Saturday night, I entered the Congress Theater to the loud noise that is 2cents, the youngest band on Black Label Berzerkus tour’s line-up. From what I heard, they just seemed like your everyday screamo group, with no real memorable songs beside a Pantera cover as their finale. I figured the Berzerkus Tour could only get better from here… right?
Right. After a quick gear change, Clutch entered and provided funky beats, while still maintaining the Berzerkus Tour’s signature hard rock sound and growling vocals. The band formed in 1991, but they are not as well known as other hard rock groups, which is a real surprise to me. Out of the three openers, they left the best impression on me with their interesting blend of guitar grooves, drum fills, and hardcore rock.
Next up was Children of Bodom, the only opener I had heard of before attending this show. They strolled onto the menacing, glowing red stage and instantly began to rock as hard as they could. The loud, ferocious riffs and screaming vocals did nothing for me, but I was impressed by the amazing synthesizer work that they insert into their songs. Otherwise, it was just standard metal, and it left me hoping that Black Label Society would be as fantastic as I expected.
Children of Bodom exited, and instantly a banner fell down the front of the stage with the Black Label Society logo emblazoned in a solid silver and black. While looking around while waiting for the stage crew to finish setting up, I noticed something. I was wearing my Northwestern purple, and, if some of my readers may not know, Black Label Society fans are known to wear as much black as possible. I was sticking out in a sea of leather, chains, really long, head-banging hair, and tattoos. I started to think again: why was I here? I clearly don’t fit in. Then it literally hit me.
Sirens wailed and everyone began to scream as Zakk Wylde and his crew walked onto the stage and began laying down their heavy riffs. The banner hanging on the stage fell, revealing Zakk in a top hat and all members in the band’s signature motorcycle jackets and chains. Hard rock is a style of music where an intense attitude is needed to accompany the heavy rocking that comes with every performance. The incredible energy every single member of the band brings to the stage is unmatched by any of the previous groups, as Zakk beat his chest and Nick Catanese, the other guitarist, talked with members of the audience in between songs.
Black Label Society’s great, melodic rock kept the unreasonably small crowd entertained all the way through their hour and a half performance. They did songs from every point in their career, from the opener “The Beginning… At Last,” a track from their first album, to fan favorite “Suicide Messiah,” from their 2005 album, and finally playing a few songs from their most recent release, Order of the Black. After a great, but not completely satisfying first half of their set, they pulled out their big guns, all starting with a showstopper: a piano tribute to Wylde’s friend, the late great Dimebag Darrell, guitarist for metal legend Pantera. You wouldn’t think that Zakk Wylde, a 6’2 dude with tremendous stage presence and humongous hands, could play the piano so beautifully and as well as he did. Shortly after, there was a moment of silence to commemorate Dimebag, followed by chanting Dimebag’s name, followed immediately by Black Label Society’s biggest hit, “Fire It Up.” Not even taking a break, guitar virtuoso Zakk Wylde broke into a guitar solo. For about eight face-melting minutes, Wylde covered every inch of the stage, all the while showing why he is considered as one of the greatest guitarists of all-time. The way he plays is very, very fast, but very, very clean. Wylde lets us hear every single note, while playing at a fast rate and leaving everyone in shock and awe. Again, without even stopping, the band launched into several more of their best songs, including the new “Godspeed Hellbound” and as the finale, “Stillborn.”
The only disappointing part of the show was the fact that there were not that many people there. At the Congress Theater, there’s a lower level, which is an open floor area, and a balcony area with seats. By the second half of BLS’s set, the upper balcony was nearly empty, and the floor area was only halfway full.
For the record, Black Label Society is the only band where after they finished their set, they hugged and genuinely showed affection towards each other on stage. With that said, I enjoyed their show tremendously and would recommend anybody unsure about the hard rock/heavy metal genre to listen to Black Label Society, and I assure you will enjoy it.
Like Zakk told me in the interview I conducted with him more than a week ago, “when it starts, it’s game on.” When the show started, Black Label Society attacked us with everything they had, and the band was seriously on their game.