Volbeat @ The Pageant – St. Louis, MO

Volbeat, Cold
and Anchored at The Pageant, St. Louis: A Concert Review

By Matt Albers

            On the last day of July 2011, the
city of St. Louis was treated by a performance of a unique band that has worked
diligently in the past few years to become one of the most praised groups in
contemporary metal and rock. Denmark’s Volbeat has made a name for themselves
all over Europe after their formation in 2001 out of the remnants of vocalist
and front man Michael Poulsen’s old death metal band Dominus. Volbeat quickly
became known for their original combinations of heavy metal, punk, rockabilly
and 1950’s-styled blues and country-influenced rock n’ roll. After four albums
and thanks to opening for Metallica on select North American dates of their “World
Magnetic” tour, as well as exposure through airplay on satellite metal radio
stations, Volbeat began to generate an enthusiastic following in the U.S. and
Canada in the past few years, to the point where some of their more rock
radio-friendly songs (such as “Fallen” from their latest album, 2010’s Beyond Hell/Above Heaven) allowed them
to headline their own North American tours recently, which led them to the
humble venue of The Pageant in St. Louis on Sunday, July 31.

On this date, as part of their
official Beyond Hell/Above Heaven
North American tour, Volbeat brought with them two very different opening acts.
The first being the very underwhelming rock group Anchored, from Texas. Having
just played The Pageant a few months earlier on a tour opening for Black Label
Society, Anchored’s sleazy, gritty, overconfident attitude failed to mask the
all-too-familiar sound of repetitive, stale alternative southern rock. Looking
and sounding like nothing short of a group of frat boys who wanted to be rock
stars, Anchored’s textbook, cookie-cutter mainstream, corporate rock music only
appealed to the Nickleback, Kid Rock and Puddle of Mudd fans in the very small
crowd of the earliest arriving concert-goers.

The second band to open for Volbeat
was melodic, progressive alternative rock band and numetal wave survivors Cold.
Leading up to the day of the show, Cold’s small but dedicated St. Louis area
fan base showed strong signs of enthusiasm for this opening band on the bill
alone, regardless of Volbeat’s presence. Although they started out strong in
the evening, opening with more aggressive or well-known songs like “Happens All
The Time,” Cold’s set began to weaken due to their gothic, depressing stage
presence which showed signs of aging musicians who have constantly struggled to
make a substantial career, not to mention a lack of familiar songs and fan
favorites, playing neither of their hits from 2000’s 13 Ways to Bleed On Stage, “Just Got Wicked” nor their expected
closer “No One.” Instead, Cold focused on playing songs from their latest album
Superfiction, their first in over six
years, and still delivering some of their most memorable songs from their 2003
album Year of the Spider like
“Suffocate” and the obligatory “Stupid Girl.” Ultimately, Cold’s lackluster
set, no longer as energetic as previously in their career, was only enough to
please their most die-hard fans.

The silver lining of the two opening
acts’ forgettable and disappointing performances was that they made Volbeat’s
live debut in the St. Louis city limits even more epic and powerful. Despite an
evident cautious but comfortable presence, Volbeat delivered all the talent,
musicianship, enthusiasm and fun attitude to the St. Louis crowd, filling the
entire lower section of The Pageant, as the upper level balcony was closed for
the expected smaller crowd than the venue can hold at maximum capacity. The
only other time Volbeat played in the St. Louis area was in 2009 opening for
Nightwish at Pop’s, where they had already experienced a large and enthusiastic
crowd consisting of their own fans as well as very accepting Nightwish fans.
However, since Pop’s is located in Sauget, IL and not TECHNICALLY in St. Louis,
this meant that the band saw their performance at The Pageant that night as
their first performance ever in the St. Louis area, in which front man Michael
Poulsen admitted to the audience that they were apprehensive that the turnout
and crowd response would be disappointing. Poulsen also admitted by the end of
their set, however, that their negative assumptions were proven wrong, as
clearly all members of the crowd showed their appreciation, ranging from the
moshing metalheads in the pit to the large groups of families and middle-aged
couples pleasantly taking in the show while sitting down at their tables.

Volbeat’s set was nothing short of
outstanding, especially among St. Louis’ already diverse, sometimes segregated,
music scene. The band’s own unique blend of musical styles, ranging from
influences including Metallica, Elvis Presley, Social Distortion, Misfits, Johnny
Cash, Ramones and even St. Louis native and rock n’ roll legend Chuck Berry,
were amplified even further through their tight, precise live musicianship and
genuine crowd-pleasing abilities which demanded audience participation, as a
prime example of how European bands want to be professional musicians, as
opposed to American bands who want to be rock stars (*cough*, Anchored,
*cough*). Volbeat’s set consisted of songs ranging throughout their four-album
career, including older songs like “Soulweeper,” “The Garden’s Tale,” “Radio
Girl,” and their cover of Dusty Springfield’s “I Only Wanna Be With You,” as
well as their predictable but always energetic opener “The Human Instrument,”
and their equally predictable but fun closer “Pool of Booze, Booze, Booza.”
Songs from their later albums consisted of “Guitar Gangsters and Cadillac
Blood,” “Heaven Nor Hell,” “Still Counting,” and “Hallelujah Goat,” as well as
some surprisingly unexpected newer songs like “A New Day” and “A Warrior’s
Call.”

Along with the already impressive roster
of songs in their set, Volbeat also expressed their own brand of witty
music-themed banter, consisting not only of puns and jokes from Michael
Poulsen’s dry but giddy sense of humor, but also random snippets of songs
paying tribute to bands including Motorhead, Slayer and even Queen. Possibly
the most notable point of their show was during their encore when they invited
up to twenty lucky fans to join them on stage for a performance of their fan
appreciation song entitled “Thanks.” Fans fortunate enough to be waved past by
the rather unnecessarily uptight security to take the stage with Volbeat helped
end the one of a kind show with a memorable and unique experience for both
participating fans on stage as well as fans watching from The Pageant’s house.
The show in St. Louis is proof that a Volbeat show is not to be missed, and any
self-respecting fan of diverse, eclectic metal or rock would do right by
themselves to give the band a listen if they haven’t done so already. Thanks to
the overall well-received St. Louis crowd, Volbeat’s always entertaining live
show will hopefully make its way back to our humble Midwestern city in the
not-too-distant future, satisfying the cravings of both new and old Volbeat
fans that were left temporarily satisfied, but ultimately always hungry for
more.

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