|Rob Zombie/Skindred/Revoker - Birmingham, O2 Academy - 22nd February 2011|
|Written by Gaz E|
|Tuesday, 01 March 2011 06:00|
To say that interest in the return of Rob Zombie to UK stages for the first time in a dozen years was fevered is something of a gross understatement. With tickets selling quicker than scalpers could think up ridiculous amounts for which to sell them on the secondary market, I knew that the tortured armpits of stinking venue patrons were going to be my closest friends on this, the last night of a short blast of British shows. But, entering Birmingham's O2 Academy at 7:30 pm to catch opening band Revoker, even I was surprised at the amount of bodies already crammed into a venue that seemed way too small to suitably house the larger-than-life spectacle of the Zombie stageshow......
But to Revoker. This young foursome have been familiar to all at URHQ for some time given their South Wales roots and the fact that, having signed to Roadrunner, they lead a blood-hungry pack of heavy fucking metal bands from the area is easily confirmed as they confidently open the night's proceedings looking, and sounding, well at ease on the nation's bigger stages. Their debut album, 'Revenge For The Ruthless', is released at the start of May and promises to be a real bruiser and, when the band return to the stage to amble through Skindred's final song 'Nobody' with their fellow countrymen, I can't help but feel my heart swell at the musical legacy that Wales, so long a fucking embarrassment, is now affording itself.
When Revoker and Skindred were announced as the supports acts for this tour I, honestly, found their inclusion, record label home excepted, to be a little curious. But, after seeing Revoker go down a storm with a packed crowd who I thought would be more than a little apathetic towards them, and then Skindred make the audience reaction to their set worthy of that of a headliner, I am forced to eat, or at least lick, my words. Opening with 'Cause Ah Riot' from 2007's 'Roots Rock Riot', frontman Benji Webbe eases into ringmaster mode and is pretty much universally - okay maybe planetarily - adored. And by so many of the distaff side of the audience too which, given the general lack of good looks spattered around the band, is a testament to their music. Their new album - 'Union Black' set for release in April - is keenly anticipated.
My fears for the size of the venue in regard to Rob Zombie's much-lauded stageshow prove, sadly, to be well founded as Zombie himself tells us, after a stunning opening trio of 'Jesus Frankenstein', 'Superbeast' and 'Scum Of The Earth', that the full show just wouldn't allow itself to be squeezed through the doors to the venue. So, with the screens downsized and missing a prop here and a raised platform there, we are promised more tunes to make up for any obvious disappointment.
'Living Dead Girl', with as many females as possible encouraged to ride atop shoulders for the song's duration, is followed by neck-breaking versions of 'American Witch' from 2006's 'Educated Horses' and 'Sick Bubblegum' from last year's 'Hellbilly Deluxe 2' and, sandwiched between them, the night's first revisit to the White Zombie back catalogue for a storming version of 'More Human Than Human'.
It would be easy for the flames and the robots and the b-movie clips providing a kitsch and killer backdrop to the show to strip the attention away from the people actually making the noise that is causing sweat to drip from the venue ceiling onto the crammed and cramped audience below, that is if the band that Zombie has put together around him wasn't, arguably, the best that he has yet worked with. Guitarist John 5 throws out slabs of musical genius and even a guitar solo that doesn't send people to either the bar or to sleep, while bassist Piggy D appears to have finally found a place to call home, impressing all with both his playing and general stage persona. And Joey Jordison, whose drum solo during 'Demon Speeding' again entertains enough to stop the mind wandering, is possibly the finest metal drummer thumping tubs in the rock 'n' roll world today. While they may seem to have been pulled together from various other bands and projects, this is a line-up that deserves to stay together for as long as possible, such is its power and general awesomeness.
'Demonoid Phenomenon' is quickly followed by, as RZ tells us, the band's token love song, 'Pussy Liquor' from the 'House Of 1000 Corpses' soundtrack. 'The Sinister Urge' gets plundered for a third time with an appearance for 'Never Gonna Stop (The Red, Red Kroovy)' before John 5 teases us with bursts of both 'Enter Sandman' and 'Sweet Dreams' before tearing into White Zombie's 'Thunder Kiss '65' which, as set closers go, couldn't get much better.
Zombie's faux trailer from Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's 'Grindhouse' feature, 'Werewolf Women Of The SS', is shown on the video screens while we wait for the band to reappear for the encores with, perhaps expectedly, Sheri Moon Zombie's namecheck being universally (seriously this time) adored, with the "Nicolas Cage as Fu Manchu" line providing the hugest laugh of the night. The nerd in me raises a smile at the reception afforded Bill Moseley, Otis to some, Chop Top to others, before the band return in blood red regalia for the Luftwaffe lycanthropy of the song of the same name.
White Zombie's 'Super-Charger Heaven' is welcomed like a long lost gnarly friend before the band leave the stage again, quickly reappearing in Union Jack-coats for a monstrous rendition of 'Dragula'. And that's that...or maybe it should be. Instead, with the promise of extra tunes still stinging the nostrils, the band return - Rob Zombie stripped down, literally, to a simple RZ tour shirt - for the first appearance of 'What?' on UK stages before set closer proper, 'House Of 1000 Corpses', complete with accompanying footage from Zombie's notorious movie debut souring the screens.
The most refreshing thing about the Rob Zombie show, as if hearing the great songs, watching a great band and being force-fed a visual diet of exploitation movie footage wasn't enough, is how relaxed it all seems with Zombie joking with his bandmates and goofing around; strictly staged stadium rock show with identikit setlist and between song banter this is not....thankfully.
Rob Zombie had said of this UK tour that shows were booked cautiously as he, modestly or not, was unsure of the interest in seeing this spectacle live. The adoration and packed-out venues have proved that the truth will out and, no disrespect to tonight's venue, has shown that this shit belongs in arenas.