We Are Shitty Performers

Friday July 22, 2005

Against my better judgment, I trekked north to Allentown last night to see a one-time favorite band of mine, W.A.S.P. There were a lot of reasons to skip this show. For starters, they were pretty bad the last time I saw them, about a year ago at the same venue. Then there were the openers; while I wouldn't have minded seeing Metal Church (featuring, at this point, only a single original member, drummer Kurt Arrington), but I was in no way interested in having to endure L.A. Guns or The Artist Formerly Known As Ratt's Singer, Stephen Pearcy. Plus, it was a long, late drive on a thursday night. But I am a fool, and I went anyway, if only to meet up with my pal Chris, who plays bass in my band.

Nancy and I didn't leave the house until after 8:00, and this for a show an hour and a half away. This is fairly standard procedure for the Croc Rock - the headliners always go on late, usually after 10:00, and like I said, I was only interested (for lack of a better word) in the headliner. We hadn't eaten yet, so we stopped at a Bravo Pizza on rt. 100 just south of Pottstown. Bravo Pizza is a family run chain of pizzerias in Southern Chester County, and they're reliably good, not to mention staffed by honest-to-god Italians who are all, as far as I can tell, incredibly friendly. You're always greeted with a, "Hello!" and you can't leave without a warm, "Thanks for coming!" I like it. Nancy's eyes were bigger than her stomach, and she ordered two slices of mushroom. The pickin's were slim at that hour, so I got a slice of plain and a slice of stuffed pepperoni. The plain was the best - it crisped up nicely and was everything you can ask for in a slice. The stuffed pepperoni was a little on the heavy side. Who needs to much spiced meat? Nancy's mushroom slices were good, although the mushrooms prevented the crust from really getting crispy, although it didn't much matter as she barely finished her first slice. Abandoning my half-eaten stuffed slice, I came to the rescue, but even my hearty appetite was not enough to do away with all the pizza on the table. Still, we left full and happy, and got back on the road to Allentown.

When we got there, Stephen Pearcy was playing. He had apparently been on for fifteen minutes or so. We went into the main room to find Chris, and stayed long enough for someone to realize there was no reason for us to be in the same room as that terrible music, when we retired to the bar for some repite from the terrible poser rock. Chris had been there since 7:00 (it was nearly 10:00 when we arrived) and was looking pretty burned out. He reported that Metal Church were not bad, although they only played 6 songs, and nothing from the Mike Howe era, which is a terrible sin. He said that L.A. Guns were terrible, the worst he's ever seen from the band, whom he's inexplicably seen many times. I registered an absence of surprise.

It was a long time after Mr. Way Cool Jr. left the stage that W.A.S.P. finally got their show on the road, albeit by playing a taped song by The Doors. This is an odd and annoying trend among these aging 80's rockers - opening your set with a tape of some even older band. Iron Maiden opens their show with "Doctor Doctor" by UFO, Twisted Sister opens with "It's A Long Way To the Top (If You Wanna Rock N Roll)", and I seem to recall some other bands, recently, doing the same. (Megadeth? Overkill? I can't remember exactly.) What is the point of this, I wonder? W.A.S.P. didn't actually walk on stage until nearly 10:45, starting the show with a medley comprised of "On Your Knees," "Inside the Electric Circus" (yes!), and... something else. Maybe "Hellion"? The whole set, as it turned out, was old shit, including some surprises like, "The Headless Children," and "Kill Your Pretty Face" from the vastly underrated K.F.D. album. I should have been happy with the show, but that happiness never came.

The fact is, the whole show seemed like a put-on. It felt like a bunch of guys who got on stage and pretended they liked playing, and that they liked us, just because that's the only way they can make a buck these days. The songs were played well (for the most part) but there was no fire in the performances. Blackie Lawless stands behind a ridiculous 1000 lb. mic stand (equipped with stainless steel skull and spine, and motorcycle handlebars) and barely sings 1/2 of his lines. Whe a high note comes around, he'll point to the bassist, who will dutifully step up to his mic and somehow sing with Blackie's voice. No metal band has ever so egregiously abused the backing tape than W.A.S.P. Blackie has always used them, I suppose on the assumption that his songs won't sound the same without his trademark root-fifth vocal harmonies. But he used to at least pretend like he was actually singing. Not anymore. He has a whole grab bag of tricks to somehow get him away from the mic at exactly the right moment, so that it looks like the passion of the performance prevented him from being there to hit the note. But he repeats these tricks every time they play. It's a lame, canned performance from a guy who used to really know how to work it on the stage. It doesn't help that the band doesn't feel like a band, like W.A.S.P., so much as it feels like Blackie Lawless and backing players. I know that bassist Mike Duda (who spends an awful lot of time giving the crowd the finger) and drummer Stet Howland (who sets up his kit with the kick drums apart, so that you can see his feet working long-shafted pedals in the center) have been with W.A.S.P. for a long time, but they still have the feel of hired guns. And while that new, skinny guitarist with the mesh shirt might think his performance is intense and passionate, it looks pretty canned to me.

The only song I flatly objected to was some eternal balled from The Crimson Idol, an album I have never warmed to, although I know many people who love it. A great setlist from a band I (used) to love, and yet I left angry. What gives? I can't explain it. The first time I saw W.A.S.P. was on the K.F.D. tour, their first tour of the states in years. Chris Holmes was back in the band, bleeding from the needle-wounds between his fingers, and looking like bloody hell. But they were awesome. It was one of the best shows I've ever seen. Listen to their essential live album, Double Live Assassins to hear for yourself how much energy they had on that tour. Now, they're a bunch of washed up losers, phoning in a tour they don't want to be on just to make a few bucks selling ugly tee shirts. It was a sad night for metal, folks.

Posted by Matt at July 22, 2005 09:50 AM


What a bummer! Maybe I should log an entry about my adventure with the flat iron.

It can't possibly be that the luster of these shows is fading, can it? I will chalk this up as an off night.

Nice entry, though.

Posted by: The WaMo at July 22, 2005 01:19 PM

"There were a lot of reasons to skip this show."

Uh yeah . . . cause it was a WASP show in Pottstown.

I worry about you. I really do.

Posted by: Rachel at July 23, 2005 03:23 AM

Oh wait . . . it was in Allentown?

Firget I ever said anything.

Posted by: Rachel at July 23, 2005 03:25 AM

Rachel : yes, it was Allentown, but that's no reason to skip a show! I've seen lots of fine acts in Allentown, like, um, Stryper. Hmm. Anyway, W.A.S.P. used to rule. It just so happens that they no longer rule.

WaMO : Yes! How could I forget to mention the flat iron? Thank you for going into my house to prevent its destruction by fire. Nancy has been duly punished for failing to unplug her heatmaking device.

Posted by: Matt Johnsen at July 25, 2005 09:54 AM

WaMO: Ditto on the thank you. The cats are being trained in fire safety just in case this happens again. They have "stop" down cold.

Posted by: Nancy at July 25, 2005 01:05 PM

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