March 2, 2018 Black Label Society Rock The Fonda Theatre Los Angeles, CA 2-27-18 w/ Corrosion of Conformity & Eyehategod
When it comes to talent in Heavy Metal, some people are just born to win. Black Label Society’s Zakk Wylde and Corrosion of Conformity’s Pepper Keenan have certainly left their mark on the scene in a loud, highly entertaining way. Two elite guitarists in Rock-n-Roll, their respective bands have teamed up for touring often over the past few months, and, on Tuesday, February 27, 2018, their tour finale came to a peak at The Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles, California.
Headlining the evening were local veterans Black Label Society who shared the stage with aforementioned pals in North Carolina’s Corrosion Of Conformity as well as New Orleans’ Eyehategod. With three equally known bands taking over The Fonda Theatre, with no other openers, the packed room knew they were in for a night of smooth sailing and Guitar Rock bliss. A nice size and space for a show of this nature, appropriately and expectedly it over sold, but with a spacious rooftop patio and upstairs seating to filter the crowd for more comfort, the fun was just about to begin!
Kicking it off shortly before 8PM, Eyehategod brandished the stage with their sludgy tunes that dabble in Hardcore Punk to Doom, and back again. The Longest established band of the night, they were there to celebrate their 30th anniversary while playing a variety of tunes from their various albums. Ironically, there are only 5 LPs to choose from over that 30 year span, but even still, they have no lack of material to offer.
All the core members remain, minus the tragic loss of Drummer Joey LaCaze, who was replaced by Aaron Hill in 2013. This lineup also includes Gary Mader on bass, a member of the fold since 2002. The core members – Mike Williams on vocals, Jimmy Bower and Brian Patton on guitars – along with the Hill and Mader shook up the evening with a righteous start.
Although Eyehategod may not appeal to everyone, they definitely have built a strong cult-like following through the years. This is all while catering to a good, heavy mash-up of sludge-like riffs and beats that mix up just enough old school Hardcore to keep the audience on their toes. Performing a decent length set, approximately 40 minutes long, it included songs such as “Lack of Almost Everything,” “Parish Motel Sickness,” “New Orleans Is the New Vietnam,” plus more. They certainly did a good job of revving up energy amidst the tightly packed theater.
Having quite the history with Corrosion Of Conformity, it is clear they inspire each other and make a perfect fit for a lineup together. Performing a set with a subdued stage presence, Eyehategod’s presence was felt with the music alone.
As the crowd began to grow, the first of many highlights to come, Corrosion Of Conformity (C.O.C.) arrived on stage. Offering music to live by, on this tour, C.O.C. were supporting their latest album, 2018’s No Cross No Crown. Doing justice, early on they played a track off of the new record called “The Luddite.” Wasting little time, they kept the adrenaline pumping with a good mix of other staples including songs from their most popular albums such as “Seven Days” off 1994’s Deliverance as well as the killer “13 Angels.”
That in mind, the new material seems to chime in with the old in a fluid way. As long as Pepper Keenan, in all his wild-eyed charm, was on vocals and guitar duties, the crowd was smiling with satisfaction and awe from start to finish. Together with Reed Mullin on drums, Woody Weatherman on lead guitar, and Mike Dean on bass, they mixed everyone’s favorite Heavy Metal genres together in songs. Certainly fulfilling the audience’s needs with their bluesy tunes to stoner riffs, to Hardcore punk as well as crossover Thrash and Southern Rock, nothing could stop C.O.C.
All and all a great set, however, for an unclarified reason, Mullin was missing in action on the drums for the tour’s finale, perhaps due to an injury. Again, although the reason was unspecified, fan’s most certainly wish him well. Without skipping a beat, the set rocked flawlessly and the fan-favorite “Albatross” was brought to life with the appropriate amount of stage presence of Keenan that could easily charm a snake if need be. He so easily adapts to the stage as if it was his natural habitat, and in many ways it is. Concluding the set, for a sharp as a knife “Clean My Woods,” the crowd broke into a frenzy, unleashing more bottled up aggression than the tune itself, but no doubt making for a grand farewell to Corrosion of Conformity.
After the pleasing C.O.C. performance, it was time for a breath of fresh as smoke filled the air on the rooftop patio before the anticipated arrival of Black Label Society (BLS). Led by the one and only Zakk Wylde, the pack leader seemingly blew up the stage with his signature mind-blowing solo work played on his variety of signature bullseye guitars. Before we go any further, let us look at where BLS is at this given time. Established now for two decades, they have toured and toured some more, while releasing ten studio albums. Their most recent, Grimmest Hits, not a greatest hits album, but an album of new material, is equally as potent as past efforts.
Wylde along with his musical family – John DeServio on bass, Dario Lorina on guitar, and Jeff Fabb on drums – were primed and ready to send off the final night of the US tour with a bang. Before the band even took the platform, the beginning theatrics of the large banner scrim abruptly falling down as smoke geysers shot up sporadically, set the mood appropriately and it only got better from there. Keeping it interesting, the intro was a wild mix of The Guess Who’s “American Woman” and Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” a moment which riled up the crowd exactly as it was meant to. From there, the band began with “Genocide Junkies” before going into “Funeral Bell,” “Bleed for Me,” and “Suicide Messiah.” Without rehashing each and every song performed, the setlist happened to be one of their best to date with all the heavier, faster biker jams in the beginning before later on slowly winding down to a more somber ending with a tribute to Dimebag Darrell as Wylde stroked the keys of the grand stack piano singing the heartfelt “In This River.”
Naturally supporting Grimmest Hits, which hit the public officially back on January 19th, they played four songs off of it, and there were no complaints to be had. As for the supporting cast to Wylde, the young, talented Guitarist Dario Lorina playing is fierce and it is exciting to see him grow year after year. Then there is Bassist John DeServio who still holds his own and is talented enough to shine next to Wylde at all the appropriate moments as Jeff Fabb’s drumming serves as the glue that holds it all together. As a unit, they are as cohesive as it comes.
Keeping the sound tight, the biker-heavy theme ensues through most of the set, but Wylde always throws out a few surprises. Midway through the set, there were a few black beach balls deployed into the crowd for active, hands-on entertainment, but shortly after that was the best surprise of the night as Wylde not only did the usual jump into the middle of the crowd, playing a mean solo, but he actually took it a step further, he walked out the side door, up the stairs, and into the balcony where he finished out the solo. Even though they make cordless electric guitars nowadays, he still uses an extra long cord; perhaps so the audience and the security could keep track of his whereabouts during his trip around The Fonda Theatre.
From “Genocide Junkies” to “The Blessed Hellride,” to “Concrete Jungle,” the show was full of energy from start to finish. The entire performance was a fluid unit and Zakk Wylde was certainly at his peak though no ego shone through as he powered through a well-deserved victory. Sadly, the North American run is all but over, but fear not, it is time for Europe to get a taste of Black Label Society. Guaranteed to garnish just as much fanfare overseas, Wylde and company will more than likely be rolling across American highways and byways sooner than you think!
Photo credit : Karina Diane Concert Photography