Concert Review – Godsmack & Volbeat (Canadian Tire Centre, Ottawa, ON, 05/10/2019)

And the city of Ottawa was more than ready to rumble with two of the best bands of the modern Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll scene.

OPENING ACT: Stitched Up Heart

Although my drive from Toronto to Ottawa on Thursday was a complete shit due to the nasty rain and all the trucks spraying tons of water on my windshield, that didn’t turn my energy level down not even a bit for the concert that was about to happen on Friday. I was really pumped to see what’s probably the best modern Rock N’ Roll bands available out there, the almighty Volbeat and the incendiary Godsmack, kicking some serious ass on stage at Richcraft Live (I honestly have no idea what that name means) at the Canadian Tire Centre. It was my first time at that venue and I must say it’s indeed a great place to watch a concert or a sports event, but unfortunately getting there is not that easy unless you drive, take a taxi or Uber to the venue, which ends up inflating the parking costs considerably.

Anyway, fans were still arriving at the venue when Los Angeles-based Hard Rock act STITCHED UP HEART began their short but effective performance, spearheaded by the beautiful Mixi on vocals. If you have no idea about what type of music Stitched Up Heart play, let’s say it’s a fusion of the contemporary Hard Rock played by Godsmack with Evanescence and Marilyn Manson, and the final result is very entertaining. It was a beyond solid warm-up for the main attractions of the night, and a very good welcome card from the band to us fans of rock music here in Canada, as I don’t actually remember seeing them anywhere around here before this tour opening for Volbeat and Godsmack. In other words, go to their official website for more information about the band, where they’re playing, where to buy their music, and so on, as those guys (and girl, of course) are definitely worth a shot.

Setlist
This Skin
Warrior
Catch Me When I Fall
Darkness
Straightjacket
Finally Free
Lost (feat. Sully Erna)

Band members
Mixi – vocals
Merritt – guitar
Randy – bass
Decker – drums 

VOLBEAT

After a short break, and with the Canadian Tire Centre already occupied by thousands of fans from different parts of Canada and the United States, it was time for Danish rockers VOLBEAT to bring to Ottawa their undisputed Rock N’ Roll infused with Heavy Metal nuances, proving once again that Copenhagen-based quartet is not one of the biggest names in the current Rock N’ Roll scene in vain. Still promoting their 2016 album Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie, but just about to release a brand new album (for our total delight), the band comprised of Michael Poulsen on vocals and rhythm guitar, Rob Caggiano on lead guitar, Kaspar Boye Larsen on bass, and Jon Larsen on drums set the venue on fire with their fast and melodic riffs and beats, and of course, endless electricity (despite the fact that Mr. Poulsen was visibly fighting some sort of cold or flu).

From the first few notes from the excellent The Devil’s Bleeding Crown to the closing moments from the already classic Still Counting, Volbeat delivered what’s expected from them, inspiring all fans from the floor section to ignite some fun (and furious) circle pits, especially during their most metallic songs such as A Warrior’s Call, 16 Dollars, Doc Holliday and Seal the Deal. Also, I think I’ve already mentioned this before, but it’s always impressive to witness how powerful and precise Mr. Caggiano is on the guitar, elevating the band’s sonority to new heights since entering the band in 2013. In addition, one song that I was extremely happy they played was Hallelujah Goat, one of my favorite Volbeat songs of all time due to its energy and heaviness, potentialized by Rob’s amazing technique and feeling. And before I forget, the band also played a brand new song for the first time ever in Ottawa, the 40-second Punk Rock tune Parasite, which albeit being extremely short it was well received by all fans who were paying attention at the moment, because you know, 40 seconds are not enough not even for a quick bathroom break. In a nutshell, I know that I just saw Volbeat live and that I’ll see them again with Slipknot, Gojira and Behemoth soon here in Toronto, but they’re so good live I cannot wait, and besides, their concerts are never long enough for them to play all of their classics.

Setlist
The Devil’s Bleeding Crown
Lola Montez
Sad Man’s Tongue (with Ring of Fire intro)
A Warrior’s Call / I Only Want to Be With You
Let It Burn
Black Rose
Parasite
16 Dollars
Dead but Rising
Fallen
Hallelujah Goat
Marie Laveau
Doc Holliday
Seal the Deal
Still Counting

Band members
Michael Poulsen – vocals, rhythm guitar
Rob Caggiano – lead guitar
Kaspar Boye Larsen – bass guitar
Jon Larsen – drums

GODSMACK

It was close to 9:45pm when the lights went out, a fun mashup of classic rock songs started playing from the amps, and finally GODSMACK hit the stage with their unique mix of Alternative Rock and Heavy Metal. I confess I don’t think their 2018 album When Legends Rise is one of their best efforts to date; quite the contrary, it’s relatively weak compared for example to their previous album, the fantastic 1000hp, released in 2014, but Sully Erna and his henchmen are so amazing in what they do they managed to turn all of the songs they played from their new album, those being When Legends Rise, Say My Name, Unforgettable, Under Your Scars and Bulletproof, into truly amazing moments of their performance. By the way, as explained by Sully during the concert, inspired by their own song Under Your Scars, Godsmack have recently founded The Scars Foundation to help raise awareness of the mental health issues that so many are faced with today. Needless to say, donate and show your support to such important and noble cause.

Getting back to the concert, I have to say that even if they played bad music the whole thing would still have been at least great, as all the fire and other special effects on stage added a lot of energy to their performance. But, of course, Godsmack do not play bad music, and fantastic songs like 1000hp (my favorite of the night), Cryin’ Like a Bitch and Whatever put a huge smile on the faces of every single fan watching their concert. Furthermore, there were three very distinct moments that let’s say “surprised” most fans due to their uniqueness, those being their dark and enthralling performance of their all-time hit Voodoo, the interesting Batalla De Los Tambores (or “battle of the drums”, if you know nothing in Spanish) between Sully and the extremely talented drummer Shannon Larkin, and the Rock N’ Roll party established on stage when Rob Caggiano and the entire Stitched Up Heart joined them on stage for a cover version of AC/DC’s classic Highway to Hell.

In the end, after Godsmack played their heavier-than-hell hit I Stand Alone, all fans left the Canadian Tire Centre extremely satisfied, hoping the band doesn’t take another abysmal time to return to Canadian soil. On the other hand, if you live in Canada and missed Godsmack, I feel really sorry for your soul. A band like that is always busy, always touring the world, and they don’t have a lot of empty spot to fill out with Canadian dates. Well, don’t cry like a bitch if you missed it, simply stay tuned to their upcoming tours and do like the rockin’ citizens from Ottawa, whenever you hear the words “Volbeat” or “Godsmack”, put on your black shirt, you leather jacket and get ready to rumble like there’s no tomorrow with one of the best and most electrifying bands of the not-so-new generation of rock and metal music.

Setlist
When Legends Rise
1000hp
Say My Name
Keep Away (Moon Baby Outro)
Cryin’ Like a Bitch
Awake
Unforgettable
Something Different
Voodoo
Batalla De Los Tambores
Whatever

Encore:
Under Your Scars
Bulletproof
Highway to Hell (AC/DC cover)
I Stand Alone

Band members
Sully Erna – vocals, guitar
Tony Rombola – lead guitar
Robbie Merrill – bass
Shannon Larkin – drums

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Album Review – Volbeat / Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie (2016)

Seal the deal and let’s boogie to the classy and flammable music by Denmark’s best Rock N’ Roll band of all time.

Rating4

volbeat_seal the deal & lets boogieAfter the release of the highly acclaimed Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies in 2013, which entered the Billboard 200 in the United States at number nine, topped the charts in Austria, Canada, Denmark and Germany, among others, receiving immediate gold and platinum status in those countries, as well as being nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance, many fans started to wonder where Danish Rock N’ Roll rebels Volbeat could go after achieving such a great success. Fortunately for all admirers of good old Rock N’ Roll music, those rockers from the stunning city of Copenhagen are still on top form, strong and sparkling with excitement, releasing now their action-packed sixth full-length album entitled Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie.

The album is their first not to feature longtime bassist Anders Kjølholm, who left in November 2015 after being responsible for Volbeat’s rumbling tones since the band’s inception in 2001. Despite that significant change in the lineup, all other ingredients we love in the music by Volbeat are present in the entire album, including obviously their thrilling heavy riffs and the inebriate (and sometimes even hard to understand) vocals by frontman Michael Polsen. Add to that the classy contribution of two very special guests, these being singer Johan Olsen (from Danish rock group Magtens Korridorer) and Canada’s own Danko Jones, and the final result is exactly what every fan of Volbeat could expect from such an accomplished band.

The initial riff in the opening track, the hit single The Devil’s Bleeding Crown, is the purest form of Volbeat you can find on earth, as well as pretty much all vocal lines by Michael Poulsen. Born to be a radio hit, this is the type of song that has all aspects necessary to be successful, such as a catchy chorus, electrified guitars and headbanging beats, which can also be found in the next track, Marie Laveau, another classic Volbeat tune, offering the listener some smooth Rock N’ Roll with a nice melody, not to mention the excellent job done by Rob Caggiano with his always fiery solos. For Evigt (which means “Forever” in Danish), is the song to feature Johan Olsen on guest vocals, being the second collaboration between Olsen and Volbeat following “The Garden’s Tale”. It’s definitely not as amazing as their 2007 classic, but still fresh and exciting, with its guitar riffs and solos, together with the Danish parts of the lyrics, becoming the top moments of this solid Rock N’ Roll song.

I never thought I would see Volbeat singing about a topic usually explored by traditional Heavy Metal bands like what we see in the awesome The Gates of Babylon (“Awakening a goddess in the dark / On a stake she’s been hanging like a doll / Tried to reach for the underworld / Had to pass through the seven gates of hell”), a beautiful composition that adds a lot of harmony and groove to the album and consequently to the band’s portfolio, with even the guitar lines sounding more “Babylonic” than usual. And they do not get tired of firing good rock music, this time entitled Let It Burn, a song that all fans of Volbeat will have a good time listening while on the road, with highlights to Michael’s performance with his Johnny Cash-like vocals enhanced by Rob’s powerful guitar lines.

volbeat 2016Black Rose, featuring Danko Jones, is an awesome Hard Rock hymn perfect for being played on the radio as well, where our guest rocker made in Canada adds a lot of stamina to the song with his heavier and deeper voice; whereas the average Rebound,  a cover version for a generic song by American Punk Rock band Teenage Bottlerocket, brings nothing special to the album. Well, maybe if they turned the electricity up a bit the final result would have been a lot better, because it gets really tiring even having only two and a half minutes. Anyway, girls named Mary Jane will definitely fall in love with the power semi-ballad Mary Jane Kelly, very tuneful and pleasant like most of the songs in the album. Furthermore, Jon Larsen might not be the fastest or most technical drummer in the world, but he knows what to do to make Volbeat’s music thrive. On the other hand, Goodbye Forever is by far the worst of all songs, not because of its rhythm or lyrics, but it’s those horrible choir-like backing vocals that join Michael after three minutes that truly annoy me, being too “churchy” for my taste.

At least that boredom doesn’t last long, as Volbeat blast one of the most electrifying of all songs, the Rock N’ Roll hymn Seal the Deal, with its thrilling rhythm, the blazing solos by Rob, and a first-rate old school Volbeat chorus (“I get groovy / Now turn it on and fight / Seal the deal and let’s boogie for a while / Let’s get groovy / Burning out with rage / Seal the deal and let’s do it all again”). In other words, this is surely one of their best new songs to be added to their live concerts. The second cover of the album, Battleship Chains by American Southern Rock group The Georgia Satellites, sounds a lot better, an old rock classic with a southern sonority nicely played by Volbeat, while You Will Know, the second to last song of the regular version of the album, brings forward more melodic rock crafted in Denmark showcasing passionate performances by all members, with Rob stealing the show once again thanks to his amazing solos. And lastly, the heavy and metallic The Loa’s Crossroad offers the listener a more aggressive side of the band, with its resonant bass guitar and especially its bag pipes adding more violence and epicness to the musicality displayed. Additionally, if you buy the deluxe edition of the album, you’ll also get four awesome bonus tracks that live up to Volbeat’s tradition: a one-minute devastation named Slaytan, the North American version of “For Evigt” entitled The Bliss (where the Danish chorus sung by Johan is replaced by Michael singing it in English), a version of Black Rose without Danko Jones, and a live version of The Devil’s Bleeding Crown recorded in Denmark in 2015.

It might take time for some fans to get used to Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie, mainly because a few of the songs presented in the album sound too “commercial” compared to their old classics, but after a few listens you’ll realize there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the album, it’s simply the Volbeat we all enjoy. Of course, as a huge fan of extreme music, I would love to see Volbeat getting heavier and darker than what they really are in some of their compositions, but it’s undeniable they remain loyal to their roots no matter what, and I respect that a lot. As long as they keep delivering their unique Rock N’ Roll to the world, with Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie being a very good example of that, I’ll continue to be a happy rocker.

Best moments of the album: The Devil’s Bleeding Crown, The Gates of Babylon and Seal the Deal.

Worst moments of the album: Rebound and Goodbye Forever.

Released in 2016 Vertigo/Republic/Universal

Track listing
1. The Devil’s Bleeding Crown 3:56
2. Marie Laveau 3:13
3. For Evigt (feat. Johan Olsen) 4:44
4. The Gates of Babylon 4:34
5. Let It Burn 3:39
6. Black Rose (feat. Danko Jones) 3:55
7. Rebound (Teenage Bottlerocket cover) 2:29
8. Mary Jane Kelly 5:39
9. Goodbye Forever 4:30
10. Seal the Deal 4:09
11. Battleship Chains (Georgia Satellites cover) 3:21
12. You Will Know 4:31
13. The Loa’s Crossroad 4:21

Deluxe edition bonus tracks
14. Slaytan 0:58
15. The Bliss 4:42
16. Black Rose 3:57
17. The Devil’s Bleeding Crown (Live at Tusindårsskoven, Odense 2015) 4:04

Band members
Michael Poulsen – vocals, rhythm guitar
Rob Caggiano – lead guitar, bass guitar
Kaspar Boye Larsen – bass guitar (live)
Jon Larsen – drums, percussion

Guest musicians
Johan Olsen – additional vocals on “For Evigt”
Danko Jones – additional vocals on “Black Rose”