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Rob Zombie Riles Fans in Raucous New York City Return

Rob ZombieAfter nearly 20 years, Rob Zombie still remembers writing the guitar riff to ‘Thunder Kiss ’65,’ one of the songs that helped break his former band, White Zombie. He was living in New York City, at 14th Street and Avenue A, some 20 blocks south of the Hammerstein Ballroom, where he performed Tuesday night.

“It still sounds good after all these years,” Zombie told a roomful of metalheads, none of whom were inclined to disagree.

With that, Zombie and his three-piece backing band launched into the set-closing tune, a fist-pumping pop-thrash anthem very much in the spirit of the dozen or so songs that had come before.

Although Zombie’s latest run of dates has been dubbed the ‘Hellbilly Deluxe 2 World Tour,’ the singer only played a couple of songs from that yet-to-be-released album. He focused more on the original ‘Hellbilly Deluxe,’ his 1998 solo debut, growling atop the overdriven boogie of ‘Suberbeast,’ ‘Living Dead Girl’ and ‘What Lurks on Channel X,’ among others.

Throughout the show, giant video screens flashed clips of serial killers, strippers, anime porn and schlocky horror flicks, Zombie’s own ‘House of 1,000 Corpses’ included. Such visuals were perfect accompaniments for music that, no matter how loud or aggressive, is far campier than it is dangerous.

Zombie may have once been a fearsome performer, but these days, the rocker-turned-filmmaker is a seasoned showman. Tuesday night, he repeatedly baited the audience like a professional wrestler, asking whether it was true that New York, a city he experienced in much grittier times, had gone “mellow.”

In truth, Zombie and Gotham have both become safer and more predictable than they were in the ’80s, but that doesn’t mean either has stopped being fun. On ‘What?’ a snarling new song, Zombie ordered fans to clear a circle in the middle of the room, so that female fans might run the floor and enjoy a mosh pit of their own. The ladies were happy to bash each other without interference from the fellows, and Zombie’s bit of contrived chaos worked like a charm.

If the Hammerstein was heaven for the ‘Hellbilly,’ it was less hospitable to psychobilly openers the Nekromantix. The Danish-American trio played ’50s rockabilly music about as hard and fast as it can be played, and even when lead singer Kim Nekroman slapped the daylights out of his coffin-shaped upright bass, propelling the songs into hardcore-punk and metal territory, the Zombie faithful merely tolerated the racket.

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