I didn’t want to stay away for 12 years and then we come over with nothing. So we are shipping the whole thing, I just hope that when it gets there it can fit on the stages., he tells industry magazine The List.
In those 12 years Zombie has been no slouch however. Releasing 3 more albums and directing 5 movies, Zombie’s aspirations have been to keep working and keep bringing his unique brand of schlock-horror to audiences regardless of the format. He also recorded the soundtrack to at least two of his movies, so with new album Hellbilly Deluxe 2 released at the end of last year and his White Zombie back catalogue there is a plethora of tunes to choose from.
Supporting Rob Zombie tonight are Revoker and Skindred. Sadly, I didn’t make it in time to see Revoker’s set and made it into the venue shortly after Skindred began. I was expecting their odd lovechild of metal and reggae to clash with the comic-horror of the headliners, but I was greatly surprised. Frontman Benji Webbe’s playfulness with the crowd is masterful as he gets everyone to join in doing a Peter Crouch like robot dance, and begins a chorus of “We’re not coming back to Scotland” to which the crowd reply with colourful local coloqualisms and raised fingers before being told that they are in fact coming back after the new album is released at the end of April. Having suitably impressed the crowd, Skindred leave the stage to warm applause as a gang of masked roadies remove their kit and begin to set up the main stage show.
And what a show it is. 3 huge LED screens on either side and at the back, 3 more small screens at the front, the drumkit on a raised pedistal 6ft in the air flanked by two walls of speakers, skeleton microphone stands including a 6 armed one for Rob himself and 4 large metal bowls which will eventually go on fire as the headliners take to the stage. First up is drummer Joey Jordinson of Slipknot and Murderdolls fame. The crowd goes mental at his appearance. Guitar and bass men John 5 and Piggy D formerly of Marilyn Manson and Wednesday 13 follow him, again each to huge applause, but it’s for Rob Zombie himself that the crowd has been saving its fervour. As the introductory music nears its end he walks on stage sporting a huge skeletal mechanical arm and the crowd goes – for lack of a better term – absolutely apeshit. Keeping in mind that they haven’t even started yet – it is clear at this point that this is going to be a night to remember.
Launching into new album opener ‘Jesus Frankenstein’, within 30 seconds a 10 foot tall zombie Jesus is on stage with the band. Personal favourites ‘Superbeast’ and ‘Scum of the Earth’ follow and fire up the crowd almost as much as the flames on the set do, each with their own unique video displays. The big screens have kicked into life with various clips of old horror movie footage, random graphics, lyrics and occasional anime and varies from song to song adding such a new dimension to gigs in a venue like the Academy that it’s simply incredible to behold. Even something as simple as costumes make all the difference with the band all in various panto-horror garb. John 5’s white face and black makeup make him look maniacal half the time, but even that can’t mask the smile as he sees how the crowd are taking it all in.
The amount of effort that’s gone into this show is clearly staggering and I’m thankful that Rob Zombie has made good on his promise to bring the show along with him despite the limited space the Academy affords him. After next track ‘Living Dead Girl’ he remarks playfully to the crowd “Could be get a smaller stage?” and yet there’s still room for everyone to jump around making use of the raised platforms on stage for prime show off and photo opportunity posing. As the opening riffs to classic White Zombie track ‘More Human Than Human’ begin, the already bowled over crowd kicks it up a notch almost like they’d forgotten all about it despite it being a firm favourite of Zombie fans worldwide.
The next few tracks ‘Sick Bubblegum’ and ‘Demon Speeding’ include another creature feature appearance on stage, this time from the robot creature seen in the Dragula music video takes to the stage being menacing and waving around like he’s looking for zombie Jesus to start a fight. The band then leaves the stage for a moment except for drummer Jordinson who launches into a great little drum solo. It’s short, though not entirely out of place even when it feels like the band haven’t been on for very long. Time flies when you’re enjoying yourself, right? Usually this sort of thing is used as an encore filler, but here it seems to just be part of the setlist as it is on the last track on album Hellbilly Deluxe 2, and doesn’t feel jarring or out of place. My only thought is that it feels a little like they’ve given Joey Jordison something taxing to do since the drumming on Rob Zombie records isn’t exactly the most complex when compared to bands like Jordison’s own Slipknot.
Next songs ‘Pussy Liquor’ and ‘Never Gonna Stop’ are interspersed with chat from Zombie and the crowd continue to lap it up, getting noisier and noisier as it goes on. The crowd reaction when ‘Thunder Kiss ’65’ begins is magnificent as its clear that it’s another fan favourite. Half way through though, the lights drop to a deep red and the focus falls on John 5 and it is his turn to give it big licks on guitar. His fingers are on fire making for some sweet sounds, but again like the drum solo it feels a little bit like he’s been given something interesting to do so he doesn’t get too bored with the fairly simplistic guitar.
Halfway into his solo there is some commotion from the left hand side of the crowd. Rob Zombie has made his way out into the crowd and on to the bar at the left with a large spotlight in hand, and is jumping around and having some fun. The visual focus is on Zombie, but the ears are still tuned to John 5’s sounds, as his solo gets faster and more complex. Necking half a beer and lobbing it into the crowd, Zombie returns to the stage to finish off Thunder Kiss, which to be honest I’d forgotten they’d started as the distraction in the middle was so entertaining.
The band goes off stage at this point to great applause and chants of “Zombie! Zombie!” but we are quickly treated to a trailer for movie Werewolf Women of the SS. It’s unclear if this is actually a movie or just a bit of a chuckle (it features Nicholas Cage as Fu Manchu), but when Zombie’s wife Sheri Moon is highlighted as one of the stars the crowd reaction proves she’s just as much of a fan favourite as the classic White Zombie tracks are.
Returning to the stage, the band launches into the song of the same name and follows it up with another classic ‘Super-Charger Heaven’. Appropriately this time the video screens show clips from horror anime Devilman. There is one more quick break before the last track of the night ‘Dragula’ complete with two gas mask sporting robo-drummers. The night is finished except for some quick introductions and a huge confetti explosion.
By this point, my arms are tired from applause and my throat is hoarse from singalongs and whooping. It’s been one hell of a night. It’s very hard to convey in text form the feeling of watching this show. I’m blown away by its sheer excellence. I saw Black Label Society just last week and loved that, but to see the effort put into making a show a proper show instead of some guys with instruments, escalates it to an entirely new plane. If the result is a show like this, perhaps more bands should stay away for 12 years at a time.