Front Row Pix: Volbeat @ Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom
By Frank Poulin
Less than 24 hours after we left The Palladium in Worcester, MA, we were back in the saddle again, this time heading for the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom in NH. And evidently we weren’t the only ones to have planned two consecutive nights of music, as we saw and were greeted by a lot of familiar faces who couldn’t stop talking about how excited they were to see Volbeat ~ some for the first time, some for the tenth or more (Will someone please come up with a name for the international fanbase/groupies the band has accumulated ~ Volbeaters? Nah…sounds either too violent or two dirty. Well, there’s always Volbabes for the legion of female devotees…of whom the band is especially appreciative…) ~ and mind you, it was a cold, rainy, disgusting night, so the crowd wasn’t just capping of a day at the beach with a show, they had made the drive to see Volbeat, no doubt about it.
It’s always a treat to catch a show at the Ballroom (no secret that it’s one of our favorite venues); the staff is organized and courteous, even with a sold-out house there’s enough space so that you can move around, there’s fresh air, always a good vibe in the room, the lights and acoustics are excellent, and, most importantly, the open floor plan makes everyone feel like they’re right there with the bands (which they are!), so given Volbeat‘s love and knack (no, wait, it’s more than a knack…it’s more like a gift, because they are just so organically, genuinely skilled at making a connection with their audience) for interacting with the crowd, the venue was the perfect choice for the last night of their tour with Trivium and Digital Summer.
Digital Summer went on first and had no doubt come to kick some serious rock n roll ass, which they did (immediately putting themselves on the radar of many a music lover in attendance), but their high octane performance was cut short when not a minute into the first song, every microphone on stage stopped working, forcing them to stop (but lead singer Kyle Winterstein didn’t miss a beat and started handing out t-shirts to the fans while the techs worked things out). Soon they were back on track and they wasted no time riling up the crowd with all the energy they could muster ~ which, as it turns out, is A LOT. Featuring the amazing drum work of their newest full-time member, 13-year-old whiz Austin Rios (what were you doing at age 13?), DS didn’t hold anything back during their all-too-short set with the anthem-for-the-screwed-over, “Forget You” (which, as you can easily imagine, included an audience call back of “Fuck you!” when the band gave the signal) The crowd was left wanting more, but the night was off to a great start with sweaty, balls-to-the-wall rock n roll atitude.
The stage techs made quick work of the set change and Trivium was playing in no time. Led by the charismatic Matt Heafy, the band delivered a solid, hard-hitting set that might have been just a tad too heavy for the people who had come out just to see Volbeat, but I for one didn’t mind one bit ~ and clearly Trivium had attracted a large contingent of their own who loved every minute the band was onstage because they sounded great. Yes, some Trivium songs do head from hard rock into heavier territory, but the band knows how to put on one hell of a show.
Volbeat, who are charismatic and radiate an aura of confidence and true excitement over getting to do what they love, play music, even as they’re just walking to the stage, started off with “Doc Holliday” and never looked back. They owned the stage and the audience before they even played that first note. The last time I saw them, their set was much more laid-back, with the band taking frequent breaks from the “official” set to play short riffs from crowd favorites and the whole thing had the feel of a [great] jam session. This time ’round, though, they were pure rock and roll juggernauts, playing for almost 2 hours and delivering a set of their very best tracks played with such passion and vigor and enthusiasm ~ not to mention technical mastery ~ that we all wished those two hours could turn into three…or four….This experience was completely different from the one I had seeing them last year, but Volbeat is one of those bands that is so incredibly tight onstage ~ all while making their extraordinary performance look effortless and like they’re having the time of their lives ~ that you can see them again and again and still walk away each time looking forward to their next show (which we already are).
Volbeat went from being virtual unknowns (I remember their very first reps begging for any bit of coverage they could get) to earning the status of one of the most outstanding bands on the scene today and, we feel very confident in saying, for many years to come. They have set the bar, and they have set it high…and they may very well be the only ones capable of ever surpassing their current level of talent.
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