Shreveport, Louisiana was ground zero for a recent zombie outbreak…Rob Zombie that is. Along with opening act Pop Evil and Disturbed, Zombie brought his brand of mayhem to the swampy state. Judging by the thousands in attendance, apparently arena rock is far from dead.
Pop Evil, only using the bare essentials and the front edge of the massive stage, still managed to put on a blistering, albeit no-frills show. Although showcasing a more raw, less produced sound than their studio recordings, Pop Evil did not disappoint. The crowd was thrilled by everything it was given, but went wild for Torn To Pieces from the 2013 release, Onyx, as singer Leigh Kakaty worked the crowd like a seasoned pro. The band still seemed to be right on point without drummer Chachi Riot. According to the band’s publicist at eOne music, a permanent replacement still hasn’t been announced but the current touring drummer seemed to fill the kit perfectly.
Songs Ways To Get High, Footsteps and Take It All from the 2015 release, Up, were like pouring pure energy onto the crowd. It was obvious this band was not going through the motions. They were having as much fun as the crowd. In the end, the short but effective set proved that the band didn’t need explosions or tons of theatrics to wow a crowd.
What puzzled me was the next act to take the stage. Rob Zombie’s psychotic, yet brilliantly designed stage set featuring an huge boom-box and giant monster heads, was revealed and prepped for action. All I could think was why in the hell would Zombie not be closing the show as the headliner. Even before Disturbed took the stage, knowing what was next, I felt bad for them following Zombie. As the lights went out, and Zombie’s intro music played, one by one his band emerged. Living guitar legend John 5 appeared wearing a fur cape and a handful of multicolored light up rings on each finger of his pick hand. He was also wearing some kind of psychedelically-flashing mouthpiece. Next to appear was bass player, Piggy D. donning leather head to toe and an updated version of a child’s vampire mask, similar to those plastic ones us 40-something’s used to wear at Halloween. On the drums, Ginger Fish looked like a Satanic Quaker with his buckle hat and upside-down cross makeup.
Finally Zombie appeared. Never to be outdone, he hit the stage in what looked to be a a translucent plastic jacket with extra long fringe that would have made Vegas-era Elvis green with envy. As the band launched into Dead City Radio, the crowd was theirs to control with every note. The night’s set list was like a greatest hits album. Living Dead Girl, More Human Than Human, Never Gonna Stop, and more were pounded out with precision most live bands simply cannot match. Near the end of the set, before starting the Zombie classic, Thunder Kiss ’65 the singer beseeched the crowd to turn off their phones and watch, not record, the show and just enjoy a metal show the way their Grandpappies used to, as he put it. During John 5’s astounding guitar solo, Zombie took a spotlight, jumped off the stage and made his way into the stands to engage the crowd up close. The band closed with Dragula and left the arena full of fans begging for more.
After a short wait to reset the stage, The curtain dropped and Disturbed appeared in front of a wall of fire, tearing into Ten Thousand Fists. The amount of pyro used on the stage was very impressive and well executed, but I was right, Disturbed, no matter how good they sounded, was in a situation not unlike Tom Petty following Kiss. During the track Inside The Fire, so much pyro was burned, it’s possible they could have melted the North Pole. To my eyes and ears, even with tons of fire, it was just a no win situation. As the band played through their set list, including their recent cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s Sound Of Silence, it was just hard to stay engaged after seeing Zombie. One bright spot in the show was when the band played a medley of other well-known covers, including a version of The Who’s Baba O’Riley. The show closer, Disturbed’s 2010 hit, Down With The Sickness brought the crowd’s energy back. It seemed everyone in the venue was waiting for that song.