Chris Holmes @Newcastle Trillians, June 22 2023
Holmes is where the heart is for a generation of W.A.S.P. fans and a key member of the US band’s classic line-up rolled into Tyneside promising a typically raucous show.
In fact, the self-styled Mean Man was in joyously generous mood as he treated the Trillians massive to a skull-crushing set of steel-plated heavy metal.
At 65 years young this gentle giant of the genre has overcome alcohol addiction, cancer and more to breathe new life into a storied back catalogue.
And minutes after the show, sat in the dressing room with the roar of the crowd still ringing in his ears, his only regret was that the band couldn’t play on…and on.
Chris Holmes might have become a caricature of himself back in the days when his drinking was out of control and his boss always demanded more.
But the days when Lita Ford’s ex agreed to ill-fated poolside interviews and found himself ruled by Blackie Lawless’s infamous rod of iron are long gone.
This defiant tour — laughing in the face of advancing years and serious illness — is a powerful step up from the last time Holmes and his hired hands hit the road across the UK.
The songs are tighter, the banter’s better and there’s a liberating sense of freedom and fun.
In 2023 Holmes is just as much the lean man as the Mean Man.
And it’s testimony to his determination and drive that, just 16 months after he was diagnosed with throat and neck cancer, the über cool Californian is very much alive and kicking.
Resisting the demand to dig too deep into his former band’s back catalogue, Holmes chose quality over quantity when mining W.A.S.P.’s legacy.
Bullish opener On Your Knees, deep cut Sleeping (In The Fire), from the band’s 1984 debut, and L.O.V.E. Machine paced the early part of a rapid-fire set.
The tale of Lawless following party animal Holmes around The Lone Star State before penning Blind In Texas always warrants a fresh retelling.
And a furious version of that bone fide mid 80s classic preceded high-octane versions of Wild Child and Animal (Fuck Like A Beast).
Sharing vocal duties throughout with Canadian bassist Chuck Lambert, Holmes truly hit his stride showcasing the best of 2021’s solo offering Unbearable Influences.
And perhaps it’s time to reassess that underground return to form.
Egged on by a reassuringly demonic Stephen Jackson, killing it behind the kit in front of friends and family, Holmes nailed I Am What I Am and The Devil Made Me Do It.
Heartbreak Remedy’s drummer has been a reliable constant within a revolving doors line-up during the last four years.
And it’s little wonder Holmes holds the canny Cumbrian in the highest regard.
Classic covers Born To Be Wild, Fortunate Son, Rockin’ In The Free World and Highway To Hell — featuring an incredible guest vocal from a pumped-up punter plucked from the crowd — set the seal on a sensational set.
In truth, W.A.S.P. lost the sting in its tail the day Lawless parted company with Holmes.
But the latter’s Born Work Die mantra means the man behind the band’s classic riffs is going nowhere fast.