For a decade and a half now, long-time Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Zakk Wylde has been issuing regular dispatches of thunderous hard rock with his heavy metal collective, Black Label Society. “Collective” not just in the sense of the band’s revolving lineup — currently comprised of rhythm guitarist Nick Catanese, bassist John DeServio, and drummer Chad Szeliger, and with a past membership that includes Metallica’s Robert Trujillo and Alice in Chains’ Mike Inez — but also in the sense of the band’s extended family of fans, the Society Dwelling Mother Fuckers, or SDMFers for short. These are the diehards who turned out midweek to see Wylde and the band play a “semi-unplugged” show at Club Nokia that was being broadcast live by AXS TV and will be released as Unblackened later this year.
If nothing else, the evening functioned as a unofficial showcase from some pretty badass Gibson guitars. Wylde played the first two songs — ”Losin’ Your Mind” and “The Blessed Hellride” — with one of his trademark Les Pauls, the one covered in bottle caps, before busting out a double-necked SG for “Sold My Soul.” He then migrated to a grand piano for balletic numbers including “In This River.” Even given its mellower format, the show maintained numerous unmistakably Black Label touches, not least of which was the massive cross covered with skulls and tommy guns that adorned Szeliger’s kit.
Following “In This River,” Wylde returned to the electric guitar — this time a Flying V sporting his signature bullseye paint job — whist Catanese took his turn to rock a double-necked instrument on a decidedly epic instrumental number that segued into a performance of “Throwin’ It All Away,” a cut from Wylde’s Book of Shadows solo record. Immediately after that, Wylde pulled out a classical guitar to perform “Takillya (Estyabon),” one of the acoustic shred sessions that can occasionally be found on a BLS album, which was in turn followed by “Won’t Find It Here” from Hangover Music Vol. VI, the mellowest Black Label record.
When Wylde finally addressed the crowd, it was as “the Los Angeles chapter of the Black motherfucking Label Society,” introducing his band in turn whilst swigging uncharacteristically from a bottle of water. (Hooray, positive health decisions.) On the subject of rad guitars, Wylde’s SG/Flying V hybrid made its first appearance for “Back to the Beginning” before the classical guitar reappeared for “Speedball,” another shred session.
A video of Wylde at a piano with his young daughter served as an introduction to “I Thank You Child” before the band played their final song of the evening, the most laid-back rendition of “Stillborn” that any SDMFer is likely to hear. Considering the song in its recorded incarnation is defined by Wylde’s squalling harmonic-based riff, it translated surprisingly well to a far-more-tender interpretation. This version nonetheless featured a lengthy guitar solo from BLS’s main man before the show came to its conclusion with a simple “Goodnight” from Wylde followed by an exchange of denim-clad hugs and a group bow from the band onstage.
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