Zakk Wylde's Black Label Society + Hellyeah
08-Mar-2012 Metro Theatre, Sydney
March 1, 2012
Support: Holy Grail
Reviewed Paul Southwell
Pix by Aaron Saye
Kicking things off was Holy Grail from Pasadena playing a set mostly of songs from their current album Crisis in Utopia. Plenty of fast kick and snare drum, pounding bass, shredding guitars and wailing vocals ensued. Fans of Racer X and other Shrapnel Records guitar heroes as well as Priest fans would like this band for their approach and image. Ex-White Wizzard vocalist James Paul Luna had the studded wrist bands and falsetto vocals to complement the dual guitar attack interplay of ex-Bonded By Blood's Alex Lee and speed demon virtuoso Eli Santana. This metal five piece were professional in their delivery and got the crowd going from the get-go. Guitar solos featured tapping, harmony parts, trade off sections and fast scales runs. Posing became a bit over the top but in context of the traditional power and thrash metal style on display, it was par for the course.
As roadies put together the stage for Hellyeah's set, AIC and AC/DC tunes pumped out over the PA. Soon enough, band members strode onstage to the wild applause of the chanting crowd. Launching into 'Hellyeah', the volume was loud enough to move clothes with every solid, skull crushing drum hit from Vinnie Paul driving home the powerful sound. Despite the volume, the sonic tones were clear and not overly distorted. Guitarists Gregg Tribbett and Tom Maxwell filled out the southern rock and metal feel to a tee, trading slide riffs for chunky groove metal styled rhythms to fatten up an already mighty sound that bassist Bob Zilla was thumping out.
Gregg with his goatee and flying V, Tom with his ten gallon hat and vocalist Chad Gray sporting what suspiciously looked like a mullet, interacted as a well rehearsed unit, always in time with the monster drumming from Vinnie. His precision, attack, technique and mastery of drumming is something to behold in a live setting. 'Stampede', 'Hell of a Time' and 'Goddamn' were all delivered in fine form with healthy amounts of amusing banter and the crowd yelling back lyrics. That continued for their legendary song 'Alcohaulin' Ass', which included Tom letting rip on a bluesy solo. The forty five minute set finished with 'Cowboy Way', a song with a down tuned gallop of a riff and some defiant lyrics to boot. Vinnie and Co. hit hard with this loud, hell raising set.
The curtains drew closed. Chants of 'B.L.S.' and 'Zakk' started up in the near-capacity venue, followed by a sing-along to 'Rooster' as it blasted over the PA. Lights dimmed and a mild piano piece filled the air. But the curtains revealed a stage set that included a mammoth wall of Marshall heads and cabinets. This was the full on Zakk Wylde experience that Ozzy Osbourne surely misses.
The drum riser had four cabinets in front and was flanked either side by another eight cabinet: in total, 20 cabinets and 16 heads. Yep, it was loud. Surely not everything was mic’d, but it looked cool. Skulls covered everything. John DeServio and Nick Catanese occupied their territory either side whilst front and centre, with a raised platform to jump onto for solos, was the mighty Zakk Wylde.
Hammering into 'Crazy Horse', wearing a warrior headdress and using his signature Gibson ZV Custom guitar, Zakk peeled off solos and riffs with attitude, authority and pure style. The crowd was transfixed on the man's ability to entertain and generally kick ass. Quick leads were tossed out as he sang with one leg perched on the fold back. Extended solos had him facing the drummer, legs apart, head held high whilst playing impossibly fast passages before returning to the mic for the next song, such as was the case between 'Overlord' and 'Parade of the Dead' using his Disciple Signature.
There was virtually no banter at all and no song titles were announced. It was a set of song after song with no stuffing around or wasting time. Using the recognisable Bullseye Les Paul for 'Bleed for Me' and 'Suicide Messiah', even a rhythm guitar wireless issue that threatened to derail the latter song was dealt with quickly and professionally. Hardly anyone noticed. More solos came thick and fast during the screaming harmonics-laden riffs, holding the guitar vertically at one point and playing with savage wide vibrato. Similarly, using a Bullseye Flying V, Zakk's playing strength took on new heights as the speed, agility and resilience of his pentatonic-based guitar style simply floored everyone. It was like a rapid fire lesson on the last forty years of rock and metal guitar soloing techniques with a dash of ultra fast country picking. It was musical, flashy and fascinating to watch. Next up, 'Godspeed Hellbound' featured longer held notes that stripped paint.
The last two songs of 'Concrete Jungle' and Stillborn' were pumped out flawlessly on an orange Gibson ZV Custom. Holding the guitar aloft then putting it at the front of the stage to feedback, the monstrous set was over. Zakk bounded about, beating his chest, showed off the back of his BLS jacket, then hugged his band mates and guitar tech before taking a bow with the band. The whole group barreled out of the venue into a waiting van, leaving a crowd to pick their jaws up off the floor.
All bands tonight put on great efforts but this evening, Zakk Wylde proved without any doubt that he is one of the very best guitarists alive today. It only took an hour to do it too.
Parade Of The Dead
Bleed For Me
Fire It Up
Matter of Time
Hell Of A Time
You Wouldn't Know
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