Wednesday 18 February 2015

Dark Gig Review – Black Label Society

Dark Gig Review – Black Label Society

Written By Casey Douglass

Black Label Society

We entered the Norwich UEA’s LCR to the strains of Crobot’s last song of the evening, which was a shame. Of the two support bands listed, Crobot was the one that I had most hoped to see at the Black Label Society gig last night.

We listened to the sound-system pumping out various rock and metal tracks as the temperature in the room fought with the chilled Cider shandies in our hands. Yes, Cider shandies, I don’t seem to be able to stomach alcohol anymore. Not that I couldn’t enjoy the aroma that permeated the air from spillages and others’ breath.

Next to take to the stage was Black Tusk, a band I knew nothing at all about. Hailing from Georgia, USA, their wiki lists their genre as variations of thrash, sludge and stoner metal. They rocketed through their songs with barely a moments pause which gave their performance an interesting pace. Their early songs were more thrash than anything, and left me feeling disinterested. As they neared the end of their set, the tone changed to more drawn out, heavier and brutal metal that made my chest shake with the vibration of the bass-guitar. I ended up warming to them, even as I began to feel really rough standing for so long.

Black Tusk departed the stage and the crowd began to grow excited as the crew uncovered Black Label Society’s equipment. A wall of amplifiers nestled either side of the drum-kit, glowing red lights glaring with malice at the fans. It was almost as if they were saying ‘Kiss your hearing goodbye!’ Then Zakk Wylde’s microphone stand was placed in the centre of the stage, skulls clinging to it half-way down like pale lichen. There was a further period of waiting as the sound system belted out Nine Inch Nails and some other songs that failed to get my attention.

Black Label Society

The house lights dipped as the crowd sang along to one more song, and then Black Label Society strode out and started to lay down their own brand of heavy. Zakk’s vocals were loud and powerful, the drums hard and belting, just everything you would want. Midway through the first song, Zakk put his guitar behind his head and plucked as perfectly as if it was in front. The crowd approved. He also took to the small platform off to his left for the solos, a nice touch in an admittedly intimate venue. I must admit that I am a bit out of touch with recent Black Label Society albums. I have some of their older ones but nothing more recent. I didn’t recognise half of the songs I heard but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment of them one bit.

Before I knew it, we were at the interval, the band members heading off-stage for a quick drink and whatever it is they do out of sight. Not Zakk though. Zakk soloed for what I guessed was around ten minutes straight. It went on and on and on, a guy ahead of me kept putting his hands on his head in disbelief. Zakk moved around the stage and carried on and on. Sweat dripped from his fingers every few seconds. He was still playing as the other band members came back, and they finished his hanging note together.

The latter part of the gig saw Zakk take to the keyboard and do some of his quieter songs. I’m not such a fan of these but they were a great listen none the less. The last two songs however were the two I had hoped I would hear and had pretty much given up hope of hearing. They belted out Concrete Jungle and Stillborn, each with their own twists and embellishments. They are two of my favourite Black Label Society songs and I am just so happy that I got to hear them live.

At the very end, Zakk stayed on stage the longest and thanked the fans, taking the time to salute them, bump fists, shake hands and smile. You could see it was 100% genuine emotion and it was a great way to round off the gig.

Black Label Society
Today, I feel so fucking rough and my hearing has no bass; even a flushing toilet sounds like a crinkling carrier-bag, but it was worth it. It was a pleasure to see a band of Black Label Society’s calibre playing a smaller venue like the UEA LCR. There have been some great bands coming to Norwich in recent years, some I missed like Machine Head, some I caught, like Lacuna Coil at the Waterfront. Now I have another to add to my list of ‘seens’, or maybe that should be ‘heards’.

Rating: 5/5