Live Review: W.A.S.P / South Of Salem – Manchester Academy, Manchester 17.03.2023

Phil Pountney

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a crowd sporting pretty much no other shirts than those of just one band, normally the torsos will be punctuated with similar bands of the same genre as the hosting band but not on this occasion, not in Manchester tonight. This is perhaps a testament to the notoriety and popularity that Blackie and W.A.S.P have built over their illustrious career, and their forty plus year existence, tonight The Academy was flooded with denim, W.A.S.P backpatches and shirts of varying degrees of black and grey, each illustrating varying poignant moments in the W.A.S.P history.

The Academy had long been sold out for this evenings gig and with doors being a respectable 19.00 it allowed a gargantuan queue to amass outside the venue although everyone seemed in excellent spirit, the temperature had become more habitable and this made for a pleasant wait in the Mancunian air whilst seizing the opportunity to catch up with old friends and new acquaintances alike. As the doors were flung open by the ever reliable and friendly security team, the excitement on every single rocker’s face and persona was well and truly palpable and impressive as they shuffled into the venue grasping their gig ticket as if it were a lottery ticket imprinted with all six of the elusive winning numbers.     

The stage was adorned with numerous skulls and severed heads depicting all manner of expressions and grimaces (purely in preparation for the main event) as well as a fairly lonesome drum which conveyed the slogan of South Of Salem who hit the stage running, reminiscent of a rabid dog on the hunt for his next kill. The South Coast hard rockers each brought their own individual unique style whilst morphing together to form one tight unit, one collective with which to deliver their wares to the gathered flocks. As the set progressed Joey stalked the stage with venom and an obvious hunger, interacting with the crowd as if each one of them were a long lost friend he was hooking up with after many years of solitude, even leaving the confines of the stage at one point to get up close and personal with the front row occupiers. 

The set was lavishly furnished with solid rock tunes, many of which I’m sure are destined to become staples in any respectable rockers’ playlist in the not too distant future. Dee was an absolute beast on the thicker strings, working the fretboard and cords with absolute power and brutality, generating a bass line chunky and solid on which the six stringers, including new guitarist Dennis, could manipulate their chosen axes with ease and dexterity to spawn some mesmerising and enchanting riffs. We were then hit with the latest single, ‘Pretty Little Nightmare’, which was dedicated to all the ladies in attendance, and then as the set closed out it was blatantly obvious that there had been plenty of people who were already familiar with the South Of Salem freight train but it was also obviously clear for anyone to see that South Of Salem had made a lot of new friends in Manchester tonight. I for one am very keen to catch these rockers again very very soon.

The stage was then turned round and decorated with backdrop upon backdrop, all of which covered the back and sides of the stage to create some sort of carnival venue reminiscent of a chilling horror freak circus. This all managed to create a very imposing and chilling sight, all becoming a visual canvas which was then fronted by a solid metal mike stand constructed with a titanium esque vertebrae topped off by a menacing skull and cross bones, you certainly know that a stage prop is elaborate and truly iconic when the arrival and placement of it generates a near ear deafening roar from the excitable crowd in attendance. 

As the house lights went down and the stage was illuminated so that the onus was on the backdrops with which to draw our attention, all that soon evaporated when Blackie entered the fray. With it being the opening night of the European tour there may have been a few teething issues as it was a few minutes past the advertised set time before we were carved open by Lawless et al but all that simply vaporised when we were hit with the sting and hit hard we certainly were. 

As the set was launched the crowd turned their volume straight up to eleven and from that point on it never faltered or dropped one iota. Blackie, ably accompanied by Duda and Blair on the frontline, absolutely tore The Academy apart. Standing behind his mammoth mike stand he orchestrated the proceedings with pinpoint precision, spitting out the vocals as if his life depended on it. The warriors flanking Lawless were true soldiers in every sense of the word, helping to launch tirade after tirade, mission after mission with accuracy and menace, an evident thirst for a maniacal and vicious visual attack and one which the W.A.S.P nation stood before them absorbed with absolute delight and passion. The shift put in behind the kit was also one to note and worthy of a commendation for being a genuine show of power and supremacy, the skins were battered with brute force and might whilst keeping an air of precision and accuracy, a talent which is one to be applauded and admired for the feat of dexterity and ability that it is. 

Lawless was like a man possessed throughout the whole set and the gathered faithful seemed to hang off every movement, every word and every lyric which was being delivered by the true rock icon. The set was formed with poignant tracks from throughout the whole of the W.A.S.P back catalogue and each offering was absorbed with absolute pleasure and gratitude from the adorning fans who had become one with the hard rock royalty tonight. Not a foot was put out of place by W.A.S.P although I really don’t think it would have mattered if there was, every person here in The Academy tonight were just pleased to be here, its been a long road to get to this evening’s glorious show and one which will have the majority of, if not all of, those in attendance buzzing from what they had just witnessed. Ladies and gentlemen, that is most certainly how you put on a rock show. 

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