Joshua Tehee

Concert review: Volbeat headlines ‘bad-ass’ rock show

Blazefest 2016 ignites fans at Woodward Park's Rotary Amphitheater

Fans watch Red Sun Rising and Monster Truck perform at Blazefest 2016 on Thursday, April 21, 2016, at the Rotary Amphitheater at Woodward Park in Fresno.
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Fans watch Red Sun Rising and Monster Truck perform at Blazefest 2016 on Thursday, April 21, 2016, at the Rotary Amphitheater at Woodward Park in Fresno.

Black Stone Cherry guitarist Ben Wells stopped late in the Kentucky rock band’s set at Blazefest to thank the radio sponsor (105.1 the Blaze) for hosting the show.

“What a bad ass-night for a bad ass-rock show,” he said, with full knowledge of the kind of performance the night’s headliner, Volbeat, was about to unleash. The two bands kicked off a series of tour dates last week.

Wells wasn’t at all wrong.

Working backwards:

Volbeat headlined the show with an hour-long set of blisteringly fast punkish metal that surprised me; the band totally plays into my musical tastes and somehow never showed up on my radar or radio until now.

Musically, Volbeat doesn’t break new ground, but it doesn’t need to. It keeps things simple, fast and loud (ala Motorhead, whose t-shirt singer Michael Poulsen was sporting on stage). It’s Poulsen’s vocal prowess and melodies that elevate Volbeat beyond other riffed-out metal bands.

To get Volbeat as a band, here’s Poulsen from the stage:

“We believe in Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley ... and a little bit of Slayer.”

I would add Metalica to that list, but ... yeah.

Black Stone Cherry played direct support with a kind of heavy rock that probably gets easily dumped into the “southern” category, them being from Kentucky and all. That undersells what the band does.

Someone in the crowd compared them to the LA band Buck Cherry and they certainly share some the aesthetic (chain wallets, studded belts and the like). Bottom line: This is heavy, groove-laded bar rock and they do it well.

Red Sun Rising made a return trip to Fresno for Blazefest. The Ohio rock band opened for Godsmack at the Saroyan Theatre in November. The band obviously grew up on ‘90s rock and grunge; which one picked up on ever before their cover of Alanis Morissette’s “Uninvited.”

Not sure how it went over with the rest of the crowd, but I thought the song played to the band’s strengths (and singer Mike Protect vocals) and was my highlight of the night. The band’s hit “The Other Side” was also a particularly fun sing along.

Monster Truck opened the show just after 5 p.m. without the benefit of stage lights or a packed crowd. They didn’t let that stop them from cranking up to full volume and laying down some serious ‘70s retro rock (it’s the organ the really sells it).

The band looked (and sounded) like extras from “Almost Famous;” all denim-clad, shirtless and sweaty. Volbeat aside, Monster Truck was my favorite set of the night.

Stray observations:

▪ Monster Truck stopped mid set so the drummer could switch to his backup snare drum. He punched a hole in the first one. That had never happened in six years of being a band, they said. I don’t think I’ve seen it happen in 20-plus years of going to live shows.

▪ I’m fairly certain Volbeat’s guitar tech played “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” during the band’s line check.

▪ Black Stone Cherry ended its set with a full-on metal blitz of chugging guitars, double drums and cymbal smashes. It was less than a minute and done as if to prove they could bring it. Point proven.

▪ Was Red Sun Rising singer Mike Protect serious about Alanis Morissette being one of the band’s favorite artists?

▪ This was my first experience at the Rotary Amphitheater. It’s well suited for these kind of shows, with good sound and views of the stage from just about any spot (though it was considerably louder standing three feet from the speakers).

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