O2 Ritz Manchester – Manchester, UK – 21 October 2017
W.A.S.P. have been entertaining audiences and shocking the moral majority since the eighties. While the majority of the controversy is behind them these days, they continue to release quality albums and at the same time also pay musical homage to their illustrious past. The format and stage presentation for the last couple of tours that I have seen, The Bloody Road to Golgotha + the previous 30 years of Thunder have been similar. No cages/exploding cod pieces or fire in 2017 – the use of three on stage video screens and a two-part setlist would be the chosen presentation format. Classic album revisited this time was the legendary Crimson Idol which had originally been first released in 1992/93 (depending on market). The live show would therefore feature that album played in its entirety with a second half set of back catalogue classics. However, a new visual Crimson Idol documentary would be serving as a visual backdrop to the live delivery of that album’s songs.
Arriving in extreme weather conditions which saw excessive flooding throughout the city, a packed house of Manchester W.A.S.P. diehards certainly needed warming up in more ways than one. Opening band the Cruel Knives certainly did their best – formed from 2 former members of Heaven’s Basement, they successfully combined that band’s sense of melody with a harder, grittier edge. They engaged well with what is always a very partisan W.A.S.P. audience and actually won over many new converts judging from the crowds at their merchandise stand after they had delivered their set. Definitely a name to watch out for and one which succeeded in unifying several generations of W.A.S.P. fans during the course of their set.
While the band lineup these days is much changed from the shock rock early days, band main man Blackie Lawless remains as the solid rock, the immovable force on which the name is founded. The album is undoubtedly a classic and is to the tunes individual and collective quality that when played in full sequence it has the effect of transporting me way back to originally listening to the album in the bedroom of my first flat. Blackie preserves the atmosphere and mood of the original album by leading both band and the audience through both a sonic and visual performance unsullied by mid-song idle stage banter. Though the album ebbs and flows through dark and light melodic and heavy it didn’t lose the audience through the evolution of the Jonathan story. Even tracks that hadn’t been singles were themselves sung loudly by the appreciative sellout audience-a sign of a classic album. All parts recognized, and all parts enjoyed. The band themselves showed their various musical abilities from the powerhouse backbone drumming by Aquiles Priester (the most recent addition to the lineup) through to the crunch and melodic guitar harmonies of lead guitarist Doug Blair.
The first set seemed to fly by and soon it was time for the band to leave the stage for the intermission; the fans remained entertained by a selection of W.A.S.P.’s more well-known sounds played over the venue’s PA system. A quick break and then part 2, which I felt was too brief in only being four songs and 1 of those a cover – “The Real Me” by the Who. “Golgotha”, the title track of the band’s most recent studio album was also played with stunning presented visuals. “L.O.V.E. Machine” and “Wild Child” sadly were the only classics served up to the hungry fans. Leaving them a little satisfied but ultimately hungry for more. While Blackie Lawless wants to continue to play live, there will always be many wanting to be bitten by this particular W.A.S.P.