Words: Alan Daly
Pics: © Olga Kuzmenko Photography
In the midst of an Irish heatwave (ie: temperatures exceeding 20 degrees on at least two consecutive days), the lavish Olympia venue plays host to Danish rockabilly metallers Volbeat. Tonight marks their third visit to Dublin, but their first since 2011, in which time they have released two new albums and undergone lineup changes, most notably the addition of ex-Anthrax guitarist Rob Caggiano to the mix, the first non-Danish band member. Founding members Michael Poulsen and Jon Larsen have remained constant since Poulsen formed the band in Copenhagen in 2001 from the ashes of his former death metal band Dominus. Using the title and style of their 1997 album Vol.Beat as the starting point of what has now become a platinum record band capable of drawing a near-capacity crowd of Irish fans to the iconic Olympia Theatre.
First up, locally-established grunge revivalists Fangclub have the honor of opening the Irish and UK shows on this tour and seem to impress the swelling gathering from the outset. There’s no doubting the influence of Kurt Cobain on vocalist and guitarist Steven King, from the abundance of down-tuned nineties riffs to the mop of bleached blonde hair obscuring his face. While almost all of their set is taken from their recent self-titled debut album, there is a mix of excitement and indifference when they break into a faithful rendition of ‘Heart-Shaped Box’, which unsurprisingly prompts the loudest audience sing-along of their performance. The trio is certainly good at what they do, and it isn’t always necessary to reinvent the wheel when establishing a musical style. Fans of Nirvana and Soundgarden will enjoy checking them out.
The excitement in the venue builds tangibly as the changeover quickly gets underway, and Fangclub’s backdrop is lowered to reveal the familiar faded color palette of Volbeat’s imagery. The wait seems to take an eternity, and it’s more than twenty minutes after the scheduled start time when the house lights finally dim and the crowd erupts as Volbeat burst into ‘The Devil’s Bleeding Crown’, the opening track from their most recent album Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie. Of course, the best way to fully engage your audience is to hit your back catalog and get folk singing along to more familiar tracks, and that’s exactly what they do. The second number is actually a medley of ‘Heaven nor Hell’, ‘A Warrior’s Call’ and their catchy cover of the 1960’s classic ‘I Only Want to be with You’ which appeared on their debut album. As anticipated, this trio of fan favorites prompts pumping fists in the air accompanied by chants of “fight, fight, fight”. Is clear to see that Poulsen is genuinely flattered by the reaction and enthusiasm, and this adds to the onstage jovial atmosphere and camaraderie between himself, Larsen and Caggiano. Continuing with popular tracks, ‘Lola Montanez’ is next and begins with the fans singing solo after nothing more than a teaser of the opening riff. Of course, lyrics are not something this band need help with. Sounding as pitch perfect as he does on record, Poulsen puts on a stellar vocal performance, echoing sweetly around the boxes and tiers of the theatre. Not that we expected anything less from the man who’s voice epitomizes what makes this band stand out, in my opinion.
As the older material continues to flow, Poulsen takes time to acknowledge that inspiration and legend Johnny Cash performed at this very theatre (a quarter of a century ago), before teasing ‘Ring of Fire’ and other classic Cash as a segue into ‘Sad Man’s Tongue’. With everyone warmed up and in full swing, it’s time to test the water again with more songs from their newest album. ‘Let it Burn’ and ‘Seal the Deal’ are instant hits and the snappy Slayer-esque Seal the Deal bonus track ‘Slaytan’ leads straight into ‘Dead but Rising’. With a repertoire of tracks that always sound distinctly theirs, yet always different, the crowd is kept engaged and enthusiastic throughout the performance.
Not for the first time, Volbeat welcome Napalm Death frontman “Barney” Greenway onstage to share vocal duties for ‘Evelyn’, where Barney does the heavy-lifting coarse vocals, leaving Poulsen free to sing the clean parts. It works out amazingly well, and a nice unexpected treat for the multitude of death metal fans in attendance. Another treat is the as-yet-unreleased track ‘The Everlasting’, which has only been played live a handful of times to date, piquing interest and anticipating for their rumored 2019 follow up to Seal the Deal.
The faux-finale is ‘For Evigt’ which spurs an impressive sing-along from the audience, considering the majority of the lyrics are in Danish before the band take a brief pause and return for the ritualistic three-song encore. The climax of ‘Still Counting’, confirms that Volbeat is definitely not the only assholes in the room, but there’s not one unhappy face to be seen. Make sure to catch Volbeat at European Summer Festivals this year including Download(s) and Graspop among others.