Volbeat

support Flogging Molly + Amorphis
author AP date 26/08/17 venue Parken, Copenhagen, DEN

As the first Danish artist ever to max out Denmark’s national stadium, which seats and stands 48,000 people at full capacity, Volbeat is writing rock’n’roll history tonight. Whatever one’s own opinion of them may be, there is no question that the band stands as one of the greatest, if not the greatest musical export that the country has witnessed, and as such it was paramount that the pop, rock and metal scenes would unite for one evening to celebrate Michael Poulsen & co.’s epic homecoming. We of course did everything in our power to be there as well, irrespective of the fact that none of our writers have any special affinity for Volbeat’s music today. After all, the quartet has all but shrugged off its metallic past on recent albums and moved toward pleasing the mainstream instead. Tonight, however, none of that seems to matter; the atmosphere is electric — even more so than it has been for titans like AC/DC, Bruce Springsteen or Roger Waters — and as a longtime resident (and as of recently, a citizen) of Denmark, I must admit to feeling a semblance of pride about Volbeat’s achievement here and overall.

All photos courtesy of Peter Troest

Amorphis

One of Volbeat’s customs is to invite unexpected artists to perform the support duties. Past concerts have featured acts as diverse as Iced Earth, Napalm Death and Teenage Bottlerocket, and naturally, the band was not going to make an exception tonight. The idea of Amorphis playing at this stadium is not as ludicrous as it looks on paper, as at the very least, the Helsinki, Finland-bred melancholy metallers have the expansiveness in their style to envelop a venue of such magnitude. Alas, in what is an all-too familiar scenario at this venue, the sound conditions are unfavourable — even if the mix itself seems to be decent. The stadium is still very much in the process of filling up and with the roof drawn out as well, the likes of “Sacrifice” and “Hopeless Days” sound unusually airy, with especially the vocals of Tomi Joutsen evaporating as soon as they leave his lips. Of course, the man himself is blissfully unaware of this, cutting a passionate figure as he arches back to load his headbanging with extra power. Joutsen’s colleagues — guitarists Esa Holopainen & Tomi Koivusaari, keyboardist Santeri Kallio, drummer Jan Rechberger and session bassist Olli-Pekka Laine — are much more reserved, even if their downward gazes and passive manner often feel quite appropriate given the nature of Amorphis’ music. Whatever effort the Finns make, seems to fall mostly on deaf ears though, with only the brooding “Into Hiding” off their 1994 opus, “Tales from the Thousand Lakes”, having any impact. The six songs allotted to Amorphis thus pass by quickly and without fanfare, and with so much of the intricacies lost to Parken’s notorious acoustics, the show ends up as quite the forgettable affair, I regret to say.

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Flogging Molly

Flogging Molly has a much better hold on the audience right off the bat; thousands of arms rise up at frontman Dave King’s behest and wave obediently during the opening track, “The Hand of John L. Sullivan”. The Celtic punks have the reputation of a festive live act and in that respect they do not disappoint. Not a moment goes by without at least one of the eight musicians lost in a dance, twisting, turning and jumping to the tune of the music, and by grouping “Swagger”, “Selfish Man” and the staple “Drunken Lullabies” at the very beginning, they are quick to inspire many in the crowd to follow suit. Indeed, the energy of the music combined with King’s embodiment of an old busker, strumming his acoustic guitar as he shares jokes, stories and song introductions, makes the show feel warm and inviting from the get-go. But one must also admire Flogging Molly for guiding us through a variety of moods and atmospheres explored across their six-album repertoire, with darker cuts like “Saints & Sinners” and especially “Float” reminding us that there is more to this band than just Irish party anthems. The most recent outing, “Life Is Good”, may have earned a damning review from us, but the metallic undercurrent and sense of drama in “Crushed (Hostile Nations)” nonetheless works wonders here, as a precursor to Volbeat’s imminent arrival. The hour-long performance concludes as it began, with thousands of arms in the air to appreciate “The Seven Deadly Sins”, and seeing this, it is hard to think otherwise than to concede that Flogging Molly manages to carry out its support duty with elegance, and probably recruits dozens of new fans in the process.

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Volbeat

When Motörhead’s “Born to Raise Hell” fades out and the curtain drops, no one is left doubting that Volbeat fully realises the significance of what is about to happen here. “The Devil’s Bleeding Crown” is discharged with the weight of anvil; the decibels are cranked up to a humbling level to support a sound mix the likes of which the Parken stadium has seldom witnessed before as frontman Michael Poulsen bassoons the air out of his lungs, fire and steel burning in his eyes. The nerve that has long been missing from the band’s performances makes a welcome return to present a band that seems hellbent and grateful and for once, it is not Rob Caggiano alone who shoulders the duty of showing off some spirit. When given the chance in “Lola Montez”, the former Anthrax guitarist still sucks the spotlight to himself with a blazing guitar solo and his signature mischievous grin, but there is much less of a one-man-army feel to the proceedings now, with all four musicians eager to leave their mark on this historic evening. And one really must commend Volbeat for making it special by both playing rarities and inviting a litany of guests to join them on stage.

For “Let It Burn”, one of the hit-singles off Volbeat’s latest album, “Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie”, Poulsen is accompanied by Mia Maja, who has featured on a handful of the band’s songs including this one, for a duet that sees the stadium erupt in the first mass sing-song of the night. The metal-of-heart, outnumbered of course by the casual listening segment as fate would have it, meanwhile raise their horns when Kreator’s Mille Petrozza emerges from backstage to snarl his parts in “7 Shots”, reassuring the early believers in Volbeat’s potential that in spite of moving toward a more chart-friendly format of late, the band has not forgotten those of us that still like to headbang to “Doc Holliday” et al. on occasion. Indeed, what truly impresses me tonight is the care taken to cater to all of Volbeat’s fans; whether you prefer to swoon over Johan Olsen of Magtens Korridorer’s cameos in “For evigt” and “The Garden’s Tale”, ruin your throat, trying to mimic the growling and intense showmanship of Napalm Death’s Mark ‘Barney’ Greenway in “Evelyn”, or reminisce about rock’n’roll’s heyday with Danko Jones in “Black Rose”, chances are that your needs are met during the 130 minutes that the concert lasts. And if not, then at least there is the cameo to rule them all: Metallica’s Lars Ulrich sitting in on the drums, first for “Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood” and since for a cover of “Enter Sandman”, at which point one feels certain that some people in the crowd must be on the verge of fainting.

All of the aforementioned walk-ons are supplemented by other gimmicks, too, such as Rod Sinclair contributing banjo for the already mentioned “7 Shots” and boxer Mikkel Kessler punching at the air (inside the boxing ring at the end of a platform extending from the stage, no less) during “A Warrior’s Call”, which was originally written as a tribute to him. A touching rendition of “Goodbye Forever”, dedicated to the memory of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington, meanwhile ups the bravado with a full gospel choir, and after “Fallen”, one lucky young crowdsurfer is presented with Poulsen’s signature Gibson SG guitar as the prize for his daring. And during the finale, “Still Counting”, in the encore, the boxing ring is filled up with the youngest of attendees, some of whose evening becomes complete by virtue of a coveted autograph from Mr. Poulsen himself.

Rumours of Volbeat, and in particular Poulsen, having lost their flair thus seem exaggerated tonight. Tracks such as “Slaytan”, the brand new single “Everlasting” (which comes with a distinct doom feel and brings rare growls out of Poulsen’s lungs) and “Seal the Deal” prove that even as the band’s style has taken a commercial turn, there is still room for hard rock and metal on the palette as well. But even though Poulsen, Caggiano, drummer Jon Larsen and bassist Kaspar Boys Larsen look most invigorated, playing their likes, there is something magical about the experience of a stadium’s worth of voices roaring the lyrics to “Maybellene i hofteholder” and “For evigt” amid twinkling smartphone lights, too. ”This is a dream come true. I don’t know how to thank you,” offers a visibly touched Poulsen just before the former, and without a doubt the majority of the people attending here will share his being awestruck; for with this kind of extravaganza, Volbeat cements its position as one of the absolute titans of rock music worldwide right now. History has been written tonight — the question is whether the longest standing and most loyal of Volbeat’s disciples still want to be part of it?

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Setlist:

  • 01. The Devil’s Bleeding Crown
  • 02. Heaven Nor Hell / Radio Girl
  • 03. Lola Montez
  • 04. Let It Burn
  • 05. Doc Holliday
  • 06. Sad Man’s Tongue
  • 07. 16 Dollars
  • 08. 7 Shots
  • 09. Fallen
  • 10. Slaytan / Dead Built
  • 11. Goodbye Forever
  • 12. Maybellene i hofteholder
  • 13. The Everlasting
  • 14. For evigt
  • 15. Evelyn
  • 16. The Lonesome Rider
  • 17. Seal the Deal
  • 18. The Garden’s Tale

— Encore —

  • 19. Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood
  • 20. Enter Sandman (Metallica cover)
  • 21. A Warrior’s Call
  • 22. Black Rose
  • 23. Pool of Booze, Booze, Booza
  • 24. Still Counting

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