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Review: U.D.O. - Live In Bulgaria 2020 - Pandemic Survival Show
Live In Bulgaria 2020 - Pandemic Survival Show

Label: AFM Records
Year released: 2021
Duration: 2:18:17
Tracks: 25
Genre: Heavy Metal

Rating: 5+/5

Review online: February 24, 2021
Reviewed by: Michel Renaud
Readers Rating
Live In Bulgaria 2020 - Pandemic Survival Show

Rated 4.7/5 (94%) (10 Votes)

More often than not I skip live albums, but the "Pandemic Survival Show" subtitle intrigued me. After watching a good number of "pandemic livestreams" since last April, most of them without any fans in attendance (meaning dead silence between songs, kind of unsettling), I had to see what warranted a DVD release. I first got the audio only for this and immediately noticed the screaming fans. A little trip to the press release led me to find out that this was recorded at the Roman Amphitheatre in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, in front of 2,500 fans on September 18, 2020. How the hell did they pull this off in the middle of the pandemic, when most bands had zero, or maybe at most 50 or 100 attendees? Is everyone wearing masks? Two metres apart? Just as I was sitting down to write the album (audio only) review, I got another email offering a private stream of the video part for review. I'm glad I held off and decided to watch the video because the already energetic album is out of this world when you get the video as well. I can safely say that this is one of the best live shows I've ever seen.

I don't have much information about the making-of but, unsurprisingly, this was a very difficult show to put together, what with the band members being from four different countries, ever-changing travel and local gathering regulations restrictions, etc. The biggest surprise was seeing all those fans in that outdoor venue all together just like there was no pandemic going on—in fact, if not for a few mentions by band members throughout the show, you'd never know the show took place during the pandemic. Apparently, all health protocols were followed, so I can only imagine that there might have been some rapid testing involved for everyone there. Anyway... on to the show.

I had listened to the album a few times already (no mean feat, at nearly two and a half hours) and the energy was palpable even with only the audio, but that did not prepare me for the visual experience. Right off the bat, the place comes alive and it doesn't stop until the last minute. Throughout the whole show, all band members look like little kids having the time of their life and they give one hell of a performance. With the audio only, the various solos can get a little annoying, but with video you can see what's really going on, the interaction of the soloists with the crowd, and it's a lot of fun seeing how both the crowd and the musician react to each other's response. The guitarists, bassist and drummer all get their turn doing their own thing. The show is, of course, professionally shot, and I especially appreciated how each member gets a lot of camera time, so you see everything that's going on without it making your head spin. Major kudos to whoever edited the footage.

There are 25 songs on the set list and they're all strong numbers backed by an amazing live performance, the band giving it their 100% and the restless (and wild? ahem) crowd cranking the energy to 11. U.D.O. have sometimes played 200 shows a year and in 2020 just played this one, so I guess they had a lot of energy to spare. The guys are everywhere on stage and even the drummer gives the impression that he's everywhere despite him being behind the drum kit (he gets more camera time than drummers usually get, I'd say.) It's hard to explain, this is a show that literally comes alive on screen and makes you feel like you're in attendance. They even threw in a few Accept favourites, much to the crowd's pleasure who thanked the band with amazing feedback throughout the performances.

The main show is roughly 90 minutes, but we're treated to two encores totalling roughly 40 minutes. The show is so excellent throughout that, even though I'm one who usually gets tired around the 75-minute mark, after the near two-and-a-half-hour running time I still wanted more.

You know a show really took you in when you're alone in your living room and you suddenly realize you're giving the band a standing ovation at the end of the show... I don't know if that's cool or embarrassing. Let's go for embarrassingly cool. ;)

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