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Steve Hammer

Zakk Wylde's Black Label Society

The Vogue

Tuesday, Nov. 8

The line outside the Vogue for Tuesday's Zakk Wylde show snaked south nearly a block on College, and the people in the line were quite unlike the venue's normal dance-club patrons. In fact, it was a time warp. In a neighborhood that caters almost exclusively now to college-age drinkers and dancers, the sight of leather-jacketed, long-haired heavy metal fans in Broad Ripple was stunning.

You don't get drunken beer-metal at the Vogue very often, and the venue was probably close to its capacity of 432 people, many of whom drove hours to see the show.

Heavy metal fans follow their heroes the same way NASCAR fans do. Each performer has a loyal army of followers who insist their man is the best, while to outsiders, there appears to be little difference between any of them.

But Zakk Wylde, a former axman for Ozzy Osbourne, showed why his fanbase is so large: his music. There was no pyro, no fog machines, no strobe lights at Wylde's show. What there was, however, was extremely proficient guitar work, piercing vocals and a tribal drum sound, all of which combined for a very pleasing evening's entertainment.

Wylde is the kind of guitarist who's liable to break out into a 10-minute guitar solo while his bandmates towel off backstage. And he did so several times on Tuesday, but each solo was well-played and tight, not rambling and meaningless like most epic solos are.

Playing a mix of classics and newer songs, Wylde remained, like his mentor Ozzy, an entertainer first and foremost. He didn't waste time between songs; he didn't pander to the audience; he just shut up and played his guitar for 90 minutes-plus.

Having been born again recently, he did make several appeals to his audience to keep God first in their hearts, and when he left the stage, he pointed skyward in tribute. Whether the tribute was meant for the Big Guy, for his murdered friend "Dimebag" Darrell from Pantera or the late Randy Rhoads, who inspired Wylde's sound, is anyone's guess.

Whomever he was praising, Wylde set the standard high for other drunken beer-metal acts to follow. Metal can still draw people away from their TVs, while mainstream rock struggles to do so. Maybe this means more metal in the Ripple. If so, that would be a very good thing.