@ Leeds Rio’s
Given how it marked the start of their commercial decline, I’m rather confused as to how W.A.S.P’s ‘The Crimson Idol’ warrants a commemorative 15th anniversary tour. You’re more likely to find lengthy examinations of the Shamen’s ‘Boss Drum’ than you are of Blackie Lawless’ rock opera revival when it comes to 1992’s seminal album releases. However, there’s no shortage of ageing rockers in Rio’s tonight and I am interested in finding out how ‘Crimson’ sounds in 2007, having ‘lost’ my copy sometime during my student years.
In an ever-growing trend amongst ancient bands, frontman Blackie and his current staff run through the whole of ‘Crimson’ in all its Who/Floyd-flinching pomposity. What’s interesting is how W.A.S.P (whose fame is based more on their stage show of exploding codpieces, pigs heads and wench torture than their music) choose to deter the audience’s attention away from the band by playing under darkened lights and towards the visuals that play out on the screen above. The black and white film, originally intended to accompany the album’s release, goes some way to explaining why it never saw the light of day at the time. It tells the story of Jonathon, a troubled kid who escapes his abusive childhood through the liberating means of ROCK, only to discover that (quell surprise) it’s all lies and deceit! All that’s missing is some bricks, a group of singing schoolkids and Bob Geldof in the lead role.
But it’s clear that W.A.S.P have put a lot of effort into the presentation and, for this, they should be applauded. Musically, ‘Crimson’ has aged better than their earlier work, in particular the brilliantly over the top ‘Arena Of Pleasure’ and ‘Chainsaw Charlie’, both of which pile on more widdly guitar solos and thunderous drum fills than is necessary. All done with a straight face, natch. This being rock opera, it’s a trifle pretentious and, as such, occasionally disappears up its own arse, in particular lengthier ‘epics’ like (ahem) ‘The Great Misconceptions Of Me’.
‘The Crimson Idol’ set is enthusiastically received, but, when they return after what seems like an age and launch into ‘L.O.V.E Machine’, it’s obvious what the majority really want is the dumb, shock rock of their early days. The beery bloke to the left of me bellows, “Now, that’s more like it!” as the nostalgia continues with ‘Blind In Texas’. But Blackie’s not up for any more and leaves the audience disappointed by not airing fan favourite ‘Animal’. The chants encouraging the band to return turn to boos as the lights go up, but the show was entertaining while it lasted. To be fair, W.A.S.P’s set was a respectable hour and a quarter and didn’t trouble the nation’s swine or wenches.