2019 was the year that I finally got into Metal. I had dipped my toe in a few times after becoming a more active music fan, but it had never quite clicked. I bet that like many other people, the most recent King Gizzard album Infest the Rats’ Nest really helped me take the plunge, and I’ve started to find loads more metal that really speaks to me.
The foremost of those bands has been Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, whose album The Night Creeper was one of my favorite discoveries of 2019. As the leaves changed and I started wearing more corduroy to stay warm, I found myself listening to this album when I needed to feel a bit cooler. I wanted to see them live and fast, and I was lucky that they were opening for King Diamond. King Diamond isn’t just a metal legend — he’s been the exception to my “not that into metal” rule for years. It was the perfect first metal show.
The first thing that I noticed was that I had no idea what I was getting myself into. In most of my social circles, I am at the far “Metal” end of the “Metal-to-Not-Metal” spectrum. I hope this changes soon, because going to this show made me realize how much room there is to grow. This crowd was full of real metal-heads: men in denim jackets with the sleeves cut off and 4,000 patches competing for space, women with scary haircuts, stoned scrawny boys with long long hair.
The average height of a metal crowd is way taller than any other show that I’ve ever been to (I’ll call that my excuse for having literally 0 photos from this concert). Palladium’s rear-GA section has a pretty friendly layout as far as visibility is concerned, but since I got there sort of late and didn’t get extra close to the front, it was a genuine struggle for me to see the stage most of the time. During Uncle Acid’s set I stepped up on a stair in front of the soundboard to even try and get a glimpse of the band.
When I could see them, they were different from what I was expecting in so many ways. Their stage presence was full of really good surprises. While I was expecting something a bit more theatrical, the members are just wearing black long-sleeve shirts and black pants. You can never see their faces through their hair. The elaborate part of the performance is their light show, with each song getting a perfect and weird visual on the screen behind them. Between songs, their name appeared in perfect, dripping-blood font. The visuals really enhanced the music, which doesn’t really need that much enhancement. But I’ll admit, I did regret not seeing them for the first time when they were headlining. As openers, they are incredible, but it felt like sort of a tease. They already have too many classics to get through in the length of time an opener gets for their set. And “13 Candles,” live is like nothing else, and made me pay attention to a song that I had never taken much of an interest in.
King Diamond, the legend himself, had a live show that totally lived up to his name. It was really jumping off the deep end, in terms of seeing live metal. The majority of his songs are sung in a theatrical falsetto, the guitar solos are an espresso shot of the 80’s heavy-metal sound. King Diamond comes onto stage wearing a black top hat and long coat and white face makeup with upside-down black crosses. His microphone was on a cross made of bones, a prop that he frequently played air guitar on during his own set.
The stage was three tiers of stairs that looked like a spooky old house. Every once in a while, King Diamond would climb to the top tier, were about the only times I was able to see him over the shoulders of the tall dudes that I was standing behind. And every couple of songs, a woman in a costume that was relevant to the song they were playing would walk to the top of the stairs, look dramatically out at the crowd for a bit, and then walk back down the stairs. It was camp as hell, and everyone there was so into it.
That was probably the thing that was the most fun. I once heard someone say that the thing that’s refreshing about metal is that nobody can nonchalantly play it. There’s no acting like you don’t care- you’ve clearly practiced a ton if you can play the guitar that fast. The same can be said for the crowd- every person knew every word to every song, and when King Diamond motioned for us to sing along, we fuckin’ did. Every song he performed was a classic to this niche audience.
The best part of the night was something I had never seen before. About three quarters of the way into the set, King Diamond goes, “There’s a very special guest in the audience tonight. The Doctor Who Saved My Life.” He motions behind the soundboard, where a clean-cut guy in a blue button up and khakis is standing with his carbon-copy son, smiling up at the stage at King Diamond. All the metalheads in the audience roared for this doctor – “RREEAAAAAAHHHH!” We’re all pretty grateful that that doctor saved this dude’s life, obviously, and it was great to have a chance to thank him in person.
I am confident that there isn’t a single person on Earth who wouldn’t have a good time at a King Diamond show, as long as they had the right attitude. I’m not sure whether or not I’ll be able to say that for all metal, but I look forward to finding out. This was a perfect first experience.