Necessity is the driving force behind evolutionary leaps, and only the most obtuse of observers would fail to notice the massive innovations going on in live streamed concert events in response to the now more than a year long Covid lockdown. Increased demand for artists to provide the fans with content to tide them over as chronic cabin fever grips the masses has led to a highly diversified approach to conveying auditory sustenance via the online medium. Being no strangers to mixing things up a bit, the California-based outfit Hollywood Undead left a sizable impression late last year with a highly theatrical concert event dubbed House Party, featuring a multiplicity of auspicious guest vocal contributions and an elaborate series of stage setups that could be best described as Hollywoodesque. With the live concert scene still suffering a sizable malaise in much of the continental U.S., it was all but guaranteed that a successor to said exhibition would be in the cards, and a little over 4 months to the day it has in the form of the April 30th event Undead Unhinged.
The approach taken this time around is very different from its predecessor, as the format has more of a documentary character to it. Alongside the eclectic array of rap, metal, punk, pop and EDM-infused anthems that touched upon every salient point in the band’s 16 year career, each member of the band provides various insights about each song’s background and development from a variety of locations. Witty retrospectives that include songs arising from excess partying or random conversations with friends to more pointed takes on the nonsense the band endured at the hands of the recording industry while fighting to get their foot in the door were among the asides in between live performances, with arguably the most poignant moment being vocalist Johnny 3 Tears reminiscing upon the battle they had with their first label in getting their debut album released, the hypocritical nature of the people involved and their first hit song “Undead” being the song that chronicled their anger at the situation while breaking down the doors to success, though Charlie Scene would garner the most laughs with a little quip about Ozzy and Sharon getting the bulk of the profits on account of the borrowed riff from “Crazy Train”.
All of the informative parts of the show aside, this was first and foremost a concert event, and the band would spare no expense it making it one to remember. Things were kicked off with the fist-pumping anthem “Whatever It Takes” off their 2017 album “V,” showcasing about as close as the band has gotten to an old school heavy metal sound with a mid-paced, crunchy groove reminiscent of Dio’s “Holy Diver”, albeit dressed up with a host of industrial keyboards and a Beastie Boys-inspired rap display out of every member of the fold. Similarly heavy hitting anthems that would appear on the setlist included the aforementioned breakthrough first single “Undead”, the more nu-metal/Linkin Park infused anthems “Day Of The Dead” and “Gravity”, and the infectious pop/punk romp “Levitate”. Throwing an additional curveball into the equation, the middle third of the set would shift gears in favor of an all acoustic series of original and cover performances that was modeled after the old MTV Unplugged show of the 90s, with high points consisting of a highly polished and faithful rendition of Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen The Rain” and the poignant philosophical ballad “Rain”.
If nothing else, the just less than 2 hours of content that was brought forth during the evening hours of April 30th showcase a jack-of-all-trades outfit outdoing themselves at every turn. The seamless transition from a bombastic blend of blaring guitars and EDM sounds to a stripped down acoustic arrangement complete with a string quartet is not exactly a common fixture of any live event, let alone one created for online broadcast. By the band’s own admission, they are essentially an island unto themselves, throwing together a wide array of disparate influences that defy existing conventions. The result is a craft that is somewhat polarizing and the band themselves note on multiple occasions in between performances that their mode of musical expression may not be for everyone. But even those who may not dig the industrial underpinnings and boisterous, rhyme-schemed rapping would be remiss to deny the high degree of originality that was on display in the closing hours of April, 2021. It’s an informative boon to the band’s core fan base, and an interesting excursion for a more old school heavy metal enthusiast like yours truly who ordinarily goes for less modern content.
HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD Setlist:
Whatever It Takes / Day of the Dead / Bad Moon / Another Way Out (Snippet of Du Hast during last chorus) / Comin’ in Hot / Undead / Bullet (Unplugged) / Rain (Live debut, unplugged) / Been to Hell (Unplugged) / Regulate (Warren G cover) / Hear Me Now (Unplugged) / Have You Ever Seen the Rain? (Creedence Clearwater Revival cover) / Dead Bite / Gravity / Levitate / Coming Home (Live debut) / Everywhere I Go