Volbeat and Metallica at Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids

Van Andel Arena, 09 November 2009

Rockabilly Metal. Johnny Cash meets Metallica. That’s probably the best way to describe Volbeat. Maybe not the most obvious band to open for Metallica, but who wants to see three bands in a row doing the same thing? Kudos to the veterans for bringing variety to the tour.

It’s hard to adequately take advantage of the ginormous stage that Metallica hauls around with them, and play to a half-full arena as fans are still filing in. But rushing onto stage like they own it, these four guys from Denmark are not intimidated. Playing mostly songs off of their album Rock the Rebel / Meet the Devil Volbeat got a luke-warm reception from the crowd, who weren’t quite sure what to make of them at first. But after a few songs the “Hey, this is actually pretty good” mentality hits, and people warmed up to the strange, new band. Having been familiar with them beforehand, I was excited to get to see them. Unfaltered by being the relatively unknown new kids on the block, they came out and kicked ass. Being seated almost directly in front of drummer, Jon Larsen (and being one myself,) I couldn’t help but notice how solid he was, and how effortless he makes double bass sound. Singer, Michael Poulsen was amazing and it was an honor to see someone which such a clean, boisterous voice sing live. Not a band that you will likely hear on the radio, (not in Grand Rapids, anyway) I urge you to do some light hunting and check them out on your own.

With 5 albums under their belt, (under the moniker Lamb of God, anyway) including a live album and DVD, the metal gods from Richmond, VA have earned their place in American metal and been rewarded with a Metallica tour. Having seen them a few years ago at a smaller venue, I was disappointed at the lack energy they were putting out. (And normally I prefer smaller venues). The songs were played perfectly. Which sounds great, but I can hear the album at home or in my car. A band that could easily have been replaced with a CD, makes for a boring show. When I see a band live, I want something new and fresh. Apparently playing arenas where most bands would be overwhelmed is exactly what Lamb of God needed to break out of their shoe-gazing shell. Utilizing the large stage and making a connection with the crowd seemed not to be a problem. They still played perfectly, but also drew the crowd in by giving them something to watch as well. This really doesn’t take much more than running around everywhere, and stopping for the occasional windmill. Look to Lamb of God to lead American metal for some time to come.

What can you say that hasn’t already been said about Metallica? What needs to be said? Lasers, pryro, giant caskets, a lighting rig bigger than the stage itself… Supporting their billionth album, the biggest metal band in the world does not disappoint when it comes to their live show. Stage engulfed in smoke, and lasers that could probably cut one in half, the boys start kicking ass with “That Was Just Your Life” from the new album, Death Magnetic. Utilizing the 360 degrees stage, (set in the middle of the arena) to its full capabilities the band was able to run around freely (while avoiding the pyrotechnics, that is) and treat the entire audience as if they had the best seats in the house. Even the drum riser spun a quarter turn every few songs. With an arsenal of hits at their disposal, there’s no low point in the set. Playing for about an hour and a half, the show concluded with “Seek and Destroy”, no fake encore, and black beach balls with the bands logo, dropped from the rafters as souvenirs. One of the best shows I’ve ever seen.

Lars is the biggest dork in the world, and needs to keep his tongue in his mouth.