Since the inception of the annual Knotfest Roadshow in 2019, Slipknot has used the guise to curate a fantasy-football-esque experience with a mish-mash of bands from different genres for summer and fall tours, and while the Iowa metal legends have a wildly eclectic influence pool to pull from on their own, the heavy metal matchmaking they’ve employed themselves to execute seems to be anything but cohesive on paper. However, while such was the case at SNHU Arena in Manchester, NH on Sunday night (May 22), the band once again proved their creative wisdom, and had the crowd eating their words while embracing the oddity with intensity and glee.
Whereas the first few incarnations of the musical hybrid bacchanalia have been almost exclusively rock and metal forward, this time around harbored a different ingredient of Slipknot’s makeup with a heavily hip hop-leaning fight card, with Newark-bred thrash punk/hip-hop duo Ho99o9 and the legendary Cypress Hill joining in on the fun for the second leg of this year’s tour.
Tasked with kicking things off in the Granite State, Ho99o9 wasted little time getting into it, as their villainously spooky setup accented their lyrical and vocal intensity from start to finish, as the duo scorched through a set of righteously killer breakdowns, and musical detours that quickly revealed just how the band’s scent was picked up by Corey Taylor and crew. Their ability to switch from heavy and angry to soulful and heartfelt only added to the band’s accolades, while also showing that you don’t necessarily have to hear all the words in order to be moved in some form by the music. Whether that “movement” was literal or figurative is beside the point, and fairly self-explanatory given the amount of circle pits that widened during the band’s set, but by the end of their time on stage, they achieved their goal for the night, and more than likely gained at least a few new fans along the way.
Throwing a welcomed wrench into the heavy-vibe of the night was Cypress Hill. The legendary rap group, minus one half of their upfront power, kept things light and comically hazy throughout their hour and some-odd minutes on stage, with a youthfully active B-Real taking the reins and filling the Sen Dog-sized hole on the stage with a heaping dose of that electric lettuce, with a whole bunch of crowd engagement sprinkled in. Now, whether that participation was in terms of singing along to the music or lighting up a fatty should have an obvious answer, but the man behind the sunglasses maintained a balance for the duration of a hits-spanning set that didn’t necessarily help to answer their involvement in this latest Slipknot puzzle, as sandwiching the sounds of “Insane In The Brain,” “How I Could Just Kill a Man,” and “Dr. Greenthumb” could understandably be seen as a bit of a head-scratcher at the surface. But even once the smoke cleared and the lights went up just after 8:30, there was still a lingering sense that the entire set was a fever dream. But then again, that could’ve just been due to the fact that the THC levels in whatever was being smoked both on and off the stage were higher than the decibel level.
Nonetheless, Cypress Hill served their purpose with dedication and vigor, and tried their damndest to make sure we were all good and feeling the contact high ahead of what was lurking in the shadows.
Now, Slipknot could play the same setlist for years and their shows would still carry some sort of new, visceral, or rather feral energy. And they have largely stuck with a lot of the same songs they’ve played over the course of the last few years, but as soon as AC/DC’s “For Those About To Rock” started to play over the PA and the massive banner covering the stage began to sway a little, the familiarity of the moment meant nothing, but also everything, as the arena wouldn’t have cared less if they were playing nursery rhymes. When Slipknot takes the stage, they take the crowd with them for the ride, just as they have for over two decades, and although it was a familiar scene, the tickle in the chest was just as powerful as before, as the band scattered to their places like rodents as the banner went up and the main event commenced.
Seering through a 20-song set that presented a not-so-delicate balance between the old school and the band’s latest era, accented by a bingeworthy amount of fan favorites (but then again, which Slipknot songs aren’t fan favorites?), Corey Taylor continued his reign as ring leader in the world’s most deranged artistic circus with a hall of fame-level execution, only further accentuated by his demands for movement from the already fervently active crowd.
While the music speaks for itself, as songs like “Wait and Bleed,” “Before I Forget,” Psychosocial,” “Unsainted,” “Dead Memories,” and the evergreen ripper found in “Duality” have cemented their rightful place in the setlist, an arguably overshadowed layer of what makes a Slipknot show more than just a concert lies in the fact that there is consistently so much going on behind Taylor, that it’s nearly impossible to fully drink everything in.
Whether it’s Jim Root and Mick Thomson trading hair-swinging guitar riffs, or Sid Wilson causing mischief around Jay Weinberg’s drum set, or maybe most noticeably Shawn “Clown” Crahan going to town on the percussion sets hanging above the stage while the one we’ve come to affectionately know as “Tortilla Man” (ex-Dirty Little Rabbits keyboardist Michael Pfaff) becomes increasingly more unhinged as the night goes on. Each member seems to present a show of their own within the show (Knotception?), and regardless of how many times you see them in concert, you’re always finding something new in the details.
It had certainly been a long while since Taylor and the rest of the gang made their way to New Hampshire, and the frontman acknowledged the extended absence, but all was forgiven rather quickly as he forged on with the rest of the set, in which he uttered the powerful, bitterly sweet ballad “Snuff” to a room full of cellphone lights and what was inarguably at least few people who were hit square in the chest by the emotion of the moment. That, in and of itself, is what makes a Slipknot show such a meaningful and memorable experience. Even with all of the insanity that ensues from end to end, there is very little room left for songs and exchanges to not hit you like a weighted blanket to the face, and it’s that exact intensity and blatant search for the center of your chest cavity that truly articulates not only what the Roadshow was founded on, but what Slipknot still stands deeply rooted in as a collective after all these years.
Over the course of their 23 years as an unstoppable musical and artistic force, Slipknot have evolved and experimented with deliciously reckless abandon time and time again. But something they haven’t done is relent and slow down. Granted, the party has to end sometime, and it would be hard to imagine the band sustaining for another 23 years (contrary to what Taylor emphatically promised to the raucous crowd in exchange for their continued support), but for now, Slipknot is still a venerable wrecking ball of unadulterated mayhem, and for as long as they’re willing to pour themselves out onto the stage every night, their legions of loyal fans seem to be willing to follow them to the grave, and by no stretch of the truth, that small army of “demonic power rangers” that you made fun of in middle school are still very much so mighty and morphin’, all the while proving that the switch stays on until the masks fall off.
Article/Images: Jason Greenough