Rock music was alive and well at the Times Union Center on Saturday, Sept. 27. Two of the most popular heavy rock bands in the mainstream radio today, Volbeat and Five Finger Death Punch, brought the noise and the fun to a semi packed house of screaming fans. As the crowd waited patiently outside for doors to open, they were treated to choice rock and heavy metal covers by a group of young kids named Time Machine.
Promptly at 6:05, Nothing More from Texas and New Orleans took the stage. The crowd was sparse due to this early start time, but the ones that were there were ready for a whole night of rock. The four piece came right out of the gate with a lot of energy, lead vocalist Johnny Hawkins belting out his songs shirtless and shoeless. The second song of the night was started with a mouth-picked guitar solo, and the gimmicks didn’t stop there. They brought out a massive installation that housed a bass guitar, and the guitarist, bassist and eventually Johnny as well all percussively played the instrument to a crescendo. The final song started with a prerecorded bass line and ended with a weak drum circle. These antics probably do wonders in smaller clubs, but were somewhat lost on the arena audience.
Vinnie Paul of Hellyeah came out first, taking his throne upon his drum riser to monstrous applause. With the rest of the band in tow, Chad Gray, the vocalist (also of Mudvayne) whipped the crowd immediately into a frenzy, getting everyone to get on their feet for their title track off the new Hellyeah record, Blood for Blood. Chad really worked the crowd, using the whole stage and jumping up on the banks of PA’s to make his own catwalk to the audience. The new addition of Kyle Sanders on bass, formerly of Bloodsimple, was a great fit, and his bass work along with Vinnie Paul’s stellar drumming kept the whole set nailed to the floor. At one point, Chad told the audience that one thing he loves about New York is the mosh-pits, and we are all brothers and sisters, so if someone goes down, you help them up. This was an accidental foreshadowing of the end of the night.
Just the dropping of Volbeat’s backdrop as the crew set up the stage gained a massive response from the crowd. Fans were evenly split throughout the venue, half wearing Volbeat shirts, and half wearing Five Finger Death Punch shirts. With a slightly different sound than the rest of the acts, Volbeat came out to a rolling banjo track laden with guitars. The style of rockabilly mixed with hard rock is what makes this band so interesting, and also what makes the crowds just want to move and dance along to the music. Singer Michael Poulsen traded his time between three different mics set up on stage, and the rest of the band interweaved with him, all having a good time up there. New guitarist Rob Caggiano, of Anthrax fame, seemed right at home with this four piece band from Denmark, and was in a very unique position, playing these songs live and also producing them on their newest album, Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies. Micheal explained to the crowd that he was influenced heavily by Johnny Cash and Elvis, and it showed with his vocal capabilities, and his style, sporting a slick back hairdo and a badge on his guitar strap. They had an impressive light show to couple with their infectious party anthem rock and roll, and no one was in their seats by the time they welcomed a special guest to the stage. Jerry Only, from the legendary Misfits, walked out in full Misfits regalia, and the band went into a great rendition of AngelFuck.
By 9:30, the crowd was sufficiently amped up to welcome Five Finger Death Punch to the stage. A deafening bass drone ushered the band to the stage, and singer Moody growled at the audience while brandishing a bat. Jeremy Spencer, the drummer, was in full costume of a skeleton with LED lights throughout him and his drum set. The stage setup was simple, with light rigs behind brushed steel arches, but everything was used to it’s fullest, creating an immersive experience both visually and sonically. This five piece is much more aggressive than the previous bands on tour, with gigantic double guitar attacks and bottoming out low-end bass drops. The sound on the night was full of slight mishaps, with feedback being rampant through the other bands sets, and 5FDP having trouble keeping the ear-splitting double bass drum sounds from taking over the show. A very crowd friendly band, at one point they called out all the people in the audience who have served in the military, and then dedicated their cover of Bad Company to them all. They also brought on stage a bunch of children from the audience for a chance to spotlight the “next generation of metal”.
Mid-set, the band decided to take a completely different turn, first with a drum solo that bordered on electronic dance music, and then into two acoustic guitar ballads, bringing the mood of the show down considerably. But, this didn’t quell the raucous energy they had already instilled in the crowd, and by the time they launched into their first encore song of the night, the floor erupted again into a writhing pit. Moody stopped the song abruptly, seeing one of the fans being really hurt in the pit. He called out the audience member who he saw do the deed, and told the crowd that he would personally kick his ass, and would not finish the show until he apologized to the injured man, stating that this is what makes heavy metal look bad. “Where are the days of Pantera,” Moody scolded the audience, “when people would take care of one another.”
This one incident was not the face of the entire night though, by a long shot. Young and old were all in attendance having a great time, and the crowd seemed generally pleased with each performance. Other than this one bad moment, the show was met with consideration and a party-like atmosphere, truly showing what heavy music can do for people, as they use it for an escape or metal therapy to ‘get their aggression out’ through music.