REVIEW: ROB ZOMBIE AT EAGLES BALLROOM IN MILWAUKEE, WI

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Making his way through the U.S. before heading overseas this summer, Rob Zombie made a stop at Eagles Ballroom in Milwaukee, WI on his Super Monster Sex Action Tour. Drawing from a vast catalog of White Zombie, solo albums and various covers, fans were treated to over an hour’s worth of dark, ominous, brooding, fast-paced heavy rock music.

Forgoing an opening band, the night started off with a set from DJ Disco Death Rock. I was curious how people would react since I had seen the DJ set opener last year during Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare. DJ equipment and a laptop were the tools used by a man wearing a robe, a skull mask and red headphones. He began his 30-minute set playing various fast paced hard rock songs from bands such as NIN, Pantera and Avenged Sevenfold. While he did his best to get the crowd pumped up, not only with the music, but by jumping around himself, the crowd wasn’t feeling it and some of those in the crowd were booing. When he was in front of his computer choosing songs or setting up the next song, there were times he would grab his mask as if in agony. He continued with songs by Rammstein and Ozzy, but the crowd wasn’t having it. He ended with a song that sounded like it belonged in the 50’s, although still upbeat, before he grabbed his laptop and headed off stage. Unfortunately the crowd let him know how they felt. I wonder how many people would have been more into it if they had known it was Ginger Fish, the drummer in Rob Zombie’s band. Personally, I thought his song choices were great for getting the crowd pumped up. As for the crowd reaction, to each their own I guess.

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As the crew began setting the stage for Rob Zombie, there were loud cheers from the crowd when they saw the custom vampire mic stands. The crowd started chanting “Zombie! Zombie!” and shortly after there was thunderous applause when the curtain went up exposing the entire stage set up. The stage was full of banners of classic horror monsters. An enormous banner of King Kong hung at the back, dead center as if he were the king, (pun intended) of them all. Others included Phantom of the Opera, Mr. Hyde and Conrad Veidt from Man Who Laughs. Three risers were positioned across the front of the stage and Piggy D (bass), Rob Zombie (vocals) and Jonn 5 (guitar) were all given one of the custom metal vampire mic stands. Upon closer look, they were wearing long button up coats and had skeletal arms that stretched up and back.

One by one the band took the stage, each of them dressed with horror in mind as everyone had make-up of some sort on their face. While Piggy D’s was the most elaborate with a vampire theme, Ginger Fish’s face was white with an upside down cross that started between his eyes and ended almost at his chin. Of course, John 5 was wearing a gas mask during the first song. Once removed though, his face was painted with his past trademark designs. As the first song, Teenage Nosferatu P*ssy, started, Rob stepped onto his riser. Wearing a hat over his long hair/dreads, his head was down and his arms were stretched up and both hands showed the peace sign. He clapped along to the song and the long fringe on his jacket made him appear to have wings. His movement while wearing that jacket was definitely a cool visual during the show. Other cool visuals were the multitude of patches on Rob’s pants and the buttons on Piggy D’s jacket. John 5 was wearing a pretty long jacket full of holes with what I can only describe as furry black wings hanging on his back.

For pretty much the rest of the show, Rob’s mic stand was removed from the stage so he was free to roam and jump around on the stage. Rob said, “Let’s do some old sh*t, right here right now,” before they played White Zombie’s Super-Charger Heaven. With hair flying, Rob stomped and jumped across the three risers at the front of the stage. The dark lighting and flashing lights aided the craziness of the song. They continued into Superbeast from Rob’s first solo album, Hellbilly Deluxe. Once again, the fringe on Rob’s jacket was flying due to his movement while head banging. Rob told everyone that Piggy D had smashed his head the night before and had gotten a concussion and was told by the doctor to take it easy. Clearly, Piggy’s definition of taking it easy was slightly different. Rob asked he crowd if they came to party because he came to party. He joked that Piggy lost half his brain function. “He is practically an orangutan.” They played a portion of James Brown’s Get Up ( I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine before going into crowd favorite, Living Dead Girl. Every time I’ve seen Rob Zombie, the crowd absolutely loves this song.

For Dead City Radio and the New Gods of Supertown, John 5 brought out his guitar that shines bright white light. This was at least the fourth guitar he had used that night, previously playing his Creature from the Black Lagoon and Wolfman guitars. After the song was over, Rob told the crowd they had been coming to Milwaukee for a long time and every time they played, it was sold out and he thanked them. He said he was going to show them his appreciation with a 20-minute drum solo. While it wasn’t 20 minutes long, Ginger Fish, who had been sitting a fair amount higher on stage, began his solo. His clear kit changed colors as the lights did and he played along to some pre-recorded songs including James Brown’s I Feel Good. As More Human Than Human started, Rob told the crowd to jump as he too jumped on stage. During this song, John 5 played his guitar that has a little video screen in it. With darker lighting on stage, you could easily see the multi-colored moving lights in his mouth and on each one of his fingers on one hand. Shortly after the song started, Rob jumped off the stage and walked along the top barricade for a little bit, holding on to fan’s hands for support, as he continued singing. Eventually he jumped down and walked to the other end of the stage before jumping back on stage to perform his trademark dance moves. At the end of the song, John 5 threw the finger lights far out into the crowd.

Rob paused a moment and asked why it was always so hot at this venue. He joked that no matter what month it was, it was always hot. He wasn’t kidding. Although, on this night it didn’t help that the weather during the day had been one of the hottest that week. Rob asked if the men or women were louder and asked for the women to get up on the shoulders of men. He joked that they were so short, he’d never hear them. As a few women got a better view, he had the guys start chanting, “rock” over and over. He then had the ladies chant, “mother*cker” over and over. Again, he joked that they all sounded like a bunch of angry chipmunks. Oh Rob, you’re so funny. This chanting was in preparation for the chorus in Sick Bubblegum and shortly after the song started, large colored balloons were tossed from the stage out into the crowd. Most of the balloons continued to be tossed around for quite a few more songs. It had been a while since I had heard P*ssy Liquor from the House of 1000 Corpses album, but I don’t recall being able to hear horns when I’ve seen him play this live in the past. Either way, it was a cool addition.

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During Meet the Creeper one balloon happened to make it on to the stage, but it wasn’t there for very long as John 5 popped it with the head stock of his guitar. They continued with Never Gonna Stop (The Red, Red Kroovy) from The Sinister Urge, and this time a red balloon made it from the crowd back on stage. I also noticed a lot of people singing along. In fact, the crowd was pretty active all night. Whether they were jumping, moshing, clapping, singing along or the few crowd surfing. Rob asked who saw White Zombie and the Ramones back in the day. He said he couldn’t remember if they played Milwaukee on that tour, but basically, it you never saw the Ramones, it sucked to be you. I love Rob’s sarcasm because it always makes for entertaining stage banter. They continued with a killer cover of Blitzkrieg Bop that started and ended with the crowd singing along to, “Hey! Ho! Let’s Go!”

Rob tied up his dreads, it was unbelievably hot all night, and the band started the intro to probably one of the most famous White Zombie songs, Thunder Kiss ’65, while the crowd clapped along. As the band continued to play, Rob told the crowd he remembered the first time he came to Milwaukee. He said only 4 people showed up. “It was horrible.” The band stopped playing and he continued, “Picture that. Only 4 people showed up. I think 3 of them were from the other band and the other one was the f*cking bartender.” Kind of crazy when you think about that moment all the way through to today. Just goes to show, you never know where life is going to take you. Rob called for the song to start again and the band continued playing the intro. Rob asked, “Are you ready? Ginger, hit it.” He told everyone to jump and he and portions of crowd jumped along in unison. As the song continued, Rob was all over the stage and at one point during the song, walked to the side of the stage and climbed on the speakers as he continued to sing. All night he made sure to acknowledge as many as he could, including those in the balcony stage right. As John 5 ripped into his 2+ minute solo, the crew threw out more balloons. I don’t think anyone would be able to do this again, but I couldn’t help but laugh to myself when one of the balloons hit the lighting rig above John 5’s head at just the right angle which caused it to hit him in the head. It didn’t even phase him. Rob came back out and they finished the song.

Before playing a cover of Alice Cooper’s School’s Out, I noticed Rob was wearing a shirt with the Lords of Salem, his movie, logo on the back. By this time I had lost track of the various shirt, jacket and vest changes Rob, Piggy and John 5 had gone though. Again though, it made for interesting visuals all night. When the band left the stage, the crowd stomped on the wood floor while clapping and chanting, “ZOMBIE! ZOMBIE!” It wasn’t even a minute later when John 5 walked out and began to play the Star Spangled Banner, with his teeth, before the band played another cover, this time by Grand Funk Railroad. During the chorus, “we’re an American band,” I noticed Rob point to himself then show a peace sign. He was also dressed in his stars and flag jacket and there were stars on his headband. Once the song was over, Rob said, “I feel so American.” He looked to the band and asked, “Do we have any more American songs?” This of course lead into American Witch from his Educated Horses album. Once again they left the stage and the crowd stomped, clapped and cheered for them to come back out. It wasn’t long before John 5 walked on stage, wearing his gas mask again, to play his liquid filled guitar that glowed in the dark for The Lords of Salem, also from the Educated Horses album. During the heavy drum ending, Rob held a traditional mic stand horizontally with both hands and at just the right moment, jumped off the riser to end the song.

The band left the stage again and the crowd clapped to bring them back out. Rob’s vampire mic stand was brought back out and Rob got the crowd to chant, “HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY!” a few times over. While red lights flooded the stage, they ended the night with his most popular solo song, Dragula, that included Rob letting the crowd sing a line alone, “I can never die.” Bands that let the crowd sing alone is always a cool moment during a show. The power behind the voice of the crowd all singing in unison is such a cool thing to hear. As the band continued to play, Rob walked the stage, rolling his hand near his head as he did a slight bow thanking the crowd before got everyone to chant, “ZOMBIE!” loudly. Before I knew what was happening, Rob was playing John’s guitar and John was playing behind Ginger’s drum kit. Eventually the song ended and Rob thanked everyone for another awesome night in Milwaukee. Rob introduced everyone in the band and ended with his own introduction, “I’m your friend Mr. Motherf*cking Rob Zombie.” As I looked around, everyone was drenched in sweat but they had just witnessed one hell of a show. Fans stayed at the front of the stage hoping to get a pick or set list. Someone in the band’s crew had a brilliant idea. He taped the set list on a couple remaining balloons and tossed them into the crowd. It took a few tries to catch the balloons, but eventually two people lucked out.

Never one to disappoint, Rob, Piggy D, John 5 and Ginger Fish left it all on the stage that night. Aside from playing with a concussion and enduring extreme heat, Zombie and company know how to entertain and I would say everyone in attendance got just what they expected. One kick ass rock n roll show! Rob has several more U.S. dates before he heads overseas in July. Find the remaining dates here.

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