Black Label Society

Live at The Sunset Strip Music Festival

Hollywood, California

August 18th, 2012

Review and Photos by Travis Baumann

The Sunset Strip Music Festival has been a bit of a hit and miss in terms of having bands I am interested in seeing but this year they managed to score the legendary Black Label Society and to say the least, I was excited.

I loved Zakk Wylde's albums with Ozzy and also love his own band known affectionately by the fans as BLS. The lineup had BLS going on in the middle of the day so there was a reason to show up early for the event.

They played the Doheny stage so they faced east at the very far end of the festival. The band took the stage to a piano intro, Zakk taking the stage last. He is an imposing figure, huge beard, long hair, patch-heavy denim vest, arms that rival a WWF star - and then to top that off a huge Native American head-dress, brilliant white in the California sun.

They started the set off with a personal favorite, "Crazy Horse", guitars blazing right from the gate. Not only is Zakk a guitar god from decades back but he has a hell of a voice. I try to explain it to the uninitiated as a deeper, bluesier Ozzyesque tone but that really doesn't do it justice. On some songs with the harmonization it reaches to almost early Alice in Chains back out to softer heartfelt ballads that will surprise most people.

The band consisted of an additional guitarist, a bassist and a drummer, both the bassist and guitarist lent back up vocals as well. They played in front of a wall of Marshall stacks and a cool banner in the background. The set moved around their extensive back catalog with the second song being "Funeral Bell" from their 2003 album "The Blessed Hellride" and then went an album even further back for "Bleed For Me" and "Demise of Sanity".

I am a huge fan of their latest album, "Order Of The Black" and "Overlord" is another one of my favorite songs from it so I thoroughly enjoyed it live. They went straight into "Parade of the Dead" off the same release.

The crowd was very mixed due to such a varied lineup of bands but everyone was digging every song. After playing "Fire It Up", the rest of the band took a hiatus and Zakk put his guitar god skills on display performing a shredding guitar solo.

As the band returned to the stage they went into "Godspeed Hellbound" another killer track off of "Order Of The Black". In case it isn't obvious the show was freaking awesome. Energetic, powerful guitar driven anthems fueled by sun and booze, it was definitely the best the SSMF has been.

They did "Suicide Messiah" next followed by two classics "Concrete Jungle" and "Stillborn". They have ended the set with this last one previously but today was a special occasion. This year the Sunset Strip Music Festival was paying tribute to a Strip legend, The Doors. The surviving members were present throughout the event but it was extra cool when Robby Krieger came out and joined them for a cover of "Roadhouse Blues".

It was definitely a great experience and made me look forward to the next time the Society makes a Los Angeles appearance from the moment it was over. If you haven't seen these guys before, you definitely need to get to their next outing.

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