In his pseudo-review of the Philadelphia stop of Black Sabbath's current tour, Victor Fiorillo of The Philly Post called Andrew W.K. "the worst opener imaginable." He backed his theory with tweets from fellow attendees who were inexplicably angry about his DJ set. I'm here to refute that statement.
I, for one, cannot imagine Andrew W.K. being anything less than entertaining in a live setting, even with something as potentially uncomfortable as DJ gig. This is the guy who lives and breathes the power of positive partying. I had to see it for myself to judge, so I caught the next stop of the tour, at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, MA on August 12th.
Andrew spent the opening 45 minutes of the show spinning music atop a platform emblazoned with a large, 3D version of the iconic, bloody-nosed artwork from his debut album, I Get Wet. It was essentially a louder version of the intermission music, with Andrew introducing the songs and pressing play. It was a bit strange, no doubt, but it was in good fun.
To keep things interesting, Andrew was armed with a T-shirt cannon and a few Black Sabbath shirts, along with Black Sabbath-branded beach balls for the audience to bat around. To keep himself occupied, he occasionally played air guitar or air drums, banged his head, pumped his fists and sang backing vocals - the same things the members of the crowd (those who were not yelling for him to get off the stage, at least) were doing.
He played classic rock and heavy metal tunes from such artists as Led Zeppelin, Metallica, Judas Priest, AC/DC, Slayer, Deep Purple, Motorhead and more. He could have sneaked in a few non-metal songs for diversity, just as easily as he could have played one of his own songs for shameless self-promotion. Instead, he played to the audience's taste. He even took suggestions on Twitter and Facebook before the show, including the Misfits at my request.
Sure, I would much rather have seen a full-band Andrew W.K. show, or even a solo performance (essentially Andrew singing karaoke to his own songs, which is much more exciting in person than it sounds). And yeah, it would have been nice to see an up-and-coming band given an opening slot or a semi-established act to bring in a wider audience. But, frankly, when you're the most influential metal band of all time, you don't need an opener.
Black Sabbath personally selected Andrew to open with a DJ set. He's the ideal choice, really. Not only did he play on Ozzfest back in 2002, but he's also known for his high energy and positivity. I'd be hard-pressed to name a better candidate to hype an audience and set the mood for a show (or any event, for that matter) than Andrew W.K.
As for Sabbath, their set showcased why they're the best metal band. Ozzy Osbourne's voice may be a bit flat these days, but the Prince of Darkness has more spirit than any 64 year old I've ever seen. Tony Iommi's guitar riffs are even more massive live, while Geezer Butler's bass tone sounded as great as ever. Although Bill Ward was missed, touring drummer Tommy Clufetos (of Ozzy's solo band) proved to be a suitable fill in, including an impressive drum solo. The band played two solid hours of classics with some new songs and deep cuts sprinkled in.
Is Andrew W.K. the worst opener imaginable? No way! He's not even the worst opener Black Sabbath has ever had. (Let's not forget that Crazy Town shared the stage with with metal legends on Ozzfest 2001.) Although the DJ gig certainly wasn't the ideal display, and I'm sure he'd have preferred a regular performance as well, Andrew W.K. made the most of an awkward situation and, true to his form, partied hard.