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GWAR: Lost On Stage

GWAR has perfected a formula that gives the core audience of its live shows exactly what they want a heavy metal soundtrack to serve as a backdrop for the controlled chaos of moshing, crowd surfing and a shower of goo. But the band's Dec. 10 show at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., was missing some vital ingredients and GWAR seemed lost in its own fictional world.

In the past, the band had a unique knack for skewering (pun intended) pop culture personalities and current events figures. The not-so-subtle social satire provided its own unique brand of entertainment away from the madness of the pit. But the 9:30 Club performance was more about the GWAR mythos rather than taking pot shots at current figures.

Conceptually, the staging of this tour followed along with GWAR's latest album, Lust in Space. The story featured the five alien members of the band trying to escape their prison on Earth after 25 years of touring. This is where the whole show fell flat though, as it allowed little breathing room to bring in the social commentary that typically makes GWAR an entertaining live act.

To be fair, the band did try to include those elements. One of two moments of taking out a public figure on stage came with the mock beheading of President Barack Obama during the introduction of the band's encore opener, "Bring Back the Bomb." Given the song choice and the recent escalation of troops in Afghanistan juxtaposed with the President's winning of the Nobel Peace Prize, the potential for a brilliant moment was apparent.

What was delivered, however, was an uninspired shtick of the leader of the free world trying to give lead singer Oderus Urungus a medal. The other bit of social satire involved a tired parody of Michael Jackson and a space baby that felt forced rather than a natural evolution of the "story" being told on stage.

There also was some vocal discontent throughout the performance regarding the poor play of the National Football League's Washington Redskins (including an audience participation moment against team owner Daniel Snyder), but that moment would have been better served with a stage mutilation of him by Oderus (played by founding member Dave Brockie, a die-hard 'Skins fan) rather than just stage banter throughout the show.

On the actual performance, the band played its usual tight set. But Oderus appeared unwilling to sing. Rather, he just mumbled in pitch, with the only recognizable words coming during chorus sections. This was another disappointment, considering GWAR generally has satirical and amusing lyrics that fit perfectly with the characters it creates.

Clearly though, none of this mattered to those in the pit, whose praise was overheard in the aftermath of the carnage. In that regard, GWAR once again delivered a satisfying performance to the core of its ticket-buying public. But for those looking for something more, all they got was a band resting on its laurels without offering the social commentary that typified shows in the past.

GWAR (with Job for a Cowboy and The Red Chord)
Dec. 10, 2009
9:30 Club
Washington, D.C.

- Gregory Twachtman

Copyright 2009, Brian Heaton. All Rights Reserved.