|Concert Review: Overkill, The Regency Ballroom, San Francisco, CA 04-18-10 (Sunday)|
| Overkill put on a no?frills, full throttle thrash show that was an assault on the auditory and visual senses. [The sheer energy the band displayed at a high volume and frenetic pace was soothing yet brutal. It is akin to lightly moisturizing one’s facial skin with coconut oil and then taking an industrial steel grater and vigorously rubbing it against one’s face.] Overkill played a 17?song, 90-minute set from 11:00 to 12:30. 1. The Green and Black (Ironbound record, 2010). The first 55 seconds of The Green and Black featured a pre?recorded tape track of D.D. Verni (“DV”) strumming high bass notes and Dave Linsk (“DL”) and Derek “The Skull” Tailer (“DT”) playing melodic guitar notes. This occurred with the stage amidst darkness accentuated by two mobile strobe lights positioned atop metal stands approximately (approximations presumed throughout) 15 feet in height flanking Ron Lipnicki’s (“RL’s”) drum kit flashing Overkill’s trademark fluorescent green color across the stage. At the 0:55 mark the stage lights came on escalating the crowd’s roar in response to seeing DV, DL, DT, and RL on stage. From the 0:55 to 1:35 marks DL, DT, and DV pummeled the crowd with crushing chords on their axes while RL beat the hell out of his drums. [It felt somewhat like being repeatedly and violently struck in the squishy part of the back of my head and neck by a two by four piece of pine wood that ironically created a pleasurable sensation.] RL’s drumming was augmented and syncopated with flashing white stage lights positioned beneath the metal grill serving as RL’s drum riser two feet in height. At the 2:00 mark Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth (“BE”) rushed on stage and immediately came stage front and struck his signature pose, firmly grasping his microphone (“mike”) stand with his right hand and resting his right foot on the stage monitor positioned three feet from the photo pit. BE wore very tight black jean pants, black tank top, and black leather half boots with velcro straps and side buckles.
The Green and Black is, for the most part, an up tempo thrasher. Following the second verse, at the 4:25 mark, the song slowed down allowing the frenetic crowd to catch their breath. But DL, DT, and DV’s heavy chord progressions hypnotized the crowd into bobbing their heads and engage in old school moshing replete with flailing arms. [The Green and Black undeniably passes the Headbang Test. The Headbang Test is easy to apply, simply whether the rhythmic beat of a song subconsciously and uncontrollably compels the crowd to headbang. Certain songs have this effect, Iron Maiden’s Hallowed be Thy Name (1982), Metallica’s For Whom the Bell Tolls (1984), Slayer’s Raining Blood (1986) and, more recently, Overkill’s The Green and Black.] The mid tempo continued until the 5:50 mark during which DV and RL provided solid backbeats for (1) DL and DT to continue providing groove-laden riffs and (2) BE to deliver his vocal lines with the recognizable evil ominous tone. At the 5:50 mark DV kicked the song back to an up tempo mode and DL launched into his guitar solo. I admire Overkill for starting the show with a new song and one over eight minutes in length, which they counterbalanced by shifting straight to a short song 3:20 in length from Overkill’s first record.
2. Rotten to the Core (Feel the Fire, 1985) started with BE screaming and RL beating the life out of his tom-tom drums. RL played a black?colored ddrum drum set with double bass drums featuring the band’s mascot, Chaly (i.e., skeletal bat with a skull-like face, bony wings, and green eyes) and the Overkill logo in fluorescent green in each bass drum head. Raised from the ceiling a few feet behind RL’s drum kit was a tarp featuring the Ironbound album cover artwork. Rotten to the Core is a mid tempo song with a punk feel reminiscent of The Ramones and The Sex Pistols. From the 2:10 to 2:25 marks the vocals ceased and the song focused on DL and DT’s catchy riffs that shifted to an up tempo beat for 10 seconds. From the 3:55 to 4:05 marks the song once again featured RL beating his tom-tom drums prompting the audience to bob their heads and pump their fists.
3. Wrecking Crew (Taking Over, 1987). BE made his first announcement before Wrecking Crew. Sadly, since I was preoccupied taking photographs in the pit, I do not recall what he said. [I take that back. I do remember the words, “San Francisco,” “hello,” “song,” and “play.” You can fill in the rest.] Wrecking Crew begins with loose riffs by DL and DT less than 10 seconds in duration before the rest of the band joined in shifting the song to a straight?ahead thrasher. The song featured a catchy chorus in which DT and DV chanted, “We’ll wreck your neck! Wreckin’ crew! Get wrecked!” [What else did the crowd do, particularly those up front in the fray, other than to whale their necks front and back as if on industrial?strength hinges.]
4. Battle (The Killing Kind, 1996) begins with DL and DT’s riff reminiscent of Motorhead. At the 0:15 mark DV and RL joined in with heavy bass lines and drum beats laying the foundation for this mid tempo song. Fortunately, Battle did not feature a tape track of the annoying repetitive background vocal chant of “yeah” in a falsetto nasally Axl Rosesque voice present on record. From the 2:35 to 3:40 marks the song slowed to a fairly slow tempo with a chugging riff ripe for headbanging and reminiscent of Master of Puppets (1986) era Metallica. At the 3:40 mark the song resumed a mid tempo.
5. Hello from the Gutter (Under The Influence, 1988). Before Hello from the Gutter BE said, “It is good to be amongst friends. We now span two to three generations of fans.” [Admittedly, I had trouble hearing what BE was saying, whether singing songs or speaking between song. BE’s vocals were poorly mixed in the sound. In between songs BE’s voice echoed and reverberated off the walls of the more than half?empty ballroom with a 1,050 seat capacity. [Compounding matters was BE’s New Jersey accent. It reminded me of listening to my Jersey cousin’s ramblings as he laid on his back poolside in the humid Summer heat casually twisting and turning his Corona beer bottle on his bloated tummy in a feeble, frustrated attempt to screw it into his oversized navel.] Hello from the Gutter is an up tempo song and the single off Under the Influence featuring skittish riffs and chugging bass lines, the latter being the most memorable. At the start of the song BE stood stage front in one of his most recognizable poses, both hands firmly clenching the mike mounted in a stand and head stooped forward at about chest level where he began to headbang. BE sang the verses in anthemic version, while DV and DL sang the chorus in like fashion chanting, “Hello! Hello! Hello from the gutter. Hello! Hello!” BE sang the “Hello from the gutter” portion of the chorus.
From the 1:40 to 3:05 marks the song featured an extended jam without vocals, including DL’s 50?second guitar solo. DL wore cut?off black jean pants that extended slightly below his knees, black t?shirt bearing the name of his other band, “Speed\Kill/Hate East Coast Thrash” in white letters on his chest, black combat boots, and black sweatbands covering his entire right forearm. DL played a black Gibson Epiphone guitar and used Randall amplifiers. BE left the stage during the guitar solo, the norm on most songs. What BE would do is scurry off stage immediately before DL’s guitar solo, wait stage side out of the audience’s view, and then hurriedly run back on stage and grab his mike stand a split second the first line of the post?solo verse. BE at times ran on stage so quickly he nearly ran into and over the stage monitor behind his mike stand. [BE would benefit from a hands-free mouthpiece mike but is likely vehemently opposed to using one because it is not metal enough and would make BE look like Garth Brooks (country and western singer/guitarist).] At the end of the song BE shouted, “Welcome to the gutter! We’ve been expecting you!” and ended with his trademark laugh. [BE’s statement was prophetic because the Regency Ballroom (“RB”) ballroom is located within two miles of San Francisco’s skid row district. All one needs is a skillet or paper cup to be well-equipped to earn extra dough panhandling in the hood.] The band took a short (i.e., 15 second) break after Hello from the Gutter.
6. Feel the Fire (Feel the Fire, 1985) began with rollicking drum beats and bass lines reminiscent of early Iron Maiden amidst a sea of red stage lights. The song is slightly up tempo with catchy chord progressions during the verses taking the listener through auditory peaks and valleys. At the 2:20 mark BE gave a chant that marked the start of the mid?section jam and was reminiscent of early Slayer a la Tormentor off the Show No Mercy record (1983) complete with RL’s mini drum solo. From the 4:05 to 5:10 marks the song featured DL’s fluid extended guitar solo. The most memorable part of Feel the Fire was BE’s vocal delivery following DL’s guitar solo, which BE sang on his knees complete with his signature laugh. [BE’s vocal style reminded me of Mel Gibson in the epic film Braveheart (1995) as the Scottish warrior leading his troops in the First War of Scottish Independence against the British or, alternatively, a crazed zealous British soccer fan leading diehards in a stadium chant supporting the home team in the World Cup.] Feel the Fire, along with Coma and !!!F**k You!!!, received the strongest audience reaction.
7. Ironbound (Ironbound, 2010). Before Ironbound BE said, “My heart beats faster for the new sh*t as well.” Rightfully so as Ironbound is one of the heaviest Overkill songs [making it an instant holiday favorite for me to subject my unsuspecting elderly mom to.] Ironbound begins with DL, DT, and DV’s pummeling riffs and RL’s heavy drum beats. This is a straight?ahead mid tempo thrasher with a particularly strong chorus during which the song’s tempo reached dizzying heights and the band chanted, “Make it. Take it. Never let go. Tell all you know. This is what you make it, pound the ground. Make it. Take it. Never let go. Tell all you know. How far can you take it as you go … Ironbound!” The chorus featured RL’s excellent frenetic drumming. From the 3:05 to 4:30 marks the song significantly slowed down and featured DL and DT’s melodic guitar playing and RL’s light?handed drumming. [The shift from the brutality of the pre-solo chorus section to the slow tempo portion is almost incomprehensible. It is akin to going from butchering, maiming, and beheading a poseur to passionately embracing his listless, headless body while gracefully engaging in a waltz. Who does that! Overkill and with conviction.] DL began his guitar solo during the slow tempo portion and featured emotional melodic notes that, at the 4:30 mark, transitioned to mid tempo and featured harmonies and DT’s melodic rhythm playing reminiscent of 1980’s era Iron Maiden. BE’s rush back on stage after DL’s guitar solo was immediately preceded by DT and DV’s chant of “Hey.”
DT performed this song shirtless, having recently tucked it in his back pocket. DT wore black jean pants, black Overkill Ironbound t-shirt (before removal), and black combat boots. DT played a black Explorer?shaped Dean guitar, used Randall amplifiers, and positioned his mike high in the air pointed downward like Lemmy Kilmister (Motorhead vocalist/bassist). [Given DT’s lanky frame reminiscent of Scott Travis (Judas Priest drummer), his technician should have hung DT’s mike from the ballroom’s ceiling like a mistletoe.]
8. Coma (Horrorscope, 1991). Before Coma BE said, “I see some good f**kin’ friends out there.” Coma began with DT and DL’s melodic guitar notes and RL’s light-handed drumming. At the 1:15 mark the song shifted and meandered between mid and up tempos with groovy and chugging riffs reminiscent of Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield’s (Metallica guitarists) riff work on Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All record (1983). When BE returned on stage following DL’s guitar solo he once again firmly clenched his mike in the stand and stooped his head forward. Coma arguably received the strongest crowd reaction, a song recently added to the set list replacing Hammerhead (Feel the Fire, 1985).
9. Bare Bones (Horrorscope, 1991) began with a tape track featuring eerie keyboards. [The melody is reminiscent of the theme song for William Friedkin’s classic horror film, “The Exorcist” (1973).] The tape track was played while the band was off stage and the stage amidst darkness accentuated only by the two mobile strobe lights flashing vibrant purple colors. DV augmented the chilling atmosphere by picking simple bass notes. At the 0:20 mark DL and DT joined in striking powerful power chords galore at which point the strobe lights switched to displaying alternating red and white colors. At the 1:30 mark the song shifted from mid to fast tempo. The song featured muted DL and DT guitar chords and RL’s prominent drumming in the forefront. During the third verse, BE chanted, “I’ve been to hell. Now I’m here and I’m taking all I need.” [I had also been in hell earlier in the night, the restroom urinal overfilled with sweat?drenched drunkards.] The chorus is reminiscent of Metallica’s Fight Fire with Fire from the Ride the Lightning record (1984). During his guitar solo DL placed his left foot on the stage monitor, rested the base of his guitar on his thigh and screamed while hitting a high note.
10. Gasoline Dream (W.F.O., 1994). Before Gasoline Dream BE said, “You never give up do you? Bunch of savages out there. San Francisco join us in a gasoline dream.” BE had taken his tank top off, revealing his taut frame. At 50 years old BE has an excellent physique, better than most men half his age. [BE’s abdomen was so well?chiseled the female fans, who were underrepresented, were likely inclined to take off their sweaty shirts and dab them in detergent to scrub on BE’s abdomen.] Gasoline Dream is a mid tempo thrasher that began with DL and DT’s heavy duty power chords. From the 0:36 to 0:53 marks DV’s bass lines were reminiscent of Steve Harris (Iron Maiden bassist). Gasoline Dream, along with The Green and Black and Old School, exemplified DV’s skills as a Herculean bassist, a musician with finesse, proficiency, and originality. DV wore black jean pants (with multiple chains extending from his belt loop to his back left pocket), sleeveless button-down black cotton shirt, sleeveless black denim Levi’s jacket with a New York (“NY”) Giants (American football team) logo patch on the left chest and “Verni” and “Bass” patches on his right chest, black Dr. Martens combat boots, and black sweatbands covering his entire forearms. DV played a black B.C. Rich warlock bass with a flame pattern. [DV’s bass has a ridiculously large volume knob that looked nearly as large as a peanut butter jar cap from afar.] From the 0:53 to 1:02 marks DL and DT played chugging riffs.
At the 1:02 mark BE began to sing the first verse in a particularly raspy voice, “Wishful thinking, eyes are blinking, in the sun the garbage stinking.” [The last line could have been inspired by the rancid stench in the back alley where Overkill’s tour bus was parked.] From the 5:15 mark onward the song’s tempo slowed to an effective mesmerizing pace.
11. Overkill (Feel the Fire, 1985) is a basic mid tempo song that featured DL and DT’s recurring but effective harmonies and arpeggio guitar notes that, along with BE’s haunting vocal style, set a chilling vibe. [I felt I was amidst a fog?laden cemetery where a maggot?covered corpse had come to life slowly sifting his way through the stench?ridden dirt.]
12. Bring Me the Night (Ironbound, 2010). Before Bring Me the Night BE said, “We played The Stone. I think it was in 1962.” (The Stone is a now defunct San Francisco club that hosted metal and punk shows from the mid?1980’s to early 1990’s. Overkill performed at The Stone on June 15, 1987.) “Don’t tell me you need some oxygen. Vicious motherf**kers. This is Bring Me the Night.” This song featured DL and DT’s fast and furious Motorheadesque riffs and a catchy pre?chorus section during which BE sang, “Ready to fly, and I’m ready to die. Scare the angel, fly away. Let the devil have his way. Tie your tongue into a knot. Pray to God it never stops. Ready to fly, and I’m ready to die. Fuel me up, let me go. Shut your mouth, going to blow. Hold your ears and shield your eyes. Just a word to the wise.” BE sang the pre?chorus in rapid fashion, except for the line, “Ready to fly, and I’m ready to die.” DV and DL contributed to the chorus by chanting, “Bring.” BE sang one of the verses using DT’s mike positioned stage right. [The band delivered this song with such ferocity, particularly RL’s drumming and DL and DT’s riff work I felt I was aboard a stealth jet flying straight down at a 90 degree angle through an atomic bomb mushroom cloud into the depths of hell. No opportunity breathe or look around, just grip whatever is within vicinity as tight as I could on the hellbound ride.]
13. Elimination (The Years of Decay, 1989). Before Elimination BE said, “This is a one?way train to Elimination.” Elimination is the single off the classic The Years of Decay record, a fairly up tempo thrasher featuring DL and DT’s chugging riffs. [DL and DT’s riff prowess on Elimination is analogous to the visual imagery of stones skipping over a pond.] BE sang the chorus with vigor and conviction, “Eliminate the right, eliminate the wrong, eliminate the weak, eliminate the strong, eliminate your feelings, eliminate too late, eliminate the hope, eliminate, eliminate.” [The chorus is so mind numbingly simple (and effective) even a person like me with less than 23 pairs of chromosomes can guess the song title.] DL and DT’s dual guitar solos featured classic harmonies a la Somewhere in Time (1986) and Seventh Son of A Seventh Son (1988) era Iron Maiden.
The band left the stage at 12:11 and returned in one minute to play four additional songs.
14. Necroshine (Necroshine, 1999). Before the band came back on stage, a tape track played the first 70 seconds of Necroshine during which the white stage lights beneath RL’s drum riser were syncopated with the pulsating drum beats and bass lines. When the stage lights were illuminated DL and DT were positioned on the anvil cases flanking RL’s drum kit. Each anvil case was accessible by four steel steps. Necroshine featured DL, DT, and DV’s recurring riffs until the 1:10 mark at which point the song shifted to mid tempo with DL and DT’s groovy riffs. BE began singing the verse, “You can take me out of my hell. You can’t take the hell on out of me. Watch me here as I get. But be careful what you see.” BE accentuated each verse by extending his forearm forward and punching the air in upward fashion in beat with RL’s drumming and as if BE was trying to break out of a small cube in which he was imprisoned. BE intentionally sang the final word of the chorus in a particularly nasally manner, “Don’t you ever doubt me as you walk the line. Guided by the light of the necroshine.” DT and DL came down from the anvil cases after the first and second choruses, respectively. Necroshine featured extensive fluorescent green strobe and stage lights.
15. Old School (Relix XIV, 2005). Before Old School BE recited part of the chorus, “We drank some beers and broke some heads. We never gave a sh*t. San Francisco here’s to the Old School.” Old School has a very loose punk vibe in terms of RL’s drum beats and DL, DT, and DV’s chord progression and strumming. The chorus epitomizes the punk mentality, “Here’s to the old school, didn’t matter if you looked cool. We drank some beers and broke some heads. We never gave a sh*t. They said that this would never last. We never gave a f**k.” BE displayed the signature Overkill salute (i.e., raised middle finger) when he uttered, “We never gave a sh*t.” During the chorus, BE, DV, and DT chanted, “Eeeh, hew … hay, hay, hay!”
Old School’s verses pay homage to important figures and venues in Overkill’s career. During one verse BE sang, “Now all my friends are heading to L’Amours. Half of them are bounced right out the door.” (L’Amours is a now defunct Brooklyn club that hosted metal and punk shows from 1981 to 2004.) “And all my friends are heading to the Ritz. Bobby G., Rat Skates, DD & Blitz.” (The Ritz is a now defunct NYC club that hosted metal and punk shows from 1980 to 1993.)
During another verse BE sang, “Yeah there’s blood all over me. I caught the eye of Johnny Z.” (Jonny Zazula owns Megaforce Records, prominent independent metal record label that signed Overkill to a record contract in 1985 on the strength of the Overkill EP.) “Bang your head, thrash around the pit. Who the f**k woulda’ thunk. They’re playing us on Eddie Trunk.” (Eddie Trunk is a NY radio and television personality who hosts metal radio shows.)
During the chorus following DL’s guitar solo RL’s drum beats and DV’s bass lines were prominently featured and provided a driving up tempo foundation that brought the song to a raucous conclusion.
16. !!!F**k You!!! (The Subhumans cover: !!!F**k You!!!, 1987). Before !!!F**k You!!! BE said, “Can you flash a number one on your way out the door? This is not the time to be a pussy.” [For the less “Overkill enlightened” BE was referring to raising the middle finger, not the index.] The crowd needed no encouragement to raise their middle fingers but received it in the form of white stage lights shining on them. !!!F**k You!!! is a short, up tempo punk?infused song by The Subhumans that began with frenetic guitar riffs, bass lines, and drum beats. The chorus sums up the skin and metal head credo, “We don’t care what you say … F**k you!” The band played !!!F**k You!!! through the second chorus and then went straight into the night’s second consecutive cover song, Motorhead’s Overkill.
17. Overkill (Motörhead cover: Overkill, 1979). Overkill, along with Ace of Spades and Killed by Death, are arguably the top three Motorhead songs. Overkill did justice to this straight ahead mid tempo rocker. Overkill led straight back to !!!F**k You!!!
18. !!!F**k You!!! (reprise) (The Subhumans cover: !!!F**k You!!!, 1987). Before resuming !!!F**k You!!! BE recited the chorus, “We don’t care what you say … F**k you!” The white stage lights shined on the crowd and the crowd repeated the chorus. BE said, “This is a bit of a disappointment.” BE then engaged the crowd to chant the chorus three additional times, each time progressively louder. The band resumed !!!F**k You!!! from the second chorus. During the final seconds of the song BE raised his right hand to thank the crowd and tore the three set lists off the stage monitors and handed them to eager front row fans.
Venue: the building that housed the original RB, known as the Avalon Ballroom, was built in 1911. The Avalon Ballroom operated from 1966 to 1968 and reopened in 2003 under its current name. During the ballroom’s original stint in the 1960’s local bands such as Janis Joplin, Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Steve Miller Band, and Big Brother and the Holding Company performed at this venue.
RB is a 1,050?seat theater with a rectangular?shaped standing room floor measuring 96 by 69 feet with blonde hardwood floors and a permanent stage measuring 42 by 20 feet. Positioned 35 feet above the floor are 22 teardrop chandeliers circa 1900 secured on a roof adorned with gold medallions. RB has a horseshoe-shaped reserved seating balcony, the interior siding of which visible from the floor is virgin white. Four vertical white columns line the wall atop the stage and another six are present on each of the walls on the second floor. Also lining the side walls on each floor are six square?shaped gold?colored tapestries.
Opening Bands (first to last): Woe of Tyrants, Evile, Warbringer, God Dethroned, and Vader.
Arash Moussavian, Entertainment Law Attorney