Live Gig Report by Alan Daly
© Olga Kuzmenko
Photos by Olga Kuzmenko
Before the days of the internet, a band would occasionally hit you from out of nowhere, completely catching you by surprise, and end up being one of your all-time favourites. Corrosion of Conformity was one of those bands for me. The first time I saw them, or indeed even heard of them, was supporting the mighty Metallica at a secret club gig in the tiny London Astoria 2 in 1995. It was a struggle to get into the overcrowded venue, but when I finally made it in, I was just in time to catch the last few C.O.C. songs. The dirty riff of ‘Deliverance’ hooked me immediately, and once the excitement and bangover of the Metallica show had passed, I rushed straight out to buy the album of the same name. The following year, I saw COC twice more, again supporting Metallica on the Load tour, by which time I had already picked up their latest release Wiseblood. Thus began my obsession with the North Carolina band.
Current (and former) frontman Pepper Keenan rejoined bandmates Woodrow Weatherman, Mike Dean and Reed Mullin last year after almost a decade, during which he recorded and toured with Down. In the interim, the trio released two albums, but there has been undeniable excitement surrounding the return of Keenan to touring, and a much anticipated new album. Less than twelve months ago, the quartet played a sold-out show at the Academy, and tonight they return to Dublin to play in front of a capacity crowd at the Button Factory.
Opening proceedings at 7:30 on the dot are local three-piece Electric Taurus. I hadn’t seen or heard them before tonight, and I thought it would be somewhat fitting if C.O.C. “passed the torch”, and got me hooked on their support band. The lads put on a well-received show with their bluesy riffs and epically long, mostly instrumental tracks reminiscent of Zeppelin and Sabbath. The venue is less than half full as they start their set but quickly builds with several enthusiastic fans apparently familiar with their music. For me, the instrumental tracks prove stronger than those with vocals, and the lengthy tracks end shy of over-staying their appreciation. A well-chosen support act worth seeing again.
The changeover doesn’t take long, and soon it’s time for Corrosion of Conformity. Clad in denim, Mike Dean unassumingly strolls onstage, and picks up his bass from where it was propped against the amps. Reed Mullin casually takes his throne and the pair unceremoniously begin the sluggish intro to ‘Bottom Feeder’, the closing track on Wiseblood. The crowd reacts more enthusiastically as Pepper Keenan and Woody Weatherman join their bandmates and the guitars kick in. They play another minute or so before transitioning into the album’s faster-paced opening track ‘King of the Rotten’.
The backdrop featuring some of the psychedelic artwork from Deliverance is a clue that the album will feature prominently in the setlist and the next two tracks ‘Broken Man’ and ‘Heaven’s Not Overflowing’ from that classic album keep the tempo high and the moshpits moving. Keenan and Weatherman really seem to be enjoying the performance, making regular eye contact with the fans, while Dean assumes his more reclusive stance in the shadows at the wing. It’s great to see the audience and band members connecting and the energy resonating between both sides of the rail.
Unsurprisingly, the setlist is comprised entirely of “Pepper-era” tracks, dominated by Deliverance and Wiseblood, and two tracks each from America’s Volume Dealer and In the Arms of God. This meant that material from the two most recent C.O.C. albums was omitted entirely, in a change to the usually observed touring protocol of promoting new releases. Keenan promises a new album with their new record label Nuclear blast as soon as they take a break from touring, much to the excitement of the fans. One can’t help but feel that his return may have unfairly overshadowed the dedication and commitment of his bandmates during his absence, but one also cannot deny that it’s hard to imagine a C.O.C. any better than the one before us right now.
The show is high-octane throughout, aside from a relative calm during ’13 Angels’ and a short pause following ‘Who’s Got the Fire’. The crowd chant “C.O.C.” until they come back for a three-song encore. Returning to the front of the stage, Keenan holds his beer out towards the front row, whereupon it is eagerly grabbed and enjoyed by one female fan. “Fuckin’ Irish – stealing my beer”, Pepper jokes, before assuming she is handing it back to him. Wrong again, Pepper; “I should have known better than that” he admits.
‘Vote with a Bullet’ is the first song of the encore, and was the first C.O.C. track that Keenan sang on their 1991 breakthrough album Blind. The penultimate track is ‘The Door’; a personal favourite which has only been played live once in the previous decade; and judging by the crowd and continued moshing, I was not alone in digging the acrimonious anthem. Before the finale, Keenan thanks the audience, adding that Dublin has always been kind to them, and promising to return next year with the new album. They finish up with an extended version of fan favourite ‘Clean My Wounds’, complete with extended solos, trippy guitar feedback effects and crowd clap-along.
I admit that I am biased in my appraisal, but I could not rate this show any higher. Don’t miss C.O.C., especially if you’re lucky enough to catch them with Clutch and Lamb of God on their forthcoming tour! 11 out of 10.