W.A.S.P. - Tramshed, Cardiff
It never fails to amaze me that W.A.S.P. continue to pull impressive crowds when they come to Cardiff. Maybe it’s because the Welsh love the classic old school hard rock and metal. Whatever the reason, the return of Blackie and co to the Welsh Capital saw a rammed Tramshed witness a memorable show.
Opening proceedings were The Cruel Knives (8) whose energetic and lively set stoked the already bubbling temperatures of the venue a little higher. The band may be familiar, as they are one half of the outfit formerly known as Heaven’s Basement who underwent name and personnel change around nine months ago. New frontman Tom Harris has a fine clean voice, and worked the crowd with the professionalism of a veteran. Alongside him Sid Glover and Rob Ellershaw cut the rock star pose on guitar and bass respectively, Glover managed to lose first his jacket and then his t-shirt before the end of their short but engaging set. Completing the line-up was Al Junior on drums. Of course, Heaven’s Basement had cut their teeth for several years, so it was no surprise that tracks from Side One, their new EP sound polished with The World We Sold and On A Fucking Leash particularly impressive. Their music sits firmly in the hard rock camp which houses Halestorm and similar artists, but the future would seem to be bright on this showing and the excellent reception received.
It’s been five years since W.A.S.P. (9) played in Cardiff. I checked my review of an unsatisfactory night on 4th October 2012 at The Great Hall on this blog which brought back painful memories of a skimpy 70-minute show which left the crowd disappointed and frustrated. Two years before that the band had delivered an 11-song set at the Millennium Music Hall which only fuelled Blackie Lawless’s reputation as a diva. No such problems with tonight’s show as we knew what to expect. The 25th anniversary of 1992’s The Crimson Idol meant the album in full, with a couple of classics thrown in for the encore.
The Crimson Idol was a seminal album for W.A.S.P, receiving reasonable reviews at the time but reputationally becoming the band’s classic piece and a move away from the four-minute raging hard rock songs of previous releases. The stellar line-up that recorded the album comprised Bob Kulick on guitar and the drumming prowess of Quiet Riot’s Franki Banali and Stet Howland, most recently hammering the skins for Metal Church and currently engaged in a fight against cancer. We wish him well.
As a concept album, it worked well. The story of Jonathan Aaron Steel, unwanted and ignored son whose brother Michael dies when hit by a drunk driver, causing him to descend into chaos before he steals a crimson red guitar. Steel becomes a rock star with all the excesses before calling his parents one last time. Crushed by their dismissal of him, he takes his own life during his concert. Musically it was fantastic. Immensely heavy in parts, acoustically delicate in others, Blackie Lawless’s vocals superb.
The stage at the Tramshed was dominated by two large screens either side which slightly restricted the movement of the band but were pivotal to the show. As the band arrived to The Titanic Overture, the hour long story unfolded on the screens. Some of it we’ve seen before, but having the whole film backed by the live tracks really worked. As ever, Lawless was focused on his work, no smiles or engaging with the crowd during this part of the evening. In fact, he spent quite a lot of it with his back to the crowd, the Lawless 35 shirt the latest piece of merchandise on display (beats the 28th anniversary shirt from seven years ago). Although it’s a fact that Lawless now looks like Ann Wilson from Heart (or does Wilson look like Lawless?), like Wilson he can still hit the notes he did back in the 80s.
If anything, his voice is stronger and more powerful now than it was then. Flanked by long time bassist Mike Duda on bass and 11 year guitarist Dug Blair, the band ripped through the album with a ferocity and style not seen for some time. As the pace intensified so did the reception, with Chainsaw Charlie (Murders In The New Morgue) seeing much headbanging and fist pumping. Blair is a fine guitarist, throwing the shapes and peeling off the solos but also showing his ability on the double neck during The Gyspy Meets The Boy and the gargantuan Hold On To My Heart. At the back of the stage, new drummer Aquiles Priester hammered seven shades out his kit. The sound, whilst loud was crystal clear.
The main set concluded with the epic ten-minute The Great Misconceptions Of Me, a track that pulls the album together and allows the band to showcase their quality. The enormous ovation as the film credits rolled (interestingly I noted that the film was produced by former Machine Head and current Once Human guitarist Logan Mader) was fully deserved as W.A.S.P. left the stage. A rather lengthy break allowed everyone the opportunity to get their breath back before the band returned for another 20 minutes. The Real Me and L.O.V.E Machine from the 1984 debut album preceded the religious themed Golgotha from 2015’s album of the same name before the riotous I Wanna Be Somebody brought the evening to a frenzied climax and allowed the old school to leave a W.A.S.P. gig for once with a smile on their faces.
Editor's Note: It seems that Blackie fell into old habits after this show, as the next night's gig in Bristol was cancelled for a yet, undisclosed reason.