With a queue that looks like it possibly stretches into a different time zone, anyone who thought LA legends W.A.S.P. would struggle to attract decent-sized crowds these days is very much mistaken. With a tour postponed due to the Covid pandemic three years ago, Blackie Lawless and co land on English shores once again, the natives turning out in full force to celebrate. And where better in the West Midlands to play than KK’s Steel Mill, the venue owned by former Judas Priest axeman KK Downing?
UK act South of Salem are tonight’s support, the Bournemouth five-piece doing a great job distracting the crowd from the rather hefty prices at the merch stand with a set lifted from their independently released debut The Sinner Takes It All. Combining horror themes with more socially relevant subjects, the band look like a cross between Mötley Crüe and Black Veil Brides, bassist Dee bearing more than a passing resemblance to Nikki Sixx while heavily tattooed vocalist Joey Draper works the crowd with a wink and a cheeky grin. A willing crowd joins in with cuts like ‘Let Us Prey’, ‘Pretty Little Nightmare’, the amusingly titled ‘No Plague Like Home’, suicide awareness power ballad ‘Demons Are Forever’ and memorable closer ‘Cold Day in Hell’, a song which boasts a chorus not a million miles away from one of the headline act’s more famous songs. An enthusiastic and energetic performance, and a great way to start the evening.
After an interminably long break, the crowd are just about baying for blood as W.A.S.P. finally hit the stage, going at full pelt into a medley of classics performed against a backdrop of garish circus sideshow banners. ‘On Your Knees’, ‘The Flame’, ‘The Torture Never Stops’ and ‘Inside the Electric Circus’ sound great before the hits continue in full, ‘L.O.V.E. Machine’ and ‘Wild Child’ played in front of a large screen showing the original promo videos, ‘The Idol’ climaxing with a Doug Blair guitar solo which is quite possibly still 0going on somewhere.
‘The Great Misconceptions of Me’ leads into an electric version of ‘Chainsaw Charlie’, many holding their breath as they wait to see if Blackie has finally stopped self-censoring his lyrics. A roar of approval greets the lines “I’m a cocksucking asshole, that’s what they call me”, and “I’m a lying motherfucker, the chainsaw’s my tool” as an unexpurgated version of the song is roared to the satisfied venue. A raucous ‘Blind in Texas’ ends the main set in style before the band leave the stage to get their breath back.
After another excessively lengthy wait, the band signal their re-emergence with video footage taken from the infamous Capitol Hill hearings of 1985, the likes of Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider and John Denver pleading their case for freedom of expression, going up against politician Al Gore’s wife Tipper Gore, and the infamous PMRC. A typed video display describing the story is followed by a mighty (if slightly abridged version) of W.A.S.P.’s most infamous track, ‘Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)’ before the band conclude the evening’s festivities with The Who‘s ‘The Real Me’ and a rousing version of ‘I Wanna Be Somebody’.
Although a resounding success and absolutely worth the wait, one issue must be addressed. The omnipresent elephant in the room of backing tapes. Yes, the band use them and yes, at times it’s clearly obvious. Is there some miming going on? Quite possibly, but at the end of the day the audience have sung their throats raw and had a fantastic time doing so. A glorious night of ’80s excess. Thankfully without drum solos.
Setlist, via setlist.fm
On Your Knees / The Flame / The Torture Never Stops / Inside the Electric Circus
The Great Misconceptions of Me
Chainsaw Charlie (Murders in the New Morgue)
Blind in Texas
Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)
The Real Me (The Who cover)
I Wanna Be Somebody