The last time Volbeat graced our shores for a UK tour was a couple of years ago. Back then the guys were only starting to stir up some interest around the country and were playing shows to around a thousand people. During the intervening period the guys have been busy touring, mostly in the States, and recording their latest album ‘Outlaw Gentlemen And Shady Ladies’.
The new album has seen the band’s profile rise in the UK and that, coupled with an appearance at this year’s Download Festival, ensured that this time around the band could move up to the next level venue wise. So we found ourselves heading for the Manchester Academy, a first for me, and I managed to get lost! This meant that by the time my son and I got into the venue both support bands had been and gone. I heard good comments about Iced Earth, who were the main support, with one guy beside us buying a t-shirt on the strength of their performance, so they must have done something right!
The near capacity crowd though were there for a bit of Danish rock and judging by the number of Volbeat shirts in the crowd the merch stand had been doing a roaring trade. Having found a prime spot down the front at the barrier so my 13 year old son Callum could see, the Academy is a good venue but very flat, the lights went down and the PA pumped out ‘Gonna Raise Hell’ by Motorhead.
Greeted by a huge cheer the band took to the stage and launched into ‘Hallelujah Goat’ which got the crowd bouncing and the pints flying. Frontman Michael Poulsen then introduced the band as ‘Anthrax with three new members’ which raised a laugh and led into ‘Guitar Gangsters And Cadillac Blood’.
Since the band hooked up with ex Anthrax guitarist Rob Caggiano they appear to have a new found heaviness when playing live. Rob’s lead guitar work has added a harder edge to the band’s sound and his abilities have provided a new dynamic to the performance which had been missing.
The main bulk of the set tonight was, unsurprisingly, lifted from the latest album with tracks like the radio friendly ‘Lola Montez’, ‘ Cape Of Our Hero’ and ‘ Hangman’s Body Count’ all going down a storm with the crowd singing along.
Onstage Michael, Rob and bass player Anders were all covering plenty of ground, playing up to the crowd and the masses responded in kind. With all members playing instruments it would be easy for the performance to be a fairly static affair but what you end up with here is three frontmen for the price of one, bouncing around the stage.
The Volbeat back catalogue wasn’t forgotten with many old favourites being aired, the highlights being ‘Fallen’, ’16 Dollars’ and ‘Sad Man’s Tongue’, which was dedicated to Johnny Cash following a chorus of ‘Ring Of Fire’.
The main set was then rounded off with another classic in the shape of ‘Still Counting’, again with much crowd participation. The band returned after a brief break to play three encores which culminated in a great version of ‘Pool Of Booze, Booza, Booza’ with a quick burst of Slayer’s ‘Reign In Blood’ dedicated to Jeff Hanneman rounding of the sweat soaked night.
This was a solid performance from a band in their prime. You could argue that the set was very similar to their Download appearance, but on the night it didn’t seem to matter, my son certainly wasn’t complaining, except about the stifling heat in the Academy which was unbearable!
The question now is have Volbeat reached their peak in the UK or can they rise to arena status as they have across mainland Europe and beyond? Personally I have my doubts, but even if they remain at this level you can be assured of a great night out.
Set list –
Hallelujah Goat, Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood, Radio Girl, The Nameless One, Sad Man’s Tongue, Lola Montez, Heaven Nor Hell, 16 Dollars, Dead But Rising, Fallen, The Mirror And The Ripper, Cape of Our Hero, Maybellene I Hofteholder, The Hangman’s Body Count, Still Counting
Doc Holiday, I Only Wanna Be With You, Pool Of Booze, Booza Booza
Review and Photos by David Wilson
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