TVD Live Shots: Black Label Society at the Electric Ballroom, 6/8

On the road to Donington for what’s sure to be a blistering performance on the main stage at Download, Zakk Wylde brought the Black Label Society to the Electric Ballroom for two epic nights. I’ve seen Zakk several times over the years, but this was my first proper Black Label Society show, and it was colossal. Heavy, bluesy, and loud as fucking hell. The Doom Crew blasted through over a dozen songs covering all the bases. This is Black Sabbath 2.0. This is Pantera crossed with The Allman Brothers. This is one of the world’s best guitarists leaving everything on the table, showcasing more than two decades of pure heavy metal thunder.

The thing that stands out about Zakk is that he’s not just a face-melting guitar shredder; he can just about do it all. I didn’t realize the guy could throw down on a piano for a heart-felt southern rock jam moments after virtually ripping the neck off a guitar. When things slow down, he’s got a seventies southern soul vibe reminiscent of a muddy Greg Allman. This was showcased at its best with a touching tribute to the late Abbott brothers, Pantera’s Vinnie Paul and Dimebag Darrell who left us all way too early. It shows that Zakk isn’t a one-trick pony or overly dependent on the ultra-heavy riff—he’s evolved over the years, and his songwriting reflects that growth.

But enough about the slow jams; we really came for the shredding, the massive sludgy guitars, and the Doom Crew comradery. This crowd perfectly personifies the heavy metal culture; black leather, booze, weed, and, well, heavy metal. They were absolutely losing their shit during the set with a very active pit and crowd surfer after surfer attempting to throw their horns in salute of the metal gods. Even though Zakk stopped drinking years ago, he still makes the crowd feel like they are at a big party with him as the host. And they worship him like the guitar god that he is, but it doesn’t seem to go to his head.

The latest album Doom Crew Inc. was, of course, the focus. Still, the band has plenty in their catalog to choose from and did a bang-up job running the gamut for the insanely dedicated crowd. Highlights were “Trampled Down Below” with its Alice in Chains feel, and “Set You Free “with its return to old-school BLS vibes. Guitarist Dario Lorina deserves a special shout-out for literally going toe to toe with Wylde during a dueling shred in the latter part of the set. This guy can not only hold his own but make it look easy.

Zakk’s a guy who’s seen it all across the rock ‘n’ roll world and doesn’t have an ego. Speaking of egos, Steve Vai had played in London the night before, and I was surprised he didn’t show up to take some notes. Black Label Society marches on to the mighty Download Festival before continuing with their European tour.

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