The Rock Allegiance Tour feat. Volbeat, HIM Bayou Music Center September 19, 2013
"If I'm walking around onstage and it looks like I shit my pants, it's because I got new boots," Michael Poulsen told the crowd, lifting his right foot high into the air for fans to see. Behind him, an American-flag bandana and a cowboy hat shrouded the face of Volbeat's iconic winged skull, which set backdrop for Thursday night's show at Bayou Music Center.
"Hello Houston," he said. "It's been a while."
Volbeat last visited Houston a year and a half ago, opening for Megadeth. The last time they headlined a gig here was in 2008. So while Thursday wasn't their first rodeo, this time around they had enough time to perform a nearly 20-song set, which included hits like "Fallen," "Lola Montez" and "Dead but Rising."
Donning all black, his hair slicked back, Poulsen and his eccentric band members kept the crowd in a frenzy all night, shifting between blazing heavy metal, punkish rockabilly and somewhere in between where my head just about exploded from confusion and pure music pleasure.
They even treated the crowd to a short cover of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire," inviting fans to open the crowd into a circle pit in honor of the man in black before performing "Sad Man's Tongue," which tells the story of a man who leaves his parents' house, with only a pocket full of stories and a broken guitar to keep him company.
Before "16 Dollars," the band asked the crowd to lift all the ladies in attendance up onto their shoulders. Hopefully most of the ladies were just too shy, because seeing only five or six women in the crowd was a little discouraging.
Nonetheless, Volbeat brought their A-game. Despite a relatively conservative turnout, the Danish four-piece kept everyone smiling, shouting and singing along, their devil horns held high in the air.
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Before Volbeat, the Finnish rock band HIM kept the crowd's pulse warm. A loyal group had pushed their way to the front of the crowd and was crooning along with vocalist Ville Vallo, who bantered with the crowd. He even recognized a person in the crowd for wearing a T-shirt of his father's sex shop, where Vallo used to work.
HIM's set was full of better-known hits, including "Your Sweet 666," "Killing Loneliness" and "Join Me in Death." A few tracks off their latest album were included for good measure.
Near the end of "Join Me," HIM's music came to an abrupt stop and, without missing a beat, the crowd chanted in unison, "This life ain't worth living."
Vallo smiled, and the fans cheered, creating a kind of paradox only possible with music.
Personal Bias: I went for HIM and left with a big appreciation for Volbeat. Those guys can bring it live.
Overheard In the Crowd: Another gem from Poulsen: "I see a lot of babes out there... Are y'all twins, or am I drunk?"
Random Notebook Dump: Seriously, people, if you must take a video of the performance, at least turn off your flash.
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