As part of my U.S. trip, I was very happy for the chance to see Black Label Society, touring with Children of Bodom, Clutch and 2 Cents (who I’d never heard of). My show was an hour’s drive away, I was going alone, and I honestly had no idea where Grand Prairie was, apart from having looked on Google Maps.
I arrived at around 7:00, and there were not a lot of people there. It was not a huge venue, I’d guess it held 2000 people. First, a note about the people. At one stage, the girl next to me commented that it was ‘not the usual concert crowd’. That she said this when she was dressed in period costume, my best guess would be as a pirate, was not lost on me. There was also someone walking around dressed as Jesus, complete with crown of thorns (how did those pass security?), a lion, and, for reasons that I don’t fully claim to understand, a lot of girls in bright purple wigs. I had a good spot, near the front. I wish I’d got a pit ticket, but I was unable to get one. I saw one brawl break out that had security kick someone out, otherwise it was a pretty quiet crowd, I didn’t see any circle pits or anything.
The first band was 2 Cents. The singer announced at the end that he grew up on Pantera. Like we couldn’t tell that already. I did think they were OK, I went out and bought the CD from their merch guy, who was sitting separate to the merch guys for the main bands, looking all forlorn. He thanked me profusely, I didn’t see anyone else buying from him all night. As for merch in general, BLS had a good variety of shirts, a denim jacket with patches ( for $165, I refrained), shirts, hoodies, cups, beanies, etc. I bought 2 different BLS keyrings and a BLS necklace (no, I won’t be wearing it, I think it was the best potential keyring out of the three). They also were selling copies of the CD, signed by the band, which came with a pick.
I bought one of those for the pick, although I confess to already buying a third copy of the CD at Target on the way when I found it came with a bonus DVD. COB and Clutch both had CDs, shirts, etc for sale. COB also were selling signed copies of the setlist for $25, which came with two picks, and picks for $5 (I bought a pick). Children of Bodom were up next. For those not in the know, Alexi Laiho is the singer and guitarist, and he’s somewhat of a darling of the guitar press, much as Zakk is. He sweeps, he taps, he’s an all singing, all dancing, modern metal guitar player. He also screams rather than sings. I thought some of the playing was impressive, although the keyboard player played so fast that I didn’t find it musical at all, but the screaming vocals left me cold, as they always do. I did hear some guys behind me saying ‘I hope the next two bands are better’, so I suspect I was not alone in my thoughts.
The place was mostly empty at this stage, in fact, most of the row I sat in was empty until BLS. I was eager to give COB a chance, but until they get a singer, they will be lost on me, I am afraid. They played eight songs over 45 min. Alexi kept leaving the stage early on, I don’t know enough of their music to know if this was the reason for an impromptu keyboard solo, or if the song really went that way, but it made me feel he had some sort of technical issue.
Clutch were on next. I have seen these guys once, at Rock on the Range. I believe that their From Beale Street to Oblivion is an amazing disc, one that I had in rotation for a long time when it came out. They started with "Electric Worry," from that album. They played two songs at the start where the singer plays slide guitar, and the same at the end, but mostly played as a three piece. I’m not sure if it’s the fact the other guy plays an SG, or the juxtaposition with BLS, but I was really struck by how Clutch plays a lot of stuff that sounds very Black Sabbath influenced, in terms of being mid tempo riff rock. As always, their set was very enjoyable. After Clutch, a huge BLS banner came up, and so we waited for the main event.
BLS took the stage at 10:40 pm. The opening song was "The Beginning.... At Last," followed by "Crazy Horse." They sounded tight, and Zakk is obviously an incredible guitarist. He didn’t say much, apart from introducing the band later on, and talking about Dimebag when he introduced "In This River." A lot of people have said negative things about Zakk on the piano, especially on this last album, but I think that it’s a welcome change of pace. The BLS songs seem to all have a similar feel and while I loved hearing songs like "Overlord," "Funeral Bell," "Fire It Up" and "Parade of the Dead" live, the piano break was also a welcome touch.
One thing I noticed was that after every song or two, some guy came out with a huge piece of paper and taped it by Zakk’s microphone. I suspect he has the words written out for him, for at least some songs. That seems odd to me, when so many of the songs are from the last album. I was also amused that Zakk from time to time held up his cup when he took a drink and people cheered. Do these people not realise that Zakk can no longer drink alcohol? They were holding up beers but he was probably drinking Mountain Dew or iced tea or something.
After "Fire it Up," Zakk went in to a guitar solo. It had been going for about six minutes when he moved from stage right to stage left and seemed to start over. At this point, I was concerned about getting out and driving home quickly and safely in my friend’s car, so while I had intended on just leaving before the encore, I decided to leave then. I was pretty disappointed to see I missed "Godspeed Hellbound," "Suicide Messiah" and "Stillborn" especially, but, I also left feeling that much as I would miss songs I like, that they wouldn’t sound that different from the ones I had heard. I saw a fair number of people leaving when I did, I think the overly long, overly fast guitar solo sent a lot of people to the bathroom, and a few people to the exit. I love Zakk, I think he’s the best guitarist of his generation. I also enjoy his personality from the interviews I have read, and I am glad that I went to the show. But, it would have been nice for the show to maybe not go so late, and for the guitar solo to either have some slower, melodic sections, or just not be as long. Having said that, if this show is coming close to you, $40 for Clutch and BLS seems like a good deal to me and I’m sure some people will also enjoy COB... I am just too old to tolerate screamo vocals.