Live Report: Type O Negative in Arizona

Electric Ballroom, Tempe, Ariz., Feb. 12, 1997

February 14, 1997 12:00 AM ET

There's something odd about watching Peter Steele, the hulking frontman from Type O Negative, whose detractors have labeled him fascist, racist and misogynistic. But lately, the 6'7," 200-pound Steele is all smiles, waves and cute stage antics. Picture the doggedly self-obsessed singer/bassist posing under dim, red lights, wearing a light blue muscle shirt, air-tight black jeans and a black bass cutting into his thigh, while Gregorian chants and metal-scraping-metal sounds fill the air already dense with incense and smoke. Suddenly, the man with cheekbones the size of Brooklyn cracks a smile and waves beauty queen-style at the front row. Has Steele become the Madonna of acid-goth?

No long ago, Type O was a politically charged soapbox with a rep for being ultra right wing. Just look back a few years at politically-charged songs like "Der Untermensch" or "We Hate Everyone." If Tuesday night's show at the Electric Ballroom was any indicator, things have changed for the vampiric foursome. Ever since Steele bared all for Playgirl in '95, Type O has ditched politics for peace, love and harmonies.

Their fans, however, haven't changed much. The room was mostly filled with multi-pierced goth-heads who looked like victims of a human dart contest. They hung on every note as Type O waded through the wet, sludgy "Love You To Death" and a particularly dirgeful cover of Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl."

Then they grew quiet when Steele bellowed into the mic, "We sincerely apologize to the fans of Neil Young for the mutilation of 'Cinnamon Girl.' If it's any consolation, Mr. Young didn't like the version either."

Clearly, music merely provided texture for a stage show loaded with sexual innuendo and comedy. Steele rolled his R's like an Italian lover throughout the orgasmic grind of "Wolf Moon" and suggestively slid his hand up the neck of his bass during the wet, sludgy choruses of "Christian Woman." He even feigned playing his guitar with his teeth as an appropriate metallic effect emanated from the PA.

The highlight of the evening occurred during "Too Late: Frozen," when snow machines on either side of the stage produced a massive blizzard. Keyboardist Josh Silver, who's hair has gotten bigger since the last album, looked like the Puli on the cover of Beck's "Odelay" frolicking in a snowstorm.

As if that wasn't comedy enough, the band launched into a weak version of the Doors' "Light My Fire." "I have a really good song and we're here to ruin it," confessed Steele. It was a promise well-kept. The goulash that ensued -- Steele's blood-curdling howl juxtaposed against Kenny Hickey's watered down guitar riffs and Johnny Kelly's surfer beats -- undoubtedly had Jim Morrison rolling (not rocking) in his grave.

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