Black Label Society
Riverside Municipal Auditorium – Riverside, CA – 2/28/20
Review and Pictures: Dave Blass
LIVING A BLS-ESSED LIFE
Monday, Feb 28th, 2020. I was living a blessed life and I didn’t even know it. I was following WAZE to Riverside to shoot Black Label Society at the Riverside Municipal Auditorium. Why the hell was I driving almost 2hrs in Monday night traffic…well it was Zakk Wylde. How often do you get a chance to capture (or try to capture) the visceral insanity that is Zakk Wylde.
When I started shooting live music I had a short list of the iconic images and artist I wanted to photograph, and having been captivated by the images of Zakk by photographer Dustin Jack it was everything I had hoped to create in an image. This was my night. I was there and I was going to make it happen. Oh, wait, I wasn’t there… WAZE brought me to a completely different location…shit… get back in the car, drive 20 more minutes to an empty lot…WTF… go with Google Maps.
Finally arrive at the venue and walk 10 blocks as there is no parking, but I am still psyched. I can feel the energy building. I get to the venue, and waltz my privileged ass up to the ticket window to get my Photo Pass. Like I said, I was living a blessed life. Not only was I getting to take on the creative task of capturing lightening in a bottle, I got to do it from the front row. While the rest of the fans would be moshing to get close, I would be in the photo pit with the best view in the house. Or so I thought. No pass, no ticket, no dice. I was not blessed after all. I was screwed.
What to do…what to do. Well, let’s be pro-active. I learned long ago that you can get anywhere in life with a clipboard, a wave and a confidant, ”I belong here” attitude. I tried it with a Big Ass Camera, a wave, and a bullshit attitude and after a bit found myself talking to the tour manager and after an hour wait, I was getting in. Even as I am standing there waiting for an hour, I am thinking, damn, I am living a blessed life. Who else gets to do this? People drove for hours to see this amazing show and I get plopped up front for 3 songs to try to ensnare the essence of a guitar god in a still image.
I hadn’t shot the venue before so I had a whole quiver of lenses to choose from, but you never know what will happen. From videos on YouTube I knew Zakk went with a metal mesh platform that was under-lit, and would light him heavy from below, but beyond that, who knew. After the pass debacle, I was late to get in and didn’t have a chance to shoot any of the opening acts to get the settings adjusted to the venue. It was going to be a crash course in insanity.
Black Label Society starts their set with a “Kabuki Drape” that hides the stage till they are ready to attack. They launch into “Genocide Junkies”, and they are on fire. Listening to the crushing riff it’s hard to imagine that the album it came off of “1919 Eternal” came out 18 years ago. It feels fresh and the band has the audience in fervor within minutes.
Zakk takes center stage with his hair flying in a mosh, wielding his signature Guitar like a barbarian Axe. I am inches away and the electricity is palpable. The Bezerkers behind me are going crazy. I slide over to capture John DeServio griding on his Schecter bass guitar. BLS songs really allow him to shine and give the deep bottom tones a place to drive the pace. There is an absolute power in the rhythm section that drives the each song. DeServio and Drummer Jeff Fabb have a concussive power that shakes you to your core, especially in a small venue like this. It’s that power you can feel in your loins. They crushed it.
BLS’s other Guitarist Dario Lorina may not carry the same impact as Wylde but his guitar throwdowns are visceral. Joining the band in 2014 after leaving Lizzy Borden, Lorina has blended well with the band. While Wylde is clearly the frontman and a truly innovative guitarist of legendary skill, it must be pointed out that Lorina manages to not only hold his own, but enhances Zakk’s work in some cases, playing the same solo underneath him. The added depth takes this live performance to another level, By the time the guitar solo came around Zakk and Dario were in the balconies
That was the last concert I shot before the world came to a grinding halt, and the energy stopped. The feeling of being surrounded by throngs of people flowing with the music and the energy and camaraderie that comes with it. Not sure when that will happen again, but I do know that I will appreciate it a hell of a lot more now.
-Full Set list-
Genocide Junkies (1919 Eternal)
Funeral Bell (The Blessed Hellride)
The Rose Petalled Garden (Sonic Brew)
Heart of Darkness (Catacombs of the Black Vatican)
Suicide Messiah (Mafia)
Trampled Down Below– (Grimmest Hits)
Seasons of Falter – (Grimmest Hits)
Peddlers of Death (Sonic Brew)
Spoke in the Wheel (Sonic Brew)
In This River (Mafia)
A Love Unreal (Grimmest Hits)
Fire It Up (Mafia)
Concrete Jungle (Shot to Hell)
Stillborn (The Blessed Hellride)