King Diamond came to Chicago for “The Institute North American Tour.”
Date: Monday, Nov. 18, 2019
Place: The Riviera Theatre (4746 N. Racine Avenue; Chicago, Illinois 60640)
Ticket price: $56.54 (after all taxes and fees)
The tour started on Nov. 2 in Dallas, Texas and will run through Dec. 4 in Phoenix, Arizona for a total of 23 shows. King Diamond will be releasing a new album in 2020 called “The Institute.” They recently put out a new single from the upcoming album called “Masquerade of Madness” that’s a really good song. The band’s last album was in 2007 with “Give Me Your Soul…Please” so it’s been a long time since they put out new music. I’ve never seen King Diamond (either the band or the man) so I couldn’t miss this show. Seeing him was on my bucket list.
I put King Diamond the singer up there with Rob Halford, Ronnie James Dio and Bruce Dickinson as one of the best vocalists ever in metal. I love King Diamond’s falsetto style of singing in Mercyful Fate and his later band named after him. I actually haven’t gotten that deep into King Diamond’s catalog but the first two Mercyful Fate albums are tremendous. I have listened to “Fatal Portrait” a lot, which is the 1986 debut album of King Diamond. The “Abigail” album from 1987 still sounds fresh today and is such a fantastic album. It doesn’t sounded dated at all.
I completely missed Idle Hands, who were the opening band. They must have played a super short set or started earlier than what was advertised. The doors were supposed to open at 6 p.m. with the show starting at 7 p.m. I got to the concert area inside the building just before 7:30 and the Uncle Acid crew were already setting up for the set. Idle Hands are a newer band from Portland, Oregon that just formed in 2017. I checked out some of their songs leading up to the show and liked their sound, so I was interested in seeing them live. It sucks I missed them. That’s one of the drawbacks to a weekday concert is that I’m just getting back from work by the time the doors are opening.
By the time I got to the Riviera at around 7:20 the place was completely packed. I was kind of surprised how many people were there because it was a Monday night. The capacity for the building listed online is 2,500 people but it seemed like there were even more there than that. That night was only my second time seeing a show at the Riveria. I saw Sleep there last August, which was a pretty amazing concert. Before heading into the stage area I checked out the merchandise near the entrance of the building. The prices were pretty expensive. The King Diamond shirts were going for $35 each, with the XXL and larger sized shirts going for $40. That’s over my price limit for a t-shirt. There were a lot of people lined up buying merchandise though. Even before the second band started the entire concert area was stacked. The Riviera is an awesome place to see a concert because it’s essentially an old theater with a second floor that has additional seating. On the ground level there’s a floor area near the stage and behind that is an elevated platform where people can stand in direct line of the bands.
Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats were really good. They started around 7:46. Apparently the singer said they were having some technical problems but I don’t know to what extent. They still sounded pretty good live. I haven’t listened to Uncle Acid much before this show. They played eight songs during their set. I was a bit further back from the stage for Uncle Acid since I got to the show late but I still had a great view. Uncle Acid does the trippy and fuzzy Black Sabbath-styled sound. The riffing and guitar solos sounded great live. The bass player was really animated and rocking out hard during the set. They had this big video screen behind them constantly playing these cool art designs or different images during each song. I think the first two songs they did were “I’ll Cut You Down” and “Shockwave City.” These songs sounded killer live.
The fifth song “Pusher Man” had a great guitar solo near the end of it. It sounded so good live. Th next song “Evil Love” was great too. It had this upbeat riffing and drumming contrasted with these darker lyrics. It’s a fantastic live song. The final two songs in the set were pretty tight too. I think one of them was “Ritual Knife,” which has a few awesome riffs going along with the drumming. I liked Uncle Acid a lot in the live setting. The band ended their set at around 8:31.
Watch Uncle Acid perform “Blood Runner”:
I did get a bit closer to the stage after Uncle Acid played. There still wasn’t a lot of room to maneuver around though. Most people stayed in the same place after Uncle Acid were finished. The floor area was jam packed. I was basically squished next to the people standing around me. There were people in the crowd wearing King Diamond-inspired face paint that was cool to see. I managed to get to like the seventh or eight row of people from the stage, so I was closer than I was for Uncle Acid. They had this real cool stage set for King Diamond, which had a lower level with stairs leading up to a second and third floor. The drum set was on the second floor with King sometimes going all the way up to the third floor as he sang.
King Diamond were incredible. It was one of better live performances I’ve seen. They do a great act on stage mixed in with some small theatrical performances before and during some songs. The band played 11 songs in their main set and two encores. Before coming out the 1972 song “The Wizard” by Uriah Heep played with the lights dimmed on stage at around 9:09 p.m. King Diamond and the band came out a few minutes later. King Diamond was wheeled out on like a psychiatric ward bed and was doing an act leading up to the band playing. They started with “The Candle” from Fatal Portrait, which is actually a pretty great show opener because of the song’s haunting intro that leads into King Diamond doing this humming-styled singing. King had his signature bone cross microphone with him to sing that night. The next song they played was “Behind These Walls” from 1990’s “The Eye,” which is a real cool song. During the set there was a woman doing backup vocals on the second floor of the stage set.
Before going into “Arrival” from Abigail, King did a small performance after two hooded men brought what looked like a casket labeled “Abigail” out on stage. King took a doll-like figure out from the casket and stabbed it with a knife while I think reciting the dialogue from the opening track “Funeral” on that album. When the band started playing Arrival a big mosh pit broke out on the floor right next to me. People were going nuts. Everyone in the surrounding area was getting pushed around. I actually wasn’t expecting much of a pit to get going because King Diamond is more in that heavy metal style instead of something faster like thrash or death metal but I was totally wrong.
Check out this brief clip of King Diamond performing “Halloween”:
King himself sounded fantastic the whole night, who is still killing it at 63 years old. Considering he had triple bypass heart surgery in 2010 and has been doing this over 40 years, his voice sounds incredible. He also subsequently stopped smoking after his health issues, which has apparantly helped keep his voice improved and still sounding great, according to King. His stage presence is fantastic too. He has this larger than life aura about him, especially with the “character,” makeup and overal look he has during a show. Arrival is one of my favorite King Diamond songs. I love his vocal delivery on that track. It sounded amazing in person. The fourth song they did was “A Mansion in the Darkness” that’s also from Abigail. King sounded fantastic on this song too. They played “Voodoo” from the 1998 album of the same name. During the song they had a woman dancing on stage as King did a bit of a performance again as he sang. Afterwards King introduced the whole band and then went into “Halloween” from Fatal Portrait. It’s one of the classic King Diamond songs and sounded amazing live. Everyone from the band to the crowd got into the song.
When Halloween started playing, some big guy wearing a Type O Negative shirt who was probably in his early 20s walked into the pit holding a beer up in his hand and starting getting down. I was waiting for him to spill the beer all over but he kept everything together for several seconds and then chugged it when the pit started getting more involved. Later in the set he came back with another beer and got back into the pit doing the same thing. It was hilarious and pretty impressive to see. The dude was built like a linebacker and was just going heavy in the pit. I think it’s one of those cases where somebody doesn’t actually know their own size and how bad he’s shoving people around but it looked like he had a great time.
The whole band sounded extremely tight. Andy LaRocque is so good on guitar, whose been with the King Diamond band since the start over 30 years ago. This show is one of the first times I noticed the problem with people on their cell phones trying to constantly record stuff during the King Diamond set. Usually it’s never a problem but there were just so many phones out in the front rows that I actually couldn’t see the stage at certain points. I’m a hypocrite because I do take pictures and videos too but I try to do it where I’m not blocking someone’s view the entire time. It was distracting at certain points with so many phones up in the air.
After playing Halloween, King talked about the new song they just released before going into Masquerade of Madness. I like this new song a lot. The song’s main riff and King’s vocals are a great combination. I like the chorus a lot too. During the song they had a woman under this metal mask with her hair in pig tails wearing a white gown walking around lost on stage. King did some theatrics by bringing the girl down from the second floor and locking her behind the mental ward room on the ground area.
They went into “Welcome Home” from “Them,” the band’s third album released in 1988. King Diamond singing about this insane grandmother was awesome to see. During the song there was a woman dressed as this exaggerated grandmother wearing a mask in a wheelchair, like something out of a horror film. The crowd got really into the song. People were singing along with the chorus. Grandma caused a big mosh pit during this song too. “Invisible Guests” from Them followed that, another song telling a story about this grandmother’s haunted home. I loved King’s vocal delivery on this song, especially in the live setting. Invisible Guests had another big pit going with it. The crazy grandma was also walking around the stage set during this song.
Watch King Diamond perform “The Invisible Guests”:
“Sleepless Nights” from their fourth album “Conspiracy” (1989) sounded fantastic live. King absolutely nailed all the vocals. The guitar playing sounded phenomal live too. “The Lake” was the next song they played, which sounded like it was right off the Fatal Portrait album. It really impressed me. That’s how good King Diamond still sounds. Before the song started King asked if we were all ready to go back, way back. It’s actually pretty crazy how awesome The Lake was live and how fantastic it still sounds after over 30 years. After the song was over the band temporarily left the stage then came back to play “Burn” from The Eye. Burn was an awesome live song that has another great riff and vocal delivery combination from King. The last song King Diamond played was “Black Horsemen” from Abigail, with LaRocque playing the acoustic intro. They dedicated the song to Timi Hansen, the original Mercyful Fate and King Diamond bassist who died earlier this month from cancer at 61 years old. It was a nice tribute and the song was great live. They ended their set at around 10:30 and got a big reaction from the crowd afterwards.
Some guy had this smaller pizza truck and was selling boxes in the front of the building after the show. It was from some local place but I didn’t catch the name. That’s actually a great idea. A lot of people outside were eating from the pizza boxes so I’m sure the guy made some bank that night.
This King Diamond show is up there as one of my favorites. The band sounded so good live. I thought all the added effects, like the stage set up and acting during the show, brought a lot to the performance and theme of the songs.