After almost six years away from the UK shores, the electric circus is finally back in town, and the atmosphere is certainly charged tonight. This show at the Roundhouse is sold out, and the crowd encompasses young and old, men and women, goths, Metalheads, glam rockers, punks and almost every single sub-genre in between. It seems that Blackie Lawless and W.A.S.P. have been sorely missed.
W.A.S.P. Live at The Roundhouse
Camden, London – 24 March 2023
Words: Kahmel Farahani
Photography: Steve Ritchie
As the light goes down and The End by The Doors starts up the band’s intro, the spotlight falls on the iconic skeletal mic stand that takes centre stage. Blackie Lawless and co burst on stage and start the show with a blistering medley of songs that includes The Torture Never Stops and Inside The Electric Circus.
Dressed all in black save his white tasselled football boots and armed with his buzz-saw guitar, frontman Blackie Lawless is a sight for sore eyes. Still looking good and sounding better, at age 66, he is entering the Alice Cooper domain of iconic and ageless shock rockers. “This has been a long time coming,” says the frontman, “I want to thank you all for staying loyal and staying with us.”
As the band kick into L.O.V.E. Machine, the fans go ballistic and sing along with all their might. Tonight’s setlist feels like a runaway train of hits one after another, and having Wild Child as the third song means more singing and ear-to-ear grins on the fan’s faces.
At times Blackie Lawless’ voice sounds almost too perfect, and it is admittedly hard to imagine there might not be some help coming from the mixing desk, but the show is so good it hardly matters. W.A.S.P. are here to provide a good time and to celebrate their legacy, and they do both of these things in spades tonight.
“In addition to being the 40th anniversary of the band, it’s also the 30th anniversary of The Crimson Idol,” says Blackie, “we’re going to play some of it for you tonight”. A Heavy Metal opera about the downfall of fame and the hollowness of celebrity, The Idol is just as impressive in 2023 as it was when it was released. With its slowly building intro and climactic, extended guitar solo, the title track is the Heavy Metal equivalent of Comfortably Numb. Watching Blackie Lawless’ outline bathed in white light on stage and belting it out is a true highlight.
Chainsaw Charlie (Murders In The New Morgue) revs up the pace before a searing rendition of Blind In Texas gets fans dancing and moshing. Having the original videos the band made in the ’80s on the big screens behind them is another nice touch. After an all-too-brief set that just passes the one-hour mark, the band take a short break before returning to start their encore.
Beginning with a video describing the band’s battle with government censorship and the PMRC in the mid-80s, W.A.S.P. kicks off a superb Animal (Fuck Like a Beast). It’s followed by their raucous cover of The Real Me by The Who before Blackie makes some closing remarks.
“You know, I’ve been reflecting on this tour and these last 40 years,” says Blackie Lawless. “One of the first memorable shows we ever played here was at The Lyceum in 1984. Tonight we have a few people who were there that night with us. We also have fans here tonight who are seeing W.A.S.P. for the first time.
“For once, it’s my turn to simply say thank you, thank you, thank you”. The roar of appreciation and love from the crowd makes one think the feeling is mutual.
Fittingly, the band bring the house down with I Wanna Be Somebody. As the crowd sing out and the band tear through the classic anthem, Blackie climbs atop the skeletal microphone stand and strikes a pose with arms outstretched before climbing down for the final bow.
The only downside of tonight’s gig is that it is over too soon. Tonight was a truly joyous Heavy Metal celebration, and you have to hope that W.A.S.P. will return far sooner than than another near six-year wait.