[Full set of photographs on Flickr via this link]
Thirty years is a long time to be doing any job. It all the more difficult when your job revolves around creativity as times change and people go on to find new things. Which is why it was quite exciting to be able to manage to get a ticket to see the second date on W.A.S.P.‘s 30th anniversary tour, at the HMV Picture House in Edinburgh.
Due to being absolutely knackered, I didn’t bother with the support act (sorry), but got there in good time to find a nice spot by the mixing deck before Blackie Lawless and company came on stage slightly after 8pm.
W.A.S.P. has had numerous members over the years, but Blackie has been there since day one – and he looks it. Mind, this guy’s been through the whole rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle much as other bands of the era such as Motley Crue, Poison, etc. and he’s survived. There’s no doubting his song-writing skills (Crimson Idol is a superb rock opera / album and Headless Children still rates as a classic of the genre in my book) and charisma on stage.
The opening segment was for songs from the first four albums, most of which I recognised and the crowd were singing along to a host of classics. Large video screens at the back displayed old live footage or the associated music video (remember when MTV still showed music videos? These were from back in the 1980’s). “The Real Me“, “Wild Child”, “I Want To Be Somebody” and so forth rolled out until the band paused for a quick change. A point of note is that the videos throughout the night were generally very well choreographed with the live music to the point where drum beats matched action in the background (Jonathan smashing his guitar into mirrors during the second sequence), or Blackie singing lyrics as they were spoken in the video (such as the chorus to “The Real Me”). Pretty impressive.
This was probably my favourite part of the show, mainly as it included songs from The Headless Children. Stand-out was the video of Martin Luther King Jr.‘s final speech the day before his assassination which led into the title track. As the lyrics question if mankind has lost the plot, the video sequences went from one promising peace and hope to images of Hitler, Stalin and war. A really simple visual device, but incredibly effective.
Section two was a cut-down version of the Crimson Idol tour, crammed into around thirty minutes. Along with the disturbing video sequences in the background, we were rushed through Jonathan’s life from abused child to rock star and then decline via some cracking songs and emotive performances. It’s one tour that, in retrospect, I wish I’d gone to see when it was doing the rounds.
Finally was the “all the other stuff” segment including them more recent material. with which I wasn’t so familiar. It didn’t affect my enjoyment as the band were on a roll and the crowd really getting into things.
Sadly, though, things had to come to an end a little earlier than I think the band were expecting due to a 10pm curfew (seriously, why don’t promotoers start boycotting venues that won’t let bands play until 11pm?), which I think cost us a song or two. I was really hoping for “Mean Man” and “Animal”, though I gather that Blackie will no longer play the latter due to his new-found status as a Born Again Christian. Well, thanks Jesus. That’s one W.A.S.P. song and a Megadeth classic (“Anarchy in the UK” – yes I know it’s a cover) I won’t hear live again because of you.
Oh, a minor niggle – Blackie had a bit of a rant to try and get the crowd going about “they said we’d never sell the tickets in Edinburgh that we could in Glasgow, and you proved them wrong!” The guy’s amazing, but two points. “Glasgow” is pronounced with an “-oh” at the end not an “ow” as in “Ow! I’ve stubbed my toe”. And they’re less than an hour apart by road or rail. I reckon a huge number in the crowd would have been from Glasgow anyway…
While the show was energetic and glitzy (Doug Blair’s light-up guitar is something special), it was missing some of the stuff promised on the promotional web site:
- multiple video screens – CHECK
- pyrotechnics – NOPE
- elements from the early W.A.S.P. shows – CHECK
- Blackie’s moving microphone stand “Elvis” – NOPE
I can understand the pyros being an issue in some venues, especially smaller ones like the Picture House, but it’s a shame not to see Elvis as he was present at the much smaller Bradford Rio back when I saw the band last.
Not to worry, though. The show’s about the music first and foremost and I don’t think there were any complaints there from the near-capacity crowd!