W.A.S.P. Concert Review 3/19/10 Orlando, FL

3/19/10 Club Firestone, Orlando.

W.A.S.P. Live. I witnessed their fury for the first time 25 years ago in the small screen, thousands of miles away in my native land of Venezuela. Their song “I Wanna Be Somebody” captivated my teenage mind and I immediately became an admirer. But today I was going to see them in concert up close and personal at a venue so small that I could touch them. The anticipation was exciting! 

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I arrived early enough to catch the first few bands. Of them, I remember the last of the opening bands, “Rain”. They were phenomenal. This Italian metal band rocked. With a style that combines old-school metal and rock ‘n’ roll, a strong stage presence, and excellent musicianship, their set went down like a fresh glass of lemonade on a summer day. 

After the curtain closed, I headed to the outside area to check out the CDs and other goodies for sale by each band. While chatting with the manager of Rain about their tour through America, we heard screeching guitars and bombastic drums blasting in the venue, so I headed back inside to find out if that was a sign that the W.A.S.P. set had begun. Not surprisingly it was the sound check, at a volume from hell, indicative of what we were going to be subjected to very soon. The all-ages crowd began chanting “W.A.S.P.! W.A.S.P.!, W.A.S.P.!” and by doing so they unknowingly gave the go-ahead to be blown to pieces. Surely enough, the curtains opened to a foggy, dimly lit, empty stage. A large screen hung behind the drum set, which was reminiscent of other bands that enhance their show with really cool imagery. I imagined we might be in for a treat, that we were going to witness an additional creative outlet of the band’s translated onto moving pictures, or perhaps a live projection of the crowd in between the videos. But we had to wait another many long moments before the mystery of the screen was to be unleashed.

I secretly wished chairs would magically appear so I could finish my beer sitting comfortably down. But not in this joint. I was in the pit of a heavy metal show, standing up high and totally prepared to rock. But if I could sit down just one more minute… 

And as I stood there watching the stage, curiously trying to figure out if there was a rack of guitars sitting in the back so I could guess the make, an intro began playing and a tall, prominent figure’s profile emerged onto the smoky stage. Its long, black hair, black pants and half-moon saws sticking out from the top of its forearms gave away that we were indeed graced by presence of the one and only: Blackie Lawless. The remaining members of the band joined him immediately after: Doug Blair on guitar, Mike Duda sporting the bass and Mike Dupke on the skins. Quickly they began storming through “On Your Knees”. With the start of the song the screen came alive with a video shot in concert around 1984. In it, I recognized Chris Holmes and Randy Piper on guitars. I was confused, and wondered if Chris and Randy were going to come out from the side of the stage and join them or if it was a prank pulled by Blackie at the current band members. But no, this was no prank. Original videos were played throughout every song of the concert, some of them extremely cheesy, or to put it mildly, passé by today’s standards. The band played in perfect synchronization with the videos, mimicking them in some parts. It felt awkward. I am not sure how Blackie sold this idea to the rest of the band, which borders on the tacky and the embarrassing. But he did. And it did not work. Not for me anyway. After all, this concert was not promoted as “The Commemoration of 27 Years of W.A.S.P.” 

So I decided to ignore the screen. What a good decision that turned out to be. The show was clearly about these four men rocking their hearts out right then and there. Blackie’s voice was in perfect form, the band was tight, and the volume was obnoxiously loud. I could feel the sonic book from the bass drum traveling through my body, and the guitars piercing my brain like tiny shocks of lightning. A terrific metal show experience indeed.

Without missing a beat, they plunged into “Doctor Rocter”, and the crowd went wild as they did with every song. Duda showed us why he was chosen to be part of W.A.S.P. He had incredible precision and technical ability (he plays with his fingers instead of the usual pick in metal bands) and a great stage presence. He performed a very cool Robert-Trujillo-esque move, twirling around and around until the bass was as the same level as his shoulders. Blair used a varied array of LED-lit guitars. Certain frets lit up when pressed. The body of one of the guitars, in the area where the pickups sit, looked like a bright nebula that somehow got sucked into that tiny space. His guitar solo during the song The Idol was peppered in awesomeness. To make it even better, the screen was turned off as soon as he began the solo, and he had the stage and the attention of the audience all to himself. His fingers flew up and down the neck with a feeling worthy of any spectacular blues player, and the metal edge merged itself in these notes in a way evocative of pure beauty.

Dupke had his moment to wow us as well, with a really fast, precise, and excellent little solo. Bang bang, boom boom, crash crash. I wish I could verbalize it for you!

Blackie, with white boots contrasting his otherwise black outfit, and a football jersey with his name on it, was on fire. His voice, impeccable. His presence, excellent as always. His playing, terrific. He is either a vampire or he found the fountain of youth because he rocked without a hitch.

Predictably, the crowd went totally ballistic during “I Wanna Be Somebody” which was sung in its entirety by the audience. Blackie did not sing the pre-chorus or chorus until the last word of the song: “Somebody! Somebody!” and I felt goose bumps from head to toe. The fourteen year old girl in me cried like the girls in the black and white videos of a Beatles concert. 

Cheers to the little girl, cheers to the rockness of W.A.S.P. and cheers to you the reader for experiencing this event with this humble writer. It was a great show worthy of seeing again and again. 

Set List:

  1. On Your Knees
  2. Doctor Rocter
  3. Love Machine
  4. Babylon’s Burning
  5. Wild Child
  6. I Don’t Need No Doctor
  7. Arena of Pleasure
  8. The Idol (crimson idol title track)
  9. I Wanna Be Somebody
  10. Heaven’s Hung in Black
  11. Blind in Texas

Obituary Live: Death Metal From The Florida Swamps

Obituary entered my life a long, long time ago when I lived in my native Caracas. The first album Slowly We Rot had just been released. The first time I heard it, it paralyzed my blood and mesmerized my soul. I was in love! I had never heard such melted-chocolate guitar riffs, vocals sounding like hurling and gargling simultaneously with such fierceness as if emanating from the guts of Lucifer himself, and brutal drums that merged nice and tight with the bass line. It was crisp metal peppered with ethereal mysticism. Absolutely delicious. 

Back then, sitting in my room, playing the Slowly We Rot album over and over again, the thought of seeing them in concert was an abstract thought, like say, having a romantic dinner with your favorite actor/actress. As far as I was concerned, these five guys were aliens from a faraway planet. 

Fast-forward to 2013… 

We left Orlando early and headed to Ybor City to catch the Obituary show (yeah!). Our trip began with a typical June Florida-famous thunderstorm. It started to pour as soon as we merged onto I-4 Westbound as if ordered by Zeus himself (bastard!). The traffic was slow, visibility dim. Fortunately my friend in whose car we traveled proudly announced he changed the tires recently so the chance of water-gliding in the 2-door Japanese car was less likely than getting crushed by a semi. Goody.

The downpour continued for hours, even after we arrived at The Orpheum. People piling in were drenched like they had hit the shower fully clothed. But risking catching pneumonia is a small price to pay for experiencing the up-close and personal show of a world-class death metal band like Obituary. The mere memory of that night sends electric shocks from my chest to my core and back.

The show was streamed live through the band’s U-Nation page. Fans from all over the world could tune in for only $4.99. Generating revenue in this manner is a creative way for the band to obtain funds, and it’s a valuable service for the fans. Nowadays finding one’s favorite music for free is as easy as clicking a button. Bands need to find innovative ways of making money in order for them to continue writing awesome material instead of worrying about menial things like paying bills. We need to support our favorite musicians if we want more of their awesome music. 

The stage was ready. The gigantic Obituary backdrop threatened us from above! Donald Tardy’s drum kit sat on a platform neatly “miked” for the online streaming. Marshall amps on both sides of the stage waited to be ravaged. The band came out of the shadows and took their places. This is it! History in the making! The first professionally streamed Obituary show, and we were part of it! Image

The opening riffs of the dueling guitars poured from the speakers like the waters of Niagara Falls. The sound paralyzed my body. My eyes widened. I couldn’t believe it! I was witnessing the grand sound of a band I’ve loved for over 20 years. And so it hit me, the sudden rush of emotion I expect at every Obituary show. The tears welling and the lump on my throat. I’m getting faklempt writing this so go ahead and talk amongst yourselves.

 My nineteen-year-old self jumped up and down, moved by the spectacle playing out in front of her. She wanted to get in the pit and slam-dance the night away, so my feet started toward the pit while my brain screamed no! And as I got closer, a guy in the pit was pushed in my general direction. The people between us tumbled like dominoes almost taking me down with them, and my desire for slam-dancing dissipated faster than my beer.

In the previous two shows I had been to, the band played with one guitar player and although the mighty Trevor Peres holds his own at every performance, I longed for the second guitar like one longs a lover’s caress. This time they added Kenny Andrews on lead and rhythm duties. The sound was complete, at last! Alternating melting-chocolate riffs! Solos to pierce your insides! Mammoth dueling-guitar action!  

The show kept getting better and better. Most of the songs were from the first three albums. Although I’m a huge fan of this band, I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t know the names of most songs or know what songs are in which albums (same thing happens with Black Sabbath). Back in the day I listened to the tapes over and over again usually in my car. And it was difficult to sing along to Obituary. I heard or read somewhere that the lyrics were not included in the album sleeve because John Tardy’s vocals acted like another instrument. So without lyrics, I growled along to the music. Lyrics were an obsession so not having access to them was a bummer, although it left room for the imagination.

At one point the band paid tribute to Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman who passed away the previous month. Donald and the band raised their beers to the sky and the crowd began chanting “Slayer! Slayer! Slayer!” and I again choked up.

The pit didn’t stop for a second. Fans stage-dived at their leisure, almost bumping into Terry Butler (bass) at one point. After a while, the fans were getting a little comfortable on-stage and though they meant no harm to the band, they were asked to get off and not come back. The stage-diving stopped for the most part so the band could again concentrate on playing instead of watching out for a slam dancer’s elbow. 

The band played a nice and long encore, satisfying our thirst for more! Friends and I spent most of the time at the edge of the pit, as close to the stage as possible minimizing the risk of injury. I love you guys, you know who you are! 

After the show I was lucky enough to see and briefly speak to John and Donald Tardy. They are the sweetest, most down-to-earth rock stars in the planet (so is Trevor, who I spoke to at another show… ERMAHGERD!

So once more the dream of seeing Obituary kill on-stage came true. My batteries recharged, my young-self floating in bliss, another fulfilling experience at the hands of the delirium-inducing quintet. When Obituary hits your town, the wise thing to do is to check them out. Or stream the live show. And always show them the love they deserve.