King Diamond’s Live Show Will Remind You Why You Became A Metalhead

In Brooklyn, New York, the King proves why he's the greatest showman in heavy metal, along with help from Idle Hands and Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats.

King Diamond’s Live Show Will Remind You Why You Became A Metalhead
Chris Krovatin

Even with the venue tucked away at the ass-end of outer Brooklyn, it’s apparent that New York City’s entire metal scene has made the trek out to the Kings Theatre tonight. The ornate, sky-high ceilings of the classic marquee theater are packed to the gills with both leather-clad satanists and Long Island dads, all clinking plastic cups and cackling with excitement. But even though this crowd may be a little sweatier and angrier than the building’s owners might have pictured when the Kings was opened as a movie palace in the 1920s, the epic surroundings and morbid audience are spiritually joined by tonight’s performer. There are few bands or musicians who could make such a concert hall feel like a home, and could unite metalheads from every corner of life — but operatic horror metal legend King Diamond is most certainly one of them.

He hasn’t arrived alone, though: First, Portland goth metallers Idle Hands give it their all to a room that’s still only a third full, and are rewarded with a rapt crowd. The excitable young quintet inject just enough punkish energy into their set to not make them sound too serious; a red floor light and fake smoke jet are used to brilliant effect. This energy and theatricality, mixed with the band’s stygian riffs, reminds one of bands like The Cult and Life Of Agony, while poppier numbers like A Single Solemn Rose smack of The Smiths and Danzig. Opening up this kind of bill is no laughing matter, but Idle Hands are up to the task, and walk away having hard-won dozens of new fans.

The place is considerably more packed when Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats start up; while the seated areas begin to fill, the front pit section is full to the back barriers. For their part, the Cambridge stoner metallers rip through their more rock-oriented tracks, losing some of their sleazy edge in the process. Frontman Kevin Starrs makes a good show as a weeping willow of hair whose face never appears, and does little more than bob and bounce. The band’s psychedelic screen show takes some of the weight, offering stoned guests something to blink at in amazement while the band’s performance remains pretty straightforward. The set provides solid meat and potatoes, with a little hint of something extra for those blazed enough to truly immerse themselves in it.

From the moment he’s wheeled out of an asylum door on a vintage stretcher, King Diamond has the audience in the palm of his hand. His Majesty wastes no time, launching into The Candle, followed by a spirited set of chugging, serpentine classics that have the audience headbanging and holding up invisible orbs in gleeful excitement. Like the demonic ghost of your dreams, King clambers around his three-tiered sanitarium-themed stage set (an obvious nod to his upcoming album, the Institute) playing both timeless tracks like Sleepless Nights and Halloween as well as rarer morsels like Voodoo, and even a brand-new track, Masquerade of Madness.

Of course, he's not alone up there. There is King Diamond the man, and KING DIAMOND the band -- the latter of which couldn't exist without founding guitarist Andy LaRocque, who co-wrote some of KD's biggest and best songs. When King conducts bandmate roll call halfway through the set, Andy is greeted with a hero's welcome before his name is even uttered ("a man who needs no introduction," King rightfully prefaces). He plays alongside animated bassist Pontus Egberg, who in turn flanks Mercyful Fate guitarist Mike Wead. On the set's second level, Matt Thompson holds it all together on drums, as Livia Zita, long-time backing vocalist (and King Diamond's wife) provides those hallmark KD harmonies.

All the while, knives are waved (non-threateningly), babies are sacrificed (in effigy), and Grandma is wheeled out to tell of her holiday (gotta love Grandma). Though the Mercyful Fate numbers some are expecting never show — probably being kept in the back pocket for the upcoming reunion shows — the closing encore performance of Black Horsemen, dedicated to the late Timi Hansen, is more than enough for the frothing crowd.

Outside is chaos; this deep into Brooklyn, most of the attendees have a long trip home, and most don’t know where they’re going. The curb is a crush of Ubers, while packs of headbangers wander en masse to the few subway stations nearby. And yet for all the rigamarole, the audience is all smiles and fist-bumps; every talks nonstop about just how awesome the show was. There isn’t a feeling of exhaustion; if anything, the performance has only riled fans up, reminding them that somewhere out there, a corpsepainted wraith is giving fans all the grandeur and joy for which they came to metal in the first place.

Hail to the King, baby.

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