I recently saw Volbeat, a band I’ve been wanting to see for awhile now, at the Illinois State Fair. They were preceded by Canadian band Black Wizard, and Killswitch Engage. I’d never heard of the first, and I do like some of what Killswitch puts out, but I’ve liked Volbeat since I first heard them on the radio. Their unique sound, vocals, and mix of styles hooked me right away. When the chance came up to see them I jumped on it so we trucked on down to Springfield for the show. It was humid as a steam room and the only breeze that night was blowing against the back of the grandstand so we didn’t feel a lick of it. The night was hot, sticky, and uncomfortable, the beer was cheap swill but it was cold, and in the end the show was well worth it all.
Up first was Black Wizard out of British Columbia. They’ve been playing since 2010, and I have to say it shows. They don’t lack talent, but they definitely have a long way to go. The group reminds me of the early stages of bands like Black Sabbath or Metallica. Similar sort of look and sound, rough around the edges, but with a hint of more. They’ve got three albums out, and seem to have been quite busy for such a relatively new band. I think the guys can make it as a band, but unfortunately the show we was wasn’t memorable. It wasn’t bad either, I didn’t hate the music, but even the crowd seemed pretty low key during their set.
Black Wizard was followed by Killswitch Engage, who I like a lot when I hear them on the radio. They did a pretty good job on stage, though I have to admit they are one of those bands that don’t sound the same live as they do in the recording studio. There’s always an element of difference between a live show and a recording, but some bands are almost unrecognizable. This could also have been due to being constantly distracted by the spot lights at the back of the stage that kept shinning right in our eyes. I was getting so annoyed at the lights that I was having a hard time enjoying the show. My advice guys, lose those lights. It wasn’t just once or twice, but countless times we were blinded by them, so much so that I kept my hat pulled down most of the show and didn’t watch the stage. Sort of defeats the purpose of a live show if people can’t see it. Other than that what I did see was pretty good. Granted they’ve been around for awhile now, so I am not sure if it was the venue, sound and lighting all coming together to make a show that was just pretty good, or if they just don’t do live as well as they do in the studio. It’s something I’ll have to see again to know for sure how I feel about it.
Before I get into the last act, I want to say to everyone at these shows, put down your damn phones! I may come off like an old man, but seriously you’re there to see a rock show! Taking a picture or two, or text a friend or someone not at the show is understandable, I get it, I took some pictures myself. I was just blown away by the number of people recording the show. Just in the picture above, what little you can see of the crowd, there’s a ton of phones in it. It was worse sitting back where we were. If you’re recording it for someone else, or to upload to YouTube, are you actually getting to experience it? Watching it on your little screen can’t possibly be the same at all. I mean, do what you gotta do but I’ll be damned if I don’t get how anyone would pay that kind of money, sit in the heat, dirt, and surrounded by strangers to watch a concert from the tiny screen on their phone.
Now that that’s out of the way, Volbeat….they simply killed it. I’ve liked them since I first heard them on the radio and have wanted to see them live ever since. When I saw they were coming to Illinois we jumped right on it and got our tickets, no questions asked. They were as good as I hoped they would be, and definitely one of those bands that sounds as good live as they do off their album. It was a bit cathartic for me as well. Since my mom passed in April I’ve spent a lot of time listening to music when I need to concentrate. It helps me focus when I need to, rather than dwelling on the depressing thoughts that surface from time to time. I usually listen to the same Spotify radio station that plays a lot of Volbeat, so their songs are permanently tied to memories of my mom now, and to the time working through my grief. Listening to them live, feeling the music, and not just hearing it, was a great experience. It’s one thing to hear the music through ear buds, but to feel the bass in your chest, the sound moving through your body, moving your foot, your head, and pounding in your ears is just something you don’t get listening at home or at work. It was healing in a way, moving more so than any other concert I’ve been to, and it got to me in a good way. I was moved, and I didn’t really talk about it until now, even with my wife who is going to give me hell for that after she reads this. I was trying to wrap my brain around how to express it, and I’m still not sure if I’ve quite got it.
Anyway, you didn’t come here to hear me ramble about my feelings. The show was fantastic. Volbeat is a great mix of metal styles, with the unique voice fronting it all. Michael’s voice sets them apart from most bands we’re hearing now on the radio. Without a doubt, when one of their songs is on you know it’s them without having to check. It’s similar to how you’ll always recognize James, Brian, Axl, or David. There’s just some bands that are immediately identified by the vocalist. The stage, as you can see, was fairly simple, a backdrop and giant logo, some lighting, and the band, which is great. Theatrical shows like In This Moment or Rob Zombie have their place, and are great fun to watch, but Volbeat is entirely about the music and giving you a performance that isn’t surrounded by a lot of pyro and stage effects. It was just a great rock show and we had a great time, even if security wouldn’t let them bring kids up on stage for Still Counting. If you haven’t had a chance to see them yet, get out there and find a show. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.