Thursday, July 14, 2016

Live review: Monsters of Rock at Friends Arena, Stockholm

After almost half a century, Black Sabbath is reaching the end of its life cycle. The band is on their final tour, and last week, they reached Sweden for a gig at Friends Arena in Stockholm, a fairly new arena that is impressive, but the logistic was clearly an afterthought. You wanna get a taxi after the show? Get ready to wait for up to 2 hours. Subway? A long walk, which is not too good either (and waiting of course once you get there). But hey, I did not care, I was ready to finally witness the grand fathers of metal in person, and also get a glimpse of a Danish band that had yet to convince me of their greatness. So here you got my story of one weekend in Stockholm.

The Foreplay

We arrived at Stockholm Friday afternoon, which of course meant that we had a lot of time to get a custom to our surroundings, where our hotel was, the closest subway station, and of course, nearest bar.

After some drinking in the hotel room, we strolled on to Hard Rock Café for something to eat. As a concept, Hard Rock Café is great. You get good music, great meals, tons of cool memorabilia on the walls, and they also have a personal merch booth. However, they have really pushed the boundaries on the whole Hard Rock aspect in later years, including several artists that have nothing to do with rock at all. Hell, I found one memorabilia that was from Nicki Minaj. NICKI FUCKING MINAJ!?!?!?!?! Are you kidding me, do you guys even know what hard rock means? I don't think you do!

Anyway, after a good meal (I had the pulled pork burger, and it was delicious), we took the subway into town, more specifically, Kungsträdgården. There is always something happening there, some show to be seen, and on Friday night, we were treated with a cool warm up party for Monsters of Rock. Now, we did not stay all too long, so we only got to see a small glimpse of a hair metal band called Treat. They were okay, but fairly generic (just like 90% of all hair metal bands). Other bands that performed there that evening was a Danish Black Sabbath tribute band, The Baboon Show and Rockklassiker All Stars.

On to Saturday, the day of the show, and we went back to Kungsträdgården once again, because this day, it was a punk festival going on there. Unfortunately, the first band did not go on until 5 pm, so we had no time to see any of them, which was a disappointment of course. So instead, we did a bar tour across Stockholm, visiting everything from shady joints to high end hotel lounges. You can't go wrong with an ice cold beer in the scorching sun, everything to set up for what was to come.

Acts I did not see: Rival Sons and Bombus

If I had to decide, I would absolutely watch all of the acts on this one day festival, but since my group of friends was not that willing to go until Volbeat played, I had to just smile and nod. Sure, I could go alone, but to be perfectly honest, I did not care too much about Rival Sons and Bombus either. I have only listened to Bombus newest album, "Repeat Until Death" (a pretty good album nonetheless), and I knew virtually nothing about Rival Sons. So yeah, I feel like I did not miss much.

For those of you who are fans of the bands, I thought that the least I could do was to write the setlists they had, so here you go.

Setlist Rival Sons:
1. Electric Man
2. Secret
3. Pressure And Time
4. Hollow Bones Pt. 1
5. Tied Up
6. Torture
7. Fade Out
8. Open My Eyes
9. Keep On Swinging

Setlist Bombus:
1. Let Her Die
2. Rust
3. Horde of Flies
4. Biblical
5. Repeat Until Death
6. Into The Fire


So we finally arrived at Friends Arena, just in time to get a beer, buy some merch (that was unreasonably low on stock), and prepare ourselves for some Elvis metal. As you probably already read in my review of the band's latest album "Seal The Deal & Let's Boogie", you would know that I am a bit skeptical about the band. They have some killer tunes here and there, but the overall country and rocka billy vibe is just too much for my taste.

However, the band put up quite a heavy show, blasting off straight from the start with the lead single from their latest offering. It was also obvious that a massive part of the crowd was huge Volbeat fans, singing along to the lyrics and cheering for all of their might. Two of my companions are extreme fans of the band, and I swear, I have never seen them so excited during a concert. Black who? I am here to see Volbeat.

I was reluctant at first to hang on to the hype train, and I was even more when the band on the second song busted out a medley, a medley that included one of my favourite songs of the band, "A Warrior's Call". I really have to question this decision, why put it this early, or even better, why put it in at all? Instead of hearing "Heaven Nor Hell", "A Warrior's Call" and "I Only Want To Be With You" in their entirety, we get shorter versions instead that intertwine each other. There is no point in doing so if you ask me.

Fortunately, that was the only time the band did so, and they kept spitting out their biggest hits, such as "Maybellene I Hofteholder", "Lola Montez" and "Dead But Rising", while occasionally throwing in some new stuff, like "For Evigt" and "Goodbye Forever". All of the songs blasted with a pretty good force, and the band seemed to enjoy themselves quite a lot, especially Rob Caggiano who killed it on guitar.

They did save the best for last though, starting with the incredibly groovy "Doc Holliday", a song that might be the best explanation to what Volbeat are. After that, they went on to count all the assholes in the room with "Still Counting", and sealing the deal with "Seal The Deal", a great trio of songs that ended the show in an astounding way. Sure I would have liked to hear "The Loa's Crossroad" from the new album, but the setlist was still good and expected, so no complaints there.

So, did the band win over me? Well... no. While I do admit that the show was really good, I still have a hard time with their music in general. It is fairly easy to make a bad song sound good live if you as the band are having fun and giving it all you got, so no, do not consider me a Volbeat fan just yet, they need to blow me away in CD form first.

Best: Doc Holliday

Worst: That needless medley + a shortened version of A Warrior's Call

Rating: 7,5/10

1. The Devil's Bleeding Crown
2. Heaven Nor Hell/A Warrior's Call/ I Only Want To Be With You
3. Sad Man's Tongue
4. Maybellene I Hofteholder
5. Lola Montez
6. Hallelujah Goat
7. For Evigt
8. Dead But Rising
9. 16 Dollars
10. Goodbye Forever
11. Fallen
12. Doc Holliday
13. Still Counting
14. Seal The Deal

Black Sabbath

So the time finally came for the main act to appear, and to present them, we were treated with a little video clip of the devil (or possibly Henry?) waking up, scorching the Earth. After that, Iommi started playing that demonic opening riff to "Black Sabbath", and holy crap, that riff has never sounded heavier. That initial shock wave was incredible, and the band carried that momentum throughout the entire song. Man, what an awesome, and unexpected opening. Since the whole tour was called The End, I expected "The Beginning of The End" to open the show. As a matter of fact, the whole "13" album was left out of the setlist, which was even more shocking to me. But hey, this could be seen as a closing of the circle, which I am totally fine with.

The old school cavalcade continued with the groovy "Fairies Wear Boots" and two songs from "Master of Reality" ("After Forever" and "Into The Void"), and it was around here that I discovered a minor problem with the sound.  It did not always happen, but it happened that the guitar would fade away in the mix from time to time, and I am pretty sure that Iommi is not the one to blame here.

In fact, I feel like Iommi was the most energetic of the guys up on that stage. Well, not so energetic that he jumped up and down and so, more like delivering a stellar performance, while Geezer just stood alone in one corner for most of the show and Ozzy giving out mixed performances, from brilliant to extremely tired (especially in "Iron Man"). You do have to consider that these guys are old, so it comes as no surprise that they do not make a perfect performance.

The worst part of the show though is that they included one of the worst Black Sabbath songs that exist, which is the instrumental "Rat Salad". And to make matters even worse, they transform it into one gigantic drum solo. To me, there is only one reason why the band made this decision, and it is not to give the drummer Tommy Clufetos a chance to show off. This gives the band a much needed break, just so they can go on with the final 5 songs of the set list, and I get that, but why does it have to be so long. It is just so dumb, drumming masturbation at its worst.

Oh well, the show still has more upside to it, and a lot of the songs sounds amazing. "N.I.B." is crushing, "Iron Man" and "War Pigs" is raised up thanks to the crowd, "Children of The Grave" shows the best side of Iommi, and "Paranoid" ends the show on a really high note. This is certainly a night to close up the circle, end on a nostalgia trip that takes us through almost all of the first 8 albums of the band's career (except "Never Say Die!", "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath", and "Sabotage").

As the show ends after 1 hour and 45 minutes to the tones of "Zeitgeist" (the studio version) and TV screens that read "THE END", I leave Friends Arena very pleased. Sure, there were a lot of songs that I wanted to hear that I did not get, but who really cares, the guys ended on a high not, delivering a performance that was impressive considering their age. Thanks for everything Black Sabbath, you will surely be missed.

Best: N.I.B.

Worst: Drum solos, so thrilling, yet so god damn boring

Rating: 8/10

1. Black Sabbath
2. Fairies Wear Boots
3. After Forever
4. Into The Void
5. Snowblind
6. War Pigs
7. Behind The Wall of Sleep
8. N.I.B.
9. Hand of Doom
10. Rat Salad (with a ridiculously long drum solo)
11. Iron Man
12. Dirty Women
13. Embryo
14. Children of The Grave

15. Paranoid

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