Written by Mike Juliano Photographs by Maurice Nunez and Casey Stein Miller
Before The Show
When they first announced the Mercyful Fate tour, I immediately purchased tickets via a presale code. Being a metal fan since the mid-90s, I’ve seen King Diamond a few times but never Mercyful Fate. While it was tempting to see them at Psycho in Las Vegas, We all hoped they would do a US tour. The Fillmore is a newer venue for Philadelphia and has quickly become one of my favorite spots. Seeing a bad show there is next to impossible, and their sound is top-notch. Before the concert, I headed to a few local spots, Johnny Brenda’s and Barcade, for drinks and food before the show. My excitement was running wild when the doors were open (6 PM as opposed to the advertised 7 PM), so I rushed to the venue to make it on time for Midnight, the opening act.
You could tell this was going to be a memorable evening. The atmosphere was great in the Fillmore. After scoping out the merch, I went to the floor to get a good spot. I’ve loved Midnight since 2006/2007 when I first saw them in a tiny basement in Philadelphia. Over the years, they have grown immensely but still keep the same dirty, punk/metal aesthetic and stay true to their roots. The last time I saw them was for their private record release show in 2020 at St. Vitus in New York, which was a great time. The balanced setlist consisted of new and old tracks, starting with the more recent material and ending with the old.
The sound was pretty good but did not seem as heavy or punchy as expected, so the crowd was less energetic than expected. During the song “Lust Filth And Sleaze,” a stripper magically appeared on stage, and that’s when everyone became engaged, with phones suddenly popping up out of nowhere. Half of the audience probably was not familiar with Midnight, but they gained a lot of new fans by the end of their set, which concluded with the anthem “You Can’t Stop Steel.” Kreator then took the stage in what seemed to be a rapid turnover time between bands. I have also seen Kreator multiple times, and someone gave me a spoiler alert on the set list beforehand, which wasn’t avoidable. Unfortunately, the sound was not very good for Kreator this night, and vocalist Mille sounded terrible. I made it through the first song and decided it was a good time to buy merch and watch their set from a screen near the bar. Kreator played almost all newer songs but ended with two classic tracks, but sadly, that wasn’t enough to save their performance. I was worried that Mercyful Fate might not sound as good as they should tonight, but boy was I wrong. I returned to get a good spot as everyone exited the stage area. Reading the room, you got the sense that others were bummed by Kreator’s performance, too, and most people went outside to smoke or go to the bar.
It took much longer for Mercyful Fate to take the stage, but the anticipation and excitement continued to build as the room became alive. “The Oath” kicked off the set, and the sound was spot on! The mix was impressive, and King Diamond sounded flawless; this was perfection. “A Corpse Without A Soul” followed, and I was in the zone, headbanging while trying to take some videos. They played a new song that I’ve only ever heard online once, it’s a solid track, but this slowed down the set’s momentum a little. But things quickly went back into full gear with “Curse Of The Pharaohs.” I had seen him before with vocal issues, but he hit every note perfectly; the sound was crisp and clear. Being 66 years old, I was extremely impressed by the King and how tight the actual band was. They made their old songs come to life without trying to modernize them. The crowd was getting more crazy as the night went on; by the time “Come To The Sabbath” hit, several people were kicked out, and fights were happening. I was just to the left of the pit, and it started to get cramped in the room by the night’s end.
The encore, “Satan’s Fall,” was a perfect closer to the evening; everyone had a smile on their face when the lights went on after the set. It took quite a bit of time to exit the venue despite security who were rushing people out. They weren’t ready for such a rabid audience on a Monday night. It was indeed a dangerous meeting! This show was well worth the $70 I paid for a ticket, and I doubt we will see the same set list again from Mercyful Fate. Thank you, King and company, for embracing Philadelphia and not skipping over our city.