Venue: Jyske Bank Boxen
Location: Herning, Denmark
Date: 19th of October, 2016
By the look of it, this is indeed going to be an evening of rock’n’roll. Of varying degrees of hardness, naturally. The 15.000 or so capacity venue Jyske Bank Boxen was apparently sold out in a mere ten minutes, which shows you just how strong a foothold VOLBEAT have gained in their home country. And it’s certainly well-deserved. Michael Poulsen and drummer Jon Larsen have stuck to their guns since the turn of the millennium, and it has paid off. The first time I saw them, they played in front of 30 people. The next time in front of 10.000 Germans. The time after that in front of 60 or 70 thousand people at Wacken. What a ride.
Artistically, Volbeat have fallen into the temptation of nurturing a more commercial sound, and ‘Beyond Hell…’ and ‘Outlaw Gentlemen…’ in particular suffered from that, but I personally think that the latest effort, ‘Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie’, is a return to form and nerve. Let’s see if Volbeat can show some nerve on stage tonight as well, shall we? But first it’s time to see what the two support bands have on offer.
CROBOT from the States is one of Nuclear Blast’s recent signings in the genre of retro hardrock. I can see why Nuclear Blast have faith in them. Especially the front man and the bassist put an energetic effort into entertaining the crowd. The crowd, obviously, are not here to listen to Crobot, but there is a decent response from a couple of hundred of those who have bothered to arrive early. Frequent readers of this site will know that I have long since grown tired of retro hardrock bands, but I’m certain that the American hopefuls haven’t made any enemies on this Wednesday evening.
AIRBOURNE have already made themselves quite a reputation as the heirs to AC/DC’s throne. Again, it’s understandable. The band is indeed pure energy, and the only thing that, in my humble opinion, stands in their way of gigantic success is their lack of originality. As much as you can be little else than overwhelmed by the positive energy around Joel O’Keeffe and his headbanging compadres, this is just AC/DC over and over again. For someone like myself who’s never really been the biggest fan of the Australian rock veterans, it’s just not overly exciting.
Having not quite established themselves here in our wee country, the general sentiment among the crowd is one of polite cheerfulness here in the by now full Boxen.
O’Keeffe does score a few extra points when he is carried on the shoulders of a roadie from the stage to the mixer in the middle of the arena. Cool move.
The audience never really ignites during this gig, but, honestly, it’s not Airbourne’s fault. They deliver the goods. Had this been Germany, I reckon it would have turned out differently.
Joel O’Keeffe – the man in the middle (photo ©Thomas Paick)
After two support bands, you can now sense the audience is more than ready for the evening’s main attraction. As Motörhead’s Born to Raise Hell booms from the PA, we’re finally there. The intro riff from Devil’s Bleeding Crown billows over us and the skeleton-Elvis-with-wings curtain falls. Revealed is a stage setup that is worthy of Metallica and Maiden and tonight, VOLBEAT display exactly how used they have become to stages like that. As always in the centre of attention, Michael Poulsen seems relaxed, yet focused and, above all, happy. Behind him, his trusted right hand, the rhythm machine, Jon, is working away on the drums. To his left, the newest member of the band, bassist Kasper Boye Larsen, displays calm solidity and seems to have fallen right into place since he replaced Anders Kjølholm earlier this year. On Poulsen’s right, Rob Caggiano, the former Anthrax guitarist and producer, is his usual cool.
The curtain falls…
Devil’s Bleeding Crown is followed by a mash-up of Heaven Nor Hell/Warrior’s Call/I Only Wanna Be With You. Lola Montez is the first song where the audience shows just how well they know Volbeat’s songs. After the audience has taken over the first few lines, Poulsen proudly notes: ‘Well, we don’t have to play more of that one!’ They do, though.
I wouldn’t call this a riot of a concert (mind you, the audience is very mixed, this being the middle of the autumn break week in Denmark, young and old are gathered here in Herning to see the rock heroes – school kids and their parents), but the audience is definitely with Volbeat tonight, and they also celebrate the next tune, Hallelujah Goat.
Sad Man’s Tongue is still one of the top songs in my personal catalogue of Volbeat favourites, and tonight, a bit of extra spice has been added in the shape of ‘Rod’, an elderly geezer who plays banjo. Amazing song.
Speaking of favourites: Gates of Babylon is probably my fave from ‘Seal the Deal…’ and it is a relief for me that the song gets airtime. Great stuff! Next up is three and a half minutes of Dead But Rising, one of the more straight forward metal pieces from ‘Outlaw Gentlemen…’. I like. I love when Volbeat have their Slayer moments. Like Slaytan (from the ‘Seal the Deal…’ digipack bonus disc). Heavy duty and powerful sh*t. The Slayer-ness is followed by 16 Dollars with the catchy 50s rock touch and then the slightly oddly entitled but catchy Maybellene I Hofteholder.
We’ve now reached the point in time where almost everyone gets out of the seats on the sides and backend of the arena. Why? The song For evigt, that’s why. With massive radio airplay and a chorus in Danish, this one was almost a certain hit and, yeah, it is. Poulsen mentions that this is a good time to get the lighters or phones or whatever out, and sure enough, all of Boxen lights up like a clear autumn night. Do people here know the words of the song? Are polar bears white? Oh, and Rod makes his second entry of the evening.
Light’em up, folks…
The title track off ‘Guitar Gangsters…’ remains one of the highlights of Poulsen’s songwriting for me. The progression of the song and the double bass drum parts mixed with the catchy chorus always worked like a charm, and it does exactly that tonight as well. It is around this time, by the way, that a young chap gets his hands on a guitar, handed to him by Poulsen on stage. Why? Because he won the crowd surfing competition, of course! Nice touch, Volbeat!
Cape of Our Hero is not the most thrilling Volbeat song. In fact, I think it’s one of the least interesting, BUT it’s a crowd pleaser. They’ve heard it on radio, they watched the (touching) video on YouTube, they love it. I don’t, but I tolerate it.
Garden’s Tale is an even bigger crowd pleaser if I’m to trust the reactions here in Herning. And it is simply a much more interesting song than Cape. Even without Johan Olsen who adorned both Garden’s Tale and For evigt with his voice, it works perfectly. Johan, Poulsen informs us, is getting hammered in Greece, and therefore not present tonight. Matters not, we survive well without him.
What happens now is a bit of a shame. Goodbye Forever and Fallen are the two last songs of the set proper, and Volbeat are idling. These two songs are not at all the cream of the proverbial crop, and with so many great songs in the catalogue, they make little sense here. Buhuh!
However, this is fortunately not the end! The encores are a fantastic quartet of tunes: Black Rose, Doc Holiday (one of the most fortunate songs from ‘Outlaw Gentlemen…’ alongside Dead But Rising – again Slayer-esque riffing as I love it), the title track from ‘Seal the Deal…’ (Elvis metal with a flavour of ‘Ride the Lightning’) and finally Still Counting. And, this, ladies and gentlemen, is a finalé to behold. Poulsen invites all young fans up on stage – the ‘next generation of metal fans’ as he says. In a matter of very few minutes, there are thirty or so kids on stage. Arms around the musicians, banging heads, singing along, taking the selfies of their short lifetimes. This is a fantastic sight to behold.
A big and well-deserved applause to Denmark’s biggest rock and metal band – even if there were a couple of less fortunate song choices on the way. A fine kick-off of the European tour, I’d say.
Volbeat – with the next generation of metal fans