I arrive as New Zealand rockers Like a Storm are reaching the climax of their set, part way through a spectacularly unremarkable cover of AC/DC‚Äôs ‚ÄėTNT‚Äô. Not a bad tactic for warming up an audience that‚Äôs predominantly unfamiliar with your music, but I‚Äôve always been of the staunch opinion that if you‚Äôre going to cover a song, then you should do so in a fashion that‚Äôs nothing short of exceptional ‚Äď especially if it‚Äôs something as widely covered as everyone‚Äôs favourite ode to the outlaw. They do follow it up with a song featuring a deftly delivered digeridoo solo though, so at least win themselves some novelty points.
All in all, Like a Storm are perfectly enjoyable if not spectacular. Especially if you‚Äôre an angsty 14 year-old perpetually trapped in 2002 with a Linkin Park obsession and your mum has just confiscated your favourite Playstation 2 game which, let‚Äôs be honest, is most likely Tony Hawk‚Äôs Pro Skater 4.
I‚Äôve always struggled with Gojira‚Äôs albums, purely because they‚Äôve never quite lived up to the awesome spectacle of their live show. They‚Äôre one of those precious few bands who really come into their own in a live setting, sounding almost mythically heavy ‚Äď like a stoned elephant playing a tuba amidst a tropical rainstorm ‚Äď and tonight is no exception.
Drummer Mario Duplantier is an absolute rhythmic beast, holding the whole band together with computer-like precision. Their movements are as one and this is most evident (and most impressive) during an extended instrumental section where the placement of each note is completely unpredictable. The drums are actually a little high in the mix, meaning that the guitars are almost inaudible at this point of the performance, but this does serve to highlight the astounding fact that the guitar notes are precisely the same length as the drum beats, exemplifying the band‚Äôs astonishing precision.
The clear highlight of the set is new song ‚ÄėStranded‚Äô which, with its Decapitated-esque intro and sci-fi-sounding harmonics, is utterly devastating.
I‚Äôve got a lot of time for Volbeat but their live shows ‚Äď all of which I‚Äôve witnessed at festivals ‚Äď have always left me frustrated, whether due to an odd choice of setlist or prominent sound gremlins, so I‚Äôm excited to see them in a concert environment. After a few songs I‚Äôm worried that they‚Äôre going to pull out another one of their quirky setlists. Deploying an extended instrumental interlude and a cover song (even if it is Cash) within the first three minutes demonstrates a slightly off-kilter approach to pacing but it‚Äôs one that they manage to recover from and the rest of the set only builds in velocity.
The Danes are at that point in their career where they can reel out a whole set of hits and still have half of them left over, which is somewhat of a double-edged sword. ‚ÄėLola Montez‚Äô, ‚ÄėSad Man‚Äôs Tongue‚Äô, ‚Äô16 Dollars‚Äô and ‚ÄėBlack Rose‚Äô all spark mass sing-alongs but their compeers are conspicuous in their absence.
Volbeat are nothing short of brilliant tonight and Poulsen‚Äôs voice sounds larger than life, invoking the spirit of Elvis and reminding us all that he‚Äôs one of the genre‚Äôs most unique and talented vocalists ‚Äď a fact that his albums severely underplay. The highlight of the set is when Napalm Death‚Äôs Mark ‚ÄėBarney‚Äô Greenway unceremoniously bounds onto the stage to deliver the barked vocals of ‘Evelyn‚Äô, which he recorded with the band for their Beyond Hell / Above Heaven album. It‚Äôs a special moment.
Alter Bridge‚Äôs most recent album, The Last Hero, was a bit of a departure from their signature sound, and saw them adopting more of a mainstream, stadium rock approach. It‚Äôs a move that has been met mostly with indifference from their fanbase and tonight‚Äôs setlist reflects that, predominantly sticking to the classic material and offering up only four new songs, all of which fall on the heavier end of the spectrum. It‚Äôs good news for long-time fans of the band.
Kennedy‚Äôs voice is on perfect form as usual ‚Äď there‚Äôs a reason Slash selected him to front his band ‚Äď and he hits even the highest of notes with ease. He and Tremonti trade off guitar parts, matching each other in virtuosity and generally playing with the synchronicity of Siamese twins. Everything is perfectly delivered and squeaky clean, but I can‚Äôt help feeling that it all sounds a bit sterile.
Having achieved such commercial success, it would be easy for the members of Alter Bridge to do an Axl and disappear up their own arses in a cloud of self-important smoke, but there‚Äôs a charmingly human tone to tonight‚Äôs performance. Myles jokes modestly with the crowd as he tells stories about his relationship with his mother while, in a moment of touching generosity, Mark Tremonti halts the show to gift his guitar to a young fan in the front row, proclaiming, ‚ÄúThis kid‚Äôs gonna grow up to be a rockstar. And he‚Äôs gonna play on this guitar‚ÄĚ. And that says it all.