O2 Academy, Glasgow, United Kingdom
September 18, 2015
Review by Andrew Watson and pics by Ritchie Birnie
Last night was top drawer stuff at what could be deemed Glasgow’s premier metal venue; the O2 Academy.
I’ve seen some good bands there over the years, including the late Ronnie James Dio, and both Killswitch Engage and In Flames at Taste of Chaos. Of these W.A.S.P. and support act The Treatment combined for a show to just about surpass that of metal’s supreme and deceased showman, RJD.
W.A.S.P’s upcoming album Golgotha is to be released on October 2, featuring ‘Miss You’. This was actually recorded for 1992’s The Crimson Idol, but was one of three songs that didn’t make it. Title track ‘Golgotha’ and ‘Last Runaway’ featured with the aforementioned in a blistering set.
On Golgotha being in the making for six years, the longest break between any W.A.S.P. album, frontman Blackie Lawless recounted a humorous exchange with a female journalist. She reasoned that if an album takes approximately an hour to listen to, then surely it would take roughly that length of time to put one together. He told the Glasgow audience he was simply rendered speechless by this. What he did add, though, was that work was somewhat hampered by breaking his leg in twenty-odd places.
A band chasing their first break, however, was Cambridge’s The Treatment. Supposing very subjective use of that word, though, seeing as they’ve shared stages with Alice Cooper, Thin Lizzy, Kiss, Mötley Crüe, Slash, Status Quo, Nazareth and UFO amongst others.
They loved being onstage, their presence proved it, and they really took the bull by the horns. For a band as relatively young as themselves it’s refreshing they seemed to take such a back to basics approach. Riff-wise they delved into classic rock, using their youthful energy to try and breathe new life into it.
Also, it took a fair few minutes to gather in mind just where that voice of singer Mitchel Emms hailed from. As strange as it sounds, and this is only an aspect of his singing, it is the one and only Geddy Lee. Now, this isn’t that almost impossible progressive rock falsetto, rather the more straight ahead hard rock bluesy yelp of Rush’s formative years. Perhaps ‘proper’ singing, as the purists would say, as opposed to screaming and anything else deemed too guttural for the discerning ear.
These guys were hauling ass, and had that kind of AC/DC driving tempo about them throughout their numbers that got the heads bobbing. They pounded with enthusiasm, despite having had to make personnel changes as recent as this year. Seemingly they take drama of any size on the chin and move on. Mitchel got a bit carried away with theatrics, geeing up the crowd with the help of his lively bandmates, and the lead came loose from his microphone; popping out mid-song. He laughed it off and had a smile on his face. No wobblers, just a bit of self-deprecation. It’s good they could laugh at themselves.
Then came the veterans, a band that’ve existed in one form or another for about thirty three years, as the back of Lawless’ shirt proclaimed. Either side of the stage was adorned with an amplifier stack looking more akin to massive mainframe computers. It would transpire that these also helped project moving images, and made for very interesting stage props.
Initial images, like the eagle of American political office, combined with the commonly held knowledge, or theory, that W.A.S.P. is an acronym for White Anglo-Saxon and Protestant. This in turn, of course, is meant to be ironic given that Blackie himself, never mind delving into the racial lineage of any other member of the band, is part native Blackfoot. Over analytical waffle, perhaps, but this all seemingly added up to a wry nod towards thirty three degrees – thirty three years of W.A.S.P. – of initiation into Freemasonry.
Any pondering frame of mind was soon shaken with ‘On Your Knees’. The band blazed onto the stage with this number, and although there were no circular saw blades to be worn in sight, guitarist Doug Blair appeared to have a scratch plate of that very shape. This was the first of four songs taken from their 1984 self-titled debut. Given that it could be construed as an ode to fellatio, it was good to see that Lawless doesn’t feel the need to chop this from the set because of his Christianity. This perhaps proves the song was nothing to do with the rampant sexual misogyny of that era and scene in the 80s. It was also at this point you realised how much his voice has matured over the years. Like James Hetfield, he’s never stood in the same place twice, musically speaking, and therefore developed quite a diverse rock range.
‘Inside The Electric Circus’ followed. It’s the title track of a daresay overlooked album, released in 1986 and the third of their career. In all honesty, ‘Restless Gypsy’ would’ve been a better selection from that era.
Then came ‘The Real Me’, a cover of The Who. This was the second track from their 1989 album, The Headless Children. Bassist Mike Duda was able to showboat with the intro and held his bass vertically, much like his cohort on the other side of the stage would do during a guitar solo. He also spun himself and his bass like a carousal, throughout.
Next was the second track of the night from the eponymous W.A.S.P. ‘L.O.V.E. Machine’ is arguably one of the most exciting songs from that album. It’s hard to standstill when it comes on, and the crowd showed that in spades.
After this the band fast forwarded to 2015 for their upcoming album, Golgotha. ‘Last Runaway’ is a really earnest, positive and upbeat song. Having said that, it details Lawless’ tumultuous move from New York, all the way to Los Angeles. A bit like Axl Rose’s story moving from Indiana to Los Angeles, in ‘Welcome To The Jungle’, but expressed from a completely different perspective.
Sticking to this rough timescale, they delved into 2009’s Babylon, with ‘Crazy’. This is more menacing than the previous track, though, and sounds like a riff upon that famous intro to ‘Wild Child’. It’s diverse enough to sound not too derivative of its big brother.
‘Crazy’ segued into ‘The Titanic Overture’, from The Crimson Idol. It’s an epic, acoustic driven song that gradually builds into a crescendo. The crowd lapped up the drama, appreciating the dynamics involved to pull off a song like that well.
They continued in the vein of The Crimson Idol, with the subsequent track on that album, ‘Arena of Pleasure’. It begins acoustically but builds quicker than its predecessor. It hits hard, and daresay gave the stewards a run for their money when it came into swing.
Just aswell ‘Miss You’ came when it did, then. The crowd quite hotly anticipated a bit of W.A.S.P. history, a song older than some of the younger fans in the audience getting a proper airing for only the first of a few times. This part of that concept album, originally meant to be a Lawless solo album, details the hero, delinquent turned rock star, mourning the death of his brother.
The lull in tempo was only temporary, roaring back to life with the second track from The Headless Children, ‘Thunderhead’.
It was the third track selected from the debut, consequently, that drove the crowd absolutely bananas. ‘Hellion’ has a harder edge than ‘L.O.V.E. Machine’ (and ‘On Your Knees’), so much so and more so that Children of Bodom covered it a few years back. It was an introduction to W.A.S.P. for many, beyond more obvious song choices.
Following this was the second, and last, cover of the night. Apparently ‘I Don’t Need No Doctor’ was originally done by Ray Charles. It’s adapted, of course, into an anthem against conformity of sorts. Again, there were better choices to be made from Inside The Electric Circus.
We go from rebellious proclamations to more heartfelt song with Golgotha’s title track. By this point it hadn’t been the first time the projectors displayed religious imagery, mostly with a Christian bent. Elaborating on this, Blackie has said that ‘Golgotha’ is Hebrew for the place of the skull, the hill where Christ was crucified. It’s all not too preachy, seeming to state that religion offered him hope and redemption; but while not insisting this is the answer for everybody else.
The end had come, but the crowd were hungry for more. That they got, with The Crimson Idol’s epic ‘Chainsaw Charlie (Murders In The New Morgue). If you read the liner notes for the album, Lawless lists Iron Maiden’s bassist and principal songwriter, Steve Harris, as an influence; and perhaps this song is a tribute to Maiden’s ‘Murders In The Rue Morgue’. It details the story of Charlie, the president of a major record label, who promises the delinquent turned rock star fortune and fame:
“I’m the president of showbiz, my name is Charlie/
I’m a cocksucking asshole, that’s what they call me”
W.A.S.P. – Chainsaw Charlie (Murders In The New Morgue)
Live, Blackie merely called Charlie a ‘monster’. Is this an example of why they didn’t play ‘Mean (Motherfucking) Man’, or the barnstorming ‘Rebel In The FDG (Fucking Decadent Generation)’? Even during chat between breaks the W.A.S.P. singer and rhythm guitarist didn’t pepper his talking with swear words in every second instance, like many seem to do to appear more rock n’ roll or metal. Yeah, it was gutting he didn’t play those classics; but similarly it was good and different he spoke as himself.
What they did play next, however, was long awaited. When Lawless alone came back on for a second encore, he played titbits of the opening riff and only progressively played more and more of it as the crowd got more and more animated. Finally he relented, and the rest of the band came on for ‘Wild Child’, the rip-roaring and dangerous opener for 1985’s The Last Command. This drew the biggest call and response for the night, the audience singing the words whenever urged, or whenever he stood away from the microphone and conducted the amped punters. The only criticism would be the drummer Patrick Johansson during the middle section. That distinctive drum roll was played totally different from the record, and it kind of killed the thrill of hearing it, in a sort of paradoxical way, in the flesh. In fact, the entire band sounded like it was a song they rarely bothered rehearsing, just the once over from time to time.
‘I Wanna Be Somebody’ closed events, the fourth and final track played from their first LP. It’s a fair old rocker and kept the blood pumping. It’s number eighty four in VH1’s ‘100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs’.
With the gig curfew at 11pm the pertinent issue on people’s minds was the songs W.A.S.P. didn’t have time for. Whatabout the classic and inspiring rock of Last In Command’s epic ‘Cries In The Night’? Were the ballads of ‘Forever Free’ from The Headless Children, and ‘Hold On To My Heart’ from The Crimson Idol considered two soft songs too many?
Regardless, it was a highly enjoyable night of exciting music and both acts definitely knew how to work a crowd.