There are a couple of things you notice straight off at a Black Label Society gig.
The first is the many BLS patches on black leather biker jackets - these guys have a serious army of fans, and the other is, well, damn!, this is one hairy assed crowd!
There are more flowing locks at this gig than I've seen in decades, including vast quantities of facial hair, certainly more than you can shake a very large Flying V at! It seems the Wylde factor is definitely catching on.
The last time I saw Zakk Wylde on stage he was playing with Ozzy at the same venue I now find myself in, and within that ninety minute set he left a huge impression on me. Not only was he one of the most incredible guitarists I've ever had the pleasure to see, his stage presence was just unbelievable.
Dramatic, enigmatic, clad in huge flares and undeniably beautiful with masses of blonde hair whipping round his face and guitar, this man was to me the ultimate in rock and roll guitarists.
There's no doubt about his stage presence now either. When the huge BLS flag drops to the floor to reveal the band, the roar of the man and the sheer volume of the 'The Beginning, At Last' simply takes your breath away.
Literally. The kick drum is so heavy it nearly lifts you off the floor, the wall of sound does it's damndest to rearrange your ear drums and huge bursts of flame rise in synch to the songs heating up the drama.
As we blast through 'Crazy Horse', 'What's In You' and 'The Rose Petalled Garden' this really is chest beating, thumping, hairy heavy metal at its most brutal.
Zakk Wylde is now simply a behemoth of a man, with his sheer size, huge biceps and unbridled energy he comes across like some wild Viking God!
His guitar playing is immense and the whole band are seriously talented and tight, but after battering through 'Funeral Bell', 'Overlord' and 'Parade of the Dead', I'm beginning to wonder if this Neanderthal metal is all there is to them, when suddenly he sits down on a quietly introduced baby grand and plays an exquisite piano piece before lilting into the wonderful 'In This River', a tribute to Dimebag Darrell.
It's a sharp reminder of, under all the bluff and bluster, just how talented a musician this man is, and not only with a guitar.
In This River
Tribute over, we blast back into full on mode with 'Fire It Up', and then follows a rather long (nearly ten minute) guitar solo just, as though we could forget, to remind us exactly what he can do with a well crafted plank and some strings.
On we plunge through 'Godspeed Hell Bound', the remainder of the set and the constant pulverising of what ear drums we have left. The only gripe I have is that his vocals are being consumed by the sheer volume of the band. It's almost impossible to hear what he's singing but then again, if that's all you're after then this is probably not the band for you.
Finally, on a very loud high with 'Stillborn' belted out to the rapturous crowd, the set ends with a bang and a massive amount of confetti shoots out of two huge pipes at the front of the stage.
Holy crap, this makes an American street party confetti blast look like a couple of bits of paper blowing in the wind. As we all watch the Apollo fill to the rafters with the fluttering stuff, the band take a long bow and are gone.
They may be about as subtle as a enraged buffalo on PCP, but there's certainly something about Black Label Society. Storming stuff!
And this is a very good time to introduce a new addition to the MetalTalk.net ranks. Here is the one and only, the legendary Trippy The Clown interviewing Zakk himself. Lots more from Trippy coming very soon...