Love ’em or loathe ’em, there’s no doubting the longevity of those early W.A.S.P. songs. On a sweltering evening in the Gwent Valleys, over 200 sweaty souls sing their hearts out to tracks that Blackie Lawless and Chris Holmes made anthemic in those halcyon days of the mid-’80s.
Chris Holmes – Kaine
The Patriot, Crumlin, Newport – 16 June 2023
Words and Photography: Paul Hutchings
Holmes may not be the hellraiser that he was back then, having been sober since 1996, but let’s face it, if he had continued with the lifestyle that achieved such notoriety, he’d be six feet under and not still treading the boards.
That he is and can still pull in a fanatical crowd, albeit on a smaller scale than his former bandmate, is a testament to his resilience and desire to continue to make music. If you’ve seen the Mean Man documentary, then you’ll appreciate just how hard Holmes has worked to get here.
To see the now slender frame of the 6’5″ giant stride into this fantastic venue in the heart of Wales and rip out a 16-song set with such ease is heartening for all whose heroes were formed in the 1980s.
He’s not stupid. Having recovered from throat cancer, Holmes delegates vocal duties on the W.A.S.P. songs to bassist Chuck Lambert. It’s a sensible move, for Lambert does the six classics from W.A.S.P. and The Last Command justice with a fine performance.
It’s a raucous opening that sends the audience, already pumped up, into a frenzy. On Your Knees is played at speed rarely heard, and the front row is straight into it, fists in the air, screaming the chorus for all they are worth.
Holmes dominates the centre stage, his dexterous lead work as mesmerising as ever, flanked by Lambert and guitarist Florian Lagoutte, who maintains a reasonably low profile but does the solid support work in fine style. Behind them, drummer Stephen Jackson anchors everything with a determined focus. This is one tight band.
The set is split between W.A.S.P. songs and equal numbers of Holmes’ solo work. Get With It and Let It Roar helps the heat soar even higher as if that was needed, but as solid as the solo work is, it’s the W.A.S.P. songs that most here have come to hear.
There’s a reasonable number of shirts from W.A.S.P.’s recent tour, something that may rankle with the mean man, but the reaction to L.O.V.E. Machine, Blind In Texas and Wild Child confirms that these old songs are still very much central to many people’s listening habits.
We even get a very ill-advised crowd surfer, clearly not a regular here, who gets unceremoniously dumped on his head and then gets a right telling off from one of the members of the house team.
And if you needed any further confirmation, it’s the way the roof trembles as the chorus of Animal (Fuck Like A Beast) is roared out by the 200+ crowd. Crumlin hasn’t heard anything like it for a long time. A structural inspection might be needed.
With the main business out of the way, Holmes hits four straight sixes on the home run. A thumping Born To Be Wild gets any flagging energy levels racing before Fortunate Son and Rocking In The Free World ensures those of an older vintage are extremely happy.
But the fun isn’t over, as local hero Phil Campbell joins Holmes and band on stage for a crushing Highway To Hell. It’s hotter than hell. Indeed, the highway has probably melted, but as the crowd leaves the room for cooling air and the meet and greet with Holmes, there can be no doubt that Holmes, a week short of his 65th birthday, is in as good form as he’s ever been.
Essex outfit Kaine have been around since 2009. The line-up that performs a six-song opening set bears little resemblance to the original one, with only Rage Sadler on vocals and guitar remaining.
The band’s style straddles Thrash, Speed, and good old Heavy Metal. They meet with an audience that appears split about what they are seeing. The first few rows comprise younger members of the crowd, adorned with Sabaton, Maiden, and Anthrax back patches on their denim cuts. They are most into what unfolds in front of them, and it’s them that provide the roar when Sadler asks if anyone likes Speed Metal.
Behind them, the room is appreciative of the effort, the sweat, and the overall style of Kaine without losing it as they will an hour later. It’s one of those gigs where 99% of the audience is here for the headliners.
That Kaine gives a decent account is to their credit. Kaine chose to draw heavily from the latest album, After Extinction, four of the six songs to be exact. The title track generates a decent response, with the lead work of Toby Woods providing a cutting edge.
Closing song, Master Of Mankind from 2019’s Reforge The Steel, is another strong song and ensures that, whilst they aren’t the central focus, there is enough about them to warrant another viewing if they come around again.