When W.A.S.P. announced they were to tour playing The Crimson Idol in full, it was met with a unanimous “Why?” Mainly because they have better albums in the shape of the self-titled debut and The Last Command. Albums which would lend themselves much better to the “in full” treatment. Sure, The Crimson Idol is a loose concept album but it’s not exactly their finest hour. However, I went in with open mind and when they toured in 2015, I had a rather enjoyable evening.
Opening proceedings are The Cruel Knives, their maiden Glasgow show taking place in the same room with The Pretty Reckless. Much like that time, it’s obvious why Rob Ellershaw and Sid Glover dropped the Heaven’s Basement moniker and start with a fresh slate. With a new sound, the same energy is there, even if Glover’s guitar is buried in the mix. Enrapturing the quickly-filling room, they make the most of their time to promote themselves and their EP, reminding the crowd merchandise is on sale if people fancy saying hello. Not quite to my taste, you can’t fault their performance as they lean into a more radio-friendly sound. There is echoes of Heaven’s Basement in the chorus of “The Promised Land” but that’s where the similarities end. With their final song played, they leave to enthusiastic applause with the people in front of me remarking they were good.
As The Cruel Knives’ equipment is packed away and Dire Straits blasts over the PA, the screens on a relatively large space still makes the stage looked cramped. Blackie Lawless shuffles onto the stage with the rest of W.A.S.P. following him and the tale of The Crimson Idol begins. The screens show the promotional film which plays out the story complete with Lawless’ recorded narration. Sadly, the film doesn’t add much to the overall story, instead depicting footage which ties in with the theme of each song and even then, most of it is just on a loop with the same static shots and footage just played again to emphasise moments in the story.
Then there’s the band themselves. Tight and flawless, it’s well rehearsed, even if it feels like the young ones are doing the heavy lifting for Lawless. Having read reports last time around of him using technology to beef up his vocals for lack of a better term, it’s evident he’s not here. Whilst not dreadful, it doesn’t pack the same punch it did back in the 80s and there’s points where he relies on the crowd and bassist Mike Duda and guitarist Doug Blair. Which is actually more commendable than trying to hit notes you can’t. Meanwhile, when not singing his vocals, Lawless spends the evening with his back to the crowd, as close to the drum riser as possible and when he does face the crowd, there’s a mixture of boredom and “What have I signed up for?” on his face.
Once “The Great Misconceptions of Me” finishes and we see Jonathan Steel commit suicide on the screens, the band leave as the credits roll before an air-raid siren and a medley of W.A.S.P.’s greatest hits play. With more energy than they mustered during The Crimson Idol section, the crowd respond in kind as they hammer through their cover of The Who’s “The Real Me”. Battering through “L.O.V.E. Machine”, they follow it with “Golgotha”, complete with the associated imagery on the screens. “I Wanna Be Somebody” brings the evening to an end and most notably, during this four-song encore, Lawless seems engaged and enjoying himself, crossing the stage with the energy of a man half his age, leading the crowd through the standard participation moments.
Having seen a few “in full” shows in the past, you need a really strong album to do so – not just something which tells a story. Alongside that, playing solely the album and an encore seems a bit of a cop-out. Look at Metallica when they hit festivals with the Black album a few years back or The Darkness with Permission to Land. A greatest hits set, the album and then an encore of more songs you’d expect. Add in Lawless’ own boredom during The Crimson Idol which was evidently shed for the encore, the crowd mirroring this and much like when it was first announced, I’m left with the question of “Why?”
Photos by Bluethumb Photography