Type O Negative and Celtic Frost
Tuesday, April 11, 2007
First Avenue – Minneapolis, MN, USA
Review & Live Pics By J. Campbell
Mid-April in Minnesota is nearly as dreary as the winter months that precede it. A flattened, unclean gray sky presses down from above, threatening rain upon the soulless downtown concrete. As I tread upon it, an icy, leftover winter wind bites into my skin like a lingering barfly still needling me about his fucking wife and kids, ten minutes past bar close. I hate the lingering. This filthy winter barfly needs to keel over on its stool…give up the ghost.
Braving the bastard air by necessity, I trudge past the Seville Club’s velvet-rope façade to arrive at the legendary (to the people who aren’t forced to attend shows there) First Avenue. Before crossing the street, I had an inkling that something was askew amidst the crowd at the door. That something was a skinny, close-cropped, leather-clad degenerate who was intent on causing a twisted scene. Apparently, he’d been bounced, and he wasn’t going to go quietly.
“You’re a fucking pig, man. Fuck you! Fucking pigs, all you fuckers! You’re just like the rest of ‘em! You’re fucking pigs!”
He danced and howled at the doormen, who wore a look of indifference. The red in his face couldn’t mask the huge welt on his forehead.
It’s always strange to find yourself caught in the middle of a minor fiasco such as this, as the fog of total awkwardness washes over the crowd. Everyone wants to look at the freakshow, but no one wants to draw any attention towards it; he the twacked-out, wild-eyed outcast. Those that look only glance, and most rely on peripheral vision to absorb the obscenity.
“Fucking FUCK! “
He rips the lid from the street-corner trashcan, raises it high above his head, and throws it to the ground with as much force as he could muster. This is his final, feeble act of defiance, and he stumbles into the street and away, swirling in his own diatribes. I can’t help but smile as he disappears into the city, knowing that while I am enjoying a cold beer and some live heavy metal, he’ll be wallowing in self-loathing as he works on new meth scabs.
The line finally snakes forward as the weight of the spectacle lifts. The seedy doorman with the peach-fuzz shadow pats me down and pulls my camera from my pocket cautiously, as if it’s been infected with some flesh-eating disease.
“I’ve got a photo pass, man. Check the list.”
Mm-hmm. Mumbling some incoherent gibberish from underneath his dirty blue hood, he guides me through the proper jumping hoops and lets me in the door, just in time. Brand New Sin has just finished their set. I was more concerned with the eight-dollar beers waiting for me in the balcony, than I was hearing bland, metallic Southern rock.
With a massive plastic cup of Red Stripe in hand, I watched from above as Celtic Frost takes the stage. Marin Eric Ain, clad in a nattily tailored black tunic and plastered with full corpsepaint, introduced the band with a long-winded, overly-theatric spoken word passage before busting into “Procreation of the Wicked”. Though hardly a rollicking opener, the plodding determination of this classic provided a showcase for drummer Franco Sesa’s hitting prowess. A signature track, and one that provided an opportunity for the fans to step back and breathe it all in…to think to themselves, “Holy shit. It’s Celtic Frost”.
Thing is, I don’t count myself among those fans. It’s not that I don’t respect their influence or status as extreme metal pioneers; let’s just say I’m far more familiar with Satanic Rites than I am with Morbid Tales and To Mega Therion. And while the band played with the utmost passion and ferocity (Ain especially—it was a rare moment when he wasn’t stomping around, headbanging furiously), any excitement that I harbored was tempered by the material from their comeback album. Monotheist’s ugly, lumbering doom dirges simply do not translate into a compelling live performance.
I managed to slam my frosty beverage in time to get near the stage for “Circle of the Tyrants”, which was easily the highlight of their set, getting the strongest reaction from the swollen crowd. A tight performance all-around, but Thomas Gabriel Fischer’s work was particularly impassioned. He manipulated his Giger-adorned Ibanez Iceman flawlessly, and his vocals paralleled.
Alas, the downhill slide started after that, as they decided to return to the well of Monotheist…and I decided to return to the well, AKA ‘the bar’ for the remainder of their set. As legendary as Celtic Frost may be, and as invigorated and intense as they came across on stage, if the songs suck, I’m not going to stick my head in the Marshall stacks. While the band can’t be faulted for proudly bashing out their new songs, I want to bang my head, and sadly, their new material simply isn’t conducive to that type of metallic behavior.
Perched in First Av’s balcony once more with yet another fistful of fine Jamaican brew, I took to discussing the finer points of professional wrestling with a colleague. As we argued the worthiness of the Latin American Xchange, Type O Negative’s stage set was beginning to take shape. Four signs adorned the stage, each to be backlit with a prompt for crowd response: ‘You Suck’, ‘Boo’, ‘Applause’, and ‘Laughter’. Guess which one of the four was never lit.
Minutes pass. Then, finally, smoke flows, lights dim, and the Drab Four break into a shitgrin-inducing rendition of “The Magical Mystery Tour”. Sliding seamlessly into a raucous “We Hate Everyone” (one of the best songs in their catalog) from there, Pete and crew are officially rolling.
I scrambled down the stairs to get closer to the stage, but the house was packed, making for difficult navigation. Somehow I managed to weasel myself back into the same position I was in for Celtic Frost, to the left of the stage, right in front of the inimitable Mr. Steele. However, from this point on, things become a little hazy; I think mostly due to the euphoric stupor brought on by seeing a band I’ve idolized since my early teens for the very first time. The beer certainly had no effect.
Pete swigs from a half-gallon of Sutter Home between songs, as Johnny smiles from ear to ear behind the kit. Carrying themselves like the veterans they are, exuding purest rockstar presence while remaining as precise as an atomic clock, they fire on all cylinders. Kenny Hickey’s guitar work and spot-on vocal delivery deserves special notice. While many people misguidedly regard TON as the vehicle of Silver and Steele, Kenny’s counterpoint screams and flowing riffs are Type O’s backbone. The man was all over the stage, giving everything he had to the loyal Minnesota crowd.
Disappearing to the back after a handful of songs, the backlit signs come into play for the first time, and the serenade of boos and ‘You suck’ chants begin. Pete emerges a couple minutes later, and, to a roomful of chuckles, proclaims, “When you gotta go, you gotta go.” A couple of pulls from the wine bottle later, and we’re rewarded with gems like “Anesthesia”, “Hey Pete”, and “Love You To Death”.
After the predictable-yet-glorious encore of “Christian Woman” and “Black No.1”, I filed out into the cold city, with the faint lingering of semi-skunkified brew in my nostrils. TON swept through and played what the fuck they wanted to play, how they wanted to play it for nearly 2 hours; just like that mind-bendingly beautiful girl you bought drinks for all night, who fed you out of the palm of her hand, only to disappear into the crowd at the end of the night…fleeting.
Maybe paths will cross again.