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All hail King Diamond: He rules metal at Fun Fun Fun set

Sharon Chapman

We’ve had Andy O’Connor embedded at the Black Stage all Fun Fun Fun. His take on one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend (read his preview piece on King Diamond, too):

Judas Priest may be more of the household name, but King Diamond was by far the most hotly anticipated of the Black Stage at Fun Fun Fun Fest. Some fans waited their entire lives — or at least since 2005, which was when King last toured the States — to see him. Austin fans saw the Instagram photos and tweets from his shows in the rest of the country, and they wanted in. There was a corpse paint booth set up during the day, for the sole purpose of not just looking like King, but getting in the mood. His performance Saturday night validated years of anticipation from his fans.

Once the opening haunted-house synths of “The Candle” came roaring through the park, the collective excitement could have broken even the most congested of I-35 gridlocks. For the first few songs, an iron fence was set up in front of the stage, and people lost their minds when King would peek out and lean his microphone, supported by a cross made of bones, to bask in the uproar. The rest of the stage was a sight to behold, especially the giant glowing pentagram in the middle. When King was perched on the top riser, he was even more glorious. King did not skimp on the theatrical presentation, bringing out the “Grandma” character from the “Them” record, and later staged a mock cremation for her onstage. His annoyance and hatred for her carried a spooky snark, showing that he takes this all seriously, but taking it seriously included cracking a few jokes. Admittedly, one of those jokes included the (mild) Texas weather, where he invited “Grandma” for a cup of “Tea.” Unlike the beverage from the song, it was probably not laced with blood. Another small moment of brilliance was when King threw his chalice toward Matt Thompson, his Denton-based drummer, and the drummer knocked it out without missing a beat. Intentional or not, it was amazing. King brings a theatricality that isn’t seen much in metal anymore. Most of this is because bands don’t play huge stages like the one at Fun Fun Fun, but frankly, no one can even come close to King’s flair.

King’s vocal range is his triumph and trademark, and few could even think to rival him. That didn’t stop the audience from attempting to match him, and this was especially true during the two Mercyful Fate songs played that night, “Evil” and “Come to the Sabbath.” Those songs also served as a proper break in the middle, as the rest of the set consisted of solo material. “Sabbath” and “Evil” were more straightforward but no less demonic, which really seemed to resonate with the crowd. And while Halloween was last weekend, that didn’t make “Halloween” any less appropriate. In fact, it served as the true Halloween for fans who chose to stay home instead of checking out the tacky costumes on Sixth Street. King may have roasted his grandmother onstage, but he wouldn’t be caught dead in an Ebola costume.

He was, and always will be, the star of the show. Let’s hope this show, and this entire tour, will blossom into at least a small renaissance for guitarist Andy LaRocque. He’s been King’s not-quite-secret weapon for years, his gift for melody driving the macabre stories into true fruition. Hearing the opening riff from “The Family Ghost,” one of the encores, was even more righteous coming from his own hands. He and Mike Wead traded off each other beautifully, their chemistry really sending the whole night to heaven, which is likely hell. LaRocque should be talked about in the same reverence as many of the ’80s guitar heroes. Alas, history is not that kind.

There are those who chose to see Modest Mouse instead. But we will not speak of them.