Babylon’s Burning Tour 2009-10
3.25.10, New Oasis, Sparks, NV
by Todd K Smith
In our review of the new W.A.S.P. disc Babylon a couple months ago we stated, “it had been a long time since we cared about a W.A.S.P. record.” After ‘93’s Crimson Idol the band seemed to drift. Even with the return of Chris Holmes on 1997’s K.F.D. the LA-based foursome seemed more interested in shock and B-rate slasher films than the foundations of The Who and Humble Pie that first built their empire. When Babylon greeted our ears it was a glorious return to 1984-85-era W.A.S.P. but with a much better production. The song writing was skillful, the playing was thunderous, and the sting was back in Blackie’s voice. Suddenly we were interested again, not only in the record but seeing the band live.
As the tour pulled into town, it was obviously a scaled down affair. Gone were the hanging racks that once held a scantly clad “mistress in distress” while Blackie Lawless would fire up his saw blade codpiece. The ape-hanger (motorcycle) mic stand was retired, there was no vintage ‘70s porn rolling in the background and missing were buckets of raw meat to shower the front row faithful. Only a double-bass drum remained painted in flames with the words W.A.S.P. written across the head. This looked to be a band determined to prove themselves on the merit of their songs and delivery rather than a pretentious set relying on gimmicks and sophomore staging to appease its audience. Our hopes were confirmed when roaring from the stage came the twin guitars of Lawless and Doug Blair. Bassist Mike Duda (Arcade) and drummer Mike Dupke (Hair of the Dog) who quickly found their killer instinct offering W.A.S.P. as a hungry beast ready to stalk, pounce and devour it’s prey.
The ringing of the guitars power-fueled “On Your Knees,” the first of four songs in the set from the 1984 debut classic. Lawless, dressed in a baseball jersey, saw blade armbands and spandex (complete with fringed leather boots) looked healthy and lean. Stepping up to the microphone, his banshee wail met with a raspy timbre as he took command of the stage. The band hit full throttle igniting the crowd with The Who’s “The Real Me” a showpiece from 1989’s The Headless Children. It has become a band trademark to add a heritage rock and roll single to most their albums. It goes back to Blackie’s days in Sister when he and original W.A.S.P. guitarist Randy Piper filled their set with classic covers from Deep Purple, Kiss and The Beatles.
“Here’s one from our new album,” screeched Lawless and the band rallied for Babylon’s title track “Babylon’s Burning.” Easily one of the most hook-filled songs of the band’s catalog, it had the crowd pumping their fists in the air with each thunderous beat. The song breaks for an interlude where Lawless quotes the biblical reference in Revelations 13 ending with “If any man has an ear, let him hear, let him hear” before the barrage of metal guitars swirl the song to its monolithic conclusion. Blair emerged for band hit “Wild Child” with a Gibson SG complete with spinning circular saw blade while bassist Duda planted both feet firmly to the floor and plucked out each note while banging his head with reckless frenzy.
The mash-up of “Hellion/I Don’t Need No Doctor/Scream Until You Like It” condensed the songs into compressed packages of sonic dynamite exploding under the weight of the deafening instruments. Two tracks from Blackie’s solo record The Crimson Idol make the set including “Chainsaw Charlie” and “The Idol,” a ghastly parallel to the run away hit TV show. Granted the songs loom larger than life in their context, but still stand as pillars in the live arena. The set ends with “I Wanna Be Somebody” led mostly by the audience as they chanted out the lyrics until their tonsils bled. The band kept it tried and true, on their feet allowing the screams and whistles to build before lighting up “Blind In Texas” as the encore.
Setlist: On Your Knees, The Real Me (Who), Love Machine, Babylon’s Burning, Wild Child, Arena of Pleasure, Hellion/I Don’t Need No Doctor/ Scream Until You Like It, Chainsaw Charlie, The Idol, Take Me Up, I Wanna Be Somebody.
Encore: Blind in Texas