Sunday, 20 September 2015

W.A.S.P. - Nottingham Review

W.A.S.P. were always the grubby older brother of the 1980s hair metal scene. Always noticeably heavier than the majority of the bands that dominated it, they had a foot much deeper in the traditional heavy metal camp than many of their contemporaries. This combined with their penchant for shocking theatrics made them legendary (and in many circles - infamous). Despite only having one original member for most of the band's history, W.A.S.P. have endured and remain a force to be reckoned with. Time has changed bandleader Blackie Lawless (vocals/guitar) however. Thoughtful songwriting has been his modus operandi for well over twenty years now, and the shocking stage sets of their early days are long gone. The band's fifteenth album Golgotha is due out next month, so this current UK tour is a good way to get the word out. To promote it, the band have included three new songs into their live set, which was a very good move in my opinion. W.A.S.P.'s setlist has been stagnating for a few years, and needed a bit of a shake-up. I am glad that the band chose to change up the live set somewhat, as they have been relying on the same old standards for the last couple of UK tours. I had decided that if the set was not at least somewhat different this time around that I would not go and see W.A.S.P. live again, so I am glad things were different this time. This gig also meant a trip up to Nottingham to one of my old haunts at Rock City. It was nearly two years since I was last there, so it was great to get back inside that great rock venue. The place was packed out too, which shows that W.A.S.P. are still a big draw live.

Support came from Cambridge rockers The Treatment who I have seen a few times over the years. The first time was at the Cambridge Rock Festival in 2010, before they had released any albums, and they blew me away. The most recent was supporting Slash at Nottingham's Capital FM Arena in 2013, which was still with their original line-up. Since then their second album Running with the Dogs has been released and they have undergone some line-up changes. Mitchel Emms (vocals) and Tao Grey (guitar/vocals) joined the band earlier this year, and this tour is the first major live outing of the new line-up. With all the changes I had lost interest in the band somewhat, but this set reaffirmed my love for them completely. I was captivated throughout the whole of their half an hour on stage, and cannot wait to hear recordings of the new songs they played. Opener Let it Begin is easily the best tune the band have ever written, and Emms did justice to the older songs. I Bleed Rock + Roll came across particularly strongly, as did the set closer; oldie Shake the Mountain. Tagore Grey (guitar/vocals) also impressed throughout with some excellent soloing. Overall, The Treatment are back with a bang and I cannot wait to see them again. The setlist was:

Let it Begin
The Doctor
I Bleed Rock + Roll
We are Beautiful
Shake the Mountain

A lesser band might have had troubling following The Treatment's high-energy set, but W.A.S.P. stepped up to the plate in fine form and delivered an evening of top quality heavy metal. The ever-present set-opener On Your Knees got the evening off to a great start, and Lawless proves that he still has that unique voice. The band generally are great vocally however, and both Doug Blair (guitar/vocals) and Mike Duda (bass guitar/vocals) helped him out on occasion. A great treat was the inclusion of Inside the Electric Circus in the set. It is one of my favourite W.A.S.P. tunes, and one I had not heard them do live before. Other early highlights were the classics L.O.V.E. Machine and Bruce Springsteen-esque Last Runaway which is the first single from the band's new album. The material from Golgotha came across really well live. The power ballad Miss You, which was originally written for The Crimson Idol, contained a great solo from Blair and some really expressive vocals form Lawless - something he has been perfecting for years. The middle of the set had a few more classics too, including the heavy Arena of Pleasure, and the anthemic Hellion from the band's self-titled debut album. By the point, the crowd were absolutely loving it, and their reaction to every song was huge. At this point I must give special mention to session drummer Randy Black (of Annihilator and Primal Fear fame) who did a great job behind the kit. The main set came to an end with the title track of the band's upcoming album, and it blew me away. It is an epic to end all W.A.S.P. epics of the past, and contained another excellent Blair solo. The chorus was very memorable too, and has made me excited to hear it again when the album comes out in October. There were three more songs to come in an encore, and Chainsaw Charlie (Murders in the New Morgue) stood out the most as usual. It is probably my favourite W.A.S.P. songs, and it is always great to hear it live. Wild Child and I Wanna be Somebody followed and made for a rousing end to the set. The setlist was:

On Your Knees
Inside the Electric Circus 
The Real Me [The Who cover]
L.O.V.E. Machine
Last Runaway
The Titanic Overture
Arena of Pleasure
Miss You
I Don't Need no Doctor [Ray Charles cover]
Chainsaw Charlie (Murders in the New Morgue)
Wild Child
I Wanna be Somebody

Overall, this was a great set from one of the greatest heavy metal bands of the 1980s. With what sounds like it will be a great new album in Golgotha on the way, 2015 seems like it will be a good year for W.A.S.P.. I am glad Lawless is still out there rocking and sounding as good as ever, as it is people like him that keep traditional heavy metal alive and well in the 21st Century.

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