On Friday, Rob Zombie officially brought the Halloween season to the Valley of the Sun in wicked style. The heavy metal musician's show celebrated the opening of his very own Great American Nightmare haunted house at Westworld, and his stripped down performance took place in the shadow of his three haunted houses that totally immerse those daring to walk through in his horror films.
Right at 8 p.m. sharp, Powerman 5000 took the stage to a packed field and a humid 90-degree atmosphere. I'm pretty sure it's the earliest the band has ever played. The bass reverberated through the crowd as the band launched into "Invade, Destroy, Repeat" to a sluggish crowd.
Fronted by Rob Zombie's younger brother, Spider One, Powerman 5000 has been a staple on the industrial rock scene for more than 20 years. The band members (at least the handful of times I've seen them over the years) always make it their mission to bring a high-energy performance to the stage.
As a cooler breeze finally kicked up at the start of the second song, frontman Spider One demanded that he wanted to see every motherfucker jump in the crowd. It got the blood pumping a little bit, and the crowd continued to pick up as songs like "When Worlds Collide," "Nobody's Real" and "Bombshell." The band also played a track off their 2014 album Builders of the Future, "How to be a Human." I must say it hailed back to their earlier days of relevant lyrics, pointing a finger at the absurdity of society. After the band's 40-minute set, I had two conclusions: 1. I'm pretty sure that the word "fuck" is the main word in Spider One's vocabulary, and 2. My interest in Powerman 5000 was renewed, and I am going to check out the band's newest album.
Rob Zombie's set started around 9:15, and it was super stripped down compared to his usual show. Gigantic black and white photos of vintage horror icons, like Frankenstein and werewolf, provided the entire backdrop, along with his signature purple, red and green lights and some light fog. There was none of his usual projector screens, movie clips, or gigantic mechanical monsters. The main theatrics of the show came from the band member's wardrobe changes, as well as Rob's laid-back demeanor and dance moves that were a mixture of line dancing, bedroom moves, and head banging. On that note, I must say that I think the frontman's moves were much more sexual than usual.
He came out in a killer fringed jacket and floppy hat, kicking of the set with "Teenage Nosferatu Pussy." John 5 -- who is one of my favorite guitarists -- came out in his metal monster mask, and throughout the night he pretty much utilized a different guitar for each song, ranging from his signature J5 Telecaster to his light-up lava Fender.
As the band launched into "Superbeast" as the second song, it was clear that Zombie's set was going to sound better than Powerman 5000's, mostly because the bass was balanced out better.
The crowd was thick and stretched all the way to the back of the Westworld field, and people just continued to walk down from the enclosed haunted houses during the performance. Rob Zombie announced that the night meant a lot to him, regardless of the excessive heat, and that he hoped everyone loved the haunted houses.
Drummer Ginger Fish provided steady backdrop of kick drum while Rob Zombie chatted up a storm, asking the usual questions of "Where are the zombie girls? Where are the zombie guys?" and announcing that Rob Zombie "plays baby-making music." Zombie requested that all girls get on guys' shoulders, and dozens of girls did so willingly. He pranced around the stage swinging his long arms and legs, singing James Brown's "Sex Machine" with a huge smile on his face, before jumping into "Living Dead Girl."
The almost two-hour set included lots of fan favorites like "Dead City Radio and the New Gods of Supertown," "More Human Than Human," and "Sick Bubblegum." As a mosh pit broke out to the far end of one side of the stage, there was quite the scramble of security guards and upset fans, but the musicians didn't seem to notice.
"Well the gonna be a hot one tonight folks! And when you're going through those mazes it's gonna be fucking disgusting," Rob added. He introduced the band at that point, and as Ginger Fish busted out a five-minute drum solo where the double bass was paired with the strobe light, the crowd calmed down a little bit and there was a mad rush for the drink lines.
Interjecting here: the VIP tent was a joke. It was so far off to the side of the stage that the majority of people who paid for VIP couldn't even see the stage. It was also placed directly next to the speakers so it was the worst possible sound quality one could look for as well. On top of that, the VIP bar ran out of whiskey by 9:45, stating that they only had two bottles to begin with. No whiskey at a heavy metal concert/haunted house opening? Failure.
At this point, Rob Zombie cut the crowd in half with an imaginary line, and pitted the sides against each other, each one either rooting for John 5 or bassist Piggy D. Rob's wife, Sheri Moon Zombie, came out to help cheer on John's side. As a common fixture in his horror flicks, it was great to see her at the haunted house opening.
After a triumphant win by John 5, the band segued into "House of 1000 Corpses," a tune that also showcases Sheri Moon's psychotic laugh. "Never Gonna Stop" had the crowd screaming along: "Yeaaah my Durango number 95! Take me to the home, kick boots and ultra live!"
Rob Zombie also paid a great tribute to The Ramones, which he reminded everyone was one of his favorite bands, with a cover of
"Hey Ho Let's Go" (Editor's note: this review originally published with the wrong song title.)"Blitzkreig Bop" He asked who had seen them live, and in true fashion of his younger fan base at this event, he tsked-tsked and declared, "what a damn shame!" He also covered "Teenage Lobotomy," and it was at that point a lot of fans began jumping the fences to fill the space that was in between the VIP tent and general admission behind the railing. I was almost taking out by a guy with devil horns and white contacts asking me to help him jump over the bar. "I'm the Devil!" he declared before hopping away. "I can commit sins!"
Right after he completed "Thunder Kiss '65," John 5 stood up tall and proud and busted out a guitar solo that reached almost 10 minutes long. He did not, however, do his usual American Anthem bit with his tongue.
Before his encore, Rob Zombie completed the set with songs like "Feel So Numb" and "Go To California."
What: Rob Zombie and Powerman 5000 at Great American Nightmare at Westworld
The Crowd: Parents with little kids, teenage girls, and lots of metal fans in black t-shirts. People watching galore.
Overheard in the Crowd: "VIP sucks. I can't believe I paid a $100 for this" and "What a way to kick off the Halloween season!" by a massive biker to his girlfriend.
Personal Bias: I've seen Rob Zombie about 12 times, and this was one of my favorite performances ever. It was minimal, focused on the music, and the musicians truly seemed to be enjoying themselves.
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