What do HIM, Volbeat and All That Remains have in common? All three shook up an otherwise boring Monday night in Greensboro, N.C to the excitement of hundreds of fans. The bands came into town on the Monster Energy Rock Allegiance Tour which had also previously included Aussie rock band Airbourne until the band chose to opt-out. The Greensboro Coliseum Complex was buzzing with excited fans ready to see their favorite bands in action and take the stage. The atmosphere was that of a carnival meets concert, wherein the coliseum hosted a snack bar complete with pretzels, hot dogs and popcorn, as well as beer kiosks and a full bar set-up. Like bees in a hive, concert-goers could be seen skittering from one end of the complex to the other to buy food, drinks, band merchandise and to make it to autograph signings. The air was charged with the anticipation and desires of fans of all ages, backgrounds and genres, and tonight was their night to pay homage to the artists that created the soundtrack of their lives.
First on the stage was All That Remains (ATR) with eclectic brand of heavy metal and hard rock. This Springfield, MA outfit was all about the crowd participation on this night with front man Philip Labonte encouraging crowd participation, yelling, screaming and getting fans hyped about the events yet to unfold for the evening. ATR played a slew of song from their body of work including “Asking Too Much,” “Stand Up” and “Forever In Your Hands” which had fans cheering and begging for more. At one point during the set, Labonte started picking up fallen guitar picks and tossing them into the raucous crowd, showering them with what was sure to become rock n’ roll memorabilia. The power of ATR is found in the sharpness of their sound and the exhilaration in Labonte’s vocals that steamrolls every song. In “Asking Too Much” the piercing guitar solo shreds like a screech in the night sky, perforating the “fourth wall” between performer and audience. One thing that ATR seems to have mastered is the art of the seduction, the allure of the artist through the creation of an infectious environment and dynamic presentation. This band proves their mettle through their devotion to the stage and commitment to the fans experience and you can tell by the pool of sweat they leave on the stage.
Finnish “love metal” band HIM hit the stage next and began to serenade the masses with their complex arrangement of metal power chords and melodic tones. Vocalist Ville Valo kept it simple, clad only in all black from head to toe with a simple black sweat over top and his guitar in hand. As is apparently required at any HIM show, “Wings Of A Butterfly” was played early on in the set. Despite some apprehension from the metal community at large, HIM doesn’t do too badly on the heavy side of the spectrum. With some songs delving deeper towards the dark and angst ridden at times than others leading towards a crescendo of more upbeat melodies and symphonic harmonies, HIM produces an intriguing spectrum of sound. Yes, many of the songs have to do with affairs of the heart, love lost, love gained, love desire, forbidden love, etc-you get the point- the way in which each song is presented varies, as does the acceptance of each. A personal favorite was the cover of Chris Issak’s “Wicked Game,” Valo’s vocals will haunt you and the guitars will entrance you. While many of them carry the same undercurrent of emotion, each song is distinct from its predecessor and therefore a recognizable piece unto itself. Mid-set Valo decided to take a short smoke break off stage and proceeded to remove a cigarette from his pack and walk off stage to smoke. After about five minutes, he returned to the stage, all smiles, and resumed playing the next song with the band as if no time had passed and nothing had happened. The composition, technicality and cavalier approach of this band definitely makes them fascinating to watch. Suffice to say that, while not entirely heavy enough for my personal taste, it’s understandable why HIM has such an eccentric following.
Copenhagen, Denmark’s Volbeat has been rocking faces off with their mash up of outlaw, sometimes metal, sometimes rockabilly style of rock n’ roll since 2001. Their Western influences can be found in form of songs featuring blatant Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash samples. The band comes off with lots of energy and enthusiasm for the stage. They make sure to cover the entire stage, often leaping and bouncing from one end to the other. This was also my first Volbeat experience and their jumping rhythms and bouncy beats made for a skipping sonic dance that painted the ears of all within reach. There was a dedicated flock that had been awaiting their arrival and the band made sure not to disappoint. Guitarist Rob Caggiano (ex-Anthrax) could be seen prowling the stage and applying his intensely dedicated focus to his string work, while vocalist Michael Poulsen smiled and “held service.” According to Poulsen, all in attendance were officially in the “The Church of Volbeat” and “Pastor Michael” was ready to hold service. The band riffed into their set head first, playing songs like “The Nameless One,” “Dead But Rising,” and “16 Dollars.” Poulsen was all wit and sparkle as charmed the crowd and watched them visibly fall in love with him. Their cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” elicited a huge crowd response, rife with dancing and audience members singing along. Volbeat is one of those bands that will likely have you out of your seat and partying before you even realize what’s going on. Their contagious energy and vivacious stage presence and delivery will have you a loyal member of the congregation at “The Church of Volbeat.”
Rock Allegiance was like a TED conference, a meeting of the minds- the joining of different factions of rock for a common devotion. Like tribes gathering for a ritual service, hundreds arrived at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex for different bands, but the same reason: to worship at the altar of their rock idols. Luckily it would seem that the idols were ready to reciprocate the love and the communal vibe was in full effect. There was no discrimination between the ATR, HIM or Volbeat fans, the night went along smoothly with all acting as a unit, a community, a family for the love of rock n’ roll and metal. This is the true power of music, to create friends and family from total strangers no matter where you are.