Thursday, July 09, 2015

King Diamond and Slayer at Stir Cove, July 7, 2015

I don't know why I debated with myself over going to this one, because, King Diamond. If you've read this page at all over the years, you know I'm a Kind Diamond fanboy and I have been for a very long time. OK, I do know: I didn't exactly want to support the Mayhem Festival, regardless of how great the headliners are.

The show was in Council Bluffs, Iowa (just across the river from Omaha), and, being a smaller venue for the tour, the Victory Records stage was absent from this stop. Not that I would have gone to that anyway, and its absence made the tickets considerably cheaper.

Anyway, giving The Devil Wears Prada a miss, I arrived just before HellYeah's set. There's still evidence online that I was once a Mudvayne fan, and I'm not going to deny that I still enjoy listening to a song or two off L.D. 50, but I was not expecting a lot from these guys. Despite some melodramatic "metal saved my life" hyperbole in his stage banter, they put on a good, high-energy show. Who knew? I mean, the music wasn't good, but they knew how to perform.

Then, over at the King Diamond merch table, I met this crazy motherfucker who's at least one tooth short and clearly has unimpeachable taste in music. I picked up a KD patch, and was found by the elusive Metallattorney there with his awesome wife. (She was there reading A Game of Thrones, and apparently threatening to drag him to see Foreigner soon.) After catching up with my law school cohort, I got in as close as I could to the stage to wait for the King.

Their set was awesome. Instrumentally, every one of them was at the top of his game, and the drums hammered hard and loud. Listening on record you can get caught up in the guitar riffs and vocal melodies, and you might miss how punishing the percussion actually is. Live, you can't miss that. King himself I had trouble hearing at first, but soon he was at the top of his game, too. In fact, his vocals were chilling, and only a few times toward the end did he start flagging in some of his lower-high-range. Very impressive, especially considering his age.

Some of the song choices were a little odd. I definitely would not consider "The Family Ghost" to be one of his better tunes, not even one of the best on that album, but they played it. and they didn't play "Abigail" or anything from The Puppet Master either. The highlight for me was the Mercyful Fate tunes, especially "Evil." I lost my shit for that one, singing along to every word, and I dare say a whole lot of other people there lost their shit, too.

The stage show was pretty fun. He brought up "Grandma" (in a rubber mask) and "Miriam" was there, too, "Abigail" showing as a preggo belly under her dress. King's grimace was there in full force, but I was a little surprised at the minimal stage banter. Given the average age of the band, I wouldn't call it surprising to see how slowly they moved around, but I still felt like they were capable of pouring more energy into the show than they did. Which isn't to say they didn't sound perfect, because they did. But, you know, it wasn't exactly like watching Converge.

After King left the stage, I discussed the crowd with Metallattorney and his wife. We spotted a dude in a Hellhammer shirt, a few Obituary shirts, and the ones you'd expect (Slayer, Metallica, Slipknot) plus a few oddities (Nirvana and Red Hot Chili Peppers, oddly enough). The crowd included at least one 3-year-old with a mohawk (and a mom in a Sixx A.M. shirt) and a lot of 50+ dudes, along with every age in between.

I needed something to drink, so I passed up the $8 domestic swill and grabbed a free Rockstar energy drink. I was able to take about four swallows before throwing it out. Not that the taste is horrible, but when you're not 14 anymore you can't drink that sugar crap. Then it was time for Slayer.

Now, ostensibly King Diamond and Slayer were co-headliners, but that's just the way it is on paper. In reality, Slayer plays last and they have pyrotechnics and a much bigger light show.

Tom Araya looked awesome with a full beard, and Kerry King looked exactly like he always has. And they played perfectly, running through a bunch of late-catalog favorites to begin with. But once again, I was a little disappointed at how they didn't seem very animated. Kerry was banging his head just like you'd think, but for the most part, it seemed like someone bolted their feet to the floor. Tom could have gone to the casino and been replaced by a statue and a recording, for all I know. Almost zero stage banter, too. (Man, these guys need to go see an Opeth show. Or maybe they've just found over the years that they're not charming enough to pull it off?)

Still, it was an amazing spectacle, and it sounded fantastic. There was a sizable pit, but outside the pit I was disappointed in my fellow fans. When they finally played the classics, I found myself pretty much alone in shouting along to "South of Heaven" and the big finale ("Angel of Death," of course). Most of the time when I go to a show, I have plenty of opportunities to take a picture of hundreds of people raising the horns and going nuts, but as you can see, that didn't happen. Most of the people there were merely spectators, and I've got to say, as a metalhead, that's unacceptable.

All in all, I'm very happy I went. The very next day, King went on for a full show without his makeup for the first time in over 30 years of performing, due to an eye infection, but I got to see the real deal. And who knows, I might never get another chance within a reasonable driving distance.

Oh, and one last thing to you dumbasses who think it's a good idea to smoke pot at a show: I hope it was worth being escorted out. Keep that shit to yourself next time.

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