Danish rockers Volbeat and the almighty Ghost from Sweden debuted their co-headlining arena tour in Reno, Nevada at the Reno Events Center. Both bands played huge sets and premiered new songs for the biggest little city.
Openers Twin Temple started to wake the crowd up and set the stage for two huge rock acts.
Volbeat’s frontman and guitarist Michael Poulsen puts on quite the show. After a few driving tunes, an acoustic guitar and stand came out. Poulsen dipped into his best Elvis impersonation. Poulsen ripped into a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”, still hanging on to a touch of the Presley influence. It slowly transformed into their song "Sad Man's Tongue" off their sophomore record Rock the Rebel/Metal the Devil which references Cash a couple times.
Going through the concert photographs later, I saw his in-ear microphone had a little image of The King on it.
Lead guitarist Rob Caggiano, formerly of Anthrax, had a contagious smile and his guitar work held attention. You can tell he loved every minute of it.
Volbeat plays an approachable type of harder rock that unites all ages of fans. It seemed like everyone in attendance was singing along to 'Last Day Under the Sun", with a chorus catchier than the omicron variant.
During "Wait a Minute My Girl" two gentlemen that could’ve passed as ZZ Top, came out for a saxophone and piano interlude. I think they came out from the floor.
Volbeat played a live premiere of “The Devil Rages On” for Reno’s virgin ears.
“So you like the devil’s stuff, huh?” Poulsen said.
A great segue to occult-prog-arena-black-metal-Grammy-winning group Ghost.
Just like Ghost, Volbeat is a hybid, a cocktail of sound and inspirations. Throughout the 16 song set they played Metallica-like tunes, chugging on low strings, but Volbeat sounds best when they introduce the rockabilly vibe. When I looked behind me and saw a sweet elderly couple swing-dancing, I realized why my mom, who’s normally not a metal head, is such a big fan.
Volbeat played six songs off their eighth and newest release Servant of the Mind (which dropped December of 2021), including three singles; "Wait a Minute My Girl", "Shotgun Blues", and another live premiere of "Becoming". They also played a few lighter tracks from their previous album Rewind, Replay, Rebound.
When he’s not revving up the crowd, Poulsen also produces Volbeat’s albums alongside Jacob Hansen. Outside of work with Volbeat on live and studio releases, Hansen has worked with The Black Dahlia Murder, Anvil, and Dutch metal pioneers Pestilence.
Co-headlining situations can be a little odd. The first band acts like the closer too. After a big ole set Volbeat played their final number “Thank you, Reno” where they walked around exchanging hands in the air, guitar picks and drum parts for cheers.
Usually, between bands, the house lights come on and some high-energy rock music follows to keep the crowd’s energy peaked… that’s not the way Ghost works. Instead, there was some sort of ambient, one-note Gregorian chant for a sobering amount of time. If Ghost were adored any less, the crowd would’ve turned on the show. But they knew what was in store.
Ghost didn’t just play a huge set, 19 songs spanning their entire career (including “Ritual” and “Satan Prayer” from their debut black metal album Opus Eponymous). They also came bearing gifts after the two year gap since they've rocked the Reno Events Center.
Ghost performed their new singles “Call Me Little Sunshine” and "Hunter's Moon", their slamming cover of Metallica's "Enter Sandman", and the world premiere of unreleased track "Kaisarion" from their forthcoming album Impera.
The gifts weren’t merely sonic, there were also visual treats. Ghost revealed the new Nameless Ghoul look (each member of the band wears face-concealing masks) and lead singer Tobias Forge unveiled the new Papa Emeritus IV character.
A majority of the setlist was pulled from their two most recent albums Meliora and Prequelle. They started the set with “Ashes” and “Rats”, a creepy bubonic intro and radio single from Prequelle, an album steeped in references to The Black Plague of 14th century Europe, often comparing those times to the political and social landscape of present-day.
Though Ghost almost always deals with Satan and the darker side of life, their dips into pop and their conviction, sexual jokes, and showmanship always keep the mood light and exalted.
During downtime, Forge (Papa) has fantastic banter. He always finds a way to be hilarious, charming, and a little naughty.
They also highlighted their popular EP Seven Inches of Satanic Panic (what a name!) by playing both "Mary on a Cross" and "Kiss the Go-Goat", two extremely catchy tunes that continue Ghost down a path from genre to genre.
Ghost dips between devilish metal (with often uplifting and passionate messages) to a mix of pop and arena rock. They keep shifting, but the music is still honest, entertaining, and enthralling.
Mid-set they played “Ghuleh/Zombie Queen”, a song with an addictive chorus and sudden drop into a surf rock vibe. They treated fans to their favorites "Cirice", "From the Pinnacle to the Pit" and "Dance Macabre".
Before the encore, they ended with “Year Zero”. It’s haunting chorus/intro features a choir proclaiming the names of the devil.
Both Volbeat and Ghost treated Reno to a show of epic proportions during a time where most people are clinging for any normalcy, fun, community.
Psychobilly… doom and black metal… arena rock… there are endless ways to categorize music and place it into neatly managed boxes, but the best music transcends. Often, the best music cannot be tied down to a few words.
Both co-headliners on this rock tour are united by fusion. Even when it seems like all hope is lost, music always finds a way to pull us back together to cheer for our favorite artists and revel in the community of our fellow music lovers.