Volbeat/Baroness/Danko Jones @Newcastle O2 Academy
When we were kids, it felt as if bands like Volbeat were ten a penny, playing to packed audiences the world over and pedalling a brand of feisty rock and roll which brazenly fused elements of punk and metal without fear of reproach or judgement.
But When We Were Kids – played live for the first time here – was just one of the wildly catchy anthems, belted out by the utterly dependable Danes, which reinforced the view that those days are dead and gone.
It’s credit to Volbeat that they’ll never be slaves to convention. In spite of commercial pressure and critical indifference, Michael Poulsen and his mates refuse to be pigeon-holed. Ironically, their heady mix of Black album-era Metallica, classic Misfits and Johnny Cash-inspired rockabilly has morphed into a genre all of its own. Just don’t mention the G-word to Poulsen’s face.
The Volbeat frontman wears non-conformity as a badge of honour: even the decision to bring sludge metal bruisers Baroness and garage rock trio Danko Jones along for the ride appeared to reinforce that overriding desire to be different. And the ‘Sold Out’ sign above the door on the first night of a hotly anticipated UK tour suggests different is good.
And that capacity crowd was in for an absolute treat. Three cuts off current long player Rewind, Replay, Rebound made a 19-strong setlist for the first time and there were rumours that a fourth – Rewind The Exit – was set for a debut. Perhaps Poulsen’s voice wasn’t quite up to a quartet of new tunes but a typically robust performance from the endearing singer songwriter made a mockery of his own admission that he was feeling under the weather.
For just shy of two hours Volbeat owned the stage and Cheapside Sloggers set the tone. Exodus/Slayer shredder Gary Holt appears on the album version of a truly visceral tune but Rob Caggiano took obvious pleasure in elevating the onslaught of an opener to a whole new level. The former Anthrax man frequently stole the limelight from Poulsen on a night when fretboards took an almighty pounding.
Lola Montez, Slaytan, Hallelujah Goat and a sensational version of Seal The Deal – one of three standout encore treats – were obvious highlights. A memorable rendition of Black Rose featured Danko Jones on lead vocals and Pelvis On Fire proved to be reassuringly ridiculous. In truth, picking out a dull moment, let alone a dud note, was difficult.
Volbeat are the band über producer Bob Rock must have imagined Metallica could be when he corralled the kings of thrash metal into making their career-defining, commercially canny Black album. Even on a record that spent 500 weeks bothering the Billboard chart, James Hetfield and co. chose to retain key elements of their Bay Area roots, leaving Volbeat to realise Rock’s grand vision of the ultimate genre-busting metal band.
Neither Danko Jones nor Baroness offer quite as much variation as the headline act but their value to a versatile package shone bright. The former deserve a far higher profile in the UK – and a slightly later start time than a prohibitive 6.30pm slot. Nevertheless, the Toronto trio made the best of a rare trip to Tyneside with a blistering 25-minute set and their thanks to those who rocked up early was refreshingly heartfelt.
Baroness are riding high on the back of the mightily progressive and mysteriously addictive Gold & Grey. And if the sludgy Georgians lack the instant appeal of their tour buddies then an immersive and inventive soundscape swiftly caught the attention of a fast-filling Academy. Showcasing Front Toward Enemy for the first time – on the band’s first visit to Newcastle – was a bold move but the Gold & Grey standard went down a storm. Take My Bones Away, from 2012’s Yellow & Green, set the seal on a powerful, retro-fuelled set.
Images by Adam Kennedy