||ZOMBIE OUTBREAK IN LONDON!
Rob Zombie: O2 Kentish Town Forum
Words: Luke 'Loki' Milne, Pictures: Eric Duvet
With the heat of the summer sun fading away for yet another year, the annual gig season is in full swing, with a whole heap of performances lined up to fill the biggest and best venues across the city of London. The thrills (and chills) of the Halloween season arrive earlier than usual for fans of iconic American musician and film director Rob Zombie, as he took to the stage of the O2 Forum in Kentish Town just a few short weeks after the release of his latest 'carnie chaos' horror flick, '31'.
Scoring just 48% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Zombie's latest cinematic efforts may not have rocked critics as hard as anticipated, but his sixth studio album (released in April of this year) fared much better against the judge's panel.
Though 'The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser' may have been named by throwing a tin of Aphabetti Spaghetti against a wall and seeing what happened, the album hit the #1 spot in American rock album charts, and #3 here in the UK, proving once more that Rob Zombie knows all too well how to make a great record. Hot off the back of the album's success, fans poured into the Kentish Forum in their hundreds, and the 2,300-capacity venue quickly filled with a thick, bustling swarm of excited chatter.
Sadly, it's a slow start on the night's entertainment. In lieu of a support band, the hyped-up crowd are held in an almost embarrassing stasis as a masked DJ (thought to be Zombie's drummer, Ginger Fish) fiddles with his Macbook whilst trying to coax a heavily alternative crowd into dancing to The Weather Girls classic pop hit 'It's Raining Men'.
It's a somewhat underwhelming start to the night, and while a couple of heavier tracks are peppered into the set for good measure, the efforts of the masked DJ fall fairly short of the mark. The jutting protrusions of cheap humour fail (for the most part) to spark up the expected response from the crowd, with large groups of fans flipping off the support act in a rather obvious display of disapproval.
Evidently, pre-performance advertising cited a 'special guest appearance' in the supporting slot, which begs the question as to whether there was a cancellation at short notice, prompting a 'gaffer tape and cable ties' fix in time for the show. Regardless, what should have served as a means of hyping up the crowd into a swarm of excitement seems to have had the opposite effect, with an awkward lull setting in across the crowd.
Thankfully, the only way from here is up... and up we fucking go.
Like a badass motherfucking anti-hero with crowd-pleasing superpowers, Rob Zombie breaks onto the stage and instantly whips the crowd into an excited clamour of cheers and applause. It's all systems go from here as the energetic front man tears into a set pouring with heavy, hard-hitting tracks that span the old and new of Rob Zombie's lengthy career.
'Superbeast', 'Living Dead Girl' and White Zombie classic 'Thunder Kiss '65' blend perfectly with Zombie's latest tracks, all bearing titles just as long as the album's. 'In The Age Of The Consecrated Vampire We All Get High', 'Get Your Boots On! That’s The End Of Rock And Roll' and 'The Hideous Exhibitions Of A Dedicated Gore Whore' all make an appearance in Zombie's set, with ex-Manson guitarist John 5 causing as much of a stir among the crowd as Zombie himself.
Fiendishly brandishing a guitar lit up fantastically with a stuttering white glow, John 5 seemed almost locked in a friendly battle for crowd dominance with Zombie; the deafening cheers during the guitarist's impressive display of talent through his mid-point solo break signified that a few hearts may have melted across the female populous of the crowd... and I must admit that seeing him perform onstage with Zombie felt like a treat, even for me.
As stage presence, showmanship and sound goes, Rob Zombie simply cannot be faulted. Both band and stage are dressed to the nines, with a backdrop of red-hot lighting and strobe effects throwing and impressive visual assault across the Kentish Forum. The band's frontman moves energetically across the stage in a flurry of tassels and dreadlocks, cooking up a twisted storm of 'redneck line dance' moshing that would be considered embarrassing if attempted by any other man... yet fits perfectly to his style and demeanour. The air is positively filled with the gut-wrenching sound of distorted guitars, hulking percussion and gritty vocal blasts, presented with a high level of clarity and quality that can only be found in these larger-scale arenas.
A dynamic duo of devastating effect, Zombie and John 5 interact wonderfully with the crowd both during and between songs, which has positively transformed into a wild and electrified rabble of thrown fists, rhythmic jumping and raucous cheers. Inflatables loosed into the crowd by the band float and dip around the venue, adding another dimension of interactivity that's often overlooked by other acts.
Rob Zombie stands as quite possibly one of the best live acts I've seen during my time at MetalTalk, blasting through a killer set at the Kentish Town Forum with undeniable effect and carving a lasting impression of sight and sound into the night's crowd. Their performance alone scores a perfect 10/10 from me.
That said, the sluggish and ineffective start to the night is honestly hard to overlook, and I wouldn't be doing my job right if I were to ignore it. Assuming the DJ set was planned rather than being a last-minute inclusion, it felt a little sloppy and misplaced in the grand scheme of things. One would assume it had been successfully field tested on other crowds, but perhaps it just wasn't, as us brits would put it, our cup of tea.
Regardless, the crowd out into the night in a hot, sweaty and positively satisfied clamour of excited chatter and cheer... which is exactly as it should be.