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Metal/Prog Metal Concert Reviews

King Diamond

Live at House of Blues, Chicago, April 27,2005

Review by Mike Korn

There are a lot of good bands in the heavy metal scene today, but how many real entertainers are there? By "entertainer", I mean individuals who go out and put on a complete package that offers more than just going on stage and playing songs with enthusiasm? The answer is, very few. I think of innovators like Alice Cooper and Paul Stanley of Kiss. These guys know how to put on a show and they also make you feel like a member of the family. I could also mention the likes of Overkill, Judas Priest and Motorhead.
And, of course, there is King Diamond. The legendary Danish master of mayhem has had an almost 30 year career (including first outfit Black Rose) of going out on stage and providing more than just live music. He creates an atmosphere and a memorable character to go along with his intricate, melodic heavy metal.

Michael Heitzman
 
Michael Heitzman
   
Many consider King Diamond and his band to be overdone and campy, but the attention to detail and superior performance that King puts into his show signifies that he takes his craft very seriously indeed. Therefore, the discerning metalhead is usually excited to see this ghoulish ringmaster come to town.

Michael Heitzman
 
Michael Heitzman
   
April 27,2005 was the date of King's latest entrance into the Chicago area, which is full of rabid Diamond fans, and he drew a packed crowd to the House of Blues (including a few who sported King-like face make-up and trademark top hats).

The last time I saw King Diamond, he was with Mercyful Fate, back in 1998. Tonight, he was with his own band, so the set was bound to be different. I went with people who had seen King many times before, and they insisted I was in for a treat. They were not wrong. As I said at the beginning, King is a pure entertainer and tonight he demonstrated his skill.

A cast iron fence was posted across the front of the stage, forming a barrier between the crowd and the band. A small white coffin with the name "ABIGAIL" on it was placed on a raised platform in the center of the stage. With little fanfare, the nattily attired and top-hatted King himself strode to the coffin with a handful of lillies. He mouthed the words to the soliloquy that begins the "Abigail II" CD and then threw the lillies into the coffin with spite. The rest of the band appeared, and we were off!


Michael Heitzman
 
Michael Heitzman
   
King knew enough to concentrate on the band's best stuff. It's impossible to please every fan, but you can't go wrong by starting things off with "Arrival" and "The Family Ghost" from the ultra-classic "Abigail". Right from the get-go, Diamond assumed his character; gesturing and leering like a real black magician. His admiration of Alice Cooper is evident but he advances it to another level. You won't hear such tired cliches as "Make some f***in' noise!" from this showman. The fans will make enough noise without coaxing if you're worth it. As much as King commands the stage, he doesn't crowd out the other members of his band. Bassist Hal Patino in particular puts in a very energetic performance, running from one side of the stage to the other and headbanging like there's no tomorrow. Guitarists Mike Wead and Andy La Rocque are a bit more subdued, but they have to concentrate on some pretty intricate guitar during the course of the evening. I kept my eye on La Rocque, who pulled off some pretty cool maneuvers with his axe. I still say Shermann and Denner of Mercyful Fate are a bit better, but Mike and Andy deserve a high place in the pantheon of great guitar duos.

King also had a multi-talented female performer help him out in enacting his tales on stage. This sexy Hungarian gal portrayed the tormented "Miriam" during the "Abigail" songs, helped King with a black mass when the band played Mercyful Fate's "Come to the Sabbath" and played the tragic Victoria when "Blood to Walk" from "The Puppet Master" was cranked up. During the last song, she was particularly effective, wearing an eerie white mask and making the jerky movements of a human puppet. But no doubt she had the most fun portraying the wheelchair-bound "Grandma" as the band played the title track to "Them". Wearing a ridiculous mask and baggy clothes, she hobbled around the stage in a rage, pointing her cane at the crowd and threatening to clobber King with it.


Michael Heitzman
 
Michael Heitzman
   
Most of the set concentrated on the two "Abigail" albums, "The Puppet Master" and "Them", though we did get to hear the excellent "Eye of the Witch" from "The Eye". Nothing was played from "Conspiracy", "Voodoo", "The Graveyard" or "The House of God". "Come to the Sabbath" was a decent choice for a Fate song, but I would have liked "Curse of the Pharaohs" or "A Dangerous Meeting", myself. You can't win 'em all. All during this time, King held the crowd in the palm of his hand. In each song, he assumed a character. During the tender ballad that ends "The Puppet Master", he sat seated while talking to "Victoria" and his movements were full of sorrow and longing. During the encore "Halloween", he became an energetic shaman dancing with his cross of bones. And for the final track, old school Mercyful Fate fans got another treat, as "Evil" was played flawlessly by the band.

Leaving the show, I swear I have never heard the word "awesome" spoken so many times by so many people. I don't think anyone was disappointed in Diamond's set. People spend their hard-earned money to get entertained. With King Diamond, not only do you get a trip to the dark side, you get your money's worth as well.


Michael Heitzman
       
This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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