W.A.S.P. / Cruel Knives Hot

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W.A.S.P. / Cruel Knives - Kentish Town Forum, London (UK) - 27 October 2017

Opener Cruel Knives strikes me as a slightly unusual choice to support W.A.S.P.. Their Heaven's Basement heritage harks back to Classic Rock but two new members – including the introduction of Tom Harris on vocals – has indicated a change in musical direction. There's a heavier, more prominent bass line and a lot of echo on the melodic vocals to the point of obfuscation. While there are still traditional guitar solos and the holding of the guitar neck aloft indicating a classic heritage, with songs like 'On The Fucking Leash', there's an anger and bite to the songs which is post Nirvana and definitely millennial, culminating in a collective collapse/microphone crash out at the end. The W.A.S.P. fans are not unappreciative, and the consensus is that this band are decent, but perhaps a bit misdirected at a W.A.S.P. audience.

At sixty-one, Blackie Lawless still cuts an impressive figure with black backcombed hair, black leggings, white buckskin-fringed Native American style boots with white knee pads to match and his black Warlock. Tonight, they have something different planned to the usual W.A.S.P. show, a complete play of 'The Crimson Idol' with the accompanying film recently released with the re-recorded 'Re-Idolised' package. With the heightened emotion and dramatic content of the songs, the result is more of a Rock Opera. However, Blackie sounds fantastic and the London audience is patient and respectful. He is the only band member still around from 'The Crimson Idol' days, but the other members put their backs into it and put as much Metal attitude into the show as the material will allow. Also, it is incredibly ear-destroyingly loud, even through earplugs!

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In order not to distract from the film, there are no gimmicks. It is a pared down performance and Blackie lets the music do the talking with no commentary until the whole thing is over. He has a beautiful, emotional voice capable of evoking great pathos and it is an impressive performance. After that first part of the show is over, Blackie praises the London audience for getting what he was trying to do and not moshing during the performance as happened at another venue that shall remain nameless (he had, in fact, missed one surfer who manager to ride to the front and get kicked out while Blackie was striking a pose with his back to the audience and thus missed the whole incident).

Blackie rewards the London audience with an encore session covering the W.A.S.P. hits. During The Who cover 'Real Me', his trademark wild eyes and finger waggling is back, while during 'LOVE Machine' he hammers his guitar and the vocals are more towards a scream. In 'Wild Child', he throws his arms out to his sides and in bringing his knees up for guitar shreds, he shows he is fitter than perhaps in recent years, whereas in 'I Wanna Be Somebody' he does his teeth-baring face and beats his chest at the audience. If anything, the serious build up to this encore makes it more cathartic and fun for everybody. Nevertheless, by playing 'Golgotha' in this section with scenes of crucifixion behind, he is making the point that he has not lost sight of his newly found faith and that his new music is every bit as good as his old hits. Blackie has always been a "take me as I am" person, including now where he wants to preach about family values and love before allowing everybody, including himself, to let loose with the old hits. Still a phenomenon, without change there is no growth, and I only heard good comments from the crowd tonight.

Dawn Osborne

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