King Diamond – Live Review – The Fillmore Silver Spring 10/13/14

King Diamond is one of the most iconically enigmatic characters of the metal scene and, until last night, was an experience that I had never had the opportunity to sample. In fact thinking about it, while always being keenly aware of both Mercyful Fate and King Diamond back in the mid 80’s, I just don’t recall ever seeing them pass my path. In fact it was the recent LP re-release of “Abigail” and “Them” on 180gram colored vinyl that inspired me to go out and buy the entire King Diamond back-catalog (or nearly so, I think I’m missing three out of the twelve studio releases), so this tour was perfectly timed.

As soon as the Silver Spring date was announced, I snapped up tickets since there was a definite buzz for the tour. Some of the shows sold out within a few hours (I think NY sold out in three), but by the time the Silver Spring doors opened all tickets for the show were gone, so this was definitely packed to the rafters and that was easy to see from just looking around the venue. The only other time I have seen The Fillmore this full was for Guns’N’Roses a year or two back, but this show may have topped that by a couple of hundred – I strongly suspect it was in fact over-sold. There were also some odd balcony seats sold on Ticketmaster that were not honored at the venue which added to the confusion, at least upstairs. Through a combination of circumstances we ended up watching the show from the balcony, which considering the crush on the main floor seemed like a good idea and certainly helped with the video I was able to take (see later).

Before we get to the King, first a quick word on the support band. Until some time after the gig I had no idea who the heck the band that took the stage first was, which probably isn’t too clever a move by the band themselves. I think the point of supporting a name act is to get exposure, which is a tough thing to claim you have achieved if no one knows the name of your band after you have finished your set. Anyway, after poking around the internet I figured it was a Finnish outfit by the name of “Jess and the Ancient Ones”, fronted by a female who was none other than someone called “Jess” (ah, clever these Finnish…). In total I counted three guitarists, a bass player, a keyboard player, drummer and of course “Jess”… quite a stage full.

They ambled onto the stage around 8PM or so and then some technical issue seemed to hold things up for what seemed like a long 5 minutes, following which we were treated to some rather unremarkable intro recording. I suppose that was the cause of the delay? I could have survived without it. Once things got going they sounded to me like an early 70’s cross between The Doors, some Deep Purple-influenced not quite hippy version of something that might have touched the edge of Lynyrd Skynyrd at times. Generally quite good, but certainly not remarkable and eventually I wished it was their last song, which arrived about one song too late. Perhaps the anticipation of seeing King Diamond had me a little edgy and I might be being a little unkind. Opening for King Diamond is probably not an easy thing to do no matter, so I’ll give them credit for pulling that off at least adequately.

So, Jess and crew cleared the stage and then constructions began on-stage, which were quickly hidden behind a full front-of-stage curtain… intriguingly! As time passed the tension in the air continued to build, as did the audience on the main floor space, which was packed. In fact every viewing spot was occupied upstairs and down. I found myself passing the time by scoring Kind Diamond make-up attempts out of 10; most were rather grim efforts that struggled to get past a 3, but there were a couple that were worthy of a 7 or 8 perhaps.

As the clock ticked past 9.30, the background music, which was largely 70’s Deep Purple and the like, faded and a momentary hush hit the crowd before the curtain obscuring the stage dropped to reveal a pretty adventurous stage set-up, with a full walkway all the way around the back of the drummer and most imposingly an 8-foot railing ‘fence’ all the way across the front of the stage, as if it were necessary to separate the band from the audience.

IMG_4495

The “King” had arrived! The opening keyboard intro of “The Candle” rang out, and then that voice… there’s no chance anyone can mistake King Diamond, and my immediate impression was he was nailing it. Now, as I confessed earlier, this was my first KD show, so I really don’t have anything to compare this to, other than the albums, but my first vibe was he was spot on. I’ve since read some reviews of previous shows from past tours where things perhaps weren’t always so good, but from start to finish he was basically as close to note perfect as makes no difference. Excellent.

The band, comprising original member Andy LaRocque on guitar, Mike Wead guitar (who we met after the show, nice guy), Pontus Egberg on bass (who wins some kind of prize for the name most likely to have been almost a Roman Emperor) and Matt Thompson on drums, were exceptional – tight, heavy and entertaining in their own right. In a way it must be hard to play in what must seem at times the dark shadows when you are in the presence of someone like King Diamond, who is clearly the center of all attention on stage, but these guys have it figured out and never seemed out of place or lost in the background. To be honest I was pleasantly surprised with how heavy they came across.

We were treated to a set comprising sixteen songs which spanned the breadth of the KD catalog and included two Mercyful Fate tracks, namely “Evil” and “Come To The Sabbath” both of which are more or less fixtures of the KD set and welcome additions. You can see the set list here: http://tinyurl.com/n56nufk. My personal favorite KD album is “The Puppet Master” and I took the following video of the title track: http://youtu.be/O7hHii1QPd8

I think everyone at the gig would say they would have happily had another hour or so added to the set, but the one and hour 40 minutes we got was all Grade A and the entertainment factor of the whole experience was exceptional. It made me remember that going to a concert is supposed to be a “show” in the biggest meaning of the word, and that is definitely something that King Diamond understands and delivers. Of course not all bands need or would make sense of the sort of elaborate stagecraft and additional actors used by KD, but there is a lesson for all bands here.

Since the show I’ve seen a number of somewhat disparaging comments from a few folks bemoaning the fact that a small proportion of the audience were “hipsters”, allegedly only there to have a “cool” story to tell their less-cool buddies about that “metal show” they went to during the week, but to be honest, I’d rather have a full venue, than the pathetic turn out I’ve seen at some shows recently. We need to encourage venues to get the bands through the load-in doors and as many people as possible through the entrance doors.

For me, this was one of the best ‘shows’ I’ve been to, especially in terms of the overall epic-ness of it all. In fact in the context of the material, the ‘fit’ was better than many other metal bands that drag around a big stage set – I think Alice Cooper is perhaps the only other I’ve seen that works truly in concert with the themes running through the music. Anyway, there really isn’t anything I can say negative about the show. Sure you can bemoan leaving out or including this or that song, and argue for a longer set, but the bottom line is King Diamond delivered 100% on the day and I can only score this a straight 10/10.

IMG_4497

IMG_4507

 

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: