Verizon Wireless Theater (Grand Prairie, TX)
– Words and Photos by James Villa –
At first glance, the Rock Allegiance tour appeared to be another reason for Volbeat to tour the U.S. once again. After a triumph sell-out run earlier this year, why not come back to the States and do it all over again. And this time, bring some friends, like Finnish rock legends H.I.M. and the opening act from their previous spring tour, All That Remains. As for Airborne Toxic Event, a family emergency forced the band off the road for a few dates, including this event.
All That Remains started the evening’s festivities with “The Last Time” off the 2010 record, For We Are Many. ATR extended their normal half hour set by 15 minutes, and it enabled them to feature selections from several past studio recordings. Guitarist Oli Herbert and his mates played four cuts off last year’s A War You Cannot Win, including the infectious “Stand Up.” Fortunately, they saved the best for last. Two of the group’s biggest hits off the Fall of Ideals album, “This Calling” and “Six” brought the crowd to life. “Two Weeks”, the closing number from ATR’s 2008 Overcome recording, put the audience in the right mood for what was about to come.
Many in the Verizon Theater were eagerly anticipating the return of H.I.M. It had been over three years since the band appeared on these shores and this savvy collection of rock fans were eager to welcome the group back.
This legendary rock act definitely marches to its own beat. The group dropped its record label, Sire, to go the independent route. Not only did the band finance its new album out of their own pockets, they shopped the distribution rights to three different labels. Since they controlled the publishing rights, vocalist Ville Valo and his cohorts were able to license their new album to Universal Records in Europe, Cooking Vinyl for the United Kingdom, and Indie label Razor & Tie for the United States. This compelling strategy convinced H.I.M. to release three separate singles for each territory. This evening those songs, “Into the Night”, “All Lips Go Blue” and the album title track, “Tears on Tape” were performed to an enthusiastic crowd.
Highlights of the 15-song set included the band’s take on Chris Isaaks’ classic “Wicked Game” as well as “Wings of a Butterfly”, “Join Me in Death”, “Your Six, Six, Six” and “Right Here in My Arms”. Bassist Mikko Paananen did his best to work the crowd with his exceptional playing, but it was Valo’s vocal work that really held this audience’s attention.
And then it came time for Volbeat!
These Danish rockers are no pastries, and the crowd ate it up. Starting with the opening chords of “Hallelujah Goat”, from their 2008 breakthrough recording Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood, Volbeat asserted their dominance immediately. A near-capacity crowd was fist-pumping, singing and thoroughly getting into the performance. The band’s previously noted tour sold-out almost every venue it appeared in. This time around, however, a new Volbeat seemed to have emerged for the Rock Allegiance Tour. Credit former Anthrax guitarist Rob Caggiano for the transformation.
The noted musician / producer, who helped turn the Anthrax ship around, had retired from that band in order to concentrate on producing records. His first order of business was the new Volbeat record. The chemistry between himself and singer / songwriter Michael Poulsen was so dynamic, that when the band leader asked the guitarist to join the band, Caggiano abandoned his previous retirement plans and said yes. His steady presence on guitar has turned Volbeat into burgeoning superstars. And when I say this crowd loves this band, it’s no exaggeration.
Poulsen has evolved into one of the best front men in rock. The Great Dane may dress and look like a full-fledged rockabilly star, but make no mistake, it’s pure rock that oozes out of his pores. Even when he incorporates the music of the late great Johnny Cash hit “Ring of Fire” into “Dead Man’s Tongue”, the distinctive metal twang made this song a show highlight.
Volbeat has been on a distinct upward trajectory since they kicked of 2013 with the release of Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies. Don’t be surprised when the next collaboration between Poulsen and Caggiano produces another stellar release and their next tour finds the band coming to an “arena near you.” Catch this band on tour now! It’s about as close as you’ll ever get to these rising superstars again.