As the lights go out, the stage turns blue, apart from a solitary white light,pre-recorded 'Out Of The Asylum' cues the band to take their positions. There's been a few changes since witnessing King Diamond overseas, back in '13. Most strikingly is his make-up. Gone are the multiple crucifixes (two large inverted ones now hang from the rafters, so he's not lost his affinity for the symbol. Hovering over the stage, one has a pair of stuffed raven perched on the crossbar!) and the eye black is slicked back, almost to his ears, like a raccoon or panda in wrap around shades. The dual staircases, connected by a walkway over top the drum kit, remains intact, a menacing, macabre setting, particularly with the ornate, old mansion backdrop. From afar, it really looks like everyone's inside a dilapidated building. Although performing Abigail, in its entirety, each night, throughout the tour, the setlist has been altered, especially the choices which comprise a short Mercyful Fate portion. Flash of strobes and there's King, pushing the wheelchair bound Grandma, across the stage. This is actually a homecoming for Jody Cachia, a Philadelphia dancer who has long toured with King acting in several roles, including the beloved old maid. Fittingly, they open with "Welcome Home". Arriving center stage, under pink/blue lights, Granny rises from the chair, aided by King ("Let me help you out of the chair"), brandishing her cane towards the front row, in a "Terrible kids, get off my lawn" way. Between the acting, staging and band, there's plenty to see.
While not speaking much between songs (probably will add to visual continuity, filming a second show in Detroit, later in the week), King did acknowledge it's been a long time since he was last in Philadelphia (Trocadero, 2003 on Puppet Master tour). The elevated crosses shine white, as blue lights sweep repeatedly across the stage, to introduce 'Sleepless Night". King is alone, on the second tier, briefly highlighted in red, as a white lights pulsate back-and-forth, like a prison searchlight. A goat head pentagram is illuminated. A yellow and purple lit "Eye Of The Witch', pantomiming help with the words, motioning to the crowd with his crossed bones mic, the assemblage obeys. Working to the far edges of the stage, the King plays air guitar on the old bones. "It's a little late for this one, but every night is Halloween', is how the painted frontman greets the song of the same name. Cooper lights on the dual staircases, can't help but think back to the Kiss Alive II set! Inverted crosses are yellow and red, as well as the aforementioned pentagram, King hitting an a cappella scream, before continuing.
King announces it's time for some Mercyful Fate, Andy LaRocque bathed in red, guitar partner Mike Wead under yellow lights for the double guitar begun 'Melissa'. King has his back to the crowd, as if entranced on an altar containing the drum kit, his falsetto trailing off. The wrap-around backdrop shone in orange, while the stairs are orange. On the second floor, above the drums, a virgin in white (hands tied, overhead) is burned at the stake, by two hooded priests. After the deed is done, King visits the scene of the crime. Yellows float across the stage for the start of 'Come To The Sabbath'. The audience adds to the titular chorus, while Philly's own Cachia holds aloft a horned goat skull, beneath a rapid fire barage of blue/red/purple lights. The two guitarists join up, stage left as the classic ends with King on the upper level shouting "You are the one!"
Thus ends the non-Abigail part of the show. The pre-recorded 'Funeral' heralds the arrival of the full album, as a pair of hooded figures delivers a coffin, emblazoned with "Abigail." During 'Arrival' King parades around with a knife and a Chuckie doll. Ultimately, he sacrifices the child and throws the doll into the coffin, which is removed by the robed henchmen, as the full blown blue lit stage erupts into indigo lights. Red is the color of choice to start. Miriam , dressed in white and lantern in hand, descends the staircase, then strolls across stage, during 'A Mansion In Darkness'. A storm of lightning as the scheme switched to yellow/red, instead of omnipresent blue hues. Lots of falsetto, but any concerns about his voice are unfounded.
Much like Broadway, there are physical cues, so after playing, it's into the wings, awaiting the start of strobe laden 'The Family Ghost'. Wead and stage opposite,the sleeveless LaRocque, begin 'The 7th Day of July 1777' on a pole mounted acoustic guitars (not the last time we'll see one of those tonight). Band lit in red as the henchmen reappear, to retrieve the acoustics, As Miriam is "thrown" down the stairs (strobe enhanced, slow-mo effect). the lights go out, prior to the start of 'Omens'. Baby bassinet now center stage, as King begins by tossing a couple of long stemmed roses to the crowd. Overhead those hulking crosses shine white. Good portion of the track is instrumental, King air guitaring lower level, before heading up and down stairs, as LaRocque is given a brief moment in the spotlight. In classic black & white studio casting, the reappearance of Miriam (now possessed by Abigail), seen here in black dress, not the earlier white.
'Possession' sees Cachia convulsing around the blue stage (simulating something unnatural inside her), as King retreats upstairs. During this chaos, there suddenly appears an acoustic guitar and subtle musical passage, courtesy of LaRocque. The best known title track is up next, lit in purple/pink, a cathartic release of audience voices filling the hall. To start, Abigail contorts across the stage, a priest in traditional vestments, on the upper landing. By contrast, apart from some stage fog and baby Abigail being bashed by her mother, the acoustic begun 'Black Horsemen' finale is almost anti-climactic. Musically (the final strains almost too happy/triumphant) and visually, a post-script to the fanciful tale. Few live DVDs are really worth repeated airing, but between the lightning and storyline, this promises to be more like a mini-metal movie. Heaven can wait, but I can't!