My post-Thanksgiving food coma was cured Friday night through a large helping of heavy metal music served up by W.A.S.P. and Armored Saint. Out on the road in celebration of their dual 40th anniversaries, the storied duo took over the historic Buckhead Theatre on an unusually balmy November evening in Atlanta, Georgia.
Built in 1930, this 1,800-capacity venue was originally designed in a Spanish baroque style and has a general admission floor setting with an upper, seated balcony area. I arrived an hour or so before the doors were set to open, and it was immediately evident that the two-block-long line of fans already being crowd controlled by local police were easily going to fill up every seat in the house.
As the early near-capacity crowd pressed towards the front of the stage in anticipation of Armored Saint, the fan discussion around me about the band included terms like “underrated,” “overlooked,” and “underappreciated.” At precisely 8:00pm, the band took to the stage and broke the night open with “Reign of Fire” from their 1991 release, Symbol of Salvation. Having never seen Armored Saint live before, it took little time for me to embrace the sentiments I had just overheard – these guys were amazing.
Anchored by iconic vocalist John Bush, the band delivered a blistering 10-song set that spanned their entire decades-long catalog, from their 1984 debut March of the Saint through their 2020 release, Punching the Sky. The dual guitar threat of Jeff Duncan and Phil Sandoval gave Armored Saint that crisp metal sound I had expected, while energetic bassist Joey Vera and skin-pounding drummer Gonzo Sandoval provided the chest-thumping oomph that gives the band its distinctive sound. I was particularly impressed with the catchy “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants,” the opening track from their latest release, and enjoyed that they powered through three classics to end their set, including “Can U Deliver,” “March of the Saint,” and “Mad House.” I won’t miss these guys again.
1.) Reign of Fire
2.) End of the Attention Span
3.) Nervous Man
4.) Last Train Home
5.) Chemical Euphoria
6.) Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
7.) Win Hands Down
8.) Can U Deliver
9.) March of the Saint
10.) Mad House
With W.A.S.P. not having toured the United States in over 10 years, the sold-out crowd was bubbling over with anticipation as the stage was prepped with old school carnival-style backdrop tapestries and the insertion of “Elvis” into the center podium. For those unaware, “Elvis” is the large mic stand contraption that is part skeleton and part motorcycle that the legendary Blackie Lawless performs (and swings) from for the majority of the show.
As the 9:30pm hour passed, the venue lights went dark and the fans erupted in deafening excitement. With the current lineup of Doug Blair (guitar), Mike Duda (bass), and Aquiles Priester (drums), Lawless launched W.A.S.P. into a four-song, exhausting metal medley that included “On Your Knees/The Flame/The Torture Never Stops/Inside the Electric Circus.”
I could not have been more impressed with the 66-year-old Lawless, who not only performed with the spirit of someone half his age, but his timeless vocals immediately brought you back to the era of popping W.A.S.P. cassettes into your high school Camaro. Blair and Duda also delivered arena-sized energy in front of the adoring Atlanta crowd, criss-crossing the stage behind Lawless as Priester blistered his drums under hit songs such as “Wild Child” and “Blind in Texas.”
The encore set consisted of three W.A.S.P. classics, but was first proceeded by a video montage of text exerpts from the PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center) hearings in the mid-1980s. The PMRC was an organization that looked to censor artists with songs that were considered “objectionable,” which at the time included W.A.S.P.’s “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)” tune on their “Filthy Fifteen” list. Needless to say, the crowd went into a frenzy when “Animal” opened the encore, with the audience shouting back the chorus to Lawless at his prompting.
This lead into another medley, with “Animal” transitioning into the cover of The Who’s “The Real Me” from W.A.S.P.’s highest-charting studio release, The Headless Children (1989). The night came to a close with an emotional and amped up performance of “I Wanna Be Somebody,” the opening track from the band’s 1984 self-titled debut. I say emotional because the backdrop to the song included video screens showcasing images of past band members, including the late drummer Frankie Banali.
There are only a few weeks left to catch W.A.S.P. and Armored Saint on their 40 Years Live World Tour, so gift yourself the treat of catching this concert before they wrap up for the holidays on Sunday, December 11 at The Wiltern in Los Angeles, California.
1.) On Your Knees/The Flame/The Torture Never Stops/Inside the Electric Circus
2.) L.O.V.E. Machine
3.) Wild Child
4.) The Idol
5.) The Great Misconceptions of Me
6.) Chainsaw Charlie (Murders in the New Morgue)
7.) Blind in Texas
8.) Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)
9.) The Real Me (The Who cover)
10.) I Wanna be Somebody
Follow Armored Saint Online:
Follow W.A.S.P. Online:
Elliott is a music photographer covering shows in Atlanta, Georgia, and the surrounding area. The highlight of his photography career was back in the early ’90s, when he sold Neil Diamond the rights to his negatives from a show and then purchased a set of tires for his 1979 280ZX during college with the money.