OVERKILL, SYMPHONY X, SANCTUARY - Big Apple Tour Finale: Rotten To The Core

October 20, 2015, 2 years ago

Mark Gromen

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Homecoming for the feral hordes, senior (citizen?) prom for those that got kicked out of high school...from L'Amours in the early ‘80s (then again in the hard fought ‘90s, the venue only half as large, sharing the space with a strip club), riding high at The Ritz, in the late Eighties and nearly three decades later, at the new Terminal 5 (on W. 56th), Overkill in The City is something special.

Jumping off their own headlining tour, Sanctuary, without bassist Jim Sheppard, hopped into the opening slot, albeit just five songs long. Warrel Dane wore the same floppy hunting hat he's had for the best part of the last decade and as several people mentioned, looked physically uncomfortable onstage. During “Frozen”, he repeatedly shifted the mic, almost juggling, between his hands. Guitarist Lenny Rutledge switched to a Flying V, for “Die For My Sins”, which was followed by “Future Tense”, the crowd adding their voices to the mix. The all too quickly ending set finished with “Taste Revenge”. If the string of headlining dates (lasting through the end of October) comes nearby, check out Sanctuary.

Like Overkill, this was a homecoming for the Symphony X guys. Mike LePond (bass) and keyboardist Michael Pinnella were the first onstage, a few seconds’ ahead better known guitarist Michael Romeo and singer Russell Allen: he of the bug eye, Bono shades, unbuttoned shirt and ceremonial walking cane. The Jersey natives ran through the first half dozen tracks of their latest (Underworld), in order. "Underworld' sees four compressed carbon dioxide columns of "steam" shoot skyward, while “Without You” was bathed in blue light. Yellows and whites invaded the appropriate reds for “Kiss Of Fire”, with plenty of audience fists in the air. Allen donned a two-tone mask and picked up his cane, for a fencing duel against an imaginary foe, during the animate “To Hell And Back”. Despite repeated calls for it, a circle pit was not forthcoming. 

The singer dispensed with the sunglasses for “Of Sins And Shadows”, as pink and fluorescent blues focused on the stage. The exaggerated final note meets with a barrage of flashing strobes. “Serpent's Kiss” gives way to “'Eve Of Seduction”, introduced with the white spotlighted Romeo laying down licks, against a blue/purple backdrop. Fogged shrouds the sepia hued stage for “Set The World On Fire (The Lie Of Lies)”. Not Halloween yet, much to the chagrin of the cooing women in the crowd, Allen adding another mask to his repertoire, one that recalled Marilyn Manson's overdone eye make-up. By song's ends, he held the mask aloft, then departs, as LePond and Romeo both finger similar patterns during an instrumental passage. The singer returns, in sleeveless tee and those silver shades for the “Iconoclast” finale, which ultimately ends with Allen balancing the upside down mic stand on the palm of his hand.             

Overkill opted for a roughly 50-50 mix between the vintage and newer material, never going more than two songs, without cycling back to the "old days". Following the XDM intro, a blistering “Amorist” set the pace. “Hammerhead”, up second, sent the crowd into a frenzy, the attack on the barricade commenced, in earnest. Was that Derek "The Skull" Tailer on guitar? Missing hair, with mustache and scruffy beard. Opposite side of the stage, Dave Linsk was squeezing out sparks, as “Electric Rattlesnake” came next, complete with snippet of Sabbath homage. A 3x3 array of amps were stacked either side of drummer Ron Lipnicki, three small steps leading up to the riser. 

Each time he reappears onstage, racing to the mic, Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth taps Tailer on the shoulder, sort of an "all clear" signal. White spots criss-cross the stage on the strobe laden “Powersurge”, returning to the set. Prior to “Rotten To The Core”, Blitz recounts, "This is kind of like a L'Amours crowd. I feel 21 again. I have a hard on!" Bassist DD Verni kicks this one off. Stripped down to a black tank top, losing his black, Walmart inspired, bib vest Ellsworth strides atop the center wedge monitor. Fingers outstretched, he directs the gathered voices in the well-loved chorus, like a demon preacher, overlooking his flock. The band looks confrontational, standing four across the stage, bathed in orange and yellow, for “Bring Me The Night”.

“End Of the Line”, with its slower, guitar jam solo midsection (Linsk's handiwork accompanied by swirling blue lights), was rediscovered last tour and remains something of an underappreciated gem off Under The Influence. By now, The Skull is topless, blue bandanna around his head. More jokes from the frontman, letting the New Yorkers know they should consider these Jersey kids, "as your slow cousins." From the same album, next up is “Hello From The Gutter”, with an almost pop sensibility, it's easy to see why it was embraced by MTV. If “Bitter Pill” was a little unexpected, given the wealth of material on White Devil Armory, then imagine the sheer surprise of “Overkill” (the original!) being resurrected, streaming seamlessly from its predecessor. Blue, with pink highlights, until a blitz (haha) of white strobes, come the chorus, with four simultaneously released "steam" plumes, for accent. “Ironbound” closes the proper set, Blitz, with legs splayed, head down, under blue lights and a firestorm of strobes.

A tolling bell and strobes heralds the band returning to the stage for the encore, beginning with “Playing With Spiders/Skullkrusher”, all three string players with double neck instruments! Everything is colored green, Overkill's signature color, apart from Blitz, who is blood red, highlighted on a shadowbox, from below. He accentuates each beat with a boxer's punch. At its conclusion, the blackened stage is relit in red, for “Elimination”. Ellsworth offering something of a Public Service Announcement, as they go into a shortened version of “Fuck You”. Unsatisfied with the crowd's response he mocks, "That was a 9 on the pussy meter," as he makes them repeat the "greeting" once more, before signing off. Blitz balls up the setlists taped to the monitors and, along with any remaining guitar picks, deposits them into the crowd. Before leaving the stage for the last time, he shouts "Let's go Mets," twice. Tonight, these Hall Of Famers hit the homerun!

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