Volbeat

support Iced Earth + Teenage Bottlerocket
author AP date 01/12/13 venue Forum, Frederiksberg, DEN

It cannot be denied that Volbeat have, over the past five years or so, risen to be one of the biggest contemporary metal bands in the world. In their native Denmark, they are the torch bearers, leading by example and proving to the zounds of hopeful young bands that success is within reach - it simply requires belief, devotion and hard work. And, having assumed, or rather, earned this role, the quartet have never forgotten their humble origins, which means that year after year, the very fans that catapulted them to mainstream stardom are given the opportunity to watch them live, and never once have they expressed as much as a glimmer of arrogance or lack of gratitude when they've done so. As such, with a disappointing performance at Hellfest '13 still fresh in mind, it is with much higher expectations that I venture out to the largest indoor venue in Copenhagen alongside 9,999 other people ranging from hardened, muscular rockers to suburban dads, soccer moms and their children, to watch Volbeat on home ground for the first time outside of a festival setting.

Photos courtesy of Lykke Nielsen

Teenage Bottlerocket

What a punk rock band is doing on the support bill is beyond me, but judging by the abundance of horns shown at them, most people here cannot differentiate between the genre and heavy metal anyway, and as such, it is a surprisingly warm welcome that the always amusing Teenage Bottlerocket receive tonight. Not without a peppering of irony, the quartet initiate the proceedings with the tongue-in-cheek "Headbanger", which is delivered slightly faster than on record, and with a sound mix which does them no favours. Fortunately, the issues are rectified to a satisfactory degree come track two, the irresistible "Don't Want to Go", which has plenty of people nodding in approval, much against my expectations. Still, it is clear that while Teenage Bottlerocket look comfortable playing to an audience this size (no doubt because of past festival performances), a venue like Forum is much too large to capture the fun and energy that are so central to a Bottlerocket show. "Done With Love" sounds borderline fantastic, and it is delivered with considerable enthusiasm by misters Roy Carlisle, Kody Templeman, Miguel Chen and Brandon Carlisle, but even though the concert does not collapse into the disaster I feared, I'd still watch these boys in a basement any day over a performance like this.

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Iced Earth

Iced Earth, however, are an entirely different proposition, and the fact that a band of their status is tasked with supporting Volbeat, rather vice versa, is admittedly a little baffling. Nonetheless, the five gentlemen handle the situation with humility, simply using this opportunity to play their biggest Danish show yet with the sort of confidence you would naturally expect from a band with (soon) 11 studio albums and more than two decades of touring notched on their belts. The mix, though not perfect, demands few complaints, and the charisma with which lone founding member, lead guitarist Jon Schaffer, and vocalist Stu Block, who has been with the band only since 2011, carry themselves is a testimony to the fact that Iced Earth could easily pull off a headlining concert of this magnitude on their own - even with a crowd as unfamiliar with their material as this.

People are here to watch heavy metal, so it is hardly a surprise that most people still seem to appreciate what Iced Earth have to offer; they are, after all, about as true as heavy metal bands get, and boast a wonderfully down-tuned and thrashy foundation, thus delivering headbanging opportunities galore. Iced Earth will release their 11th album "Plagues of Babylon" on the 07th of January, 2014, so naturally we are treated to a taste of that record tonight as well as the classics, with the title track opening the proceedings, and the very promising ballad "If I Could See You" sounding absolutely chilling. "Peacemaker", too, with its intoxicating gallop and country infusions in the intro, bodes well for the impending release; but in the end it is of course the eponymous "Iced Earth" which emerges as the pinnacle of a convincing and thoroughly enjoyable concert.

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Volbeat

After what feels like a lifetime, the evening's main entertainment begins with two gentlemen clad in Southern garb playing a Western style melody with a banjo and lap steel guitar in front of a curtain adorned with Volbeat's current logo. Little by little, drummer Jon Larsen, bassist Anders Kjølholm, lead guitarist Rob Caggiano and rhythm guitarist/vocalist Michael Poulsen merge into it as the music transforms into "Doc Holliday" until the show, quite literally, begins with a bang, as the curtain drops and fireworks blast into the air to mark the arrival (or homecoming?) of Volbeat. I must immediately confess to not being such a fan of the Metallica wankery taking place in this song and the following "Hallelujah Goat", but once "Radio Girl" off my personal favourite Volbeat record, "Rock the Rebel / Metal the Devil", rolls in, I find myself deriving much pleasure from a band I've always written off as only moderately interesting, though of course always admitting that their style is pretty unique.

Volbeat look to be in high humour tonight, in stark contrast with the distant, indifferent showing at Hellfest last summer, with Kjølholm, Caggiano and Poulsen all sporting wide grins and doing their utmost to show, through movement and expression, just how pleased they are to be back in Denmark, playing to familiar faces. "The Mirror and the Ripper" off 2010's "Beyond Hell / Above Heaven" and "The Nameless One" off this year's "Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies" are fantastic examples of the song-writing and -playing talent packed into this outfit, highlighting especially Poulsen's knack for constructing nigh irresistible vocal melodies with his signature Elvis Presley touch. Say what you will, Michael Poulsen is a first-rate singer, the enormous sing-songs and the rapturous applause after both songs witnessing this fact.

There are moments which I find dysfunctional, such as the brief jamming of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire", which segues into a half-acoustic, half-electric rendition of "Sad Man's Tongue", and there's no way around the fact that a two-hour show packed full of songs that, in all honesty, tend to sound a little too similar, can prove to be too trying for those of us who do not fashion ourselves devout fans of the band. But at the same time, I surprise myself to find that the colossal global radio hits like "Lola Montez" and "Cape of Our Hero", which I tend to cringe at on record, are the ones I find most powerful and enticing in the live setting. "The Garden's Tale", featuring a cameo from Johan Olsen of Magtens Korridorer, provides another standout moment, and the precursor to the absolute pinnacle of the evening: a veritable star parade of guests.

Mark 'Barney' Greenway has flown in from Birmingham, England to appear, just as on record, as a special guest vocalist on the brilliantly contrasted "Evelyn", while The Storm's Pernille Rosendahl appears to deliver her parts on "Mary Ann's Place", and remains to interpret Sarah Blackwood's bits in "Lonesome Rider" as well; the parade concluding with Iced Earth's Jon Schaffer emerging from backstage to feature as a guest guitarist on "Pool of Booze, Booze, Booza". I call this the pinnacle because the guests add much needed diversity to a show that has begun dragging its feet somewhat at this point, and even the wonderful "Caroline Leaving", "Maybellene i Hofteholder" and "Still Counting" in the encore do not manage to replicate the euphoria that those star-spangled songs generate. What Volbeat muster up tonight is by no means legendary, but it beats that dreary Hellfest performance by a long shot.

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