Danish metal band Volbeat has been spending a lot of time in the U.S. recently and that investment continues to pay off for them. Already a household name in Europe, they’ve gone from opening slots in the U.S. for the likes of Metallica and Nightwish in 2009 to becoming headliners in their own right. Sunday’s crammed show at San Francisco’s Regency Ballroom only underscored that point but maybe left a few of the Volbeat die-hards longing for the days when they could hang out and have a drink with the band after the show.
Taking the stage to a Motorhead track, Volbeat kicked off the set with their old standby, The Human Instrument, before moving onto Guitar Gangsters during which Michael, Hank and Anders appropriately grouped at center-stage for a photo opp. The setlist kept to the tried-and-true material up until the Slayer-esque opening riff to Who They Are signaled a shift to the most recent release, Beyond Hell / Above Heaven. Based on the crowd response to the likes of Fallen, 16 Dollars, and Heaven Nor Hell, the Volbeat crew should have been left with no doubt that the new record has made an impact here in the U.S. But the highlight of the evening was without a doubt the unreleased song, Sweet Unicorns … a pure metal riff that fits in perfectly with the heavier end of Volbeat’s catalog and certainly left the room wanting to hear more.
“What do you believe in?” frontman Michael Poulsen demanded. The crowd paused a beat before responding, “Volbeat!” “What do you believe in?” The response quicker the time, “Volbeat!” Maybe true, but not the answer he was looking for. Alluding to the fact that it was a Sunday night, Michael explained that the churches back in Denmark were empty because people instead chose to worship at the church of heavy metal. And if there could be any doubt about the miracle of Volbeat and heavy metal, a guy in front of me in a wheelchair actually got up and started dancing as they busted out some Motorhead and Dio jams. I shit you not.
Not to take anything away from former guitarist Thomas Bredahl’s contribution to the band, but Hank Shermann of Mercyful Fate fame has proved to be a worthy replacement … bringing more crunch to the mix in addition to noticeably spicing up some of the guitar work on songs such as Still Counting. While Hank stood out for being at one with the guitar, Anders Kjølholm (bass) was clearly at one with the crowd; prowling the edge of the stage and interacting with the front row when he wasn’t on backup vocals duty. And then there’s Jon Larsen on drums … never showy and barely visible behind his kit, but bringing some pummeling double bass that was impossible to ignore. All combined, the band has never sounded tighter.
The 90 minute set ended with a four song encore which included the two songs that have gotten the most air play here in the U.S. (A Warrior’s Call and Still Counting), a Dusty Springfield cover (I Only Want To Be With You) dedicated to Michael’s wife who was standing in the wings and the heavy-as-all–get-out Pool of Booze, Booze, Booza. If that wasn’t enough, they whipped out a bit of Slayer’s Raining Blood before showering with crowd with souvenirs.
- The Human Instrument
- Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood
- Radio Girl
- Sad Man’s Tongue
- A Moment Forever / Hallelujah Goat
- Mary Ann’s Place
- Who They Are
- Mr. & Mrs. Ness
- Heaven Nor Hell
- 16 Dollars
- River Queen
- Sweet Unicorns
- Another Day, Another Way
- The Mirror and the Ripper
- A Warrior’s Call
- I Only Want to Be with You (Dusty Springfield cover)
- Pool of Booze, Booze, Booza
- Still Counting
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