TWO years before his suicide in 1998, former Christian Death front man Rozz Williams teamed up with Philly-based singer and composer David E. Williams for one show (and one show only). At the time, Rozz had a few solo albums out, and David’s brilliant, demented, heavily orchestrated sex-and-death ballads had won him acclaim the world over. That the two would eventually team up seemed natural. And though both men’s songs focused on unquestionably dark and controversial subject matter, neither could have imagined that this little show of theirs would end with a pulled plug and a near-riot, then go down as one of the most talked about concerts in recent Philly history.
Now, about seven years after the fact, David has reconstructed and remastered the recording made that evening. It’s not your typical live (or posthumous) album by any means—it’s not some former front man churning through a dozen of his old band’s tired hits in order to fulfill a contractual obligation. On Accept the Gift of Sin, Rozz sings the songs he wants to sing, as opposed to the ones he’s expected to.
And while you don’t get to hear the concert promoter yanking the plug after just a few songs and loudly divorcing himself from the proceedings—or the ensuing hullabaloo—you do get to hear what led up to it. Controversy aside, what appears on the disc is a fascinating and surprising—if brief—historic document for fans of either performer.
After placating the crowd with two Christian Death numbers ("Cavity" and "When I Was Bed," both reconfigured for keyboards by David), Rozz caught a lot of people off-guard by doing "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" (from Cabaret), then one of David’s songs ("Beautiful Brown-Shirted Man"), a lovely version of 10cc’s "I’m Not in Love" and the Tin Pan Alley standard, "Dream a Little Dream of Me," before closing with the spoken word piece "Mindfuck (Soundtrack to a Murder)."
It was certainly an eclectic selection, so far as it went. Sadly, it didn’t go quite as far as it was supposed to—the original set list was much longer.
The trouble began in the middle of the rousing "Tomorrow Belongs to Me." Performed as a singalong and accompanied by solo accordion, Rozz decided to accentuate his performance by wrapping himself (some would say appropriately, given the song) in, well, a Nazi flag. (The scene is pictured on the album cover). Rozz didn’t help things by following that with a song about a gypsy who has a gay love affair with an SS man—especially after rewriting David’s lyrics to make them a bit harsher. The crowd, heard to be so enthusiastic through the first two songs, grows much quieter.
Granted, Rozz Williams had spent a career trying to shock and offend people (he was around long before that Marilyn Manson youngster), and that’s just fine. Shock value is a very worthwhile and noble thing. Sometimes, though, such efforts can succeed too well, and in this case, even "Dream a Little Dream of Me" and a few off-the-cuff lines from "Philadelphia Freedom" couldn’t bring them back around again. The promoter, after complaints from the bouncers and the club owner, shut things down.
The two Williamses never played together again, and two years later, Rozz hanged himself—which is why, again, fans of either performer should be very happy to see this recording finally released. Several posthumous Rozz Williams albums have come out in the past years, but Accept the Gift of Sin, without a doubt, is definitely the strangest.