A line that stretched as far towards the industrial sites wrapped around the Manchester Apollo. What for, you may ask. Why, it is the one and only guitar wizard and his comrades in Black Label Society of course! Arriving in support of their 2010 record, “Order Of The Black” released on RoadRunner Records. We were all anticipating the loud solos and the buzzing atmosphere to explode into our ears and eyes.
Whilst many eagerly waited for the bearded leader to make himself known to us, Godsized was the only support act that were brave enough to smash your crowd into pieces. They elegantly described themselves as “four men with facial hair” and rightfully so. Look at the beards! Getting back into perspective, they played us a set that combined two of their EP’s “Brothers In Arms” and “The Phoney Tough & The Crazy Brave”. Let us tell you, they’re not a band to mess around with. Their sound is of a modern metal approach that stands above a lot of current bands at the moment. Blasting resonances of ‘Walking Away’, ‘Brothers In Arms’, and ‘Head Heavy’ for “all the drinkers”, pummelling the people who were very new to them. You could clearly see many heads banging. Taking us down with a slower tune ‘The Last Goodbye’, which was dedicated to the late Thin Lizzy veteran Gary Moore, a herd of raised glasses acknowledged their appreciation of a passing hero. Godsized closed their epic set with the blistering ‘Bleed From The Inside’.
As we were stood on the floor, everyone has questioned if Godsized were a signed band? They even praised Godsized as they re-fuelled for a heavy walk in the park. They are, unfortunately, an unsigned band. A shock to some, but you can see why Black Label Society chose them over many other bands to fill the support slot. Strong and consistent for their half an hour set, they loved any inch of energy fed from the crowd. Glen Korner‘s vocals made the hairs on people’s necks stand up whilst he and Neil Fish exchanged solos with such poetic motion. With Effon on drums and Gavin Kerrigan on bass completing their outfit, Godsized are definitely the band to watch out for! With expressions of such panache and a sound that will rock everyone’s boots off, they were straight to the point with their music, whilst having a ball!
Excitement went through all as a large black curtain rose to the top of the Manchester Apollo ceiling with a massive skull embracing the stage. As we can see on the side of the stage however, a skull-clad microphone with a cross and chain as its support stood high and tall. The one thing that we were heavily concerned was the amount of Marshall amps sported on stage. One thing was for sure. It was that tonight was going to blow us into smithereens. Prepare yourselves!
The room went into black and with echoes of Zakk Wylde smacking the walls, the introduction, which led to their first track ‘The Beginning – At Last’ sent all into overdrive. Zakk Wylde, equppied with custom Gibson guitars and members John DeServio, Nick Catanese and Johnny Kelly with full gear, a mix of current and mature tracks such as ‘Crazy Horse’, ‘What’s in You’, ‘The Rose Petalled Garden’, ‘Funeral Bell’, ‘Overlord’ and ‘Parade Of The Dead’ that we personally think that people probably would have crushed by now. Still, standing in unison, the crowd adored every second of the set thus far.
As the members left, a piano covered with their BLS flag greeted us, Zakk proceeded to play a well-thought out improvised piece. To see him play such a delicate instrument shows the beauty of its player. As it went to ‘In This River’, a ripple of applause and cheers lit up the Apollo as two silhouettes of the late great Darrell “Dimebag” Abbott rose above us. The light from lighters, raised beer cups and mobile phones flooded the hall to mark the occasion. To make the moment quite special was Zakk pointing to the sky to state Dimebag is still with us. Quite a touching celebration for many present.
Wasting little time with a minor guitar change by Zakk, was the fierce track ‘Fire It Up’, which got the place awake from its slumber. This led to a ten minute, pitch-perfect guitar solo determined to dazzle all. Zakk travelled to each side of the stage, bringing his creatures of the deep to life with his whale song. No mistake was made on this and people were still shaking their heads, mouths dropped at the many harmonics and level of skill Zakk displayed. We wondered if his fingers were bleeding…
With a quick brief introduction to the members that shared the stage with the mighty beast, before launching into ‘Godspeed Hell Bound’, ‘The Blessed Hellride’ and ‘Suicide Messiah’ that created sing-a-longs and heavy pits in the centre of the floor. Drawing the show to a close, was the mighty ‘Concrete Jungle’ and the closer ‘Stillborn’ bringing the set to a close and brought the Apollo down to the ground, marking the end of a fantastic night. Embracing Manchester and holding a Gary Moore sweatshirt, a bow to their audience in exchange of the countless raised horns in the air, we were all in shock to know that the long-awaited tour for many was indeed over.
Despite no encore, no one was complaining how loud the gig was, or how many times times Zakk changed his guitars (over which none of us could stop drooling) or why it ended so soon. We loved with the zero bullshit policy and the high level of musicianship that communicated by both bands. Take Godsized, you would probably think that being in the scene for a tender three years, they would falter as soon as they played to us. But no, their level of professionalism was second to none. It’s no wonder their name has been mentioned a lot. The same goes for Black Label Society, each song sounding unique live, the audience being the epicentre of having a great time. We were still in awe at what Black Label Society brought to Manchester. Money was indeed money well spent on this night. Respect to both cracking acts!