Corrosion of Conformity
Gramercy Theatre, New York, NY
March 1st, 2012
Concert Review: Corrosion of Conformity at the Gramercy Theatre
The same week their self-titled eighth studio album would be released, North Carolina’s Corrosion of Conformity kicked off their string of highly anticipated dates on Thursday night at Manhattan’s Gramercy Theatre. Regarded as pioneers for legendarily crossing over from the hardcore and punk genres to a southern, bluesy metal style, credited as an innovation of their own, the band’s hour long set served as a history lesson on a catalog of music that spans about 30 years. And despite several major lineup overhauls of the years, the trio of original musicians that put Corrosion of Conformity on the map was back in New York City, playing as loud and as fast as they ever have.
Corrosion of Conformity (COC) formed in the early 1980’s, when lightning fast punk and thrash were in their infancies. As the band matured, they evolved away from albums comprised of twenty short songs, slowing down a bit and focusing on bluesier riffs and catchier heavy songs, moving into a realm of hard rock and heavy metal which they themselves carved out. The addition of Louisiana guitarist Pepper Keenan in 1989 would eventually fill out a lineup that would bring the band their greatest success. Aside from 1991’s “Blind,” on which Keenan was featured but barely sang, the release of 1994’s “Deliverance” would prove to be the band’s most acclaimed record to date on the heels of singles “Albatross” and “Clean My Wounds,” and featuring Keenan on lead vocals. Although 1996’s “Wiseblood,” 2000’s “America’s Volume Dealer,” and even 2005’s “In the Arms of God” failed to achieve the same commercial appeal, each was lauded critically and should be required listening for any exploratory fans of rock music.
With Keenan committed to supergroup side project Down, COC took on a brief hiatus before officially reforming in 2010 and spending much of 2011 doing some light touring and recording their latest album. Thursday night, the stage was set for a rejuvenated group of older rock misfits to sort through their extensive catalog and mix in songs old and new for a hungry City crowd. Just before the lights dimmed down, the band’s new banner was lifted high behind the stage on display with the emblazoned Corrosion of Conformity signature skull logo, illuminated in purple behind a black light.
Wiseblood’s “Bottom Feeder” was an ideal choice to open the show, because in so many ways, the song embodies everything that is great about the band. Understated and calculating, Mike Dean’s hauntingly slow bass line rhythmically joins Reed Mullin’s light drums, before Woody Weatherman’s guitar shreds a slithering, catchy riff and the entire band collaborates together at once in a wonderful instrumental synchronization of sound. It’s easy to see that the trio of longtime friends are just happy to be onstage together, playing the music that they grew up creating, as the small but feisty crowd looked on, screaming out old school COC songs that they demanded to be played.
The band seemed willing to oblige, mixing in songs from every lineup iteration. Ancient hardcore tunes like 1985’s “Loss for Words” and “Holier” joined hits like “Vote With A Bullet,” “Deliverance” and new tracks like “Rat City,” “Your Tomorrow,” “The Doom,” and “The Moneychangers” to pace out a set, that strangely blended together quite well. Dean filled in capably as frontman, with the supporting vocals of Mullin on drums. But watching Weatherman slow dance with his squealing guitar onstage was the most entertaining portion of the show. The burly guitarist, swayed back and forth onstage, often shaking off each of his hands from playing so intensely. In boots and a red button down sleeveless shirt, the bearded axeman shredded solo after solo on his beaten up white guitar, looking right at home up there as if he was playing for just a few friends in his own backyard. The band even teased a few seconds of “Albatross” and “Seven Days” to re-energize their already anxious fans.
As the final notes of “Technocracy” (1987 EP) finished, the band just as quickly as they came, left the stage, thanking the crowd amid little fanfare. Older now and grayer than before, perhaps Corrosion of Conformity has become a band that has found some perspective on their careers, since it’s obvious that they’re at peace. Returning to their roots as a three piece act was not a necessity for the band, but something they wanted to do for their fans. And as such, the buzz surrounding their throwback lineup has been greater than perhaps even when they emerged on an unsuspecting music scene some three decades ago. While the door is certainly open for Keenan to return to the band and retake his role as frontman, Corrosion of Conformity is doing just fine thus far without him.
LocalBozo.com sat down with bassist and vocalist Mike Dean backstage prior to the show at New York City’s Gramercy Theatre. Check out our exclusive interview with one of the founders of Corrosion of Conformity on his thoughts on playing in New York City, the absence of Pepper Keenan, the new album, and what’s in store for COC in 2012.
- Jane Van Arsdale