King Diamond @ Aragon Ballroom, Chicago (US)

KING DIAMOND / EXODUS

Date: 27th November, 2015
Venue: Aragon Ballroom
Ticket: $39.50 / €37
Promoter: n/a


Ok, KING DIAMOND is again on the road without a new album but on the other hand, the plan was to play the entire “Abigail” album, so only a metalhead out of his mind would say “pass” on this. And to make the occasion even sweeter, EXODUS were set to open the show, warming up the audience with some Bay Area Thrash with Zetro behind the mic.

Arriving at Aragon some minutes past the doors-opening, I was a little bit surprise for two things: a) considering the most recent and tragic events in the other side of the Atlantic, the security was not as tight as expected; I mean, just because I had a photo-pass, no one searched me, and b) the venue was not packed. Fortunately (b) quickly changed because as the time was getting closer for EXODUS’s set, more people were finding their viewing spot of choice. Yes, the moment the lights went out and FAITH NO MORE’s “We Care A Lot” started blasting from the PAs, there were no empty spaces on the arena of Aragon.

In all honesty, I have to admit that I was not impressed by the latest EXODUS LP “Blood In Blood Out”, even though I was totally psyched seeing Steve Souza getting back in the fold. Not that I don’t like the Duke-fronted albums but Zetro’s vocals are closer to the band’s original sound and that’s a fact. Another fact was that EXODUS showed up onstage wearing huge smiles and being in great mood for a Thrash evening and I think this reflects the top condition this lineup is, even though Gary Holt was missing being on the road with SLAYER. His replacement was HEATHEN’s Kragen Lum who I’ll say right from the start he did an awesome job sharing the lead guitar duties with Lee Altus. After the taped intro, we dived headfirst to the Bay Area Thrash sound with the amazing “Bonded By Blood”. Even though the biggest part of the audience had come to see the King, the reaction to what EXODUS were serving was immediate with lots of headbanging and singing along. Of course, Steve’s attitude helped in this a lot and to my eyes it was clear that he was enjoying every single minute of his second era with the band. He was constantly moving up and down the stage with a youngster’s energy and was interacting with the people at the front rows like he was addressing his buddies. The new “Blood In Blood Out” came without pausing and then Steve said: “Fuck yeah, this is the Aragon I remember” before introducing “Body Harvest” also from the last LP that according to the frontman was about “collecting human parts”. I have to admit that these songs worked way better live than the studio, so I am really curious to see the next EXODUS album, having Zetro from the start of the writing process.

Sure, “Vlad” and my “Tempo Of The Damned” favorite “Blacklist” saw a lot of action but everything exploded during the old-school ones with “Exodus”, “Toxic Waltz” and the setlist closer “Strike Of The Beast” being on the top of the show-climaxes list. Yeah, the mosh-pit during the moshing anthem “Toxic Waltz” was as violent as it should and I think a couple of metalheads did the honors with some nice crowd-surfing. By the way, Steve gave me goosebumps when he said “keep it old-school ‘till the end”, seconds before the last song of the night. Now I am really pumped up for a full-set by EXODUS, so I hope this will happen in the context of a new album release.

“Don't start to cry
If you get a black eye
Just dive back in
And give another try”

EXODUS setlist:

01. “Bonded By Blood”
02. “Blood In Blood Out”
03. “Body Harvest”
04. “Impaler”
05. “Blacklist”
06. “Exodus”
07. “A Lesson In Violence”
08. “Toxic Waltz”
09. “Strike Of The Beast”

EXODUS

Exodus @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Exodus @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Exodus @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Exodus @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Exodus @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
Exodus @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Exodus @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Exodus @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Exodus @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) Exodus @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

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There was a curtain in front of the KING DIAMOND stage set-up, pumping even more the audience’s excitement for getting the entire “Abigail” treatment. I think that performing an entire album live is taking away some of the fun being at a Metal concert because the band is kind of stressed to perform the entire setlist without errors considering that some of the songs have not been performed live for decades. Sometimes such setlists feel more like sterile performance and less like the kind of show to get your Metal blood pumping. In the case of KING DIAMOND, everything is entirely different because the setlist goes hand in hand with the stage set up and, most importantly, with the theatrics that blow life to the stories, born by King Diamond’s vivid imagination. Going into a KING DIAMOND show, your eyes get entertained as much as your ears do.

The stage setup was pretty much the same with the one on the previous KING DIAMOND Chicago show, although the metal railings behind the monitors were missing, something that made my photo-shooting life ten times easier. Plus, the show felt more intimate having King closer to the front-rows where there were a couple of guys wearing his trademark make-up. Of course, Grandma showed up in stage the moment URIAH HEEP’s “The Wizard” stopped and gave its place to the intro “Out Of The Asylum” that, of course, lead to the amazing “Welcome Home”. It is extremely entertaining to listen to the crowd shouting the dialogue during the intro and then explode with excitement the moment the wheelchair carrying the famous Grandma enters the stage under the caring help of King. As speaking of King I think his singing performance was superb and hence better than the previous Chicago show at The Vic, in October 2014. “Sleepless Nights” came back-to-back (I love the main riff here) and then it was time for King to address the audience: “Good evening, Chicago - it’s awesome to be back here. Even though time has passed, here’s “Halloween” and I am sure no one complain for celebrating the day of the dead with King Diamond. The amazing “Eye Of The Witch” was the last KING DIAMOND song because the next two were from the MERCYFUL FATE days. In fact, King introduced this part of the setlist like this: “What do you wanna hear? Too many suggestions but you know, I make the decision, right? So, it's time for some MERCYFUL FATE and “Evil” kicked in. This one always gets the crowd going and this case was not an exception, so there was a lot of singing along and headbanging, making me think that maybe King should consider of doing more songs from that era or even better an entire tour. “Melissa” continued with that amazing and hair raising clean guitar intro and closed the first part of the set with a bang. To be honest, I was expecting that the “Abigail” suite would have happened first, leaving the classic number to close the set but King knows better, right?

Anyway, after a short break the intro “Funeral” brought the white coffin with Abigail’s name carved on the side on the stage. Watching King playing all the roles involved in this opening act sent shivers down my spine and woke up all those vinyl memories when I used to play the KING DIAMOND album with dimmed lights and get scared fearing that all those evil characters would come to life. Andy LaRocque took over the reins with the most characteristic riff before King’s sung with his guttural and evil voice “That must be it” and off we went to the infamous Mansion. To my ears, King sounded awesome and was able to handle the most challenging vocals of this song, getting valuable help from Livia Zita who was positioned on stage-left, almost covered in darkness. “A Mansion In Darkness” came back-to-back and aside from more headbanging, saw for the first time of the night Miriam on top of the stairs, wearing a white dress, trying to find her way inside the haunted mansion. And if you remember the storyline, then you can picture what happened during “The 7th Day Of July 1777”; yes, following the eerie acoustic guitar intro, King became Count de LaFay and punished his wife by pushing her down the stairs... by the way, I have never seeing a crowd cheering after seeing someone falling down the stairs and into his death... Like I said, watching a show with a predefined scenario can destroy your Metal mood but King knows exactly how to tell a story and keep you headbanging and (trying to) sing along.

For “Omens”, a black baby-crib was brought onstage along and it was kind of funny watching the audience getting crazy for a bunch of rose petals King started throwing to the first rows. Anyway, pretty soon Miriam joined him and stayed there for “Possessed” that followed without pausing. After all, it would have been kind of strange to stop the story to talk to the audience... and this is why such a setlist can be a challenge, even for a professional musician because no one would like to spoil the flow of the story. “Are you still feeling alright? You have no idea how great this feels for us every time. Here’s to you and to Abigail said King with a raised champagne-glass, acknowledging the band’s fans support that made this tour a reality and a success, even though almost three decades have passed since the release of “Abigail”. The album’s title track and the absolutely fantastic “Black Horsemen” dropped the curtain of this awesome show but to be honest left me wanting for more.

Watching the band members greeting the audience and then King thanking as many people as he could walking from stage right to left for more than a couple of times, I was praying for a “Come To The Sabbath” encore... This never happened and the taped “Insanity” instrumental was the last music we got that night. Sure, the show felt short but I think the focus was to deliver the “Abigail” suite the best possible way and for that I have absolutely no argument. Although I’d love to see other albums getting this kind of treatment, I lean more towards to get a brand new story/music from King because from what I have seen, the band is in absolutely top form onstage!

“That's the end of another lullaby
Time has come for me to say Goodnight”

KING DIAMOND setlist:

01. “Out From The Asylum” (taped)
02. “Welcome Home”
03. “Sleepless Nights”
04. “Halloween”
05. “Eye Of The Witch”
06. “Evil”
07. “Melissa”
08. “Funeral” (taped)
09. “Arrival”
10. “A Mansion In Darkness”
11. “The Family Ghost”
12. “The 7th Day Of July 1777”
13. “Omens”
14. “The Possession”
15. “Abigail”
16. “Black Horsemen”
17. “Insanity” (taped)

KING DIAMOND

King Diamond @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) King Diamond @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) King Diamond @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) King Diamond @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) King Diamond @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
King Diamond @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) King Diamond @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) King Diamond @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) King Diamond @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) King Diamond @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)
King Diamond @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) King Diamond @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) King Diamond @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) King Diamond @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos) King Diamond @ Aragon Ballroom (US) (photos by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos)

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