GWAR at Skyway Theatre, 11/20/14

Skyway Theatre, Minneapolis
Thursday, November 20, 2014

Earlier this year, GWAR -- the intergalactically renowned metal band made up of alien warriors -- appeared on the A.V. Club's A.V. Undercover video series at an emotional time. GWAR had recently been rocked by the overdose of founding member Oderus Urungus (a.k.a. Dave Brockie). 

After their obligatory performance of the Pet Shop Boys' "West End Girls," GWAR launched into a reinterpretation of Jim Carroll's "People Who Died." They concluded with a verse from replacement frontman Blothar, dedicated to his fallen friend -- "Brockie I miss you more than all the others / I salute you my brother!" A.V. Club's Josh Modell said it best -- "I never thought I'd say to GWAR: that was kind of touching." Drummer Jizmak Da Gushha, taken aback, replied indignantly -- "Who touched who where?"

The A.V. Undercover clip sums up GWAR in 2014 in a nutshell. They're a little sad, a little serious, but still stupid, crass, and absolutely committed to doing what they do best -- rocking out and spewing gallons of blood all over their fans. 

[jump] Blood was spewed in ample quantities, of course, at GWAR's stop last night at the Skyway Theatre. GWAR's abilities in this arena are truly prodigious. (I was standing to the back and I still left covered in red stains.) Much of it came from Blothar's udder, which replaces Oderus's pus-spewing cuttlefish as the most disgusting genitalia in the GWAR universe -- more came from recent addition Vulvatron's giant, spewing breasts. Various other types of goo, most of it green, were also thrown, as well as any number of body parts, human or otherwise.

Mess aside, GWAR sounded as strong as ever. No one is going to credit them as an innovative metal band, but their hits still rock, and Pustulus Maximus's solos still shred. 2013's "Madness at the Core of Time" inspired an enthusiastic call-and-response chorus. The vocals and guitar work in "Bloodbath," another new track, were genuinely thrilling. Fan favorites "Saddam A-Go-Go" and "Hate Love Songs" were solid enough on their own to overshadow that their performers were battling a mutant turtle as they sang them.
The onstage battles, in fact, where oddly what fell a bit short. Not that they weren't spectacular -- the splitting in half of a breast-covered pizza delivery alien was a highlight -- but the dada absurdism of GWAR's glory years seems to have gone a bit stale, replaced by boner jokes and giant rocks labeled "CRACK." "I'm havin' a blast hosin' down titties with my bag of dicks!" shouted Blothar after a rousing performance of "Hail, Genocide," patting his udders.  I suppose he's not too concerned.

In the end, the Pet Shop Boys/Jim Carroll cover finally came, a triumphant conclusion to an Oderus memorial encore that began with bagpipes, a moment of bowed-head prayer, and a ballad that included the line "Crying like a sad, sad whale song." Watching five adults in underwear and armor shout "They were all our friends / and they died" at the top of their lungs was something close to chill-inducing.

[page] Maybe this sort of seriousness in the face of absurdity is the only possible result of 30 years of touring and personal tragedy. GWAR have pretty much done it all, and the only victim left to slaughter is the confusing monster of human affection. The GWAR of 20 years ago couldn't have cared less if their leader had died -- there was crack to smoke and presidents to slay.

Now, with many of their members pushing 50, they almost seem to be growing up. Maybe it's because the kids aren't shocked by the brains and the guys and the blood-spewing breasts anymore. Or maybe it's because, as Balthor put it in his final memorial speech last night, "There's more to life than making other people die."   

Personal Bias: GWAR is the greatest band that ever existed. It is unsafe to express any other opinion so I am going to stick to it.

The Crowd: Confused teens, enthusiastic fanboys, prematurely jaded college kids. The front of the stage was lined with college kids in white shirts, ready to leave with a story and a stained shirt with which to tell it. Behind them, mobs of high school kids were moshing to the opener. Every once in a while a smaller teen would get pushed into the front row, college kids would turn back and wrinkle their noses.

Overheard: Metalhead covered in blood -- "What the hell, someone spilled beer on my leg!"

Random Notebook Dump: Closest previous experience: watching the animatronic animal cover band at Circus Pizza.

The Openers: Corrosion of Conformity make solid hard rock and sound like they haven't listened to a metal record since Screaming for Vengeance. This is hardly a problem when you're as good at it as CoC, and by the look of absolute joy on Woody Weatherman's face it doesn't look like they're feeling any pressure to change a thing. American Sharks are nice guys who like to rock out to stoner metal. CoC's Mike Dean says it best -- "I think they're makin' a movie of these guys, and Jack Black's playin' the bass player."

Set List

1. Fly Now
2. Madness At The Core Of Light
3. The Years Without Light
4. Hail, Genocide
5. The Private Pain of Sawborg Destructo
6. Tormentor
7. I, Bonesnapper
8. Black And Huge
9. Hate Love Songs
10. Saddam A Go-Go
11. Bloodbath
12. Horror Of Yig
13. Metal Metal Land
14. Let Us Slay
15. Mr. Perfect
16. U Ain't Shit

The Road Behind
West End Girls/People Who Died


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