With concert tickets seemingly at an all time high, live music fans have been picking and choosing what shows they attend. An easy option for those looking for an affordable ticket and several hours of hard driving rock and roll is the Freaks on Parade 2023 tour that recently hit The Pavilion at Montage Mountain in Scranton, Pa. on Friday, September 8.
Rounded out by legendary shock rock/horror rock stalwarts Rob Zombie and Alice Cooper, the tour also features Filter. The same Filter that sang about former Pennsylvania politician R. Bud Dwyer and told the nation to take a picture in 1999. Fronted by founding member Richard Patrick – a former touring guitarist for Nine Inch Nails – the band continues to release new music in the same heavy, industrial sound that defined their career. Sounding nearly identical to the way he was in the 90’s, Patrick brazenly lead the outfit through newer numbers before eliciting a sing-along with the aforementioned “Take a Picture,” a surprisingly softer number from their back catalogue. Capping off their brief 30 minute set, Patrick removed his aviator sunglasses and exhumed pure intensity as he introduced the thumping “Hey Man, Nice Shot,” a song referencing former Pennsylvania politician R. Bud Dwyer, who killed himself on live television.
Next up was industrial legend Al Jourgensen and his longtime band, Ministry. Due to his eclectic hairstyle, Jourgesen may give off the impression that he is a hippie. But the classification couldn’t be farther from the truth. Behind his flowing dreadlocks is a man who is revered as a pioneer of industrial music who has influenced everyone from Trent Reznor to Rob Zombie. The music is loud, abrasive, chaotic, and at the same time somehow melodic. Flanked by five other musicians and religious imagery, Jourgesen looked like he was having a blast leading the outfit through a 45 minute set that culminated with “Goddamn White Trash,” a cut from their yet-to-be-released album “hopiumforthemasses.” That’s correct; in true Ministry fashion, they ended with a song that hasn’t been released yet.
At age 75, Alice Cooper is still the godfather of shock rock but over the last two decades he has somehow managed to transition from the scary guy who sings about dead babies and monsters into a loveable guy you would want to invite over for dinner and introduce as Uncle Alice. Just for good measure, at the end of the dinner, he would still chop his own head off with a guillotine. Alice still has to be Alice. And for the show at Scranton, that’s exactly what he was – Alice. Taking the stage with his trademark makeup, long jacket and cane, Cooper entered the stage to “Lock Me Up,” which showcased the triple guitar assault of his band, spearheaded by the incredibly talented Nita Strauss.
Although Cooper is known for the over-the-top shenanigans of his live show, he did score some actual radio hits along the way, and the opening part of the show featured a one-two punch of “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” and his 1970 hit “I’m Eighteen.” For a majority of the remainder of the set, it was all vintage Alice – breaking free from a straightjacket, being chased by an outrageously oversized Frankenstein, and serenading the crowd with a live boa constrictor around his neck. The antics are something that has defined Cooper’s career and helped pave the way for so many other acts that followed, so why would he want to change something that has worked so well over the last five-plus decades? In the midst of all the craziness some more radio-friendly material emerged in the form of the 1980’s smash hit “Poison,” and the set closer “School’s Out.” In homage to the genre he helped create, Cooper thanked the crowd after the closing number and told the crowd to get ready for Zombie, who he referred to as his “little brother.”
The second a Rob Zombie show starts, one thing is abundantly clear – you’re going to get your ass kicked by a high-intensity, over-the-top, metal performance by someone who understands that music is an art and makes every concert memorable. Just watching the way Zombie emerges atop a tall podium and violently shakes the microphone stand while his body convulses and still finds focus to deliver the lyrics of the opening of “The Triumph of King Freak (A Crypt of Preservation and Superstition)” makes you question how he still finds the energy to do it at 58 years old. The guy who lead the groundbreaking 90’s outfit White Zombie, and who later introduced the world to Captain Spaulding in his movie “House of 1000 Corpses,” is pushing 60 but it would be nearly impossible to tell watching him on stage.
Pointing out the 2023 marks the 25th anniversary of his solo debut, “Hellbilly Deluxe,” Zombie spoke of how important the album was to his career and wanted to showcase a few songs from it, including “What Lurks on Channel X?,” “Superbeast,” and “Demonoid Phenomenon.” Along with his music career, Zombie has found success with film as his original movies and remakes of Halloween movies had decent box office turnouts. Anyone who has seen his movies understands what Zombie does with art. He does whatever he wants with it. And it works. Combining both forms into one, Zombie’s band performed the theme to “House of 1000 Corpses” while brief snippets of the film played on the backing screen. After a brief drum solo, it was time to break out the big guns. After asking the crowd if there are any living dead girls in Scranton, he led the enthusiastic crowd in a lively rendition of the song of the same name.
With nearly 30 years since his days fronting White Zombie, Rob Zombie does not need to play any of the band’s music, but still chooses to do so ever so minimally. Sure, Zombie has a very successful career outside the band and could easily fill a show with just his material. But White Zombie was a very unique and influential metal/industrial band that broke through in the early 90’s but seemed to get pushed to the side in favor of the emerging grunge movement. The band had heavy riffs and perhaps none heavier than the driving “Thunderkiss ‘65” which Zombie delivered with such zest you would think it was a brand new song that he was just introducing. Immediately after, the familiar robotic opening of their biggest hit, “More Human Than Human,” filled the amphitheater. It is comical to watch most of the crowd try to sing along to the song, but typically only get out the chorus and the bevy of “yeahs” that fill the track. After the set ending number of “Dragula,” Zombie left the stage with most of the crowd walking back to their vehicles wondering when their hearing will return, but still smiling knowing that the Freaks on Parade 2023 tour just kicked their ass in the best way possible.
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