W.A.S.P.‘s long-awaited return came to the Wellmont Theater in Montclair, New Jersey, on November 17th. It’s been 12 years since Blackie Lawless and his band of madmen graced a US stage.
The stage was designed to resemble a carnival side show displaying hand-painted posters of freak attractions with Blackie as the alluring and menacing ringmaster. You knew he meant business by the look on his face during the opening medley of songs while singing from his pulpit with his microphone stand named “Elvis.” And so began the spectacle dubbed 40 Years Live World Tour 2022. Their tour kicked off October 28th in Las Vegas and will conclude December 11th in Los Angeles; then, the band will tour numerous countries that have previously banned these Winged Assassins from performing. Blackie is joined by Mike Duda [bass]and Doug Blair [guitar], whose respective tenures in the band span 26 and 18 years, along with Aquiles Priester [drums].
The 40 Years Live World Tour is a macabre celebration of all things W.A.S.P. and takes fans back to where it all started with a complete stage show extravaganza. Blackie and the boys opened the show with a medley of four songs; “On Your Knees,” “The Flame,” “The Torture Never Stops,” and “Inside the Electric Circus.” The barrage of songs were delivered fast and furiously to tease the audience of what was to come. Once the nearly sold-out audience caught their breath, W.A.S.P. hit them with “L.O.V.E. Machine” as fans chatted along to the chorus like a symphony choir.
As expected, Blackie showcased his extraordinary music catalog in an energetic performance by delivering a combination of hit songs like “Wild Child” and “Blind in Texas.” To the excitement of fans, they are now performing three songs in a row off “The Crimson Idol”; “The Idol,” “Chainsaw Charlie (Murders in the New Morgue),” and “The Great Misconceptions of Me.” The latter song replaced “Heaven’s Hung in Black” and “Crazy,” which were played at the first few shows.
The surprise song of the evening was wildly powerful, “Animal (F*%k Like a Beast).” It was a song that Blackie denounced back in 2009 because of his religious faith, but the tables have turned as it was performed flawlessly in all its gory glory. The song opened with an audio samples of PMRC co-founder Tipper Gore and various members of the Senate hearing trying to violate our 1st Amendment rights of Freedom of Speech by censoring explicit music! As incredulous as their actions were back in the 80s, the clip seems to be a timely reminder of how the government can easily infringe on our rights now. Perhaps that is why Blackie decided to add this song to his armamentarium of music.
His band was a tight-knit group of musicians who genuinely complimented each other and the songs. Mike, Doug, and Aquiles played the parts beautify, giving the songs the heft and lift they needed. Mike is the sonic ambassador between the rhythm of Aquiles‘s drumming and the guitar playing. Doug’s solos were fluid and memorable, and he even took a searing extended solo on “The Idol,” which captivated the fans as images from their MTV video flashed on the screens. They brought back the unique raw quality and in-your-face style of playing that made W.A.S.P. a legendary act while adding a new dimension of power.
As the show came to a bombastic ending with The Who‘s “The Real Me,” the band closed with “I Wanna Be Somebody,” video screens paid homage to former W.A.S.P. members to help the band get to where they are today. Blackie still dresses the part, commands the stage like a rock star, and packs the vocal ability that fans expect. Any fan in attendance tonight will tell you Blackie still embraces that raw grittiness and glam appeal he did decades ago without using blood, torture rack, fire, and spitting raw meat. Not many bands today genuinely embody the spirit of rock n’ roll. Many try, only a few succeed, and W.A.S.P. hits the mark.
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