In his pseudo-review of the Philadelphia stop of Black Sabbath's current tour, Victor Fiorillo of The Philly Post called Andrew W.K. "the worst opener imaginable." He backed his theory with tweets from fellow attendees who were inexplicably angry about his DJ set. I'm here to refute that statement.
I, for one, cannot imagine Andrew W.K. being anything less than entertaining in a live setting, even with something as potentially uncomfortable as DJ gig. This is the guy who lives and breathes the power of positive partying. I had to see it for myself to judge, so I caught the next stop of the tour, at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, MA on August 12th.
Andrew spent the opening 45 minutes of the show spinning music atop a platform emblazoned with a large, 3D version of the iconic, bloody-nosed artwork from his debut album, I Get Wet. It was essentially a louder version of the intermission music, with Andrew introducing the songs and pressing play. It was a bit strange, no doubt, but it was in good fun.
To keep things interesting, Andrew was armed with a T-shirt cannon and a few Black Sabbath shirts, along with Black Sabbath-branded beach balls for the audience to bat around. To keep himself occupied, he occasionally played air guitar or air drums, banged his head, pumped his fists and sang backing vocals - the same things the members of the crowd (those who were not yelling for him to get off the stage, at least) were doing.
He played classic rock and heavy metal tunes from such artists as Led Zeppelin, Metallica, Judas Priest, AC/DC, Slayer, Deep Purple, Motorhead and more. He could have sneaked in a few non-metal songs for diversity, just as easily as he could have played one of his own songs for shameless self-promotion. Instead, he played to the audience's taste. He even took suggestions on Twitter and Facebook before the show, including the Misfits at my request.
Sure, I would much rather have seen a full-band Andrew W.K. show, or even a solo performance (essentially Andrew singing karaoke to his own songs, which is much more exciting in person than it sounds). And yeah, it would have been nice to see an up-and-coming band given an opening slot or a semi-established act to bring in a wider audience. But, frankly, when you're the most influential metal band of all time, you don't need an opener.
Black Sabbath personally selected Andrew to open with a DJ set. He's the ideal choice, really. Not only did he play on Ozzfest back in 2002, but he's also known for his high energy and positivity. I'd be hard-pressed to name a better candidate to hype an audience and set the mood for a show (or any event, for that matter) than Andrew W.K.
As for Sabbath, their set showcased why they're the best metal band. Ozzy Osbourne's voice may be a bit flat these days, but the Prince of Darkness has more spirit than any 64 year old I've ever seen. Tony Iommi's guitar riffs are even more massive live, while Geezer Butler's bass tone sounded as great as ever. Although Bill Ward was missed, touring drummer Tommy Clufetos (of Ozzy's solo band) proved to be a suitable fill in, including an impressive drum solo. The band played two solid hours of classics with some new songs and deep cuts sprinkled in.
Is Andrew W.K. the worst opener imaginable? No way! He's not even the worst opener Black Sabbath has ever had. (Let's not forget that Crazy Town shared the stage with with metal legends on Ozzfest 2001.) Although the DJ gig certainly wasn't the ideal display, and I'm sure he'd have preferred a regular performance as well, Andrew W.K. made the most of an awkward situation and, true to his form, partied hard.
I'm not one for working out - my scrawny frame is proof enough of that - but for those seldom occasions when I do find myself struggling to do some kind of physical activity, there is no album that gets my adrenaline pumping faster than Andrew W.K.'s 2001 debut, I Get Wet. I can't explain why. The music, which lies somewhere between metal and pop, encapsulates an abundance of energy in each of the twelve tacks.
Needless to say, when I heard that Andrew W.K. would be bringing his band out for their first headlining tour in seven years to perform the album in its entirety in celebration of its (belated) tenth anniversary, I was quite excited. As energetic as the songs are on album, there are few things that capture lightning in a bottle that way that an Andrew W.K. live show does. On March 28, I was among the sold out audience at Paradise in Boston, MA to experience it.
Aleister X is a friend of Andrew W.K.'s who is signed to his label, Skyscraper Music Maker, so he was a logical choice to open the tour. Nothing else about the pairing, however, makes much sense. The rap/electronic/rock amalgamation would have fit better at a Gathering of the Juggalos than at a rock show. As Aleister bounced around on stage and his guitarist was drowned out by the blaring electronics, most of the audience just looked on in confusion as they performed for nearly 25 minutes. Aleister didn't seem to let that stop him from having a good time, though.
Next up was an equally eccentric but slightly more accessible pair, Massachusetts' own Math the Band. With their nonstop vigor, they were the perfect support for Andrew. The self-proclaimed "electro-punk spazz duo" is made up of founder Kevin Steinhauser, who spent the majority of the set climbing in and out of his guitar strap, and Justine Mainville, who handled the synth while playing a tom/cymbal drum combination and still had time for (intentionally?) bad dance moves. The two shared vocal duties, and while neither one is has a particularly good voice, together they are infectious. As the audience proved, it was hard not to bob along to their caffeine-fueled beats.
There was an hour wait before Andrew W.K. took the stage. After various chants, the audience began to grow restless; an understandable reaction, considering that the wait was longer than the other two acts' performances combined. But finally, it was time to party.
Andrew W.K. came on the stage, clad in his signature white T-shirt and white jeans. He was accompanied by his full backing band - four (!) guitarists, a bassist, a drummer and his wife/cheerleader, Cherie Lily. The stage was already crowded with eight people, and that's before audience members began to make their way up there. The set kicked off, as expected, with "It's Time To Party" before transitioning into the band's breakout hit, "Party Hard."
I don't know if he was partying a little too hard before the show or what, but it seemed to take Andrew a few songs to really get into the set. Once he did, however, he never let up. The performance of the 35-minute album was stretched into an hour, with Andrew performing interludes on the keyboard between many songs. He also riffed on a pizza-shaped guitar for entirely too long. And speaking of guitars, the band's four axemen were usually all playing the same riff. It made the guitars sound colossal, but the vocals were often lost in the mix.
Minor complaints aside, the performance was a blast. After the band completed I Get Wet, a man came on stage and proposed to his girlfriend, who accepted. They may have been drunk, but any girl who will accepts a proposal at an Andrew W.K. show is certainly marriage material. The band then returned for an encore featuring material from their other albums, including "Victory Strikes," "Long Live the Party," "Never Let You Down" and "You Will Remember Tonight." Andrew also performed a piano (by way of keyboard) cover of Chip Taylor's "Angel of the Morning." Additionally, the group played a new song, appropriately titled "Head Bang," which ends with a massive breakdown.
Just when you thought they were done, the band returned to the stage to perform "We Want Fun." Knowing this was the last song, members of the audience took advantage of the security's leniency and made their way onto the stage. They continued to pile on throughout the track's 4-minute duration until there was literally no more room and people began to stagedive off. It was a great way to end a night of partying. Here's to ten more years of getting wet and partying hard with Andrew W.K.!