Even though it’s only been 3 years since W.A.S.P. last undertook a world tour celebrating their 30th anniversary, there’s an increased buzz and anticipation around Blackie Lawless & Co. at the moment that hasn’t been felt for a long time.
‘Golgotha’, the latest release due out later this month marks the end of their longest break between records. A multitude of reasons prevented Blackie from immediately following up 2009’s ‘Babylon’ but it’s definitely left a significant number of old fans and inquisitive potential fans to decide to check out the latest incarnation of the band, of which Blackie is the sole remaining original member. Does that matter? Does it hell. Blackie Lawless is W.A.S.P. and any incarnation of the band with him in it is more than enough for me.
Before the black one takes to the stage, support comes from British rockers The Treatment.
Having lost vocalist Matt Jones earlier this year, the current road trip for The Treatment supporting W.A.S.P. is also their first tour with Mitchell Emms on the mic and Tao Grey on guitar. Thankfully the band, still only two albums into what should be a great career, manage to put on a slick professional show, helped in no small part by the manic energy and boundless enthusiasm of Travis Bickle fan Rick ‘Swoggle’ Newman. Decked out with a full beard and a mohawk that even the most fanatical punk in the 1970s would have been proud to sport, Swoggle is almost a distraction as he’s just so watchable. Every shape, move, pose and then some are thrown to the crowd and a rapid check of my photos after the gig show a 10:1 bias in his favour by the end of the 3 song stint that I’m allowed in the pit for.
When I do finally manage to focus on the rest of the band, my initial fears over the loss of Matt Jones were dispelled within the course of the first song. Emms presence front and centre is self assured and his voice suits the band’s material perfectly. By the time they reach ‘The Doctor’, he’s relaxed, confident and presents the image of a perfect front man. Dressed in leather jackets, the band look the part and have the tracks to back up the image with ‘I Bleed Rock n Roll’ and ‘Emergency’ delivering in spades. The latter is by far my favourite track from the band and long may it continue to be included in their set lists.
The support slot, sadly is just that and after a little over 30 minutes, they depart finishing with one of the tracks that brought them to the attention of the press to begin with ‘Shake The Mountain’. Shaken up they may have been with the recent departures but they’ve come out the other side unaffected and stronger for it.
Let It Begin
I Bleed Rock+Roll
Shake the Mountain
Blackie Lawless has stated that the delay in getting the latest album completed has been a blessing in disguise.”It gave us the time to reflect on the music in a way we never really had before,” says Lawless. “Previously, I had taken two years to make a record, but never that amount of time to sit and craft and decide what I liked and what I didn’t. You hear every band say the same thing: ‘It’s the best thing we’ve ever done…’ but the truth is they don’t know because they’re too close to it. You need time to getaway from it to really reflect so you can tell if it’s any good or not.That was one of the big benefits of spreading this out over a four year period is I was able to be honest with myself.”“Golgotha”, the site where Christ was crucified outside Jerusalem’s walls, was the inspiration for the title track.
It’s no wonder then that a virtually full Troxy theatre plays host to the opening night of the current world tour. The art deco interior and huge stage lends itself perfectly to Blackie’s over the top showmanship and desire to entertain the crowd.
As he and the rest of the band charge onto stage, all of the old moves remain intact. Blackie, decked out in a tour shirt, tight trousers and tasseled moccasin boots his mane of hair still looking as good as it did 30 years ago, storms straight into ‘On Your Knees’ from the 1982 debut album. Doug Blair, along with Blackie immediately take us back to the classic W.A.S.P. era with note perfect solos and renditions of tracks off the first 4 albums. The harmonies are there, the licks are there, the bass is there… everything is in place as the band turn in one of the best shows I’ve seen them perform in years.
The new material of course makes its presence known and truth be told, it fits perfectly with the older well known tracks perfectly. ‘Golgotha’ [the album] if you’ve not heard it yet, delivers W.A.S.P.’s best material in a long time. Given Blackie’s comments above on exactly that topic, it’s clear that the break (no pun intended if you know the reasons for the delays) has done him the power of good as he seems fresh and energised and delivers tracks like ‘Last Runaway’ , the title track and ‘Miss You’, a song that was originally written for The Crimson Idol which brings out the band’s inner The Who with the guitars delivering the track in the classic ‘Tommy’ style.
The set is short, with several tracks blending to become more medly than individual songs. However it matters little as the show is electrifying. If the length of the set was something people wanted to bitch about then they missed everything the band delivered in the time that they were on stage.
As they leave to take a short break, the sound of a chainsaw can be heard and they return to play an extended ‘Chainsaw Charlie’ before briefly disappearing again and then returning to finish with personal favourite ‘Wild Child’, teasing the crowd with the riff and pausing several times before finally launching into it. They then close with ‘I Wanna Be Somebody’ and send everyone home a happy, sweaty, drunken mess. Just like it used to be and just like it should be!
On Your Knees
Inside the Electric Circus
The Real Me
The Titanic Overture
Arena of Pleasure
I Don’t Need No Doctor
Chainsaw Charlie (Murders in the New Morgue)
I Wanna Be Somebody