King Diamond is one tough dude! The 58-year-old rocker has endured a triple bypass surgery, but that hasn’t stopped him from launching his first American tour in 16 years, and on this night neither would food poisoning, but more on that later.
The current trek by the former Mercyful Fate leader and his eponymous solo band has been highly acclaimed, playing to sold-out houses and glowing reviews. Lucky fans, including myself, were ecstatic to learn that the tour would be making its Los Angeles stop on Halloween, a holiday that is custom made for King Diamond’s brand of macabre, occult fueled, shock rock theatrics.
The night started out with me arriving downtown 45 minutes before the doors opened to find a rabid throng of fans stretched down the block, around the corner, and down most of another block. The show was being held at Los Angeles’ famed, gorgeous Wiltern Theater, a venue dating back to the 1930s that may just harbor a few ghosts of its own. A large percentage of the crowd was in costume, many sporting the King’s iconic stage makeup in tribute. It warmed my heart to see the diverse age range represented in the crowd. I saw children as young as about 7-8 years right on up to folks who were already getting a bit long in the tooth back when I first saw the band back in 1987 on the tour for their lauded concept album Abigail.
As the line finally began to move and fans worked their way through security (who seemed to be mainly concerned that no one was entering the venue with any of the $10 bootleg T-shirts being sold by the ubiquitous L.A. concert sidewalk pirates), the sky grew ominous with the threat of a much-needed downpour that would help relieve our alarming drought. I finally made it inside the storied theater to find the merch line already stretching the length of the very sizable lobby. I have to hand it to King Diamond for keeping the authorized merch prices down to a reasonable level. At $25 for most of the shirts, they were only slightly more expensive than a double Jack and Coke ($18) at the venue’s numerous bars.
After a quick bit of people watching and a quick conversations with James Luna (lead singer of the amazing Los Angeles traditional metal band Holy Grail, who are currently working on their third studio album) and his lady friend, I found my way to my seat, which was quite literally in the last row of the balcony. The opening band was the decidedly un-metal seven-member, psychedelic rock collective Jess and the Ancient Ones from Finland. This band is very, very good at what it does and was an enjoyable if somewhat odd choice for an opening act.
After The Finnish band finished (I couldn’t resist), the set change/intermission seemed to drag on forever. I wasn’t actually counting, but it had to have been upwards of an hour. The crowd was getting very restless and started chanting “King! King! King!” between each of the songs playing over the P.A. Several of the folks around me started wondering aloud if the main attraction was going to be a no-show.
Finally, the lights dimmed and the intro music commenced. When the curtain rose, the stage was bathed in an eerie red light and a giant, lighted sigil of Baphomet (the inverted pentagram with a goat’s head inside) flanked by dual inverted crosses which also lit up. The front of the stage was adorned by a large wrought-iron-type fence, giving the appearance that the band was playing in a foggy-floored graveyard (the fence would be removed a couple of songs in).
King Diamond himself sounded amazing. Unlike many vocalists his age, he seems not to have lost the upper range of his voice, which is a very good thing as a shrieking falsetto is his most identifiable trademark. The band, led by longtime virtuoso guitarist Andy LaRocque, was incredibly tight and really seemed to be enjoying the Halloween atmosphere. I noticed that King himself was a bit slow moving and seemed to take frequent leaves from the stage during the instrumental interludes. This caused me some concern, given the man’s history of having had a heart attack and triple bypass surgery. My concerns were somewhat allayed when King Diamond offered an explanation between songs: “I am suffering from a nasty case of food poisoning, but I couldn’t let you guys down. So here we go, on with it.”
And let us down he did not! They played their own greatest hits and managed to throw in a couple of Mercyful Fate tunes for good measure. The crowd responded in kind and cheered them back on for two encores, including a mock incineration of the character “Grandma” during the song “Cremation.”
I have to say, this was a spectacular Halloween performance and the fact that it was presented by a man with food poisoning is all the more an amazing feat. Unfortunately, I saw recently on King’s Facebook page that he was forced to cancel his date in Tucson a couple of nights later:
It is with a broken heart that we have to announce that King Diamond will not perform tonight due to dehydration from food poisoning.
We have tried our absolute best to continue the shows, but today it was necessary to seek doctor’s advice, and at 3:48 pm H. Romero PA-C deemed it unsafe for King Diamond to perform tonight.
Again, we are so so incredibly sorry about this, but it would have been a serious health risk to proceed with the show.
We thank you so much for all your support, and hope to someday be able to make up for this!
On the up side, just as I was copying the above post, I saw one indicating that the tour is now back on track:
Great night in Houston!
We want to thank all of you for the fantastic welcome!
What an audience!
This was the first show back after heavy hydration treatment for King…
And speaking of hydration, as I filed out of the theater with a very satisfied crowd, the skies over L.A. opened up with a mini deluge, the first rain we’ve seen in who knows how long. It was almost as if the King cracked open the sky with his heavy metal thunder!
It has been 16 years since King Diamond last toured North America, but it was very much worth the wait to experience the master at work and on Halloween no less. Given that nearly every show of the tour has been a sellout, hopefully we won’t have to wait so long to catch the King again. If you have a chance to catch this show, do yourself a favor and go. I know it’s one of those shows that I am never going to forget.
Never Ending Hill
Let It Be Done
The Puppet Master
At the Graves
Tea / Digging Graves / A Visit from the Dead
Evil (Mercyful Fate cover)
Come to the Sabbath (Mercyful Fate cover)
Shapes of Black
Eye of the Witch
The Family Ghost
Fan-filmed Video of “Halloween” The Wiltern Theater 10/31/14