Part of the culture of NAMM week is the array of rockstars who overflow from the Anaheim Convention Center onto the streets and stages around OC. For several days in a row, they’re all trying to make a little extra coin or get a little stage time while on this annual music biz trade show retreat that brings all the various cogs and celebrities of the big industry machine together under one roof. It’s fun and all, but at the end of the day, most of it is pretty predictable.
So when we heard that City National Grove of Anaheim booked a show with Ice-T and Body Count on Saturday night (sponsored by Schecter Guitars), we thought there’d been some sort of misprint. What could possibly compel hip-hop’s favorite OG gangsta rapper/Law and Order detective and his legendary metal/rap mashup to a city he probably hasn’t played in years to do what we assumed was gonna be a short, sanitized industry appearance attended by sauced up NAMMers looking for another place to party and flash their lanyard name tags around?
Luckily, as long as Ice-T had anything to say about it, this Body Count show wasn’t gonna be that type of party. Walking into the crowd full of bikers, metal heads, crust punks and what appeared to be central casting-style hard ass types mixed in with the novelty-seeking hipsters, we could tell that whatever brought this assemblage of fans together was something other than industry bullshit. The DJ on the decks let Bad Brains classics like “Soul Craft” rock over the outdoor speakers ushering the crowd through the courtyard and into the early ‘90 as opening acts Silvertomb and Interloper warmed up the stage with some fingertip-torturing metal riffs and general mayhem. But that was only the beginning.
By the time Body Counts’ banners hit the stage and the band emerged just before 11 p.m., the crowd was sufficiently amped for a classic performance from one of metal’s most dangerous groups–albeit a bit older, wiser and playing for a crowd that was far less likely to pummel each other before the encore.
Sporting a black baseball cap, black hoodie, black gloves and Dickies shorts, Ice-T’s demeanor on stage was still anything but Hollywood as he opened the set with a cover of Slayer’s “Raining Blood.” The carnage of this death metal anthem set the tempo for an epic show.
“This ain’t gonna be no short shit, this is all the shit for the fans that’ve been with us for all the years,” Ice-T said, barking into the microphone adorned with a set of brass knuckles. A brief aside: fans who thought he went by the stage name “Ice Mutha Fuckin’ T” were duly corrected by the rapper who now prefers the moniker “Ice Muthafuckin T, Bitch!” a title more dignified and befitting of his veteran status.
The set threw us back into 1992 with “Bowels of the Devil” with original guitarist Ernie C. wailing at Ice’s side as fists, cups of beer and starched, multi-colored mohawks floated above the crowd. As Ice’s chief lieutenant, Ernie’s playing still combines raw aggression with technical skill in a way that speaks to the streets and acts as a catalyst for the rest of the band’s energy. Today’s members include guitarist Juan of the Dead, drummer Ill Will, and bassist Vincent Price as well as background vocalist and longtime BC crew member Sean E. Sean joined by Ice-T’s son/hype man Little Ice. Together the crew’s gang-like charisma on stage fed the audience all the early ‘90s horror/gore/gangsta swag they’d hoped to find in songs like “Manslaughter”, the eponymous track “Body Count”–laced with street punk chants, “KKK Bitch” and “There Goes the Neighborhood”.
Aside from demanding a mini riot in the pit during the show, Ice-T did his damnedest to break the fourth wall and rile up the crowd. “You been watching me on TV too much, you think I wouldn’t come out here and beat yo ass!” he said to a room full of cheers. However, not one to let us forget about his softer side, he also called out his wife Coco during the set who cane out with their young daughter Chanel who was sleeping like a rock draped over her mom’s shoulder. “My kid’s so gangsta she falls asleep at a Body Count show,” Ice said. He also put the spotlight on a young 12 year-old boy at the front of the crowd wearing a Body Count hat commending him and his pops for being at the show. “You coulda been at a Justin Bieber concert tonight, instead you’re at a Body Count show…you know one important piece of advice Uncle Ice can give you when kids try to pick on you? Make sure to tell ‘em ‘Talk Shit, Get shot!” As he segued into the opening song of 2014’s Manslaughter album of the same name.
As the show progressed, security kept a watchful eye on the crowd, but there was definitely an heir of tension in the room as Ice got closer to the band’s finale of “Cop Killer”, the song that once brought a media storm (and Charlton Heston) to their doorstep. The brutal classic remains one of Body Count’s bloodiest calling cards. And considering how relevant and vexing it still is to law enforcement today, we were halfway expecting Anaheim PD to pull the plug on the show, but it never happened. Perhaps the fact that Ice has played a cop on TV almost as long as he’s been singing the song has helped tamper things a bit with his Po-Po relations.
In any case, the crowd exploded and went crazy for preceding four minutes and 45 seconds. The energy was so raw and raging that Ice-T didn’t even bother to leave the stage, opting to perform a “virtual encore” (a technique he says he’s trademarked–which we won’t dare argue) where the stage just went dark and the band turned their backs to the crowd as the fans roared. Then they simply brought the lights up and start playing again. Best believe only thing Ice-T hates more than cops is wasting time.
Wrapping things up with the title track of 1994’s Born Dead and “This Is Why We Ride”, a newer track off of 2017’s Bloodlust, the band showcased the drama, rage and street level ethos that embodies Body Count, leaving a smoking bullet wound in the predictable nature of NAMM.
For a slideshow of photos from the concert, click here.