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!
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 s*cked 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.
On Your Knees
I Don’t Need No Doctor
Arena of Pleasure
The Idol (crimson idol title track)
I Wanna Be Somebody
Heaven’s Hung in Black
Blind in Texas
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