It’s been over twenty years since the last time Stabbing Westward released a full-length album, and that’s probably about the same time I actually popped on one of their CD’s (don’t get me wrong though, I was actually there to cover one of their shows for Rewind It Magazine back in 2019, and the band did a stellar job).
Chasing Ghosts has got to be one of the tightest “comeback” albums that’s come out in the past decade. From the moment it kicks on with “I Am Nothing,” it’s as though no time has even passed at all. Or perhaps the feeling of going back in time would be a more accurate description, with tracks like “Damaged Goods, “Cold,” and the bass-driven “Push” all echoing of ’90s industrial rock perfectly.
Even if Stabbing Westward have never really been up your alley, Chasing Ghosts might pleasantly surprise you. It’s certainly better than half the garbage that passes for mainstream rock these days, and a damn shame they’ll still keep cranking generic junk on modern radio stations over something actually listenable such as this.
I really didn’t have intentions of going to yet another Garden Rocks concert at Epcot this past Saturday, April 30. But my wife/photographer Brooke insisted we each meet there after our schedules aligned, and I’m glad we did (ironically, I ended up seeing the whole show while she missed a good portion of it!). And truth be told, I didn’t even know much of Berlin’s material until I first met said lovely wife of mine roughly a decade ago.
The band took the stage right at 8:00pm (for the sixth and final time of the weekend according to singer Terri Nunn) opening their short set with “Masquerade.” More fan favorites like “No More Words,” “The Metro,” and the newer “Animal” continued the show before Nunn slowed things down a bit to tell a brief but teary-eyed story about meeting Walt Disney in person when she was a child.
This tender moment segued into the group’s most well-known hit, the synth-pop ballad “Take My Breath Away” from the 1986 Tom Cruise blockbuster Top Gun, which of course the crowd ate up with more than just a little bit of delight (and on a side note, I often point to said film as the movie that really “awakened” me to rock music with its soundtrack, so on a personal level it was great seeing another band that performed on it live, with Cheap Trick and Loverboy being the other two).
But it didn’t end there; a high octane cover of The Cult’s “She Sells Sanctuary” gave Nunn an excuse to run from the stage into the audience and continue singing among a stunned, ecstatic crowd. For the finale, bassist John Crawford put down his four-string to duet with Nunn on a PG-rated version of “Sex (I’m A…),” which if I’m not mistaken, contained some alternate, Disney-inspired lyrics to better suite the atmosphere.
After this, all of the band members gathered arm-in-arm on stage to take a gracious bow. It was a fitting, classy goodbye to an already appreciative audience, and a night few in attendance are likely to forget anytime soon. The only downfall of the entire evening? The lone young lady thrashing herself next to us and hitting us with her hair the entire time. A word of advice in the off-chance she’s reading this; when at a concert, have some courtesy for those near you, because you never know if those people next to are actually there to get coverage (like this) of the show for you.
It’s been over a decade since the last time the guys in Stabbing Westward passed through Central, FL. But next month, the band will be hitting the stage at the House of Blues in Orlando on February 17 for the first time since disbanding in 2002.
I had a chance to chat with keyboardist and founding member Walter Flakus recently, who elaborated with me regarding the long gap; “Now that I think about it, we haven’t played a show in Florida since 2001! The closest would’ve been when (Stabbing Westward side project) The Dreaming played Sanford in 2015.”
Flakus went on to tell me more about Stabbing Westward’s recent reformation; “It really goes back to when (lead vocalist) Christopher (Hall) and I rekindled our friendship in 2014 when his father passed away. We started trading musical ideas, which led to me joining The Dreaming and contributing to the Rise Again album. While touring on that record, Marcus came out to play some SW songs at the Chicago (the band’s hometown) show. It really felt great being on the stage together again. In 2016, Jason and Kelly Novak floated the idea of SW playing the pre-party for the Coldwaves festival in Chicago, and we thought, ‘Let’s see if anyone still cares.’ The show sold out in 3 minutes, and it just kept building from there.”
I also asked why former bassist Jim Sellers has been noticeably absent for the entirety of the reunion, for which he tells me; Christopher and I talked to Jim about playing some SW shows before the Coldwaves show was proposed. I think he has a lot of projects that he’s working on, and playing shows didn’t really fit. So we turned to Carlton (Bost), who plays guitar in The Dreaming, as well as Orgy. He’s been a great fit.”
Flakus also assures me fans can expect to hear a wide range of songs these days in their set lists; “Of course there’s certain songs which have to be included because they were singles or fan favorites. Recently we’ve been playing most of Darkest Days in order, which has been really great. We’re constantly working up new things to add to the set. This year is the 25th anniversary of Ungod, so we may spend some time focusing on that later this year.” He also tells me new material is not too far off; “We have a bunch of songs we’re currently working on. Hopefully we’ll get something out later this year.”
Be sure not to miss the chance to catch Stabbing Westward at their Orlando show next month…it’s sure to be worth the wait!