KING DIAMOND – Welcome Home, Sanitarium!

November 12, 2019, a month ago

Mark Gromen

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Apart from being a diehard fan, rarely do concert tours warrant a second look, especially when covered from a journalistic perspective. However, after witnessing King Diamond at Summer Breeze, in August, couldn't wait to see the spectacle again. That opportunity came, a week after Halloween (how fitting!) at the venerable Tower Theater (originally a 1920s movie theater) in Philly. Upper Darby, actually. With only a slight juggling of the running order, it was essentially the same show as last summer, in Germany, complete with a single introduction to the forthcoming The Institute album, "Masquerade Of Madness" and, sadly, no Mercyful Fate nuggets. 

If you go to the Tower, you have to pre-game at the well-worn Waterford Inn (literally THE only place around). If you can stand the hip-hop music on the jukebox, there's happy hour til 6:30, seven days a week. A bottle of Yuengling is just $2! The downside is, this space that time forgot, still allows smoking, indoors! Time for the show...

The stage is an elaborate three tiered affair. On the ground floor, there's an ominous, heavy steel door to cell number 9. Either end of the stage, there's a staircase. A female back-up singer and the drummer are housed on the second level. To open the show, King is laying on a hospital gurney, an IV hanging overhead. He rises, throws a big circuit breaker/electrical switch and grabs his crossed bones mic from the wall, as "The Candle" commences. Playing a little air guitar on his trademark mic, "Behind These Walls" sees Philly's own Jodi Cachia (aka 'Grandma') in a nun's habit (a role reprised towards the tail end of the show). Two songs later (the red/purple lit "A Mansion In Darkness") she descend the staircase, lantern in hand. For much of the night, an almost persistent fog wisps around the stage. 

King wisely opted to have the funeral for Abigail within the first three songs, so photographers can capture the festivities. Figures in monastic robes, with hoods/cowls deliver a coffin emblazoned with the girl's name. The King produces a knife and doll and after a bit of teasing, takes care of the "problem," raising the impaled youngster overhead and dropping her into the coffin to the delight of the audience! Jungle drums herald a blue/red lit "Voodoo". Jodi pretends to be in a trance, kneeling before King, center stage. Prior to the copper illuminated "Halloween", King introduces the band beginning with Cachia: "Here's one of your own, Philly!" When it comes to his long-time guitarist, Andy LaRoque, the corpse painted vocalist says, "No introduction is necessary." The roar of approval proves he's correct. Come the song, King urges the crowd to sing the titular chorus.

Newbie, "Masquerade Of Madness" had been officially released just days before (although clips from earlier dates on this tour were posted online, prior to that) and showcases his falsetto. The stage empties as pre-recorded "Out From The Asylum" intermezzo heralds the arrival of Grandma, who is wheeled out, stage right, under blue lights. In the brief interlude, the instrumentalists have vacated to the 2nd floor. The blue/green hued "Welcome Home" has Grandma wobble across the stage, utilizing a cane that she menacingly aims at the taunting crowd. King helps escort the senior citizen. Blue tinged "Sleepless Nights" has King return to the third floor (attic?). Mike Wead plays a pole mounted acoustic guitar. "Ready to go WAY back," Kings ask, prior to proper set closer "The Lake", from his '86 Fatal Portrait debut. Appropriately, the stage was colored aqua. A crucifix wielding nun is no match for King Diamond, banishing the "do gooder" from the stage. 

Stage goes black one final time, awaiting the encore. There's minimal lighting on each floor and omnipresent stage fog, hinting they're not done yet. Under pink lights, King strolls onstage, followed by the band, announcing, 'This one's called 'Burn'". LaRoque has switched to his guitar with the Abigail cover art paint job. At the top of the truss is a violinist, in white dress, fiddling away. As King ascends the stairs, yellow and orange lights flicker beneath the poor girl's feet, as smoke begins to raise. It's supposed to look like she's being burned at the stake. When he finally reaches her spot, there's nothing left by a smoldering trail of smoke. The "Black Horsemen" finale (permanently dedicated to former Mercyful Fate/King Diamond bass player Timi Hansen, on his passing last week), begins with a lone, spotlighted LaRoque trying out the aforementioned acoustic. When the lights come up, there's King, with a black dressed and "pregnant" Cachia in the stage's rafters. In the course of the song, she works her way downstairs, but is ultimately hauled off by the same hooded henchmen who delivered the casket. The show ends with King toying with each of the guitarists and then thanking the crowd. No big, explosive show stopper, just acknowledging the fans.

Can't wait to hear the new music and have him hit the road again. Until then, there's the Mercyful Fate reunion tour. Enjoy!

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