Rob Zombie / Skindred / Revoker

O2 Academy, Birmingham on Tue 22nd Feb 2011

Rob Zombie has returned over the last couple of weeks to a UK audience genuinely hungry to witness his legendary performance. The six tour dates announced last October became sold out instantly. And the final date of this tour brought us here to Birmingham's O2 Academy to prove once and for all if the 'spook show international' master of horror really does have something magical up his sleeve.

The stage was littered in towering, concealed shapes. Intrigue filled the room as to what would be under such an enormous stage setup. But before all would be revealed, the first act of the night Revoker took to the stage performing to a half full Academy. It wasn't a bad performance all in all, but certainly nothing to write home about either. The sound was muddy and blurred and the sheer size and pedigree of musicians about to grace the stage simply eclipsed their music beyond recognition.

Hell, even main warm-up act Skindred struggled initially to get this party fired up. By this point, the venue was back to it's sold out, oversubscribed capacity with energy and temperature beginning to rocket. Skindred had certainly turned things their way by the time they'd busted out the undeniably groove inducing 'Pressure'. Coupled with lead singer Benji Webbe's brilliantly dynamic vocal range and his unrelenting energy, the mood lifted tenfold. There's nothing like a bit of heavy metal robot dancing to loosen up some space, with most in attendance more than happy to oblige Benji by imitating his latest dance moves upon request. Revoker joined their Welsh peers back on stage during the performance of 'Nobody', jumping around stage and chiming in during the chorus. It's always nice to see the camaraderie of bands touring together along with respect for each other's music.

As the lights went down for the third time tonight, the deafening roar of cheer for the evening's show stopper felt genuinely electrifying. The rest of a rather stellar band line up emerged first. Joey Jordison (Slipknot, Murderdolls) on drums. John 5 (Marilyn Manson) on guitar and Piggy D on bass. All were dressed up in uniquely brilliant horror show gear; Rob Zombie emerged onstage donning his iconic claw hand in an outfit which looked nothing short of fantastic.

The band blasted into opening track 'Jesus Frankenstein' joined by a giant walking Frankenstein onstage. This track moved swiftly into fan favourite 'Superbeast' sending the audience into a rabid frenzy. The place erupted as fire spewed out of the stage and giant video screens behind the band lit up the entire room with a flurry of twisted and demented images.

Set list wise it was riddled with hits from each era of Zombie's reign. The fantastic White Zombie track 'More Human Than Human' really made heads spin and with the iconic 8 ft robot walking around onstage, it just added that extra depth. Other hits played included 'Living Dead Girl', 'Demon Speeding', and 'Demonoid Phenomenon'. During the latter Zombie comically declared "We haven't played that track in such a long time... I'd forgotten some of the words. I had to look out at you guys singing it. Oh so that's how it goes! I mean, come on; it's not like I sit around at home listening to the records!"

The show was never short of entertainment either. Beach balls were fired from stage, giant characters wandered around, gas masked drummers made appearances during certain tracks, even bubbles during a brilliantly heavier rendition of 'Pussy Liquor'. Couple all this with at least four costume changes for the band throughout the night and it really does hit home the fact this is more than music. It truly is a sensory feast dripping with flesh, blood, fire and werewolf women of the SS...

Right before the first encore, a legendary performance of 'Thunderkiss 65' was beautifully stretched out by John 5's guitar solo. A man whom clearly shows he's a master of his instrument.

Right after said encore, the band emerge in matching Union Jack coats and send the punters into their wildest frenzy yet- with the timeless 'Dragula'. John 5 smashes his guitar into the floor as Rob stands centre stage commanding the chant of 'Zombie'. Confetti rained down as Rob looked up and smiled to an audience hanging on his every word.

There aren't many acts that take 12 years to come over to our shores. The one's that do can easily have lost their path, or the spark which made them so brilliant in the first place. But this is more than just a band playing music. It represents man who has a unique ability to leave his craft, go and make movies for a few years and come back. Most importantly, come back with the passion and energy which defined his legend.

You may hear it a lot in this day and age. Of how you must see this band, or must see that one. But a zombie show is something totally different. We live in a time where music is commonly overcomplicated by theatrics, image, and status updates. But Rob Zombie has never changed his image. Never needed to change the way his music sounds or how he is presented. It is the ultimate testament to the theatrical performance which has aged so timelessly.

Believe me, if it takes another 12 years to see something like this again- I'm already counting down the days. And with an appearance due at this year's Download festival, who knows what sort of perverse performance he's going to conceive on that big stage. I'd implore you to be a part of it.

article by: Phil Davies

published: 23/02/2011 17:33


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