There are those who would suggest that the heavy metal audience is rather neanderthal in their tastes and their behavior. While that stereotype may hold for some people, the metal throng has often been maligned by people who know nothing of its subculture nor of the intelligence of many of its devotees. That said, it is ironic that hardcore genre fans have very strong expectations, and putting yourself onstage in a radically different light, particularly onstage, is akin to being tossed to the wolves. So when Slipknot/Stone Sour frontman Corey Taylor decided to embark on a cross-country solo tour comprised of spoken word, Q&A and acoustic performance elements, it seemed like a good barometer to test fans’ open-mindedness and patience, especially with a two-hour plus running time.
The approximately 400 fans who descended upon the Highline Ballroom in NYC last night knew they were not going to get some blistering rock set from the Grammy-winning singer, and they mostly embraced the spirit of the evening, from the musical eclectism to Taylor’s humorous, often explicative-laced philosophical rants. Except for a heckler calling out for songs early on — whom the singer politely told to fuck off…okay, not so politely — the crowd listened attentively to his opening monologue, which spanned deep thoughts to foul jokes. It was really a stand-up bit about all the weirdness he encountered upon his arrival in New York (including seeing an old lady hitting her dog outside his tour bus, which angered him) along with reminiscing about his first visit to the Big Apple and the legendary CBGB’s club many moons ago. He also read an excerpt from the Wrath chapter in his book Seven Deadly Sins: Settling the Argument Between Born Bad and Damaged Good (a fun, thought-provoking read, by the way). He wrapped up the first part of the show by telling people to “embrace their rage,” not for destructive purposes but to make positive change in the world and to become better as people. It was a sentiment that many applauded.
During his question and answer session with the crowd, Taylor fielded queries about everything from whether Slipknot will play live in America next year (yes, they will, on a big summer festival) and if there will be another Slipknot album (yes, but not next year) to what he thought of the FBI proclaiming Insane Clown Posse fans (Juggalos) to be a gang (what? really?) and what it was like to work with famed actor Malcolm McDowell (awesome). I’m paraphrasing here as his answers to everything went a bit more in-depth.
After a five-minute “piss break,” Taylor re-emerged onstage armed with an acoustic guitar and proceeded to perform a wide range of tunes, including Nine Inch Nails “Something I Can Never Have” along with original material from his two bands, his gritty yet melodic vocals leading the way. Stone Sour’s “Through Glass,” “Hesitate” and “Bother” and Slipknot’s “Snuff” easily translated to solo acoustic form, while a rollicking, uptempo rendition of Slipknot’s aggro “Spit It Out” inspired a funny shout along during the chorus. (He said he could not play “Vermillion” because he did not know how. Fair enough.)
During the second half of his acoustic set, Taylor was accompanied by guitarist and close friend Jason Parisi, and they played a series of covers by Alice In Chains, Tom Petty, Elvis and U2 (a strong “With Or Without You” singalong ensued). Near the end, singer Queen V came onstage to rock spirited acoustic versions of AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” and Lita Ford’s “Kiss Me Deadly,” and she commanded the stage nicely. After he and Parisi finished off with Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” and the Ramones’ “Outsider,” Taylor returned to cap the night with his snarling, curmudgeonly ode to “X-M@$”.
Taylor’s off-the-cuff, irreverent solo show, which he mans fearlessly by calling out anyway who challenges or heckles him, is refreshingly different and not meant to be taken too seriously. At the same time, it also offers insight into how he will manage to survive in the music business not only financially but creatively, whereas his less imaginative metal peers will stay stuck in a rut. Taylor will always be in touch with the angry young man inside of him, especially the one whose bellowing brought him to international prominence in Slipknot, but he clearly has other sides to his personality that are emerging in different ways beyond his two main musical projects and including his book writing and an upcoming film production foray with Slipknot band member Clown. He’s still pissed at people — beware, mean old ladies — but he now channels and focuses that anger into something potent and fruitful. And even funny.