Live Review: Corey Taylor - Civic Hall, Wolverhampton
9th November 2023
Words & Photos: Scott Clarke
The rain had subsided at last on this chilly evening as queues formed around the building of The Halls in Wolverhampton, our setting tonight for the return of a legend in the business, the frontman of 2 colossal juggernauts of the rock world in both Slipknot and Stone Sour, here tonight to perform his own music on his own terms with his CMF2 tour, the one and only Corey Taylor.
As the venue filled out in the hour after doors opened and the steady hum of chatter amongst the audience built, everyone was awaiting the evenings entertainment to begin with Oxymorrons. Hailing from Queens, New York, brothers Deee and KI Bellevue lead from the front with a combined vocal onslaught while Matty Mayz beats the soul with the drums and Jafe Paulino lays down thunderous string work as well as providing vocals of his own.
The band themselves are what I can only describe as a fusion act, they combine elements from rock, metal, punk and hip hop to create their own blend of genre defying music that really packs a punch.
Opening up with Enemy, the pounding, high energy track from the bands latest album sets the scene for the night. Following which, with a “What’s Up!?” to the audience and a decibel check to make sure the crowd were in fine voice, Oxymorrons moved onto Green Vision, a track from their 2021 album Mohawks & Durags. The more eerie Graveyard Words from Melanin Punk is up next and in my mind I’m likening what I’m hearing to tracks like Gangsta’s Paradise, there are definite hip hop vibes throughout the tracks but they contain very melodic chorus’, as said on stage on the night at this point, the band consider themselves “genre-less”.
Between tracks theres good communication with the crowd as we explore the behind the scenes of the band and their thinking, their thoughts and feelings and how individual and unique what they provide is to the music community and it’s a great thing to have this insight and connection. I think it went a long way to the band gaining more fans after this evening.
Moving on with Head For the Hills and then falling back to Mohawks & Durags with Definition, Django and Pretty People before closing the final third of their performance with more tracks from Melanin Punk, including the title track itself, as the set progressed, the crowd lapped up what was on offer and the high energy and fast pace never faltered or faded, culminating in a huge cheer come the end of a slightly overrunning set, but when you’re having so much fun who’s really keeping track of the time.
Not only does the music pack a punch but the energy exuded by all members of the band is something to behold. Never was there a still moment as the 3 mobile members of the band charged back and forth across the stage occupying every square inch of it while Matty, although constrained to the drums, exhibited equal enthusiasm with his energetic pounding on the skins.
During the show they preach to the crowd how words are extremely powerful and to be kind, be humble, be grateful and even after the set, it was great to see how humble the guys genuinely are with a few brief stops for selfies with the crowd as they made their way off stage, definitely a testament to their early beginnings and the way they have forged their own careers staying true to themselves.
I shall be honest, I hadn’t heard the band before tonight, I’d read in advance the premise of the group and couldn’t quite fathom how I felt about the blending of the styles and how it would work. However, having experienced it in person it’s something that I never knew I’d been missing. The lyrics are hip hop based, coming thick and fast and exploring culture and political themes but the music is hard hitting and heavy, the two just blend so well and as the band say themselves “We do whatever we want, it is what it is” and I think that message of embracing individuality is the key theme that really describes this band and their music.
After a brief interlude and a change of scenery on stage. The lights dimmed and the sound of The Box came through to the roar of the crowd, as the band made their appearances on stage, Dustin Robert took his seat at the drums, Zach Throne and Eliot Lorango picked up their guitar and bass respectively and Italian guitar virtuoso Christian Martucci took his position on the right, the stage was set for the frontman himself.
Deep red lights bathed the stage and CMF2 was emblazoned on the screen in the rear, as the band launched into Post Traumatic Blues from the latest release, CMF2, we are greeted by Corey Taylor, taking to the stage in in electrifying bundle of energy, welcoming the Wolverhampton faithful, headbanging away and launching water bottles into the crowd. Its a high energy intro, “Are you with us out there Wolverhampton!” shouts Corey as the resounding cheer of the crowd is echoed back. “Are you ready to have a good time with us tonight?” is what’s asked of the sold out audience and I think there is no question of that, from the get go, the scene is set for the following hour and a half of incredible tracks, with a mix up between Corey’s solo works as well as Slipknot and Stone Sour classics.
Let’s go back to 2003, as Corey and the band begin a track from the beginnings of Stone Sour in the aptly named Tumult. As the large mass of people in front of the stage jumped, screamed, cheered and threw their bodies around, the intensity was only mirrored on stage as Corey paced around, commanding the stage. I noticed, especially being so close photographing the show that the change in Corey’s demeanour on stage is sometimes like a switch, it’s amazing to behold the way in which his intensity and aggressive growls can give way to smiles and clean vocals and vice versa at the drop of a hat. It almost seems at times as though he is channeling two personalities simultaneously for great effect to blend genres seamlessly but at the same time, his smiles, laughter and sheer enjoyment of being there performing is infectious. It really is a joy to behold someone so good at their craft giving their all.
More water bottles bathed the crowd, it was cold outside but in here tonight it was on fire! As the crowd duly obliged Corey’s shouts to make some noise, he acknowledged how good it was to be back. This is something that was consistent throughout the night. Corey’s appreciation. As a guy that has been there and done it all, many times, it’s so great to see and hear how genuinely appreciative and grateful he is for his fans, it kind of goes back to what Oxymorrons were saying at the top of the show with how powerful words are and to be kind and humble. All night long I witnessed nothing but respect and admiration between both the artist and the crowd and that went both ways. The rock community is a great community in itself but this was a special show with a genuine gelling of like minded souls, both on and off the stage.
Going back to the first CMFT album, next is Black Eyes Blue. A total change of tone from what we had experienced so far as the ballad prompted the crowd to join in singing away. Another roar from the crowd as Corey announces that this was night 2 of an entirely sold out tour, a great sight to see. With so much that goes into a gig, I can only imagine the logistics and everything that’s part of a world tour, to be rewarded and know that it was worth the effort and see the love that the fans have wherever they go must be an incredible feeling.
The next song is off the latest album CMF2, Corey asks if the crowd would like to help him sing, to which the faithful respond. “No way to beat me, No way to win” fills the room with a sing and repeat between the band and the audience, as Corey enjoys the banter and laughs with the audience in the balconies joking that if he were in the crowd, his old ass would be up there too. Something that he would bring up a few times on the night, it’s actually hard to remember that he is 49 and will be 50 next month. Despite his tribulations over the years and the amount of touring and the toll on his well being, he displays no such signs of his years on stage. A true professional who is up there giving his all for his fans and for the love of it. As the crowd continue, the drums kick in and the anthem We Are The Rest begins.
Reminding the crowd how beautiful they are, the band carry on playing straight into the Stone Sour hit, Song #3, the energetic rhythm and catchy chorus penetrates those in attendance as its impossible to avoid the inevitable as heads nod, feet tap and lungs are fit to burst with singing along.
Corey takes the time to have a chat with the crowd as the house lights come up and he lets us all know that this country will always be his home away from home as I know every one in that room is glad to have him here too, myself included. He asks for everyones prayers before the next song that “kicks his ass” as we get Beyond, another track from CMF2. The powerful, high energy banger with pinch harmonics a plenty goes down a storm.
Another injection of humour, something that seems to come naturally to the charismatic frontman, as a few times he addresses the crowd to remind them before he forgets, at first he acknowledges Oxymorrons, next before he forgets, he introduces the band members individually, all of which in itself is a build up to the Slipknot classic, Before I Forget. The gritty guitars and pounding drums shake the very foundations of The Halls and the crowd form a huge mosh pit.
An acoustic interlude from Corey himself next, a little treat and something that isn’t on the setlist which I won’t spoil, but if you know, you know. Needless to say the crowd found it very ABSORBING and really were SOAKING IN every moment, singing along with childlike joy. A brilliant and hilarious moment that roughly marked the halfway point of the show.
The acoustic guitar continued with the intro to Snuff, the emotional Slipknot ballad that found all members of the audience singing along or swaying along, even the mosh pit took a break for this power house of a track. Sometimes its not how loud you can play, its the quality of the songwriting that is most deafening and Snuff is a brilliant example of a song that, although not being the heaviest instrumentally, sounds so powerful as it progresses. The crowd chant “Corey, Corey, Corey” as the track comes to a close with huge applause.
30/30-150 from Stone Sour’s second album is next up, a song that he says was added to the set list purposely to change things up for this tour. Its another rip roaring, high intensity banger that goes down a storm and starts the mosh pit back up again. Progressing to Talk Sick, another strong showing from CMF2 proving that this latest release is an album with a lot to give. Next up, for only the second time of playing it live, is a song called Midnight. Suitably the stage is bathed in deep blue lights as spots search around the room, its an atmospheric, eerie number and the intro reminds me very much of Something in the Way by Nirvana, its a dark, moody, depressive, slower paced track that sounds amazing and has a steady build up of layers over the course of its minutes culminating in a final, powerful third with electrifying solos. The cymbals keep on tapping and the claps of the crowd join to match them, Corey and the band go straight into one of my favourite songs of Stone Sour, Through Glass. Its a fitting end to the set and rounds out the mix of old and new with a classic that is loved by all.
It’s been an incredible night of music and entertainment, but we’re not quite done just yet. After a brief hiatus from the stage and continued chants from the crowd, the band return to the stage for the inevitable encore and a big surprise. Corey asks for help to start this next one and jokes that its the perfect time to go and use the restroom facilities which gets a huge laugh. Up first is the Slipknot track Duality, as Corey gets the crowd to sing the intro, the raw power of the track gets the whole room jumping and using up any reserves of energy they may have had left, the slightly faster pace than the recorded version just adds to the impact and makes it sound even more brutal, we even managed to have a crowd surfer make it to the front. As he was removed by security, Corey acknowledged his efforts. Finally, the band pulls a blinder and as Corey gives us a bit of intro about how Black Sabbath’s music raised him, they play Fairies Wear Boots as their departing gift to the crowd. One of my favourite Sabbath tracks and one that I think is under appreciated outside of Sabbath fans. Needless to say, in our current location, the gig that is closest to the home of Black Sabbath, it couldn’t have gone down any better as the crowd appreciated every note.
It’s undeniable that the crowd loved the show and that Corey Taylor and the band enjoyed playing it for them. They left everything on that stage. Although the front man for multi platinum and gold album releasing bands, an actor and a writer, its incredible how down to earth and genuine Corey is. He’s a relatable guy and for that the crowd love him. He’s a captivating character surrounded by elite musicians who played all night without a hitch, it was impeccable and he looks like he is genuinely enjoying life getting to do his own thing and mix things up a little on stage. Undoubtedly one of my gigs of the year and I can only hope that they return again. All of you with tickets to the sold out shows remaining, you’re in for a real treat!