Review: Volbeat – O2 Academy Bristol

Way back BC (Before Covid) Volbeat were forced to cancel the leg of their tour in Bristol due to illness. At the time they promised to return. Little did they know just how long it would be before that opportunity presented! True to their word, however, I was stood in a queue that snaked around the block for a sell-out second attempt at the same venue almost three years later.

Benediction, VolbeatThe original gig had a three-band card, but tonight Volbeat are supported by just one band, the VERY heavy Brummie Death Metal quintet Benediction. Playing their first gig in the City since 1990 (how is that even possible for a band that has been around since 1989?) they took no prisoners with a powerful and dark (in both musical and lighting terms) set! They certainly got a reaction from a proportion of the crowd but were an odd choice of warm-up act for a band such as Volbeat. 


It wasn’t too long a delay though before the crowd finally got to see what they had waited so patiently for as Jon Larsen ascended to his ridiculously high drum platform (literally no chance of any photos of him tonight!) and the band took to the stage for ‘The Devil’s Bleeding Crown’. The stage set was very minimal and cleverly allowed each of the front three to swap places seamlessly. So one moment vocalist/guitarist Michael Poulsen was singing to the right of the crowd before he was replaced by guitarist Rob Caggiano. No sooner had he incited the crowd than he was replaced by bassist Kaspar Boye Larsen. So everyone in the crowd gets a great view of the entire band (apart from Larsen up in the Gods of course).


‘Pelvis on Fire’ powered into the first song from the most recent studio album ‘Servant of the Mind’; ‘Temple of Ekur’, and the heavier nature of the new music, especially live, was quickly apparent. ‘Lola Montez’ got a suitably huge reaction before Poulsen strapped on an acoustic guitar for a little Johnny Cash and a crowd singalong that moved into the “stolen from Johnny Cash” country vibe of ‘Sad Man’s Tongue’. ‘Ring of Fire’ continued the singalong as did ‘A Warrior’s Call’ when it segued into ‘I Only Want to Be With You’. What was noticeable when I was in the pit, was the sheer number of young fans at the barrier and Poulsen drew attention to the fact, thanking the “New generation” before ‘Dead Man Rising’.


‘Say No More’ got every head banging as it chugged into life before taking off and was followed by ‘Last Day Under the Sun’. So far so much fun, but then an injection of the kind of fun and life that I love about Volbeat as the band utterly ripped into ‘Wait a Minute My Girl’ and were joined on sax and keyboards by two ZZ Top lookalikes and the place exploded into a sea of dancing. Totally infectious fun and played at breakneck speed. The party continued with ‘Black Rose’, before the heaviest song in the set ‘Shotgun Blues’ melted ears and speakers alike. The main set closed with ‘The Devil Rages On’ and ‘Doc Holliday’ where Poulsen invited any of the youngsters that wanted to, up on stage, and even at one point helped one to play rhythm guitar. 


A brief pause before the band returned for ‘The Sacred Stones’ from ‘Servant…’, Poulsen invited the crowd to “feed his ego” and ramped up the atmosphere for ‘Die to Live’ and the biggest pit yet opened up as the keys and sax joined in the fun. This was just a total party in every way and I was grinning from ear to ear. ‘Still Counting’ was the last gift from the band before they took a bow and the lights came up.

Three years is a long time to wait for a gig (although I think Rammstein in Cardiff this summer will be my longest yet and anyone with tickets for HRH AOR will be simply shaking their head and muttering “You Know Nothing!”) but as we headed off for a few in the beer quarter, it was definitely a wait that was worthwhile.

All current Volbeat live dates can be found here

Review and Photos – Rob Wilkins


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