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Heart of Steel: Concert Reviews

GWAR (with Three Inches of Blood)
Calgary, Alberta | Date: October 30th, 2002. | Venue: MacEwan Hall
Capacity: 2800 | Attendance: 2000

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Where to begin…I don't review a lot of shows. In fact the last one I did was the THOR show last October 30th, 2001. Oddly enough Thor was supposed to open for GWAR in Calgary but it did not happen. So, a year later I took in the spectacle that was GWAR.

In the brand new, gorgeous venue Vancouver's Three Inches of blood took the stage, knowing full well that they were lucky to be there and that very few knew (or cared) who they were. Fortunately there were a few hundred die-hards who got up front to greet the young six piece band and a few dozen who knew the words and sung along enthusiastically.

There stage presence was poor to say the least…street clothes, just kinda hanging out looking lost on the giant stage loaded with GWAR props. However they put on a spirited performance that was both inspired and inspiring. With only an EP and a debut full-length under their belt I was fortunate enough to know the tunes and enjoyed ripping renditions of "Destroy The Orcs", "Curse of the Lighthouse Keeper" and "Ride Darkhorse Ride". The band finished off with what seemed to be a fan favorite, the anthemic, "Balls of Ice". The two vocalists and the ripping Maiden-thrash hybrid with galloping leads ensure these guys have a bright future. Hopefully playing in front of 2000 faces will win them some new fans.

Next came a long delay made even longer by the drunken idiots who kept throwing beer cans at the stage. Many, many beer cans were floating through the air at the poor road crew who were doing their best to dodge debris, keep the stage clear and get GWAR's massive stage prepped. Once again the antics of a foolish few set the entire proceeding back and a few fights broke out as the temperature rose, tempers flared and alcohol and other substances kicked in.

pic from gwar.net - visit today!!Then it was time… I had decided early on that I was going…"into the pit" and well was positioned (pinned) in the heaving bulk of people. GWAR has been around for 20 years and the last time they came to town was over 10 years ago. I assumed would never see them again and I decided one of my life goals was to get crushed, sprayed, up close and personal at a concert by arguably the most theatrical metal band of all time. I have seen so many shows in my day that the thrill of the pit has been a long forgotten memory of my younger days, but not this night.

The lights dimmed and Oderus, giant, menacing, lurched onto stage with a single light looking more fierce some than ever, the crowd started surging and for the first time in along time, I felt fear… I weighed less then 150 lbs and some of the monsters around me were probably twice my weight and a foot taller. I'm glad I wore my steel-toed boots!

The lights came up the pit started and didn't stop with two brief exceptions for the next hour and a half. I lost track of time as I was pushed and pulled back and forth as far back as 20 rows and as close as the second row…just following the riptide of violence.

GWAR was sick, dirty and mean and really stripped down. Gone were the giant elaborate stage plots and numerous extra characters. Sleazy P. Martini, Techno-Destructo and The Morality Squad were no where to be seen. This was dubbed the "The Bitch is Back Tour" and featured heavily the antics and costumes of Slymen Hymenstra. She alone brought the pit to a standstill with her fire dance, whipping balls of fire around on chains and breathing fire. She has a lot of stage time with Oderus, the Cuttlefish of Cthulu and more.

The songs were rapid fire and they played mostly fast heavy tunes and left out the long joke songs like "Slaughterama" and the "Insidious Soliloquy of Skulhedface." This was a METAL show!! Other visual highlights included the torture and dismemberment of George Bush, Osma bin Laden, Sadam Hussein and Mike Tyson with appropriately huge amounts of blood being shot into the crowd. Gor-gor (the giant dinosaur) made an appearance, as did the fluid canon! The special effects are among the best I have ever seen.

GWAR has suffered a number of line-up changes lately and it showed in the sense that the other musical members of GWAR (Beefcake, Flattus, Jizmak and Balsac) were fairly sedate, seeming, perhaps timid and concentrating on playing the songs. They did not move about much or interact with each other, preferring to keep their heads down and play hard and fast. The rest of the time it was the Oderus show, complete with stage rap, some minimal banter, jokes, sound effects and a laugh track!

The other point I was painfully aware was that people didn't really know the songs. I would guess that 75% of the people were there for the spectacle and were not familiar with the actual music or songs. In this case it was obvious that image ruled over substance for many, which is a shame because GWAR has some very decent songs. Of course the bulk of the crowd got going for the "hits" (or songs that were videos) such as "Sick of You" and "Sadam-a-go-go" but for the most part many, many people seemed lost. Shame. GWAR has eight albums (11 if you count the fan-club only rarities collection, the EP and the new Live album) but didn't draw much from the new studio CD. So oddly enough it was type of "stand and stare with your mouth hanging open" for much of the audience instead of sing along and headbanging. But…I knew that was going to be the case so that is why I decided to go right up front to experience the spectacle.

By the end of it I felt thoroughly exhausted and abused; physically, mentally, visually and sonically, and I was drenched in a nice of brew of mutant blood, diseased urine and demon-semen. A buddy who works on the local road crew helping set up, said the band spray about 95 gallons of blood into the crowd per show! It was not for the faint of heart and there was a disclaimer on the ads warning about offensive content and damages due to stage effects. I guess "stage effects" is the polite way of saying "getting hit in the chest at point blank range with both barrels of the machinegun blood-cannon or getting sprayed in the face with the dismembered Cuttlefish of Cthulu!

GWAR was an experience I will never forget, a show so over the top, so outrageous, controversial, offensive and fun it will remain as one of the best shows I have ever seen.


Official site: www.gwar.net

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