Black Label Society rocks Regency Ballroom with long hair, Viking energy

Pooja Bale/Staff

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A packed floor buzzed with excitement for heavy metal band Black Label Society to blast eardrums with sweet, booming riffs and plenty of theatrics. Black Label Society’s stop at the Regency Ballroom on March 1, despite Monday looming around the corner, was just as lively as if the band was playing back in the early 2000s.

Black Label Society, the brainchild of lead guitarist and singer Zakk Wylde, is currently made up of Wylde, bassist John DeServio, rhythm guitarist Dario Lorina and drummer Jeff Fabb. Formed back in 1998, the band has made a name for itself by drawing influences from Viking culture and 1980s metal, with Wylde being the former lead guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne. 

While the band’s set was hidden behind black sheets, keen eyes could make out speakers stacked three-high behind them. But before these came to life, doom metal band Lord Dying and death metal band Obituary opened for Black Label Society. The two openers appropriately riled up the crowd, with Obituary in particular inciting a slew of crowd surfers and rowdy fans who attempted to push their way to the front to see the 1980s legends.

Immediately after Obituary’s set, a huge drape with Black Label Society’s logo went up in front of the stage, blocking the crowd’s view. ”I hope he’s wearing the kilt,” said a fan eagerly, referring to Wylde. After 40 long minutes, a mashup of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” rang through the venue, which fans excitedly sang along to. Then, with a swoosh, the drape fell to the floor and the band launched into “Genocide Junkies.” Much to the fans’ satisfaction, Wylde was wearing his signature plaid kilt, paying homage to the mighty Vikings.

Wylde stood on his stool, taking in the crowd, his beard almost as long as his hair. Grabbing hold of his microphone, which was decked out with fake skulls and a crucifix, he affectionately referred to the audience as the San Francisco chapter of the Black Label Society.

The band also orchestrated many memorable moments throughout the show, such as a crew member being brought out to sing the chorus through a bullhorn for “Suicide Messiah” and Lorina using a violin bow to distort his guitar solo during “Trampled Down Below.” 

Wylde also put down his signature guitar and got behind the piano waiting patiently at the back of the stage. “Let me ask you a question. Do you dig it?” he said, before playing a series of metal ballads that still managed to fit the band’s heavy metal style. The last piano song was a tribute to late metal legends and members of Pantera, Vinnie Paul and Dimebag Darrell, a touching addition to the set.

But the obvious peak of the night was during the end of “Fire It Up,” during which Wylde and Lorina left the stage and appeared on the balcony of the Ballroom, playing dueling guitar solos across from one another. And as if things couldn’t get more intense, the two seamlessly moved their guitars behind their backs to finish off the solo, continuing to play in this manner until they were once again on the stage.

While the band chose not to play an encore, it certainly did not need one, with a 90-minute show jammed full of surprising effects, a sense of brotherhood and a clear love and appreciation for all things heavy metal. Wylde and his crew were quite the showmen, and though metal shows are already expected to be unpredictable and exciting, the band paid attention to the little details that made the performance go beyond fans’ high expectations. It was a revitalizing show, proving that metal spans decades, boasts a diverse group of fans and has the power to spice up a seemingly normal Sunday night.

Highlights: “Seasons of Falter,” “Fire It Up,” “Concrete Jungle”

Pooja Bale covers music. Contact her at [email protected].