RECORD STORE TALES #920: Wild in the Streets
Helix – Center in the Square, Kitchener, 1987
We simply could not wait to see our first real concert.
As soon as the date was announced, we got tickets: Helix with a band called Haywire opening. Center in the Square, downtown Kitchener. We were second row mezzanine. Bob and I were so psyched to finally see our first real rock concert.
We wanted to bring a banner that said “HOMETOWN HELIX”. We dreamed big.
Helix were hot on the road for their new album, Wild in the Streets. We’d seen the video and knew what their stage show was going to look like. The stage set played on the brick wall artwork from the album cover, with two ramps on the sides, that resembled the “fangs” in the Helix logo. We thought those ramps were absolutely badass. We couldn’t wait to see Brian Vollmer slide down mid-song,
We were not interested in Haywire — too pop. The two girls in front of us were obviously Haywire fans. They had the shirts and were going nuts for singer Paul MacAusland. Bob and I didn’t think much of him, especially when he laid down flat on his face on the stage. “That’s his stage move?” we questioned. Bob liked the guitarist, but I wanted to hear some “real” rock, not this.
A kid from our school, Brian Knight, was there in the loges on the side. He boasted the next day at school that Helix were not that good; he had seen better. Ironically he later went on to roadie for Helix. He could be seen in the 1991 MuchMusic special Waltzing with Helix. He was also acknowledged in Brian Vollmer’s book Gimme An R, albeit his name was misspelled “McKnight”. Sadly, Brian passed away this year.
What Brian claimed was simply untrue. It might have been our first real rock concert, but it was a hell of a first. We didn’t know a lot of the songs but we knew the hits and some of the deep cuts from Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge. They certainly played everything we wanted to hear, including the new single “Dream On”, “Wild in the Streets”, “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'”, “Rock You”, “Heavy Metal Love”, “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want”, “Kids are all Shakin'”, and “Deep Cuts the Knife”. They also played a new tune that we found amusing. It went, “Bend over and kiss your ass goodbye” (“Kiss It Goodbye”). Fritz Hinz took a drum solo, and turned around and shockingly revealed his bare bottom with nothing but a jock strap. We laughed – we were easily entertained!
The highlight of the show was when Vollmer climbed the loges, and then ran all the way across the mezzanine, right past our noses! We could hardly believe it. Bob reached out his hand but Brian didn’t slap it. I simply made a fist, like “right on man”! It was amazing how we’d been watching this guy climb up, and then make his way in our direction…and then he ran past and it was over in a second! Before we knew it he was on the other side, and climbing back down to the stage again. We knew he had a reputation for climbing on top of things and doing somersaults, but we sure didn’t know that was going to happen when we bought our tickets!
Helix didn’t make as much use of the side ramps as I thought they would, but they did put on a hell of a show. Doctor Doerner played that big doubleneck that we wanted to see so bad, and of course the “Wild in the Streets” guitar. We got to see all their stage moves and tricks, and yes, the women in the audience were unlike any we’d ever seen before outside of a video.
We got all the songs we wanted, plus a few we didn’t know like “Dirty Dog”. They put on one of the most energetic shows that I’m ever likely to see. It was the MTV/MuchMusic era and all we had seen before were music videos. The quick cut-and-paste editing of a music video is hard to compete with. Helix had to work hard on stage, and they went above and beyond that night.
Not a bad “first”. What I did notice was that Vollmer’s voice sounded thinner than on album. I wondered if all concerts were like that? I couldn’t believe how deaf I was afterwards! Both of us were experiencing this for the first time. It was a strange sensation and we must have been yelling in the car the whole way home, when my dad came to pick us up.
We couldn’t stop talking about Helix for days. Weeks. They didn’t really have to win us over; they were hometown heroes to us. Instead Helix just cemented our loyalty. It is said that a great rock show can change a life. In this case, it simply affirmed everything we had hoped.