Black Label Society played a really enthralling gig at Hammersmith Odeon in February 2011 which was rammed full of bombastic heavy rock n’ roll and was blisteringly loud, just how we like it. That was a memorable night for all the right musical reasons.
Steve Göldby: Photos by Eric Duvet
I had previously seen Zakk play Hammersmith in May 1989 with Ozzy Osbourne on his first European outing with Ozzy and that was the night he famously broke a string half way through the set, causing the band to retreat to the dressing room for an inconceivably long period of time. They never got their momentum back after that.
Tonight, Zakk’s band never really got their momentum going at all and despite the occasional great moment and some truly explosive guitar solos, the mood at the end was closer to that of the 1989 show than 2011s and the day was only saved by a truly brilliant support act.
Jared James Nichols was practically unheard of in the UK less than a year ago but since then he has made some very serious waves over here, including a full tour supporting the mighty Glenn Hughes last November and a long stint last summer supporting Lynyrd Skynyrd where the band invited him back onstage to jam ‘Sweet Home Alabama’.
So although Jared is not a total stranger to the big stage, it was interesting for us to see how his performance compared to when we had seen him previously at very small club type venues, and we were not to be disappointed.
Jared totally won over a sizeable Forum crowd with his bombastic blues powered heavy rock n’ roll, despite the volume being atrociously low, something that support bands are inflicted with frequently and something that the Forum is becoming reknowned for. This is one of the better venues in London but they really do need to find a soundman who knows which way right is on the volume button.
The mix however was very good and in the face of adversity Wisconsin-bred Jared and his band – Erik Sandin (bass, vocals) and Dennis Holm (drums) – somehow managed to convey the soul, grit and most importantly, the feel that is so prevalent on debut album ‘Old Glory And The Wild Revival’ and the follow-up 2015 EP ‘Highwayman’.
As he had promised just before this tour, Jared opened with new single ‘Don’t You Try’. This is a great set opener and the setlist has been reworked since last year and he’s absolutely called it right with a perfect mix of mood and tempo changes that released the pride and the glory at all the right moments.
There’s just one song from the ‘Highwayman’ EP (‘Old Glory’) and five from the album and it was a nice touch to play album opener ‘Playin’ For Keeps’ as the last song of the set. The two covers, ‘Wishing Well’ and ‘Cat Scratch Fever’, worked extremely well.
Jared and Erik were mobbed by fans when they appeared at the back of the hall after their set and it’s a given that they will pick up new legions of supporters everywhere they play and there’s plenty of opportunity to see Jared in England this year.
Back to Ozzy Osbourne and legend has it that in 1978 Black Sabbath fired their support band, Van Halen, because they were “blowing them off stage” every night. Ominous…
Don’t You Try
Baby Can You Feel It?
Cat Scratch Fever (Ted Nugent cover)
Wishing Well (Free cover)
Playin’ For Keeps
Thunderous applause greeted Zakk Wylde as he took to the stage with his solo band, John DeServio (bass), Dario Lorina (rhythm guitar) and Jeff Fabb (drums), who also happen to be the complete line-up of Black Label Society. But this was something completely different to BLS.
A fair amount of acoustic, slower and mid-paced numbers were expected as this was a tour to promote Zakk’s solo album, ‘Book Of Shadows II’, the follow up to 1996s ‘Book Of Shadows’, however the set was completely dominated by songs from both solo albums, six from the first album and nine from this year’s release.
Now that’s all well and good but with such a rich history of material to draw from (five Ozzy studio albums and thirteen BLS studio albums) it was disappointing not to hear one proper rocking number tonight.
The signs were bad from the start as it took until the fifth track to get something vaguely approaching up-tempo and even that was only a brief respite as it was straight back to the slow numbers after ‘Sold My Soul’.
However, Zakk, who is one of the most accomplished guitarists around today, did play some absolutely mind-boggling solos which were simply jaw-dropping and a joy to behold. Special mention also to John DeServio who put in a stellar performance, as did his colleagues Larina and Fabb.
They really are a top class group of extremely skilled musicians but the set-list tonight left a lot to be desired, however if you enjoyed the ‘Book Of Shadows’ albums you would defintely have loved this show and if you haven’t heard them yet, you really should give them a go.
For me personally, I love Zakk as a musician and I love the BLS band and what they do but like many others in the Forum tonight, I left feeling unfulfilled. I wanted to see Zakk and his buddies rock the fuck out of London but it simply did not happen.
But don’t take my word for it – go and see for yourself because there were many people there who thoroughly enjoyed tonight’s gig. It’s all a matter of personal taste really.
I’m really looking forward to seering Zakk again when he next returns to London and hopefully it will be as Black Label Society playing a full set of real hard rockers; that is what they excel at.
Tears Of December
Lay Me Down
Road Back Home
Sold My Soul
Between Heaven And Hell
Throwin’ It All Away
Dead As Yesterday
Eyes Of Burden
Way Beyond Empty
Remaining tour dates:
May 31 Theaterhaus – Stuttgart, Germany
June 01 Posthof – Friesenegg, Austria
June 03 Wytwornia – Lodz, Poland
June 04 Metalfest Open Air Pilsen – Czech Republic
June 06 Kino Siska – Ljubljana, Slovenia
June 07 Tvornica Club – Zagreb, Croatia
June 09 Teatro degli Arcimboldi – Milano, Italy
June 10 La Belle Electrique – Grenoble, France
June 11 Le Rocher de Palmer – Cenon, France
June 13 La Riviera – Madrid, Spain
June 14 Sala Barts – Barcelona, Spain
June 17 Azkena Rock Festival – Spain