Volbeat, Black Stone Cherry, & Monster Truck Rock-n-Roll Bliss Phoenix, AZ 4-24-16

Volbeat, Black Stone Cherry, & Monster Truck Rock-n-Roll Bliss Phoenix, AZ 4-24-16

After much anticipation, Denmark’s international stars Volbeat will release their sixth studio album, entitled Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie, on June 3rd. Releasing a teaser of their first album since 2013’s Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies on April 3rd via YouTube, on April 13th they returned to North America for a new string of shows. Kicking off the pre-album release run with an intimate evening at The Roxy in Los Angeles, California, they would soon meet up with Black Stone Cherry and Monster Truck for a bundle of dates across the West Coast, prior to concluding down in Texas April 26th. Amidst the visit stateside, on Sunday April 24th they visited downtown Phoenix, Arizona to perform a special outdoor concert. It would be a night that slammed Hard Rock and Metal music into the desert sky, soaring its sounds over the downtown skyline of high-rise buildings and pummeling it back hard and fast to the hundreds of fans screaming, singing, dancing, crowd-surfing, and moshing over the hard hot-surface ground.

First up was Canadian Southern Rockers Monster Truck. Wondering how does Canada embrace and relay Southern Rock style? Evidently, very well. Monster Truck opened the show for Volbeat under the still sunlit skies, giving them the full benefit of rocking some serious kick ass music. Together now since 2009, Monster Truck has made some big moves since their start, opening for Alice in Chains, Alter Bridge, Buckcherry, and Rival Sons. Winners of the 2013 Juno for Breakthrough Group of the Year, bandmates Jon Harvey (bass, lead vocals), Jeremy Widerman (guitar, vocals), Brandon Bliss (organ, vocals) and Steve Kiely (drums, vocals) have taken on the persona of what Rock means to them and called out denial to whatever anyone else thinks. After releasing their praised debut album Furiosity back in 2013, the band now offer fans their latest effort in 2016 with Sittin’ Heavy. 

Opening with the single “Don’t Tell Me How To Live” Monster Truck immediately grabbed the audience’s attention. Moving into songs like “Why Are You Not Rocking?,” “Old Train,” and “For the People,” the powerful vocals of Harvey, along with Wilderman’s wild guitar, Bliss’s organ, and Kiely killing it on drums had everyone grooving to the music. Going into the chant-along “The Enforcer,” Monster Truck integrated their Alt-like vintage sound, and, with songs like “Sweet Mountain River” and closer “Lion,” they sanctioned their Rock temple while shaking it down to the very soul of Rock-n-Roll. All in all, an incredible set of pure music that began the night perfectly. Monster Truck continue to tour May in North America before heading over to spread their sound to Europe in June.

After a twenty-minute stage change and the sun almost completely set behind the skyscraper horizon line of downtown, a shift of presence could be felt as Black Stone Cherry were about to come to the stage. Formed fifteen years ago, Kentucky’s Black Stone Cherry often gets categorized as Southern Rock, but in actuality, they are simply a diverse Rock-n-Roll band. Combining Blues, Soul, Country, Rock, and Heavy Metal, Black Stone Cherry have created their own sound from album to album and their latest release, Kentucky, brings on a different type of Rock. With that said, the number of fans had now expanded across the whole blacktop lot in downtown Phoenix and Black Stone Cherry were ready to floor every one of them.

Opening things up with the catchy 2014 hit “Me and Mary Jane,” Black Stone Cherry wasted no time to kick the show into high gear. With a ton of energy, Black Stone Cherry lived up to the hype that they are an outstanding live band as Guitarist Ben Wells wailed, Bassist Jon Lawhon provided the thick backbone, with the drums of John Fred Young. Moving about the stage and working the crowd any moment they had, Vocalist Chris Robertson sang with the utmost passion, belting out notes with heart and soul as they played other tracks like “Blame It on the Boom Boom.” Of course balancing out their performance with selections from all over their discography, beautiful new tracks like “In Our Dreams” were mixed in with older fan favorites such as “Lonely Train” before closing with what the band calls “30 Seconds of Death Metal.” Keeping the heat on, the band motivated the crowd to continue dancing as the set flew by rather quickly and had many yearning for more. Taking it all in, Wells called out to everyone in the massive crowd to thank them as well as radio station 98 KUPD for bringing them and Monster Truck along with Volbeat to the Phoenix Valley.

Black Stone Cherry is heavy bar Rock -n- Roll with a drive that takes it to the next kick. Guitarist Ben Wells wails and makes his guitar do what it was born to do while Jon Larsen on bass taunts their sound into obedience . John Fred Young sends the hard drumming sounds into the heart of what Lead Vocalist Chris Robertson sings. Through the whole set, not one of the members of Black Stone Cherry was still. Each kept moving with their music and inviting their audience in closer and closer. With a discography that throws itself back to their earlier days in 2006 with numbers like “Hell and High Water” and forwards to “Me and Mary Jane” and reeling in fast to their latest off their Kentucky album, “In Our Dreams,” Black Stone Cherry was the motivation to keep the heat and sweat dancing in the crowd. Stating, “What a badass night for a badass Rock show,” his words resonated loudly with everyone on the pavement. The touring in support of Kentucky continues for Black Stone Cherry with shows through mid-June before they head over to Australia, but return in August to be a part of Shinedown’s Carnival of Madness.

After being rattled by the performances of Monster Truck and Black Stone Cherry, the sea of people were eager for their chance to see Volbeat with the night completely set in. A band that some may call as Heavy Metal, is impossible to categorize. In fact, long-time Drummer Jon Larsen recalls his first encounters with Vocalist/Guitarist Michael Poulsen when they started Volbeat, telling CrypticRock, “He played me a riff that kind of sounded like vintage Black Sabbath, I felt that was kind of interesting. He then played me another riff that was kind of more like The Misfits or The Offspring, I said, ‘Ok.. that’s different but why not.’ The third thing he played me was kind of a Metallica type thing. I said, ‘Ok which one?’ He said, ‘No, all of it!.'” A statement that pretty much sums up the band’s unique style, Volbeat’s popularity continues to grow throughout the world after Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies. Their most successful record in the USA, the forecasted success for Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie is higher, and with just cause. Seeming almost fitting to tempt the palate of their fans a little over a month prior to the new album release, Phoenix was ready for Volbeat’s blistering set.

Opening to a roaring crowd, Motorhead’s tune “Born To Raise Hell” played over the speakers. Poulsen pulled in the audience before leading them into blistering riff of “Doc Holliday.” Keeping the energy level high, they blasted into favorites such “Hallelujah Goat” and 2007’s “Radio Girl.” Then with “Lola Montez,” Poulsen’s vocals seemed to soar to new heights as the chugging guitar of his and Rob Caggiano filled the night air with melodic bliss. Proving it is all about having fun, with humor and swagger, Poulsen gave his best Johnny Cash impression going into “Sad Man’s Tongue.” A mix of Rockabilly, Punk, Rock, and Metal, the song had everyone bouncing around while wagging Metal horns in the air.

Quickly afterward, the night split open with a blistering lead by Caggiano as they went into “Heaven nor Hell/A Warrior’s Call/I Only Want to Be with You.” Provoking the crowd to come closer to the stage, lights flashed at an accelerated rate during the faster portions of the music.  Then finally a new track broke into the set with “The Devil’s Bleeding Crown,” the first single off the forthcoming album. Welcomed by the fans, it was perfectly nestled in between all of Volbeat’s signature tunes including of course the emotional “Fallen,” “Dead But Rising,” “Lonesome Rider,” and “The Hangman’s Body Count.” Smiling, making eye contact with the audience and making them feel as part of the songs as the band themselves, Volbeat had people singing along consistently.

A hit parade of some of recent years most adored radio singles, Volbeat also went back a little further with 2010’s “16 Dollars” before 2008’s “Maybellene I Hofteholder” and “Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood” to close out the set. However, as Poulsen stood there on the edge of the stage, he leaned into his captivated audience and smiled while Caggiano kept the riffs burning as Bassist Kaspar Boye Larsen and Drummer Larsen never relinquished his beat. This had the audience instinctively knowing more was to come. With that, the encore ensued as Volbeat servedg up four tracks beginning with “Pool of Booze, Booze, Booza” before “Who They Are” and “The Mirror and the Ripper.” Always known to be fan-friendly, at this point Poulsen called up for all the young kids to come up on stage and rock with the band in the finale. Screaming in excitement for being chosen, the kids walked on stage and Caggiano and Kaspar exchanged high fives with them as Polsen expressed the pleasure of playing for the crowd and they launched into “Still Counting.” A memory none of these elate children will soon forget, the experience saw Caggiano and Larsen keep the beat and rhythm as everyone rocked out pumping their fists in the air.

Simply put, Volbeat delivered a set of  blisteringly fast Punk-ish Rockabilly Metal that no one would forget, no matter their age. Poulsen has so much charisma that it is impossible not to like him. In fact, it is impossible not to love the whole freakin’ band because they love what they have created, they love performing, and they love the audiences. Faithful followers who drove and flew in from miles around were there specifically for Volbeat, and the band seemed to totally understand this and showed their appreciation. Above all, the trio of Monster Truck with Black Stone Cherry and Volbeat was like a wine tasting experience for Rock-n-Roll lovers. It was the perfect match and a gathering of sounds that made a night of Rock sublime.


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Song River
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Song River has over thirty years combined experience in photography and writing, from music to politics and everything in between. She is the owner of CowGirlZen Entertainment, a registered business that focuses on photography for both musicians and families, and also offers PR/social marketing/bios/press. Currently a photojournalist for several music magazines and a publicist/A&R for High Road Publicity. In her downtime, you might find her helping the homeless, volunteering to aid the elderly, hiking in the desert mountains, taking care of her family, cooking new dishes, gardening, beach combing, amateur astronomy, and traveling with her Nikon by her side at all times.

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