Apr 15, 2009

Black Label Society / Dope - Ram's Head Live

By Bob Suehs




Baltimore, Maryland

Ram's Head Live

A crowd of 5 people are standing outside of the backstage entrance, while inside the venue called Ram's Head Live in downtown Baltimore, a sold-out concert has just ended...the show was entitled "The Black Label Bash" & the nights featured entertainment was by none other than Ozzy Osbourne guitar virtuoso Zakk Wylde & his band Black Label Society. Over the past few years, Zakk has been known for leaving the venues he plays almost as soon as he steps off stage, so it was my thought to make a mad dash for the backstage entrance as soon as the last notes of the last song, "Still Born" were played...we made damn good time, we hauled ass & left the venue before Zakk had thrown out his last guitar pic to the adorning audience, & when we got back to the backstage entrance, there were 3 guys standing there waiting for autographs & pictures with the man known best for his trademarked Bulls Eye guitars....well, what we saw was a large man wearing the same exact clothes that Zakk Wylde had worn onstage, large oversized chains & all, sporting a large white towel that made him appear almost as if he were Zakk Wylde's ghost, walk to a white van & what I found funny was, the towel was obviously a way for Zakk to ignore the autograph hounds & photo seekers & dart right to the awaiting white van so he could be taken to wherever Zakk Wylde goes after a show...it wasn't a prestigious exit, it wasn't even a glorious retreat, it was just a weird freakin' way for someone who claims to love his fans & claims to be so down to earth, to leave, I mean, come on, Zakk Wylde is freakin' huge stature wise, there's no way you wouldn't know it was him under that towel, it almost reminded me of the shit that famous little girls pull when they toss a sheet over their head & think no one will know it's them...anyways, that's how Zakk vacated the building & my only thought was, perhaps he covered his head with a towel because it was tax day & he was in a bad mood? Just a thought, probably NOT the reason at all....but after Zakk left, then we were left with just the memories of the show...


The doors opened at 7 PM & the first band on the bill started shortly after doors opened...Infinite Staircase was the name of the band, but most people I talked to missed their set due to the fact that the show was totally sold out, the line wrapped way outside the building & it took a long assed time for that many people to make their way into the venue! Incase you didn't know, Infinite Staircase's drummer has a famous father...none other than Sebastian Bach from Skid Row fame & I can't really offer a review of their set because I missed them as well because I couldn't get into the venue fast enough to catch their set!

When we got into the venue the stage was set up for DOPE to rock out & within a few minutes of my entry, Edsil & the boys took the stage promptly for a really short, but super tight set! They played a few new songs towards the end of the set, & they played nothing off the first few DOPE cd's, relying heavily on the more recent material...a shocker was that "Bitch" was not included on the night's set list, but they did play "Rebel Yell" which got the crowd moving to the Billy Idol cover!


I personally felt like DOPE were the best band of the night because they came out, their set was short & sweet, they had no frills, very little stage space, yet they kicked ass, rocked hard & they did their job very well! I will give Chelsea her props as well when she commented to me that Edsil looks similar to Tommy Lee from Motley Crue, because I totally see that resemblance after Edsil let the dreads go. Virus, Edsil & co. finished up their set on time & promptly exited the stage so that the Sevendust crew could un-pack their crap & get the stage ready for the Sevendust onslaught!


I purposely chose to not cover Sevendust this night & the bands set kinda made me happy with my decision...please allow me to explain: Sevendust played a decent set, but I heard alot of the crowd saying the same thing..."Why didn't they play "Black" or any of their "hits"?" The Sevendust set consisted of mostly newer songs & a medley of covers that included "Master of Puppets" by Metallica, "We Die Young" by Alice in Chains & "Walk" by Pantera....Sevendust sounded great, but their set was not that stellar in my opinion & that's coming from someone who's seen the band close to a dozen times over the years! I can respect the fact that they mixed the set up, changed ALOT of things around, but I remember Gene Simmons from KISS saying something that's always stuck in my mind..."The audience is your boss, they go to see you expecting to here certain songs and it's the bands job to deliver that so no one goes home un-happy!" & whenever you get bands that ignore their "hits" or the popular material, then the band kinda shits on their fan base by being greedy & only playing what they want as opposed to making everyone happy & playing the stuff the bulk of the crowd wants to hear, as well as doing some stuff the band wants to play....it's called a proper balance in the set list & Sevendust, in all honesty, played a set that was more of what they wanted as opposed to what the crowd wanted & they can't even say, "We only had a short period of time to play." as an excuse, because Sevendust played a complete headlining set time wise!

Ok, I'll address something else as well that I kinda scoffed at...anyone who's ever seen a Black Label Society show will note that it's primarily a very white audience that attends those shows...I won't lie about it, the Black Label Society crowd is very much like the Lynyrd Skynyrd crowd on steroids...when I walked into this particular show though, I noticed there were alot of black people at this show & I am not saying that in a racist way, it was just interesting to see so many people of color at a Black Label Society show, then it dawned on me...they were there to see Sevendust! My point was well proven too when Sevendust's set ended, because I saw a nice portion of the African American crowd leave when Sevendust's set was finished...some stayed around to see what Black Label Society was all about, but the majority vacated shortly after Sevendust finished up!

A large curtain with the Black Label Society logo covered the front of the stage & there was a substantial amount of downtime before Zakk & co. took the stage for the nights final set. I was positioned on the side of the stage, so I had a totally different view than what most people saw from in front of the stage...I saw all of the members of Black Label Society come out one by one & shake hands, wish each other a "good show" & it had a very "family" styled vibe before the band took the stage, then the big man, Zakk Freakin' Wylde came out sporting a hat, his BLS leather vest, boots, beer in hand & the house lights went down, Patsy Cline's "Crazy" was played in it's entirety, then the sirens went off, the curtain dropped & the Doom Crew ripped Baltimore a new ass!


Zakk & Co. played alot o' stuff from the last 2 Black Label records with a few older tracks mixed in...he changed guitars every few songs, the middle of the set featured Zakk playing piano & during "In This River" large photo's of Dimebag were mounted on both sides of the stage which totally covered the stacks of Marshalls on each side & Zakk kissed both pics of Dimebag while Nick got the crowd to chant "Dimebag, Dimebag" repeatedly, then after a short piano jam intro, "In This River" kicked in & I'll admit it, I really liked it better when Zakk played guitar on that song & brought out the guitar that Dime gave him & played a really intense, emotional guitar solo in that song...the piano break was a total change of pace, it was a bathroom break for some people, but what you realize during this portion of the show is just how much musical ability Zakk really has, because not only can the guy shred on guitar, but he's a damn good piano player as well!

After this point in the set, the "hits" & fan favorites started coming out..."Stoned & Drunk", "Fire It Up" which featured large Black Label Society balloons being punched around by the crowd, & for "The Blessed Hellride" Zakk & Nick both sported double neck Gibson's & the intro for the song was a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Thank You" which was a nice little surprise! Zakk's solo was done in 2 parts...it was the entire solo from the live version of "Suicide Solution" by Randy Rhoads off the "Tribute" record, then the closer was "Star Spangled Banner" ala Jimi Hendrix & the nights closer was "Still Born" which was a kick ass closer! I think 1/2 of the crowd was wondering how in the hell could Zakk spit so much in one night...I had one guy ask me, "How in the hell can that guy spit so much in one night?", then the inibriated individual said, "Thank god I'm not directly infront of him, I don't wanna get spit on all night, I feel sorry for the people infront of him!!"

What I really noted during this performance was, Zakk Wylde has really taken the place of Ted Nugent in many ways...Ted Nugent used to be the ultimate alpha male, he came out pounding his chest, playing the hell out of his guitar, & he appealed to the every manly kinda male in the crowd who liked drinking, chasing skirts, & it was a room full of men who were not afraid to be men....however, what happened over time was that Ted Nugent got older & older, the alpha male quality that Ted Nugent used to possess went from Crazy to mild & Ted Nugent became a grand father, an older man who can still play great, but he's no longer someone who young men look to as a role model, as a leader, as someone who's living the life...when I saw Zakk Wylde at this particular show, it dawned on me that Zakk personifies the "Alpha Male" so well that the crowd, which was 95% male I might add, loved it, absorbed it & devoured it like hungry, drunken wolves! Zakk came out whaling on his guitar(s), beating his chest, he owned the stage, he's a huge guy, he isn't afraid to be a man on stage, & the ONLY difference between The Nuge & Zakk is that Zakk doesn't disrespect women onstage, but if you look at the Black Label Society fan base, my honest assessment is that it's nine (9) guys for every one (1) girl & alot of the females who were there, were there with

A. their boyfriends

B. their husbands

C. or possibly their life partners...

You just don't see too many single females at a BLS show for the most part.....Zakk Wylde & Black Label Society play music for the every day, working man, they represent Joe-Six pack, they are not glamorous, they are not pretty, there's lotsa skulls & Chains, they do what they do & they make no apologies for being who they are...Black Label Society are the American equivalence of Motorhead in my personal opinion..it's a show you can go to, have a beer, rock out, & have a good time at & it almost comes off more like a biker club meeting than a rock concert at times when you see soooo many BLS vests & Patches everywhere!