Embracing His North American Coven: The King Diamond 2014 Tour
Text and Photos: Jeremy Beals
It has been almost ten years since King Diamond graced our shores with his presence. During that hiatus, he battled health problems and heart issues. Even on Halloween night here at the Wiltern, he continued to fight an illness. Despite these issues, he returned to us and put on a performance that no one will forget.
The Wiltern, in Los Angeles, was opened in 1931 and is by all accounts an art deco landmark. Its spacious, multi-leveled interior and incredible sunburst auditorium ceiling are marvels to look upon, especially given the bold and eclectic style of the building when compared to modern architecture. On Halloween there were several musicians preparing themselves for their performances, but only one of them is a king. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that every person waiting to get into this building tonight was here for him; he’s not only one of the most talented performers in all of metal, he’s one of the godfathers that influenced it all. His impact stretches across decades, his voice is otherworldly, and his theatricality and ability to weave his tales and characters into live shows is unrivaled in all of the genre.
As the doors opened, people flooded the lobby. It’s a motley crew; ladies and gents in Halloween costumes could be found in small pockets here and there, but the majority of the audience that night were clad in patch-jackets. Occasionally, nuns could be seen roaming the halls, no doubt looking for things to do since they’re known to have no fun. Slowly but surely, time moved forward, and the first act of the night hit the stage.
Hailing from Finland, Jess and the Ancient Ones were hand picked by King Diamond personally for this tour. JATAO, much like their peers, are an occult rock group that revels in the late 60’s/70’s psychedelic revivalist style. If you like Purson, The Devil’s Blood or Blood Ceremony, you’ll definitely like Jess. If you, for some reason, have never heard of these bands or this style, just imagine female vocals soaring above groovy bass lines, while keyboards dance around three guitarists who deeply love creating melodies that accentuate the whole of the rhythm. This style of music isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but you could clearly tell that the members have passion for what they do. The only drawback to their performance is that they perform with such a focus that they don’t interact with the crowd on many levels (this is pretty well reflected in their complete monochromatic use of lighting). But when a band is more preoccupied with giving a great performance than it is with on-stage antics, can you really be angry with them?
As Jess and the Ancient Ones took leave of the stage, the wait began. It felt like forever, especially after King Diamond didn’t hit the stage until forty minutes past when he was scheduled to. Sure, concerts never run on schedule, but this was different. Then we found out why: food poisoning.
King Diamond, however, is not known for disappointing his fans, and soon enough the introduction to The Candle began. Above the stage a giant sigil of Baphomet shone as bright as any blood moon in the sky, and accompanying it were two massive inverted crosses. Underneath those monolithic symbols was a two story stage armed with rails guiding the way down to the floor, and a backdrop of a massive Gothic castle covered every inch of the walls. In front of it all was the wrought iron gate that often accompanies King Diamond’s live performances. Then he appeared, cloaked in the darkness, holding his mic and a cross section of human bones.
For the uninitiated, King Diamond’s vocal prowess is considered unsurpassable. I know there was a fear that after his triple bypass his voice would never be as strong as it was, but his trademark falsetto is not only stronger than ever, he’s clearly immune to having both your chest ripped open and age.
The set-list was superb. Conspiracy tracks were heavily rotated, with Sleepless Nights, At the Graves, Cremation and A Visit from the Dead being played. Fatal Portrait and “Them” also saw action with The Candle, Halloween, Welcome Home and Tea, respectively. Dare I mention the Mercyful Fate covers? Both Evil and Come to the Sabbath were performed with ferocious energy. So many people were joining in that you could feel the audience’s collective voice within every fiber of your being.
As for stage theatrics, King introduced us to his grandma, we witnessed a living marionette take the stage, and for a brief moment King partook of some tea (and with perfect timing had drummer Matt Thompson smash said glass mid-air). To top it all off, we then we witnessed grandma being laid into a coffin and destroyed with the help of a doctor and a priest.
A full set and two encores later, everyone poured out of the theater and exited to a heavy rain, something that is almost non-existent in California. Leave it to King Diamond to cure the worst drought in our state’s history, and leave it to the king to put on one of the best live shows that anyone living could ever witness.