That Rob Zombie is a busy guy. Maybe too busy. He’s directed two major motion pictures in the past five years (House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects) and is in the midst of making another. He just released a new album (Educating Horses) and on the very same day kicked off a sold-out, two-night stand at New York City’s Nokia Theatre.
And he’s hardly leaning on old hands: he replaced over 67% of the musicians on his new album/touring band. He’s also developed animation sequences for his new concert tour and the new movie, The Haunted Legend of El Superbeasto. (Lest you think I’m an actual scoop reporter, I found this out when a card dropped out of the new CD and into my lap when I opened the sucker.) He’s even found time to be a husband—Zombie and Sheri Moon, the evil sexpot from his two movies, were married on Halloween 2002.
28 Mar 2006: Nokia Theatre New York
It was nice, then, that Zombie managed to find time in his busy schedule to embark upon a tour to promote the new CD. Zombie, a master of smoke and mirrors, figured that by putting three bands on the bill, he’d satisfy the concert appetites of those in the audience. But this old and wizened reviewer saw through all the smoke and mirrors. He must have had a casting call to run off to, because Zombie’s band played a mere dozen songs in a neat, tidy, rip-offian (new word) 62 minutes! Now that’s what I call efficiency.
And it’s not as though we’re talking a classic live band here. The last time Zombie embarked upon a full-scale tour was 2002, and the NYC show (which played in the larger Hammerstein Ballroom) was 25 minutes longer, all theatre, and Zombie brought out more old songs. By comparison, the more recent show was Zombie-lite. And the saddest part is that he saved his worst “singing” performances for his most popular songs.
First, a word about the venue: never has a room lent itself so well to a performer like Zombie. The Nokia Theatre, which opened last year, used to be a part of the WWE (yes, wrestling). It’s an underground club where half the viewing area is standing-room on the floor, and the other half consists of theater seats that start about two-thirds of the way back in the room. The sightlines are magnificent, and the sound system is crisp and clear. It’s one of the nicer, newer venues in the heart of the city.
To fill it, Zombie brought old bassist Blasko (no first name, please) from the previous regime, but replaced guitarist Riggs (again, no first name) and drummer John Tempesta with John Five and Tommy Clufetos, respectively. Tempesta was given a shout-out by Zombie during the set—he was apparently in the crowd somewhere. Interesting that Zombie termed Tempesta “my good friend” before proclaiming a few minutes later that the band on stage was “the best group of guys I’ve ever had in my band!” Go figure
At 9:35, after decent sets from Lacuna Coil and Bullet for My Valentine, the house lights dimmed, and the speaker volume rose. Out blasted Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show’s “Cover of the Rolling Stone”. (Why? Who knows?) Then came “Sawdust in the Blood” as the band took the stage for the opening song, “American Witch”. From there, Zombie and crew mixed some White Zombie stuff with solo Zombie stuff. Zombie concert veterans expect (and received) projections of horror-film footage, much of it featuring females in various stages of undress (the young, horny sect loved Thunder Kiss ‘65, which showed tits, tits, and more tits somewhat obfuscated by different technological semi-sorta-coverups).
Now, we know that Zombie’s live show relies on tapes to recreate the sound effects that appear on his CDs, so his voice, which is live, is a big part of what we come for. Problem was that is was his voice that single-handedly killed a few of his better songs. He seemed to be in a different range on “More Human Than Human”, “Never Gonna Stop (the Red, Red Kroovy)”, and “Dragula.” It was more than noticeable—it was a sore point. He doesn’t have to scream/growl/sing on key, but he should at least come close during the choruses. Take some time off Rob, you’re voice is getting worse for wear.
On the up side, there were a few little twists on stage. There was an eight-foot monster with electric-green eyes who prowled the stage during “More Human Than Human” and a female three-piece dance troupe (such as it were), who performed during the new single, “Foxy Foxy”.
When the house lights went up, it was 10:42 p.m. The utter anger/frustration initially seemed to be in reaction to the short set, as well as the absence of other key songs, like “Feel So Numb”, “Living Dead Girl”, “Pussy Liquor”, and “Electric Head”. The musicianship of Five, Blasko and Clufetos was solid to the core, but Zombie’s vocals threw a wet blanket over much of the set.
The fact that many fans spent $40 to watch the headliner for just over an hour disgusted me. Clearly, seeing Rob Zombie live involves a concertgoing compromise. For the good things the show has to offer, one must also wade through some frustrating muck. As far as I’m concerned, when I see a new Rob Zombie CD in the stores, I’ll own it the first day it appears. But I’ll keep his exploits to my stereo speakers, rather than spend valuable time and money for a live experience that’s way less than complete.
Sci-Fi Author Ursula LeGuin's Stories of Class War, Religious Dissension, Identity Politics and More