King Diamond’s decades-long career shines through at House of Blues

A few thoughts on King Diamond’s fantastic show at the House of Blues on Saturday.

That voice. King Diamond’s inimitable falsetto is one of heavy metal’s most enduring trademarks, right up there with studded leather and refused trips to the barber. Though Diamond is nearing 60 and has had health issues in recent years, his voice remains as powerful and distinctive as ever, still one of the genre’s most awesome instruments. He tested the heights of his upper register early and often, howling into his bone-festooned microphone like it was 1984 all over again.

Those songs. Diamond’s 15-song set list was a heavy metal history lesson. He opened with “The Candle,” the haunting first song from his debut solo record, 1986’s “Fatal Portrait,” and from there, mostly mined the first half of his career, with two tunes of more recent vintage (a storming “Never Ending Hill,” a sinister “The Puppet Master”). There were plenty of stand-outs, namely a pair of “Conspiracy” songs, (the equally moody and operatic “Sleepless Nights;” the epic aggression of “At the Graves”) and a couple of Mercyful Fate classics (“Evil,” “Come to the Sabbath”) where guitarists Andy LaRocque and Mike Wead dueled with particular vehemence.

The perfect show for the season. Halloween may have officially taken place on Friday, but it was extended a day with Diamond’s presence in town. His production was as elaborate as you’ll see at a mid-sized venue like the House of Blues, with a tiered stage fronted by wrought iron bars, a backdrop of illuminated inverted crosses and a glowing pentagram and pillars topped with horned skulls. There there was the stage show itself, which revolved around the narrative of certain songs, hence “granny” was wheeled out and serenaded during “Welcome Home” and then stuffed into a coffin and incinerated during “Cremation,” while Diamond wielded a human-size marionette during “The Puppet Master.” Diamond’s repertoire is theatrical even without such visual aids, but they helped bring the show to loud, screaming life nonetheless.

A King’s reception. Attendance-wise, metal shows can be hit or miss in Vegas, even on weekends. But the venue was full on this night, as Diamond drew a larger crowd to the House of Blues than popular contemporary metallers like Mastodon and Ghost did earlier this year. Some come with faces painted like Diamond’s, and then there was the dude who showed up in massive leather shoulder pads, dressed like a linebacker on hell’s intramural football squad. Score one for satan.

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow on Twitter @JasonBracelin.

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