For those unacquainted with Chris Holmes, he was the original lead guitarist in W.A.S.P, and is responsible for some of the greatest Heavy Metal songs ever. He's parted ways with W.A.S.P on more than one occasion due to his well documented turbulent relationship with front-man Blackie Lawless.
Chris has clearly had a tough time over the last few years. He's been ripped off and shat on more than anyone deserves, and the media have portrayed him as a washed up, down and out ex-rock star who's only purpose is to be laughed at by assholes in the comments section of Metal websites. I've found this lack of respect infuriating as he's not only an amazing guitar player, but a truly awesome guy. When I heard he was playing The Rigger, I was genuinely excited, especially as I had already been booked to DJ after his set. Saturday nights don't get much better than that!
I remember seeing W.A.S.P back in May '97 on their Kill Fuck Die tour. Being a teenager, I thought it would be a good idea to bring my guitar to the gig to see if I could get it signed. Who the fuck does that? Anyway, I waited patiently with my red B.C Rich Warlock and a few CDs outside the Wulfrun Hall in Wolverhampton, and eventually Chris Holmes came out. He signed my guitar and CD covers and had his photo taken with me. There were about ten or so other people waiting too, and he signed everything and had a chat with everyone. I remember him jokingly pointing out which window of the tour bus to put a brick through if Blackie didn't sign any autographs that night. Chris came across as a really fun pleasant guy who was genuinely grateful that we'd come to the show. About an hour later, Blackie came out with a security guy to protect him from the six remaining kids who wanted to meet him. We were told "one autograph each". He signed my guitar which was cool, but he seemed really pissed off and clearly wasn't happy to be there.
|Me with Chris Holmes in 1997. I still have the B.C Rich he signed for me.|
These little interactions mean a lot, and with Chris being such a cool guy, I've continued to follow his work and support him. He taught me how life long fans are made.
Anyway, story time's over, and it's time to look at last night's show at The Rigger in Newcastle-under-Lyme. When he hit the stage with the words "My name is Chris Holmes and I play Heavy Metal" and opened with his solo track Shitting Bricks, the first thing that struck me was Chris' signature guitar tone. That huge ear splitting Heavy Metal guitar tone that's so uniquely identifiable as Chris Holmes made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. This is what I came to hear!
Since moving to France, Chris has found some great new musicians and his new band is really impressive. The other guitarist, who Chris later introduced to the crowd as 'Douche Bag' (AKA Tom on the set list - must have been a type-o) shared vocal duties throughout the show with Chris, and sounds very similar to Blackie Lawless. In fact, Tom sounds better than Blackie has for years. The W.A.S.P material in the set was pulled off with class, and was a joy to hear. L.O.V.E Machine, Sleeping (In The Fire) and The Headless Children all sounded particularly fantastic, and were met with rapturous applause from the audience.
The penultimate track of the night was W.A.S.P's I Wanna Be Somebody, and Chris invited some members of the audience to get on the stage and sing the whole song. To be fair, even the drunk guys in the crowd were on top of their game tonight, as it sounded great! Chris ended the set with a riotous rendition of Neil Young's Rockin' In The Free World, which he dedicated to the innocent people in Syria having their lives ruined by the terror currently going on.
All in all, tonight's show was a success. The turnout wasn't the greatest, but I blame the aforementioned negativity from the media for that. However, I'm sure that everyone who turned up was impressed. I certainly was. Chris and his band put on a great show, and I can only see him going from strength to strength, as word of mouth will ensure that attendances grow each time, as is generally the way with Metal. Chris also took the time to meet fans after the show, sign autographs, and have photos taken. He always goes that extra mile, and deserves every ounce of success that comes with such efforts.
Chris Holmes is the real deal. He's a force of nature. He's just tuned 59 years old and he's still killing it! If you love W.A.S.P, you need to catch him on this tour.
*Apologies for the shit quality of my photos. I took them on a mobile phone. Do I know what I'm doing? Not really.