Concert Review: BLACK LABEL SOCIETY at the Midland Theater in Kansas City


Black Label Society – Hatebreed – Butcher Babies

It’s a Wednesday night and there’s a triple-threat in town. Kansas City’s historic Midland Theater, now dubbed the Arvest Bank Theater at the Midland, is ground zero for an evening of sonic thunder in the form of Black Label Society, with guests Hatebreed and Butcher Babies. The sold-out event brought a congregation of Berzerkers from all over the Kansas City chapter to gather and witness Father Zakk Wylde deliver his sermon with his six-stringed axe. The line outside the venue wrapped its way around the theater sidewalk as fans anxiously awaited for the doors to open.

Butcher Babies kicked off the evening with “I Smell a Massacre” from their 2013 release Goliath. The Los Angeles quintet features the femme fatale duo of Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey on Vox, Henry Flury on guitar, bassist Jason Klein, and drummer Chrissy Warner. I’ve seen Butcher Babies at least a half dozen times in the past two years, and every show is a non-stop adrenaline-fueled performance. Not only are the two frontwomen talented and beautiful, they execute their vocals with a vicious precision that cuts to the core of the audience and gets the crowd moving in the pit.

Although there were some knuckleheads in the crowd intent on flipping off the band, they were able to turn it around and get the entire crowd to flip the bird right back at the naysayers. This was proof that the band has built a dedicated fanbase and their hard work is paying off. The short eight-song set included cuts off of the previously mentioned Goliath, as well as tracks from their 2012 self-titled EP, such as one of my personal favorites, “Jesus Needs More Babies for His War Machine.” The whiplash-inducing “Magnolia Blvd” ended a brief but powerful performance that left the crowd wanting more. After the set was finished Carla and Heidi made their way to the merch table, where they spent time with their fans who lined up for a chance to get an autograph, chat, and maybe snap a quick selfie with the lovely ladies of Butcher Babies. If you get a chance to see Butcher Babies, don’t hesitate to check them out!

Next, it was time for some east coast hardcore as Hatebreed took the stage, delivering a powerful set spanning all six of their studio releases. Frontman Jamey Jasta took control of the crowd as the venue erupted with cheers and shouts, the audience joining Jasta in singing the lyrics to every song, word for word. There were waves of crowd surfers making their way to the front of the stage, as a circle pit began to form several rows back. While talking to several of the metalheads outside of the venue earlier that night I learned that many were there specifically to see Hatebreed perform.

Jamey Jasta was in top form and he seemed genuinely happy on stage doing what he does best, and the entire band delivered a killer set. It’s always a great show when a band brings a lot of energy to the stage and gives it to the audience, and the audience takes it and turns it back around, giving that energy back to the performers on stage. There was a true sense of unity among the fans and the musicians on stage, and the excitement of the audience continued to grow to a frenzy as the band delivered one crushing song after another. Some of my favorites from the evening’s setlist were “As Diehard as They Come” from the 2006 album Supremacy, and the classic Hatebreed anthem, “I Will Be Heard,” off of their 2002 release Perserverence. Jasta made the announcement that Kansas City fans will get another opportunity to see Hatebreed perform when they play the small but popular Riot Room on May 9, 2015. This should make for an interesting evening, as the club is quite small and sure to sellout quickly. And if you haven’t checked it out yet, go find Jamey Jasta’s podcast series.

After blasting “Whole Lotta Sabbath,” the Wax Audio mashup of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” and the Led Zeppelin classic “Whole Lotta Love,” the lights dim to the sound of the intro to “The Beginning At Last” and Zakk Wylde and Black Label Society took to the stage to begin what will be an epic set of BLS tunes. “Funeral Bell” and “Bleed for Me” are quick to follow, and with each song there is always an awesome display of Zakk Wylde’s amazing guitar acrobatics as he dives into solo after solo. There are an insane number of Marshall Amps lined up behind him, creating a wall that stretches the width of the stage. A cross and several skulls are mounted to his mic stand, as he towers over it belting out the lyrics to “Suicide Messiah,” “My Dying Time,” and “Damn the Flood,” before firing off a face-melting guitar solo that was met with a roar of approval from the eager and receptive audience.

With the lights dimmed low, Zakk begins the intro to “Angel of Mercy,” taking the crowd on a melodic journey with its slow strumming and heartfelt lyrics before launching into a ripping solo. Check out the fan-shot video of the performance. Next on the setlist was Wylde’s tribute to fallen guitar legend, Dimebag Darrell Abbott, who was gunned down on stage during a performance on December 8, 2004. Zakk has said in the past that “In This River” will never leave the Black Label Society setlist. Sitting behind a grand piano, Wylde sings the sorrowful lyrics for his departed brother with a projected image of Dimebag smiling over his shoulder.

This was a killer lineup and a show that will not soon be forgotten. If you ever have the chance to see any of these bands, you won’t be disappointed. Check out the concert photos of Black Label Society, Hatebreed, and Butcher Babies.

About Author

Owner/Editor/Photographer/Journalist at AntiHero Magazine -- Thomas is a concert photographer and writer living in the Kansas City, MO area. When he isn't elbowing people in the photo pit, he makes an actual living as a web developer and freelance motion graphics designer. He is also a guitarist and studied music composition at the University of Illinois at Chicago -- Author: Thomas Woroniak