@ Newcastle 02 Academy, February 18 2011

Right from the moment tickets went on sale, Rob Zombie’s much anticipated return to the UK was marked down as the must-see rock event of 2011.

When, finally, expectation and excitement gave way to a juggernaut of visual treats and lyrical twists it became clear the 12-year wait was worth it.

If squeezing the full US production into a rammed Academy had proved beyond the main man and his agitated crew then what was on offer was more than enough. Goading the frenzied masses with tales of triumphant sets in Brixton and Manchester wasn’t the greatest way to strike a chord early doors but then Zombie was never meant to be nice.

Once he’d had his irksome moan about the ‘tiny’ stage it was down to business for the heir apparent to Alice Cooper’s coveted shock rock crown. And business was good.

Mixing the theatrical nous of the Coop, Maiden, and Slipknot to create a landscape of evil, violence , exploitation and horror this was everything an overblown metal show should be. Some of the songs might be laughable on a basic level but so what? Zombie doesn’t do deep and meaningful – this was all about living for the moment.

A whirlwind of energy, passion and perfect delivery, the man himself is the ultimate performer. Yet bringing the sublime Joey Jordison along for the ride, elevating the Slipknot stixman on a platform towering above the stage, added an extra layer to an engaging show. Always well worth the admission money alone, the tub thumper was in imperious form on an incredible night of rhythmic power and aural precision.

So what of the songs? Conceived in Zombie’s horror-obsessed mind, the lyrics are as shallow as they are shocking and yet somehow that works. Few bands (bar Steel Panther) would contemplate singing the line Pussy Liquor (clever if you’re 14) beyond the confines of their own back room but this is no ordinary band.

Sick Bubblegum, Mars Needs Women and Werewolf Women Of The SS, culled from the fabulous comeback album Hellbilly Deluxe II, are all too ridiculous for words. And yet Zombie’s direction and delivery meant every song seemed bizarrely relevant to a brainwashed crowd baying for more.

This was a night when inhibitions were lost, fantasies realised and the serious side of rock, for 90 minutes at least, long forgotten. Whether lapping up the familiar refrain of Living Dead Girl or dancing along to the anthemic Dragula, the Zombie army was in raptures.

Maybe this wasn’t the show we had waited 12 years for but it was still way beyond our wildest dreams. Zombie might have left the bulk of his kit on the back of a lorry but once the driving force was in full flow the gimmicks were always going to be secondary. Start counting down to Download now!

Simon Rushworth