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Volbeat - O2 Academy Newcastle 23.09.2019

Everything has a starting point, especially a journey. Newcastle has been chosen as the first date of Volbeat's tour supporting new album "Rewind, Replay, Rebound", their seventh release featuring their take on Boogie Rock.

Opening the bill are Canadian trio Danko Jones, named after the band's frontman. It's been close to twenty years since I've seen the band and Mr Jones looks as though he hasn't aged a day. The band, all dressed in black, play a muscular Rock and Blues set. Despite an ungodly early slot of 6.30, the band power through the set with great delight. Bass player John 'JC' Calabrese whips up a decent sized audience while drummer Rich Knox hammers a beat on a stripped back drum kit. There's no need for flash or frills with these guys, it's just foot down on the accelerator and they're away. Danko riffs away, grinning all the time. There's definitely a tongue in cheek feel to the lyrics with the frontman borrowing from AC/DC's way with words. It's all about good times and the band look as though they're enjoying themselves a lot onstage. Thirty minutes seems far too short for them but they're the perfect way to kick off tonight. If you're going out to any of the dates make sure you get down early.

I'll admit to not really knowing much about Baroness before the gig and I feel like I didn't learn too much from their set either. The four piece from the states blend Rock with a Progressive Psychedelia, imagine a less Metal Mastodon with a more seventies influence and you'll get the idea. Frontman John Baizley cuts an imposing figure, tall and thin, eyes darting around. Flanked either side by bassist (and occasional keyboards) Nick Jost and Gina Gleason on guitar with drummer Sebastian Thomson, they're a strong musical unit but, for me, tonight doesn't quite feel like it's their night. John seems to have issues with guitar tunings which seems to stop the flow of songs. The overall sound feels a little off for them too, with the guitars occasionally losing their place in the mix. Opening night glitches? Possibly. They certainly caught my attention enough to make me want to check out their albums later on which is one of the objectives for a tour support you've not heard of. Hopefully we can cross paths on a better night sometime, tonight just felt slightly out of sync.

Volbeat are huge in their native Denmark, a success that hasn't quite translated over in the UK just yet but it's only a matter of time. Each release has seen them develop that little bit further from their initial blueprint, making all the right steps forward. Tonight's sold out Newcastle show might just be the first entry in their next chapter.

The lights go down as Motorhead's 'Born To Raise Hell' blasts from the pa before Nick Cave's 'Red Right Hand' takes its place. The song that's become better known in the past few years as the theme to "Peaky Blinders" sets the tone perfectly for the band's current aesthetic. A flat capped individual framed by grey city streets adorns the backdrop, a look reflected in the band themselves. Guitarist Rob Caggiano and bassist Kaspar Boye Larson both sport flat caps of their own (the latter also has a rather spiffy pencil moustache), with drummer John Larsen wearing a more traditional backwards baseball cap. Frontman Michael Poulson eschews any kind of headgear. Grinning from ear to ear the band swiftly launch into 'Cheapside Sloggers'.

The sound is full and the band are tight with Rob and Kaspar swapping sides of the stage as Michael proves what a great frontman he is. The band mix Metallica's crunch, Social Distortion's attitude and The Stray Cat's swing into something that's uniquely Volbeat. The audience lap up every riff and lyric the band throw out to them. The set draws heavily from their new album with everything but their debut "The Strength The Sound The Songs" being represented, each welcomed like a favourite.

'Sad Man's Tongue' is prefaced with some Johnny Cash, another vital ingredient to the band's sound, with Poulson going from acoustic and electric guitar. Danko Jones appears for 'Black Rose' to reprise his appearance from the album "Seal The Deal & Let's Boogie", bouncing around the stage with a grin as big as the others onstage. 'Die To Live' invites us all to "dance the boogie woogie" and we're lapping it all up.

There's the odd gremlin hanging around the set. Michael abandons one song within seconds, exchanging his guitar for another with his tech (a quick shout out to their frontline crew for their top notch work, especially Rob's guitar tech who you can spot at the side of the stage triggering his guitar effects allowing the guitarist the freedom to be anywhere on stage he wants to be) before restarting it. He's also suffering a bit with a cold, meaning the odd sip of tea between songs. Not that you can tell, the guy gives everything he can on that stage.

'Hallelujah Goat' brings the main set to a close. It feels abrupt, there's no "here's our last song" or "goodnight Newcastle" before they disappear. Then, after a minute or two they're back with an epic 'Last Day Under The Sun' before a one-two of 'Seal The Deal' and 'Still Counting' finishes everything off with style.

It might have been the first show of the tour, and their first trip to Newcastle, but the band played like they were returning heroes. The crowd were eager to hear them and Volbeat made sure they didn't go away disappointed. Going from tonight's showing you believe that the band finally going to take that next leap forward any second now. Hopefully next year will see them getting some decent festival billing (Download 2020 please take note) as well as a few more high profile shows over here in the UK. Listen to the (Vol)beat and get ready to boogie woogie!

Review - Scott Hamilton

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