Rock and roll has always had its detractors who thought it was “the Devil’s music”, going right back to when riots broke out while Bill Haley and the Comets sang ‘Rock Around the Clock’ and girls fainted when Elvis rolled that famous pelvis. What these people didn’t seem to understand is that rock – and later, heavy metal – made fans feel, and express, the emotions inside of them. And what they never saw was the sheer joy that rock n roll inspires.
Tonight’s headliners Volbeat are a perfect example of this. Their canny rockabilly/heavy metal mix has been delighting fans since 2001, when they formed in Denmark. Inspired by artists as disparate as the aforementioned Elvis Presley and Slayer, they have taken the very essence of rock n roll and distilled it, getting rid of all of the flotsam and jetsom, leaving behind a sound that’s as pure as it is entertaining.
Support act Fangclub have the seemingly unenviable task of preceding the Danes, but they take to it with gusto. Arriving on the stage in a swathe of red-tinged dry ice, their forty-five minute set fizzes with energy and vibrancy. Their unabashedly catchy grunge/garage rock fills the spacious confines of the Telegraph building with ease and soon has heads nodding appreciatively. Clearly Nirvana fans (their music sounds like what Nirvana would have produced had Kurt Cobain not been so tormented, while vocalist Steven King even resembles the tragic frontman), they wrap up with a faithful cover of ‘Heart Shaped Box’ which sees the first real spark of animation in the crowd. A somewhat predictable, but spirited ending.
Half an hour later, Motorhead’s ‘Born to Raise Hell’ rings out, which is clearly a cue as the noise in the room ratchets up several notches and the stage lights begin a frenetic display. The members of Volbeat make their way onstage, with the biggest cheer granted to vocalist Michael Poulsen. It immediately becomes apparent that the honey-voiced Poulsen is the consummate frontman; he holds the audience in the palm of his hand throughout, with requests for horns, ‘hey’s and hands being obeyed without hesitation, and chats amiably in between songs with ease and humour.
Their set – all one hour and forty-five minutes of it – is flawless; Poulsen’s vocals are on point, never wavering for a second, the rest of the band are on fire (particularly guitarist Rob Caggiano’s solo work), and they barely pause throughout. The fans respond with ecstatic applause and singalongs that at times threaten to drown the band out, for which they are rewarded with hit song after hit song: from opener ‘The Devil’s Bleeding Crown’, to the tongue twisting ‘Slaytan/Dead But Rising’, to the driving ‘Lola Montez’, and even an unscheduled blast of ‘Parasite’, which Poulsen jokes that he hates because it was so hard to write (it only goes for about a minute!).
The crowd’s response never dims for a second; there are no lags, no slower moments that have people wandering to the bar en masse, no wandering attention spans. Indeed, why would there be – Volbeat are very much on a winning formula, channelling Johnny Cash as much as Metallica to create a sound that is as raucously satisfying as it is uplifting to listen to. When a gig sees half the audience headbanging and racing around in circle pits and the other half shaking their asses with abandon, you know you’re onto something.
And then, just when you think you’ve seen everything, Poulsen quiets everyone down, intoning “let’s get serious now, ok?” before introducing…Napalm Death frontman Barney Greenway, who joins them for a, ahem, ‘interesting’ version of ‘Evelyn’. What even…? It’s a rather surreal, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ moment that startles and thrills the crowd in equal measure.
Heartfelt, muscular ballad ‘Goodbye Forever’ finishes the main portion of the set, with a three song encore following: ‘Black Rose’, Hallelujah Goat’ (which features the best riff of the night) and finally the slinky ‘Still Counting’, during which the crowd expel the last of their sweat and energy in a frantic circle pit. It’s a suitably upbeat ending to what has frankly been a superb set; with not a single foot put wrong, Volbeat look justifiably proud as they remain onstage for a few minutes, throwing out guitar pics and other stage detritus.
There wasn’t a single sad face in the packed out Telegraph building tonight. Not a frown, not an expression of boredom, or any eyerolling condescension. What happened was an event that simply radiated joy, and swept everyone in the room along with it. If that’s wrong, then the thousand or so people here don’t want to be right. And hey: they always say the Devil has the best tunes.
- The Devil’s Bleeding Crown
- Heaven Nor Hell/A Warrior’s Call/I Only Wanna Be With You
- Lola Montez
- Sixteen Dollars
- Sad Man’s Tongue
- Doc Holliday
- Let It Burn
- Seal the Deal
- Slaytan/Dead But Rising
- The Lonesome Rider
- The Everlasting
- For Evight
- Evelyn (Feat. Barney Greenway, Napalm Death)
- Goodbye Forever
- Black Rose
- Hallelujah Goat
- Still Counting
Review by Melanie Brehaut
Photography by Darren McVeigh