The W.A.S.P. 40 years tour – as said in a recent blog by The Hawk on the ageing (graceful or otherwise) of so many Classic Heavy Metal acts this is a source of conflicting emotions.
It’s great that the longevity is there, but it sucks that there’s always this ‘see-them-while-you-still-can’ vibe about it all. 66 year old W.A.S.P singer Blackie Lawless had already blogged about his back injury. So when The Hawk caught up with one of the European shows recently, there was a certain sense of foreboding. Would this really be a celebration of 40 years, or just some old dudes going through the motions?
Still got it … but …
Well the good news is that W.A.S.P. are still good enough to put on a show, and there was plenty of feel-good energy in the crowd in spite of all the negatives on display.
What negatives? Well, the stage setup is a bit weird for a start. There’s a small, raised platform in the middle of the stage for Blackie to stand on when he’s singing, with a suitably evil looking skeleton with raised arms coming out. But the result is that he looks like he’s hiding behind a prop instead of performing for a crowd, and it can’t do anything other than detract from the energy in the show. Blackie also spends large portions of the set hanging on to one of the skeleton’s hands for dear life, which may or may not be injury related, but it makes for an uneven guitar sound whenever he stops playing.
Peekaboo – Is anyone Behind the Big Skeleton?
And, when the band get into their set, the TV screens above the stage play videos of the band performing the same songs in their younger days. Think about that official video of ‘Wild Child’ where they’re performing the song in the desert – Chris Holmes, Randy Piper et al still in the line-up. Now who in God’s name thought that was a good idea? Here’s the version of the band you could have had if you’d shown up 30 years ago. The comparison was never going to favour the contemporary version and doesn’t.
It’s a shame, because when they get into the meat of the set, everyone in the crowd still digs those old favourites. There’s the opening medley of ‘On Your Knees’ / ‘The Flame’ / ‘The Torture Never Stops’ / ‘Inside the Electric Circus’ – only fragments of each really, but still great to hear. Ditto ‘L.O.V.E. Machine’ and ‘Wild Child’.
Some critics have said that Blackie can’t cut it vocally any more, and The Hawk has even read some suggestions on social media that he might be cheating. But The Hawk didn’t get any sense of that. They’re all old favourites that go down a storm. It’s what the vast majority of the crowd have come to see. A relief, since Blackie’s voice was a big part of what first put them on the map – it’s still him.
Then we move forward in time to ‘The Crimson Idol’, with ‘The Idol’ and ‘The Great Misconceptions of Me’ coming out in quick succession. Doug Blair gets the chance for an extended slot for some vituoso soloing at the end of ‘The Idol’, and is clearly loving every minute of it (as it should be). And while I doubt many fans would vote for ‘Great Misconceptions’ as one of the best songs of W.A.S.P.’s long back catalogue, as a showcase of what that classic album is all about, it’s a thoughtful choice and is performed well.
Where’s the beef?
But it’s all downhill from there. In the old days, we’d all go along to gigs wondering which songs would appear on the setlist. But no longer – now everyone can look up what’s been happening on previous dates and know what to expect. Sure, you can argue that it spoils the magic, but that’s just how things are. Which means that the whole crowd are now expecting WASP to round out their main set with ‘Chainsaw Charlie’ and ‘Blind in Texas,’ as they have in the other shows running up to now.
Sure enough, here’s the chainsaw on the big screen, it’s coming, everyone wants to hear it, the anticipation is fever pitch.
But then …. Nothing.
That’s the end of the main set and we go for encores. (Not that anyone in the crowd was chanting for the encores – we were all waiting patiently for them to come out and play ‘Chainsaw Charlie’. But hey ho.)
The encores are preceded by a long written message on the big screen about the evils of censorship – so even someone who had turned up to the show from a cave without an internet connection on which to look up the set list knows that we’re heading into the legendary ‘Animal (F*** Like A Beast)’. That will turn things around for a grandstand finish, right?
I mean it’s OK, but has none of the attitude or energy that would have brought to mind W.A.S.P.’s famous battles with the PMRC and politicians and the rest back in the day. Sure, these days people are harder to shock, and songs rarely get banned because of profane content in the lyrics. But it still fell short, a damp squib. You almost wished Blackie would start throwing pieces of raw meat into the crowd to reprise some of that 80s ‘f*** you all’ vibe.
We finish with ‘The Real Me’ (sadly the only number to feature from their strongest ever album ‘The Headless Children’) and then perennial closer ‘I Wanna Be Somebody’. Again, both perfectly good, but accompanied by a strong sense that they couldn’t wait to get out of there. And indeed, a glance at the watch confirms that the entire set, including those encores lasted only a little over an hour.
Now, at the start of the European tour, fellow American metallers Images of Eden were there to support, adding value for everyone. But they were kicked off the tour completely a couple of weeks ago for reasons that are unclear – but is clearly a fairly substantial dispute between the bands given that it’s now in the hands of lawyers. Have a look at the posts on 26th and 30th April on their Facebook page.
No replacement act has been added, so that was the whole night – waiting around in a venue for 2 hours for a band to come on and perform for about half of that. The Hawk doesn’t want to throw around phrases like ‘rip off.’ Really. But it leaves a bad taste. Everyone was up for a great night, all that nostalgia – but it didn’t work out like that, and indeed, The Hawk’s sense of foreboding turned out to have plenty of truth in it.
In Conclusion … Please Don’t
What to make of it all in the cold light of day? Maybe the set had to be cut short due to Blackie’s injury problems. Maybe there was some other reason. It gets you thinking though – given all the problems with this tour, should they have just bailed completely and given us all our money back? Or is it better to have seen at least some sort of performance, especially with the years relentlessly ticking by? See them while you still can and all that.
On balance, The Hawk is glad he went – as Blackie said, you only get to have a W.A.S.P. 40 Years Tour once, and the set was an enjoyable throwback, even if the length was a disappointment. But jeez, I sure hope this sort of thing doesn’t start to set a trend. Ozzy has already said he’ll continue to perform even if someone has to wheel him out on stage. But for pity’s sake, Classic Metal Bands, DON’T DO THAT.
Most of the fans would prefer good memories that are a little more aged than to see this sort of thing becoming common.
Have you caught up with W.A.S.P. on their 40 years tour? What did you think?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.