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Tribune editor Eric Walden attended Zakk Wydle's show at The Depot Wednesday, and here is his report:

Big, burly, braided-bearded heavy metal guitarist Zakk Wylde looks like he belongs to a biker gang, aided in no small part by the motorcycle vests and caps he and his fans don at all times.

So his large collection of piano-driven ballads can be a bit jarring to the uninitiated.

Then again, that description would apply to the whole of his performance Wednesday night at The Depot — part acoustic two-man set, part book reading, part Q & A.

Hard-core devotees of the former Ozzy Osbourne axeman and current Black Label Society frontman loved every minute of it. But for any casual observer, it was like being on the outside of an inside joke.

He and fellow Black Label Society guitarist Nick Catanese played a 10-song, hour-and-a-half-long acoustic set heavy on tunes from the albums "Book of Shadows" and "Hangover Music, Vol. 6."

It did not help that the former was from 1996 and the latter from 2004. It also did not help that his low, rumbling Eddie Vedder-styled growl was near-incoherent at times (due partly to an audio setup that had the microphone turned up too loud). And it did not help that the schilling for the book ("Bringing Metal to the Children: A Berzerker's Guide to World Tour Domination" — a collection of stories from his life on the road) and the accompanying Q & A interrupted the set and stalled what little momentum he had.

He jokingly referred to his recently released book of tour stories as "the Bible of stupidity." Alas, the circuitous, rambling examples that followed proved his description to be apt.

The music was followed by an uncomfortable hour of profane Ozzy impressions, tales of faux devil worshipping, prostate exam jokes, more Ozzy stories, more prostate exam jokes, and, finally, questions from a by-now well-imbibed audience that ranged from his influences (Randy Rhodes, Jimmy Page, Tony Iommi on guitar; Elton John, Bob Seger and The Eagles for piano: "As much as I like listening to Zeppelin and 'Black Dog'," he related earnestly in a rare moment of lucidity, "I love 'Hotel California' just as much") to the inspiration for his belt-length beard (it stems from his appearance in the 2001 film "Rock Star").

Two more songs followed, concluding with an overly extended thrash solo on "Stillborn" — which at that point felt like a tacked-on addition to remind you that, in spite of Wylde spending half his set parked on the piano bench, he is, in fact, a renowned guitar god.

The die-hards loved it, of course.

For everyone else, it was just an imperfect ending to an imperfect night.Setlist:The Blessed HellrideQueen Of SorrowThe Road Back HomeSpoke In The WheelThrowin' It All AwayIn This RiverDamage Is DoneI Thank You ChildEncore:Yesterday, Today, TomorrowStillborn

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