W.A.S.P. – 40 Years Of Bloody Cuts And Nasty Bruises!
November 14, 2022, 7 months ago
It was a cold, chilly night with a mix of snow and rain in Cleveland, OH on November 12 at the Agora Theater & Ballroom. Not a pleasant night to go out, but the circus was in town – the electric circus that is. W.A.S.P. was back in America full force on their 40th anniversary tour with veteran metallers Armored Saint on for support.
I was fortunate enough to attend the VIP experience that W.A.S.P. is presenting throughout the tour and came away impressed with how organized and well-run the event was. The VIP experience promises a personal photo with mainman Blackie Lawless, two signed items (no guitars, pick guards, or instruments), signed VIP tour laminate, $50 credit at the merchandise stand, set of three Blackie Lawless 40th anniversary guitar picks, a Q&A session with Blackie after all photos and items signed, a picture holding Blackie’s original B.C. Rich Widow Bass guitar, a photo next to Blackie’s unique microphone stand dubbed “Elvis”, and an automatic entry to win a signed guitar at the end of the U.S. tour.
The VIPs are limited to 25 per show and do not include a ticket to the concert – there were about 20 of us for the Cleveland stop and a little after 5:30 PM – we were let into the venue and given our signed laminates and W.A.S.P.’s staff had us line up single file and were escorted into the staging area. We then proceeded to go up onto the stage to take a picture with “Elvis” with Blackie’s bass hanging on the mic stand. So we didn’t have a picture holding the bass, but I think it works out better to have the bass hanging on the stand. It was gracious of the staff to hold our belongings while taking the photo. After everyone was finished, we were taken to another room where the merch would be sold. A table was situated with a number of different colored markers we were told that Blackie could use one of his markers or a specific one brought by a fan and that he would write whatever you want on the items to have signed. We were given the guitar picks and told that we would be emailed the pictures with “Elvis” and Blackie a day or two after the show. The man himself than appeared, the group applauded, and Blackie wryly said, “I haven’t even done anything yet.” Wearing a leather jacket and high tops, Lawless was in good spirits and looked well.
Each individual had their picture taken with the 66-year-old musician and then had their items signed. Blackie was personable, humble, and friendly, making small conversation with everybody. I had him sign a vinyl of the debut album and my notebook. After everyone had their items signed, Blackie went around the room and took a question from each person. He was forthcoming with answers and looked you right in the eye when answering a question or responding to a statement. A couple individuals expressed how W.A.S.P. helped them through tough times, which he greatly appreciated, while others revealed their love for some of the lesser known albums in the catalogue like 1997’s K.F.D. and 2002’s Dying For The World. Blackie did reveal that W.A.S.P. will be releasing an anthology of material, including the demos originally recorded for their legendary 1984 debut.
It felt personal and unique, not some cookie-cutter meet and greet where it’s like a conveyor belt, take a picture and move on without any amiable acknowledgement. The Q&A part also makes each of these different, as the tour manager stated, Blackie has been asked many different things and nothing is off the table – he’ll answer anything. I can’t compliment W.A.S.P.’s staff enough as the whole event was professional, orderly, friendly, and answered every inquiry anyone had. After the Q&A ended, Blackie left and all of us used our $50 credit to purchase merch and then a few of us also bought items from Armored Saint’s booth – I snagged a signed colored vinyl of Delirious Nomad. Armored Saint has signed CDs for $20 and signed vinyl for $40 – extremely reasonable prices for both. W.A.S.P. had no music available, but had a couple t-shirts and a hoodie. The Agora staff was also nice and helpful and allowed us to drop our items off in our car and then reenter the venue.
The show ended up being a sell-out, which is about 2,000 for the Agora and Armored Saint promptly got on the stage at 8 PM and ran through ten tracks exploring the whole catalogue – including two from their most recent, 2020’s Punching The Sky, the fan-favorite “Chemical Euphoria”, and must plays like the bouncing opener “Reign Of Fire”, “Symbol Of Salvation”, “Can U Deliver”, and closer “March Of The Saint”.
Singer John Bush remarked he was a little under the weather and it was easy to tell, as he was struggling with the higher notes. Funnily after that remark, Bush’s singing seemed to strengthen. Bush spoke how important Cleveland was and how the Agora was the site of their 1988 live album Saints Will Conquer, although the Agora “was more of a dump” back in the day. The guys were energetic, with Joey Vera bouncing around on his bass with Phil Sandoval sporting glasses looking like an intellectual shredding the guitar. A little surprised they didn’t play “Last Train Home”, but overall a great and pleasing set that paved the way for the main event.
An upper stand was situated in the middle of the stage to hold “Elvis” while the backdrop was designed like concert goers were entering a carnival – flashes of different phrases on each part of the curtain and the most eye-catching – a statue of a Jolly Chimp standing stage left. W.A.S.P. entered at 9:30 PM and immediately crashed in with intensity offering a medley of “On Your Knees” / “The Flame” / “The Torture Never Stops” / “Inside The Electric Circus”. Sporting a jersey with that read “B. Lawless” and the #40 on the back, Blackie’s signature snarl is still in full force after all these years. His vocal capability is emotive and spot on. With Blackie is longtime bassist Mike Duda (since 1996), lead guitarist Doug Blair (since 2006), and drummer Aquiles Preister. Blackie situated himself over his microphone and enchanted the audience with his charisma. He would lean back on the mic, but didn’t just hang on there the whole time as at times would descend the stand walk to each side of the stage to interact with his bandmates and fans.
After the opening medley, a portion of the curtain was pulled away to reveal a center screen and two screens – one on the left and right and the screens would show the music video that corresponded with the song that was played like “L.O.V.E. Machine” and “Wild Child”.
Blackie was energized and full of piss and vigor and reminded the audience that it was 40 years of W.A.S.P. and also 30 years of The Crimson Idol. The screens showed images from the corresponding movie and thus began the most emotionally intense part of the show with the heart-wrenching ballad “The Idol” with Blair’s concluding solo lasting about 5 minutes, exuding the notes of a tortuous soul, just like Bob Kulick did on the original recording 30 years ago. “The Idol” gave way to the 10 minute closer “The Great Misconceptions Of Me” – musically and emotionally draining, but the crowd ate it up. The Crimson Idol part of the show concluded with the classic “Chainsaw Charlie (Murders In The New Morgue)” and the audience went absolutely berserk for that one. The proper set ends with the rowdy “Blind In Texas” – complete with audience participation. Quick and to the point – the band left the stage while the crowd shouted “Blackie! Blackie!”
The screens then reviewed the famed PMRC meetings and gave a stern rebuke of censorship (relevant in these times) and how W.A.S.P. was on infamous “Filthy 15” list and lo and behold came the song that Blackie had shunned for years due to his religious awakening. Out comes “Animal (Fuck Like A Beast)” with images flashing from the court proceedings and a rundown of all the songs featured on the list. A blast from the past as Blackie had the audience shout the chorus. After two verses, the boys steered course to “The Real Me” from The Who, which was featured on The Headless Children.
After “The Real Me” finished, Blackie remarked how Cleveland was an important city to them and how wonderful the crowd was. He then said as a baseball fan and being part Native American, he is “fucking pissed off” how Cleveland changed the name of their MLB team from “Indians” to “Guardians”. “No Native American gives a fuck about the name of a baseball team,” he roared.
The band then wound up closer “I Wanna Be Somebody” and the screens flashed the music video and then paid respect and due to members of the W.A.S.P. family like famed guitarist Chris Holmes and drummers Steve Riley, Stet Howland, and Frankie Banali. It was a nice and touching moment to celebrate the whole history of the band.
The set lasted about 75 minutes, which was shorter than expected and was disappointed by the lack of The Headless Children material, but it was a forceful and powerful statement from a band that hasn’t had a proper U.S. tour in over 10 years. The guys are firing on all cylinders. Be sure not to miss it.
Check out waspnation.com for tour and ticket information.