Volbeat Give Sold Out Crowd What They Want

DSC_1548Concert Review

Rapids Theatre
Niagara Falls, NY

Monday May 5, 2014
Review: Robert Winans
Photos: Joseph Suto

Volbeat brought metal-core favorites Trivium and recent upstarts Digital Summer to the Rapids Theatre, Monday evening. I’ve seen both Trivium and Volbeat before in various venues so needless to say I already had planned on seeing a good show. However what I got was not only a good show, but perhaps the best show I have ever seen either band put on. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have seen performances from even the best bands that appeared to be really phoned in, half hearted just going through the motions. While I expected it to be musically pretty good, the fan outpouring for Volbeat and Trivium was much higher than I ever expected. Tickets had sold out to this venue months ago, and people were paying more than twice the printed value to get in on this show, which means that the bands played to a packed house of eagerly anticipating fans.

The atmosphere was tumultuous as people were becoming impatient waiting for the stage to become fully set up amidst a scaffold malfunction. But as soon as Digital Summer came out, the crowd was instantly ready to go. Personally, I was never really wowed by Digital Summer. They are good musically, but I tend to judge frontmen harshly on their vocals. I mean, that is your instrument, so when its not spot on, it’s noticeable. If Dave Mustaine played Hanger 18 with the wrong guitar tuning, it would be painfully obvious. However this time around, Digital Summer stepped up their game a bit and put more energy into their live set than what is usually expected from a relative newcomer. Guitars were spot on, and they even have a thirteen year old drummer that can really play. If they polish the singing up in between the guttural sounds, that band has some real potential to get attention.

Trivium came out in typical grand fashion with a operatic entrance which is just their thing and it suits them. I see Trivium as one of the best, if not the best period, metal-core bands out there or ever for that matter. Guitar wise, they have some of the most complicated guitar riffs and solo work to play with their sheet music looking something out of the Classical Era in sophistication. That being said, Trivium is a band that always plays well, but they seem to up their engagement based on the crowd. The last time I saw them, they played with Devil Driver to a much smaller room mid winter and the crowd was just small and drained, but they still put on a decent show albeit a strange setlist.

This time around, Trivium seemed to come out reinvigorated and ready to go. They came out however for the first time without their regular drummer Nick Augusto and instead appeared with their drum tech Mat Madiro. Lead singer/guitarist Matt Heafy let the crowd know that ” He (Madiro) had less than 24 hours to learn the whole set…” never saying outright why Augusto wasn’t there, only to release the next day that they had parted ways with Augusto who had been their drummer since 2010.

Trivium’s set was nine songs long and in their good taste always play a slew of their numerous hits throwing in one unexpected older song. This time around, they chose to go with “Through Blood, Dirt and Bone” as their surprise b side amongst their obvious song choices such as “Like Light To Flies” and “Down From The Sky”. Despite having the drum tech sitting in, they seemed to be completely on their “A game” with Heafy and Corey Beaulieu (lead guitar) furiously exchanging riffs, faces contorted screaming wildly during “Down From The Sky” with Paulo Gregoletto on bass assaulting the very edge of the stage like a machine. The whole of the band unleashed by the music through some vengeful look of conviction thrashing about while playing some of the most complicated solos you’ll ever see live making it look effortless. Watching them play just fixates to a point of awe with such clear demeanor that cannot be manufactured. They finished their set strong with “In Waves” getting the crowd jumping off their feet. Truly the best performance I’ve ever seen them play. Trivium is out in support of their latest release Vengeance Falls.





Although Trivium really pumped the crowd up just as a band of that caliber should, the crowd became more insane when it came to the headliner Volbeat. Now in case you by some unfortunate happening, haven’t ever heard of the “Kings of Denmark”, Volbeat is one of the most widely popular growing rock/metal bands in the U.S. right now. Some refer to them as “Elvis Metal” which the band seemingly has adopted as a result incorporating the image of a skull with wings adorning an Elvis like wig atop its head, which is slightly comical and also pretty awesome.

If I could say anything definitive about Volbeat’s performance, it is that its a music heavy setlist, and they play like they mean it, though that hardly seems to do it justice. The setlist was huge nearing almost 20 songs with the encore included. Its all too common for even a headliner to come out, play their chosen setlist of roughly 10 plus songs, throw their guitar picks and drum sticks out and say goodnight, and most would say its a good show. If this is the case, Volbeat is just going out and setting the bar much higher. They wasted no time tearing into “Doc Holiday” with lead singer Michael Poulsen head banging harder than some of the crowd onstage tossing his slicked back hair wildly about taking a few breaks throughout the show to comb it back in place validating the persona his fans had given him. He referenced Johnny Cash and thanked a man in the crowd who came in an old Johnny Cash t-shirt. Poulsen really knows how to charm the crowd as thanked the crowd for coming out. While Poulsen is the frontman for the band, the chemistry onstage between him and former Anthrax guitarist turned Volbeat producer and finally turned Volbeat guitarist Rob Caggiano makes their performance genuinely seem more like fun then playing a show. These two looked like they were having just as much fun if not more-so than the crowd if you can believe such a thing to be possible. They played song after song addressing the crowd a few times with charm, but mostly, these guys can just play. That was just the tone of the evening. Play your hearts out like you mean every single lick, sing like you are preaching every single word.

While Trivium had the crowd moshing pretty decently, Volbeat turned them into utter glorious chaos. Normally I would simply say that this level of crowd involvement with moshing and singing along was impressive enough, but you see the one detriment to the Rapids Theater is that the pit area is made up entirely of a glossy lacquered wood. To those who don’t know why that’s bad, a well buffed floor with a lot of beer spilled on it equals zero friction resulting in a mosh pit where falling every two seconds is a given. Even still, relentlessly they kept getting up and going at it as if the music compelled them in futility to keep it up. That’s real dedication from your fans. If you can play and make people want to attempt moshing on what feels like an ice hockey rink, falling over and over then you are doing something right.

They played through “Hallelujah Goat” amongst others, but when the band tore into “Lola Montez”, the crowd seemed louder than the speakers themselves. The performance was better than I could have expected. As time goes on they seem to just better everything including their stage prowess. They went through fan favorites “A Warriors Call” and “Heaven Nor Hell” with spectacular ease. I was blown away when they brought back out Heafy and Beaulieu from Trivium to play “Evelyn”. With Volbeat running all over the stage like madmen shaking hands with the crowd playing masterfully along while Trivium members Beaulieu on guitar and Heafy on vocals, it presented something that you can’t get on a cd and really made the crowd feel a part of the interaction.

Of course they played “Still Counting”, the song that arguably started the band’s impressive career to date and it was impossible not to sing that infectious opening line which as I am writing this cannot help but say in my head typing to the rhythm of the guitar. Had the set finished right there, everyone could have gone home completely satisfied and without even the slightest stretch to the imagination said that was probably one of the best shows ever played at the Rapids Theater. But it didn’t just stop there. A few moments after they walked off, they came right back on to do an encore. And not just one or two songs, no that would have been too easy. They played another four tunes including the radio conquering “The Hangman’s Body Count” off their latest album Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies. To be frank, I don’t think Volbeat could have put on a better show with the sheer volume to which they came out guns blazing and didn’t stop from the warning shot until the last round and then some. Truly they continue to be one of the top bands in rock right now, putting in the time with the audience and doing well to make everyone they play with that much better. After this tour, they come back to the States in September for another North American tour with Five Finger Death Punch and Hellyeah. If you have not seen these guys play, you are unquestionably missing out.

Doc Holliday
Hallelujah Goat
Boa (JDM)
Lola Montez
Sad Man’s Tongue
Heaven nor Hell / A Warrior’s Call
16 Dollars
Dead but Rising
Evelyn (With Matt Heafy and Corey Beaulieu of Trivium)
Radio Girl
Maybellene I Hofteholder
Still Counting
Pool of Booze, Booze, Booza
The Hangman’s Body Count
The Mirror and the Ripper

Brave This Storm
Like Light to the Flies
Built to Fall
Dying in Your Arms
Through Blood and Dirt and Bone
Down from the Sky
In Waves

Special thanks to Steve Karas for the credentials to review the show

About Joseph Suto

Location: Buffalo, NY Photographer/Reviewer
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