Siberia, New Orleans, LA
June 30, 2016
It was an amazing stroke of luck that Venom Inc. (or, as I like to think of them, “the one true Venom,” Cronos be damned) decided to come back to the USA for a second leg of touring in 2016. It was even more amazing that their tour routing brought them to New Orleans, within striking distance of my house, on the Thursday before the Independence Day weekend. There was no way I was going to miss this, so Jen and I piled into the car after work and hauled ass to the Big Easy. After yet another killer Slavic Soul food dinner (beet burger with goat cheese, and noodles) courtesy of Siberia’s talented culinary staff, we were ready to rock. So, apparently, were a lot of other people. We’ve been to a half dozen shows at Siberia in the last two years and have never seen the place anywhere close to this crowded. It was nearly packed (maybe 125-150 folks in the tiny club), which was quite refreshing after being here for so many poorly attended gigs. I wedged myself between a support pole and the front left corner of the stage, so as to be insulated from the violent pit roiling behind me for most of Venom’s set. For her part, Jen stayed near the back of the venue, well out of harm’s way, and rocked out in peace.
At five minutes past the witching hour of midnight, the Venom guys (who had stayed out of the club all night and hung out in their touring R/V instead) strode in through the front door of Siberia past gawking patrons, carrying their instruments (or, in Abaddon’s case, a bottle of Jack Daniels). They climbed up on the stage with no fanfare or B.S., plugged in, and ripped into “Welcome to Hell” with no further ado. I had wondered beforehand if Venom might be sluggish tonight. After all, this was near the end of a grueling month-long tour, they’d played something like 9 or 10 gigs in a row (hadn’t had a day off since Portland, Oregon), the swampy Gulf Coast summer heat and humidity are oppressive, and let’s face it, they’re not spring chickens anymore. Or, I thought, maybe they’ll come in here with rock-star attitudes, like it’s beneath them to play this postage-stamp sized stage in this crappy little venue, so they’ll do the bare minimum and bail. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Demolition Man, Mantas and Abaddon looked fresh, energized, and truly happy to be onstage playing for the good people of New Orleans. They smiled, frequently made eye contact and interacted with the people upfront, and gave us 19 songs and 80+ minutes of undiluted power, consummate performances, and merciless might.
The results were simply awesome to behold. A die-hard Venom maniac from the old days like me would be in heaven with this setlist: a whopping seven songs from ‘Welcome to Hell,’ another half dozen from ‘Black Metal,’ four single tracks, and two overlooked gems from the Tony Dolan era. I got to hear my two favorite Venom songs, “The 7 Gates of Hell” and “Bloodlust.” Other highlights were the frenetic “Witching Hour,” the slow but intense “Buried Alive,” my favorite Dolan-era tune, “Blackened are the Priests,” and the blistering encore of “Black Metal” and “Countess Bathory.” All of them sounded fantastic, with the bald, tattooed, multiple Venom-patched vest-wearing Demolition Man’s malevolent voice cutting clearly through the din and the ponytailed, shades-wearing Mantas (as always, perched in the center of the stage with one foot on the monitor) playing his ass off, while Abaddon (also in shades) beat the hell out of his kit and poured Jack Daniels everywhere, including occasionally in his mouth. Also, I loved the delivery of the lurching “Warhead.” Whenever it came time for the song’s title to be sung/roared, the band lurched to a stop and Mantas would pantomime / exhort / lead the crowd in screaming WAAARRRHHHHEAAAAADDDDD at full volume, then the band would kick back in. It was very effective and very cool.
A few notes/observations from the evening: If the band were no worse for wear from their long tour, the same cannot be said of their gear. Dolan’s mike stand was literally held together by duct tape. In the middle of their set, the tape failed and the mike stand toppled to the floor mid-song, prompting the roadie to walk over calmly, pick up the stand, and duct tape it back together. The band kept playing, and never missed a beat. Demolition Man’s stage raps may have been mostly canned, but they were still awesome. He introduced “Don’t Burn the Witch” by saying it seemed appropriate to play this song in the land of Voodoo. Before “Leave Me in Hell,” he said we had a beautiful city in a beautiful state and a beautiful country, and he wished he could stay here. The “Poison” intro was quite amusing because Dolan said that no matter how great a girl is, no matter how much your parents love her or your friends are envious of you for having her, she’s always got a little bit of poison in her. Then there was “Sons of Satan,” which drew an impassioned cry from Dolan that we must never forget that “this band is your band” and “this music is your music.” Mantas later chimed in that we fans are the best thing about the music industry. So there was a lot of love in the room, dark evil trappings notwithstanding. Oh, and speaking of love, a complete stranger standing next to me offered to buy me a beer in the middle of their set because he saw me singing all the words and knew I must love Venom as much as he does. Thanks, brother. And remember that violent moshpit I mentioned? There was a kid in a wheelchair whose mother had wheeled him right near the front of the stage before Venom started playing. Bad idea. There was no way for the kid to extricate himself from the pit, and it looked like he was gonna get killed in there. The band’s one roadie saw the situation, so he waded into the pit, lifted the kid’s wheelchair up and deposited him gently in a corner of the small stage, where he remained for the rest of the night, beaming, with the best view in the house. Mantas did not object to this encroachment on his tiny corner of the stage; to the contrary, he kept going over to the kid during solo parts and jamming with him with a big smile on his face. The kid’ll probably remember that forever. And hey, it sure beats dying in a bloodthirsty moshpit, right?
I felt like I witnessed something really special tonight. This was a legendary band, playing legendary songs, in a tiny little venue mere inches away from me. To hell with age and exhaustion and the ravages of time. They played great, sounded great, looked great, and seemed 100% from the heart. I can’t imagine how any gig this year could possibly surpass Venom Inc.’s triumphant performance in Siberia. It was that good.
Setlist: Welcome to Hell, Angel Dust, Don’t Burn the Witch, Leave Me in Hell, Blackened Are the Priests, Carnivorous, Buried Alive, Raise the Dead, 7 Gates of Hell, In Nomine Satanas, Bloodlust, Poison, One Thousand Days in Sodom, Live Like an Angel, Warhead, Sons of Satan, Witching Hour. Encores: Black Metal, Countess Bathory.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~