August 25, 2017 Stabbing Westward Tear Up NYC 8-19-17
“Never say never” is what the great Victorian era Novelist Charles Dickens once wrote. How true it is, just take a look at some of the more astounding events to unfold over the course of time. On a less dramatic note, in the world of Rock-n-Roll, there have been more than a few surprising reunions through the years, and the most recent comes in the form of Stabbing Westward.
A band which initially birthed in Midwest America back in 1986 at the hands of Christopher Hall and Walter Flakus, by 1994, they were making noise in the underground Industrial Rock scene with their debut album, Ungod. A positive first impression, two years later, in 1996, they released Wither Blister Burn & Peel, their most successful album, putting them on a large map of exposure. At this point broken into the mainstream, 1998’s Darkest Days established Stabbing Westward as an Industrial Rock force, and it is often regarded as their most accessible and complete record to date. Looking to grow as a band, they switched artistic directions, and in 2001 released the more Pop oriented self-titled album, which ultimately failed to garner major commercial success, yet included a list of beautifully composed tracks. Unfortunately, this would mark the end of Stabbing Westward, and just a year later, they would dissolve the project.
So where have they been for the past decade and a half years since? Well, Hall would go on to enthrall his energy into The Dreaming, taking along Stabbing Westward Drummer Johnny Haro for the ride. More of a Hard Rock band, The Dreaming released three quality albums, including 2015’s Rise Again. As far as Stabbing Westward’s Flakus, he would go on to take part in various other bands including a period with The Clay People as well as various other industry jobs before rejoining Hall in 2014 to become a part of The Dreaming. Naturally the next step in most fans’ mind was a Stabbing Westward reunion, and while it did not occur initially, in 2016 it all came together for two 30th anniversary reunion shows. Now in 2017, they have been partaking in an extended reunion run with Hall on vocals, Flakus on keyboards, Haro on drums, as well as Mark Eliopulos back on guitar.
A tour where dates have been scattered throughout the year, including their forthcoming co-headlining spot with KMFDM at Chicago’s Cold Waves Festival later this fall, on Saturday, August 19th, Stabbing Westward arrived in New York City. A night that fans had been counting down the days for quite some time, a packed Gramercy Theatre eagerly awaited a chance to see Stabbing Westward for the first time in 16 long years.
A Vampirefreaks Cybertron event, getting the celebration started were DJs spinning in between a list of local acts including Blak Emoji, Xentrifuge, and Panzie. Feeling very much like a club night, Blak Emoji were the first to go and, in a relatively quick set, pumped out some electrifying original tunes including “Poison to Medicine.” Following next was the more Industrial duo known as Xentrifuge. Consisting of Vocalist Chris X and Synth player Lisa Hellen, they dished out more of a harsh brand of Industrial music that had everyone moving. Then, the last of the supporting acts, New York City’s own Panzie delivered a powerful set. Theatrical and engaging, they used their spot as a chance to promote their brand new music video for the song “Clown.” Different, but entertaining acts, all the openers did a fine job of priming the crowd for Stabbing Westward.
Fortunately for Stabbing Westward, they were on point all night long and they continued to satisfy as they reached back to the hidden gem “ACF” before the more mainstream “Sometimes It Hurts” and the haunting “Lies.” Following with the heavy “The Thing I Hate,” Hall continued to be playful with the audience, cracking jokes and making everyone laugh. Showing a keen sense of humor, it helped break the tension he or any of his bandmates might have felt coming into their performance. The fact is, even professionals get nervous, but Stabbing Westward showed no signs of such as Hall continued to sing and belt out screams with ease. Complementary to it all, Flakus, Haro, Eliopulos, and touring bassist, Orgy’s Carlton Bost, filled spaces in between with beautiful noise.
Speaking of beautiful, what had almost made Stabbing Westward stand out among other Industrial leaning acts was their ability to balance the harsh with softer tones and more dynamic vocals. Essentially, the band was ahead of their time and it was never more evident than when they went into other songs such as 1994’s Nothing” where Hall entered the crowd as well as “Violent Mood Swings” and 1996’s pleading “What Do I Have to Do?” Devoured by the hungry audience, the band capped off the main portion of the set with their most successful single ever, the song everyone knows, “Save Yourself.” An intense radio hit, its effects are still felt all these years later and had the floor of Gramercy Theatre rumbling before Stabbing Westward departed.
Returning for more, they closed out the show with the emotionally touching, yet heartbreaking “Waking Up” and arguably their best song ever, the raging “Shame.” While this may have been the bookend on the musical performance, Hall and Stabbing Westward took the time to meet fans downstairs afterwards. Taking in the experience, and not rushing through like some other bands, Hall took the time to speak to whoever approached, showing grace and appreciation for the support.
It was more than a nostalgic trip down memory lane, it was a rekindling of a band and their fans after a rather abrupt ending. Hell, Stabbing Westward’s website laid stagnant creepily like the room of a teenager who has moved out before it was finally taken down almost a decade later. Who knows what the future holds, perhaps this reunion tour will result in more shows, or dare we say, a new album! Whatever it may be, Stabbing Westward’s dedicated fans have waited patiently for this time to come, and now that it has arrived, it could not be more sweet.
Photos by: Andrew Fiero Photography