Corey Taylor never told his fans that everything would be OK. Not on an album, not in the press and most definitely not at a live show. The lead singer of Slipknot, the Iowa noise-metal band that set up shop at Verizon Wireless Theater Wednesday and tonight, instead always seemed to lend a bruised and bloodied hand out into the sea of his fans as a sign of solidarity. Saying, as had been so brutally intimated in so many of his band's songs, the world maybe total shit but we maggots (Taylor's name for Slipknot fans) are in this together. The second opener last night, Coheed and Cambria, had a simple stage show, playing in front of two huge banners with the phrase "God Will Not Save You" splayed down them in orange letters. We came in just in as they revved up "Welcome Home." That's the song that broke them out of their own proggish emo ghetto by being included on an installment of Guitar Hero. It's literally almost six minutes of riffage that made it perfect for the video game and excellent for headbanging live.
Every now and then, we would see a pumped fist or two in the crowd, as lead singer Claudio Sanchez sang in his Cedric Bixler-Zavala/Geddy Lee falsetto with his messy mane of King Buzzo hair overflowing from his head. We applaud Coheed for its sprawling concept albums and maze-like guitar lines, but it still sounds too cutesy, almost like angry Fall Out Boy. Even before Coheed was done with their last song in the set, we hear the ominous droning of the crowd chanting "Slipknot" instead of clapping.
A red curtain rose up to the ceiling and before us stood Slipknot, decked out in their latest ghoulish masks. The two garbage cans and beer-keg drum kits were set on either side of the stage, with yet another standard drum set in the back. Keyboards and turntables, two guitars, a bass were scattered throughout. And Corey Taylor stood out front in total silence, feeding off the odorous crowd like a florist inhaling the first cuts of the day. All told, nine people were onstage waiting to melt our fucking faces.
They started with "Sic" and "Eyeless," both from their eponymous debut, now every bit of a decade old. Slipknot has always been "pre-apocalyptic" for us. While most bands want to wallow in the aftermath of a cataclysm, Slipknot wanted to be there from the beginning for every flame and blast, be it internal or external. Taylor's lyrics have always spoken to a segment of the world that saw no hope or redemption. Their fans are mostly working-class, dirty and thankful for whoever will take up their cause, or at least empathize. Slipknot has always obliged.
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Shawn "Clown" Crahan's percussive set began to spin in the air, and a set of hydraulics sent it up at least 20 feet above the stage. Band members who weren't playing guitars or the standard drum kit seemed to stalk the stage looking for noises to make, grabbing bats and pipes to slam into the garbage cans and kegs. There was always something going on, and it was always chaotic. A waterfall of moshed-up bodies flowed from the crowd and into the arms of burly security guards. The material from 2001's Iowa still holds up eight years later, with even David Fricke of Rolling Stone giving it his blessing upon release. That album fully fleshed out the band's noise blueprint, no doubt turning impressionable fans at the time onto a whole new world of programming and blastbeats. "Left Behind" saw the three circle pits that littered the seething crowd form into one bloody aching sore. Random articles of clothing flew out like shrapnel. The action onstage began to resemble the stage show "Stomp" from Hell as each member is seemingly wielding something percussive.
"People=Shit" echoes a sentiment we all feel coming home from work, as the set seemingly made of rust vibrates from the double bass blasts coming from within. 2005's "Duality" sums the night up the best way with the line, "all I've got, all I've got is insane," which seems perfect for 2009. None of us know what's coming and all we have left is our sanity, at least for now. Just like Jim Morrison sang, and what could easily be Slipknot's mission statement, "The future is uncertain, and the end is always near." Let it roll, baby, roll. Let it roll, all night long. And a population of freshly hatched Maggots descended back onto the streets of Houston.