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W.A.S.P.'s ‘Shock’ Rock Sting Has Lost Its Point

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Ten years ago, W.A.S.P. was big enough to headline the Long Beach Arena. The heavy-metal “shock” rockers never became huge, but their bad-boy image did get a boost from Tipper Gore and her Washington Wives during their crusade against obscene lyrics.

The band inevitably acquired a hard-core following, predominantly young men who cheered lead singer Blackie Lawless’ moves, such as chain-sawing sides of beef and other objects as he spewed forth one angry, profanity-laced anthem after another.

But on Friday night at the half-empty Galaxy Theatre, interest in the quartet, which just released its first album in eight years, had waned. Apparently, confused and disillusioned youth have latched onto less predictable forms of pop music, from the urban rhythms of rap to the do-it-yourself credo of punk to the generally more uplifting ska-pop-modern rock mutations. The adjectives “outrageous” and “rebellious” simply no longer apply to dinosaurs like W.A.S.P.

The band’s set was as much an exercise in nostalgia as Bread’s appearance down the road at Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa on Friday. Over 70 minutes, Lawless cranked out plenty of oldies laced with oodles of macho posturing and attitude. Never wavering from his menacing glare and dressed in, you guessed it, head-to-toe black, he took his arm-pumping, fist-waving performance seriously. Lacking any trace of humor or humanity, he sure came off as one miserable dude.

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Worse, all that stage anger got mean-spirited when the band played several dreadful songs from its new album, “K.F.D.” The concert hit its nadir here with the songs “Kill Your Pretty Face,” “U” and “The Horror,” as Lawless shouted about aimless, reprehensible acts of mental and physical violence.

Maybe he was inspired by the raunch ‘n’ roll of the night’s second-billed Impotent Sea Snakes. More a sleazy sideshow than a rock act, the performance by an eight-member cast of guitar-playing drag queens and dancing dominatrixes, wielding props galore, aroused little more than a flicker of curiosity. Before long, the blaring, tuneless guitars, fire-burning batons, live snakes and onstage cavorting--including one simulated sex act executed under a strobe light--became a tiresome spectacle.

At least the opener, Brat Prince, had its marketing act together. For sale in abundance were its CD, T-shirts, caps, bandannas, etc. Unfortunately, the local hard-rockin’ quartet offered precious little onstage, where long-hair tossing, screeching vocals, sexist lyrics and indulgent soloing recalled that timeless heavy-metal parody “Spinal Tap.”


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