picked me up in Whitby so that we could head to the show together in Brantford. After a quick stop in Toronto we were back on the road to Brantford. Once we arrive in Brantford and (finally) find the Sanderson Center, we decide to grab a bite to eat and have a beer or 2 before the show.

(start of amusing aside)

We walk around the block and find this little sub place and decide to stop there. We go in and order and everything is as normal as can be until the food is done. That’s when it started. The girl behind the counter says the fries are done so Norm goes up and the thing is huge. He says to the girl: “I asked for a small”; the girl doesn’t even crack a smile and replies: “That is a small”(!). When he came back to the table we started to crack up laughing. He goes back up to the counter to get some salt and vinegar and comes back and I’m still laughing at the insane amount of fries on his tray. He goes “Don’t laugh - I just saw the size of your burger and your fries”. I go up to get mine and the thing is friggin’ huge. It is cut in 2 pieces and you can still barely hold it and I had almost the same amount of fries. Anyhow, as we are eating two people leave with a 6ft long sub. We’re like: “That’s insane…then the come back and get 2 more (!!). I don’t know where they were going or what it was for but they were the biggest subs I ever saw. After we stuffed ourselves silly with some great food we headed down the road for a beer. We went into this small little place and ordered a couple of beverages. When she gave me my change it didn’t seem right but I figured “OK, What the hell”. My buddy orders another and passes in a fiver and gets like $3.90 change. He says to the girl: “How much is beer?” and she says $1.10 If we never had the show in a little over an hour I bet we would’ve stayed there all night.

(end of amusing aside)

After a couple more beer we head up to the Sanderson Center…an amazing old theatre. Once in the lobby we start looking at a ton of Helix memorabilia and some of Brian’s scrapbooks. Just before we are allowed in the theatre itself Cindy comes up to me and says she had to check out the lobby before the show. It was great to see band members out with the fans beforehand. She goes inside and as I’m waiting to go in I see Brian coming. I spoke briefly with him before he went in. Once inside we made our way to the seats - front row, just off-center…an excellent place to be. Just moments before the show starts, Brian pokes his head out from behind the curtain and calls me over. He slides a VIP pass out to me so I could capture a few shots on camera of the show. (Thanks B). Moments later the lights go down and the crowd goes up.

We get a great introduction by Derek Cummings including a poem he wrote entitled simply “A Poem”. Then the hour-long Helix documentary starts. As the video plays and each member appears on the big screen, they are met with cheers from the audience. As the movie finishes the screen turns into a short computer animation segment as “Space Junk” plays throughout the hall, then the screen rises and the current line-up cranks out the title track from the new CD Rockin’ In My Outer Space. Everyone is in fine form and on top of their game. They perform flawlessly. Brian especially is in his glee as this is his baby. The band then do a couple more tracks from the new album as well as “Running Wild In The 21st Century”. Drummer Archie Gamble tosses one of his sticks directly to me at the end of the set. Thanks man.


Following the current band’s opening ‘set’, the screen again descends and a short minute-long video is played. Following this, the screen then rises again and the classic Helix lineup from 1974 (!) is on stage and they tear into “Buff’s Bar Blues” - one of the first songs they learned as a band. Original bass player Keith "Bert" Zurbrigg was onstage complete with his trademark tux jacket and top hat. Brian was dressed in a t-shirt and a “Trailer Park Boys” hat. All members onstage seemed to be having the time of their lives and this particular song was one of the show’s highlights.

Next, the screen goes down and another short video is played before it again rises to tremendous applause as the Doerner brothers take the stage alongside Bert, Brian and Rainer (filling in for the late Paul Hackman). This lineup perform three songs, one of which Brent “The Doctor” Doerner handles on lead vocals. Brent does an exceptional job in belting out the words to “Billy Oxygen” and it is allot heavier than the original studio version. It is great to see Brent onstage again after all these years. Seeing him trade off solos with Rainer was mind-blowing to say the least. The guy was on 10 and proved that after all these years out of the limelight he still has got all the chops and the moves. His presence was amazing!

As this segment ended the screen came down yet again but this time behind Doerner who was fixing his guitar pedals. It was quite funny to see the look on his face when he realized he was out in front of the screen. The short video ended this time saying “Leo is here” which got tremendous applause. The screen rose yet again and the “White Lace & Black Leather” line-up played a duo of tracks from the bands 2nd LP featuring Leo behind the drum kit.

Next up - the classic 80’s line-up. The screen rose and onstage was Brent, Fritz and Vollmer from the classic 80’s Capitol era. This was great for us older fans who came onboard the Helix ship back in the early 80’s. It was great to see these guys all on stage together again. The rest of the band was filled out by Stan on bass and Rainer on guitar with his wife Cindy doing backing vocals and percussion. They rip into “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin’” and they got the audience on the edge of their seats from the get go. We got all the classics including “Heavy Metal Love”, “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want”, and Deep Cuts the Knife”. Brian (as was everyone) was having the time of his life belting out the numbers with past and present members. It was especially cool seeing past members like Brent and Fritz sharing the stage with new guys Rainer and Stan. During the set, Brian brings out Ray Lyell to trade off vocals on “Wild in The Streets” which was interesting to say the least. One of the best moments during this segment of the show was at the start of “Dirty Dog” when Vollmer turns around and motions for Cindy to join him at the front of the stage like they did a few weeks prior at the St. John’s show. The surprised look on her face was a bit comical as she tried to get her mic cord untangled and make her way to the front. Once there they traded off vocals and clearly showed everyone her amazing voice and how much she really adds to the bands sound.

After that, every past member comes out on stage and they go into “Rock You”. Brian even goes out into the audience for a couple of verses and this has everyone on their feet. Seeing members like Don, Bert, Bruce, Ron….all on stage together with members like Brent, Brian, Archie and Jim is simply amazing. There wasn’t once in the whole show that there was ever a sign of an ego. Everyone involved was there for their love of the music. To quote a song title from Helix’s first album for Capitol - There “Ain’t No Hi like Rock ‘n’ Roll”, baby! The current line-up once again returned to the stage and did “Kid’s Are All Shakin’” before ending the music for the night. After the song ended and the band left the stage Archie came out and called out for Brian. He was greeted by his wife Lynda as well as a rep from EMI who presented him with a beautiful plaque representing the past 30 years of HELIX. This plaque is now proudly displayed in his living room.

After the final curtain fell we get a short message on the screen from Brian thanking everyone for being part of it all over the past 30 years. As we all leave our seats and head to the lobby I meet up with Fritz by the soundboard. I stopped and had a brief chat before heading to the lobby to see the other members. Out there I have brief conversations with Brent, Stan, and Brian. Then I head backstage and meet up with Cindy and Rainer for a few minutes and shoot the shit. As I was leaving I stop and talk to Arch and Jim. It was a great night for RnR.

The next day I head to London to Brian’s place for a BBQ. Upon arriving in his backyard I notice he is being filmed by EMI for a future DVD release. Brian spots me and says to the camera guys that I came from NL for the show. Immediately they aim the camera at me and I freeze like a fool. Total camera shock!! Thanks Brian (LOL). After that initial “Greeting” everything was the best kind – I talked to a few past members, current members, as well as friends that came the distance for the show (like myself). It was great all around meeting people like Otter, Rawn, and Scott…..and many others. It was truly a memorable experience. We even heard the soundboard audio from the previous nights show. Hopefully Brian and Co. will apply some pressure to Capitol/EMI and release the full thing without overdubs on CD along with the DVD. Even without EQ’ing, it sounded fantastic. C’mon EMI, we need this FULL Recording!!!!!!!!

Once some people started to filter out there was time for Brian to relax a minute and reflect back on it all – what a whirlwind week it was for him. Fortunately, all his hard work paid off – the event was a resounding success.

Unfortunately, I had to leave Brian’s and make my way back to reality (LOL). Although Brian offered to let me stay there again, I had to decline due to other commitments. Both Brian and Lynda went out of their way to treat not only myself, but ALL fans, family and friends terrifically. They are excellent hosts and really great people. What a week – surely one that I will NEVER forget. Thanks to Brian, Lynda and everyone for a great time while I was there.

I’m still kicking myself as I can’t believe I actually experienced all of this – it was such an awesome ‘trip’ and one that I wished “I Could Never Leave” (to quote yet another Helix song which was fittingly, the first song from Helix’s first independent album).

Thanks to: Norm for a few of the pics. Also, thanks to Brian and Lynda Vollmer and Helix for the great time and hospitality.

Official HELIX Site: www.planethelix.com

Helix Reviews in Metal-Rules.com
Back For Another Taste
Live in Buffalo
Rockin’ In My Outer Space
Rockin’ In My Outer Space

Other Live Helix Reviews in Metal-Rules.com:
June 30th 2004, St. John's NL