Monday, October 13th of 2014 saw the long awaited return of King Diamond to our area at the Fillmore Silver Spring. Based in Denmark, King Diamond hasn’t played in our area in about a decade and the last time I saw King Diamond live was back in 2003 at Jaxx (now Empire). There was just one opener for this show, Jess And The Ancient Ones, which I had checked out online previously and didn’t really enjoy much. I didn’t complain when I got there just as they were finishing up their set. The band is from Finland and sound like a gothy version of Jefferson Airplane to me. Despite the band sharing a member with the kvlt tech death band Demilich, I don’t think you could classify Jess And The Ancient Ones as metal by any stretch of the imagination. When they finished a curtain went up to obscure the stage as King Diamond’s crew got to work.
It was a long break before the curtain dropped, and people were getting excited for the show. It finally did come down and the first keyboard notes of “The Candle” filled the venue as the show began. And what a performance it was! Even if you aren’t a huge King Diamond fan, the sheer spectacle of the show was something you couldn’t keep your eyes off of. The stage, the most elaborate I have ever seen in a club setting, had a second tier behind the drum kit with stairs on either side, with large upside down crosses at the tops of each stair case that would light up. The center backdrop changed a few times from a large pentagram with a goat head to a photo of King Diamond. And for the first four songs the front of the stage had a large iron fence, I suppose meant to look like something you’d see around an old cemetery, which the band played behind. Unfortunately for those of us lucky enough to get a photo pass, that meant shooting through the fence the entire time since photo passes only allow you to shoot for the first three songs (this is an industry standard, not just a King Diamond thing). It was a unique challenge to say the least. The issues with the fence aside, this was one of those nights you really wished you could shoot the band’s entire set because so much was going on. There were characters that would come out on stage (including Grandma from the “Them” and Conspiracy albums, and Miriam Natias from Abigail), a side show style magic trick and the whole performance seemed larger than life.
When I had seen King Diamond before it was on the Puppet Master tour and while the stage then was nowhere near as elaborate at Jaxx, the performance was just as theatrical. That show at Jaxx was a bit more cohesive, it almost felt like you were watching some macabre heavy metal musical since the performance had a start, middle and ending (then followed by three encores with various classics). In contrast, the show at the Fillmore was more of a “best hits” style set list, and while Grandma made a few appearances, it wasn’t really a retelling of the albums she was on so the performance didn’t quite flow the same way. That wasn’t a major problem though and I’m betting half the audience hadn’t seen King Diamond before anyways. The band also played a couple songs from Kind Diamond’s original band, Mercyful Fate. This seemed to be the highlight of the show for a lot of people, and the crowd went wild for the back to back performances of “Evil” and “Come To The Sabbath.”
When King Diamond is on stage all attention is focused on him, he’s just a natural performer that way. The rest of the band stayed mostly in the background, though they did pump fists and look excited to help keep the crowd’s energy up. There was also a woman off to the side doing back up vocals, but she was pretty much out of most people’s view the entire night. At first I thought she might be helping King hit those high notes he is so well known for, but after watching when she would sing I was certain she was not. I really didn’t know what to expect of King Diamond’s voice going in, the guy is 58 years old, but with this being just the second night of the tour (and he had the previous night off) his voice held up incredibly well.
Despite the very crowded room (and I didn’t even bother going upstairs cause I know how obscured the views are up there) everyone seemed to love it. When the band returned to the stage for the first of two encores they pulled a stunt from the Alice Cooper bag of tricks. While the band played the instrumental song “Cremation” King stuffed his wicked Grandma into some sort of cremation machine that had been brought out on stage. This became a magic trick making it appear as though she had been burned alive by removing the walls on the cremation machine to reveal a smoldering skeleton that resembled Luke Skywalker’s late foster parents in Star Wars. After another encore break the band was introduced and they played a couple more songs, ending with the fan favorite “Black Horsemen.”
The show was entertaining on every level and I think even uninterested significant others that got drug along to this would have found it fun to watch. From the set to the theatrics and characters to the band being on point, this was a performance big enough to fit on a major outdoor pavilion but stuffed into a club setting and it was a masterful performance by King Diamond, one of the true legends of heavy metal.