Review: W.A.S.P. at Toad's Place 

click to enlarge wasp100.jpg

Behold! And Blackie Lawless came forth with his epic tale, and bestowed it upon his people!

Well, unlike Moses, he didn't lead millions of faithful through the desert to escape the shackles of bondage. Instead, his band W.A.S.P. played a DVD to 100 people.

Unveiling their self-touted masterpiece The Crimson Idol on the stage of Toads Place Tuesday evening, a handful of fans waited in anticipation for a visceral exodus of reality. The band was slated to perform the Crimson album in its entirety along with synced footage that was originally intended to be a full-length film accompanying this concept album's story line. In the days leading up to the concert, I was imagining what horrifying imagery would be shown. Demons attacking the countryside in search of the Necronomicon? Lewd sex acts in the deep bowels of the Vatican? Seventy-four minutes of line dancing?

No. I was disappointed to see that it was merely black and white video showing the trite tale we all know: son isn't loved, son grows out long, beautiful locks, son "doesn't want to be like you dad", son becomes rock star, son takes a liking to nose candy, son hangs himself with a guitar string. I'm certain the film's apex was inspired by a certain Beck song (that shall remain unnamed). All the while, W.A.S.P played on a dark stage, themselves watching the video more often than not. I was pining for the dramatic metal pageantry I'd known and loved throughout my years as a testosterone-pumping adolescent. However, the lack of any noticeable charisma, coupled with songs fifteen-minutes in length, and Pabst tall boys were making me drowsy - an obvious cardinal sin to metal.

Though most of the first set was darkened, the stage lights made a few bright appearances for some of the faster tunes. The band made melodic sprints through Crimson's "Arena of Pleasure" and "Phantoms in the Mirror." During the Bic-worthy power-ballad "Hold On To My Heart," the mirrorball made an appearance, coaxing some couples to relish in their 10th-grade glory days. Although there was a small bit of variance through the first set, the experience didn't live up to its hyped sideshow of bound, scantily-clad women throwing raw meat into the audience. To the contrary, the crowd's waning interest led to suspended animation, sometimes broken up by trips to the bar.

The encore set, which strangely no one chanted for, more than made up for the prior set's misgivings. The band sprinted and leaped across the stage playing songs the crowd recognized, all the while tilting their guitar necks in unison toward the metal gods in the heavens. Considering the amazing energy explosion in the brief encore, it's hard to imagine how sore my neck would have been today had the first set been as high-octane.

Regardless of the lackluster concept performance, Lawless is the real deal. He graced the stage decked in tasseled white knee-high boots, black spandex pants, and a number 84 football jersey (ironically). Any fifty-one year old man with a falsetto like that should be allowed to break any law he pleases.

Unfortunately, it may be time to consider the "sell-by" date of the hair metal tour. Observing the mild enthusiasm of the meager crowd last night, the relevance of the music's themes may lost to a generation that pawned their cassette tapes in '92. At the end of one of the opening band's sets, the drummer threw his stick out into the crowd. Rather than a young, topless motorcycle chick scrambling to catch the proverbial stick of sexual hickory, the crowd indifferently dodged the projectile instead letting a lone, middle-aged metalhead snatch it in mid-air. An isolated event? No. The next time he had to chase the stick across the floor.

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