Zakk Wylde is a true guitar hero in the proper sense of the word. Master of his craft, he can make a guitar sing like each string was crafted from an angel’s hair. And sing his weapon of choice does as Black Label Society hit Glasgow’s O2 Academy.
Before the big boys appear, support comes in the form of the excellent Godsized. Sounding like a heavier Black Stone Cherry, Godsized play some appropriately huge tunes to a massed crowd who for the most part are proudly sporting their BLS crests on jackets, shirts and skin. It’s good to see such a warm reception from the crowd especially considering who they’re opening for. Although they were unheard of to me before this gig, I am keen to look into them further.
As Godsized leave the stage to warm applause, a large curtain is raised with the BLS logo and the crew get to work in secret. Despite my opening line, I wouldn’t have classed myself particularly as a Black Label Society fan. Obviously, Zakk Wylde is known to me. I mean, I am a metal fan. Who can class themselves as a metal fan without at least a passing knowledge of the man? Unfortunately though, I don’t know much of the band as I’d like to, so you’ll have to forgive me as this review doesn’t include any song titles or a set list.
The lights dim, a piano intro begins to play and there’s some shuffling around behind the curtain. With a flash and a monster riff, the headliners themselves hit the stage as the curtain drops around 9pm. The crowd goes expectantly wild with hair and horns flailing everywhere. Immediately a small pit opens up at the front and it’s clear that the Glasgow chapter of the Society are in for a treat tonight.
Firing into song after song, the band play a variety of new and old material. Although varied, each song seems to include a section where Mr. Wylde can widdle away till his heart’s content. Backed by bassist John “JD” DeServio, guitarist Nick Catanese and drummer Will Hunt, the band pander to the crowd constantly encouraging shouts and more metal gestures. Clearly, they’re having as much fun as the crowd are. Special mention needs to go to sticks man Will as his combination of double-kick and twirling tricks with the drumsticks take attention away from main man Zakk which is a feat in itself as he’s a huge man with a presence to match.
Roughly a dozen songs in things change a little as a piano is wheeled on. Zakk takes up the seat and proves to be just as dexterous on keys as he is on strings as some beautiful sounds emanate from the ivory. There’s a few minutes of solo piano which is then joined by bass, drums and then guitar to create an excellent song. The piano however only lasts one track and then it’s back to guitar again for the legendary frontman.
It’s a few songs later when the customary break comes, but as the rest of the band go offstage for a well deserved rest, Zakk Wylde stays behind to show the crowd exactly why he holds the reverential status he does today. Widdling on for around 10 minutes, he single-handedly captures the crowd, moving from one side of the room to the other making some frankly incredible sounds from his instrument. It goes on just a little too long for my liking (I mean, 5 minutes in I answered the call of nature and he was still going solo when I returned), but there is no doubt that this guy is King of his Castle.
The rest of the band return to the stage and they continue to play on for around another half hour, again mixing up the complexity between longer slower numbers and fast, chugging, mosh-inducers – and of course, obligatory solos. These guys are clearly in their element on stage and prove it time and again with each song.
If I wasn’t a fan before, I am now. There’s no need for me to look for somewhere to sign up to the brotherhood. In the last 90-odd minutes, I’ve already joined.
Photos courtesy of Fishbones Photography.