GIG REVIEW: VOLBEAT, SKINDRED and NAPALM DEATH Live at Ovo Wembley, London
Grindcore outfit Napalm Death from England exploded onto the stage and started the show off with their belligerent, chaotic sound. Vocalist Mike “Barney” Greenaway was very animated during every song, moving to his own beat most of the time. The band performed a few songs and Mike only addressed the audience after “F*ck the Factoid”, which featured a few spoken word verses between his deranged screams. “Thanking you… thank you much-ly! Cheers! Thank you, for f*ck’s sake!” he cried, before going on to say the band is an “unapologetic, unrepentant f*cking noise band from Birmingham.”
After a speech was given condemning the term ‘illegal immigrants’, the frontman ended it by announcing, “Refugees welcome!” before “Contagion” was played. As bassist Shane Embury sang the song title in unison with Greenaway, John Cooke’ riffs added an almost melodic touch. “You Suffer” was a burst of screaming, shredding and banging, and lasted only a second or two, prompting the frontman to comment “That was a song…!” just in case it’s short duration caused some confusion.
When attendees cheered after being asked if they remember ND’s music from 35 years ago, Barney replied, “You lying, young-faced bastards!” much to their amusement. He went on, “Yeah, 1987 was the very first Napalm Death album came out. The title track of which is, of course, called SCUUUMM!” The title song featured some dominating drumming from Danny Herrera, which went down well with many headbangers on the evening.
“This one’s a nice little ditty, relatively speaking, by our noisy f*cking standards,” Greenaway proclaimed, referring to the single “Amoral”. A very catchy in comparison to several of the songs higher up on their setlist, it saw bassist Shawn sing lead vocals for the first half of the song’s two verses, providing some variety in the way the lyrics were delivered.
A speech about pro-choice and “religious interference” preceded “Suffer The Children”, a more death metal-oriented track from Harmony Corruption. The band then segued into “When All Is Said And Done”, which saw the band revert to their usual frenzied style. After another seconds-long song was described as being “different to the other one! Different notation, different key, different intonation. Different timing as well, don’t forget that one! Just so you know,” gaining some chuckles from the crowd.
They finished up with The Dead Kennedys, cover and asked the audience for one last favour. “If you wouldn’t mind saying it with us, perhaps a little bit loud, perhaps a tiny bit proud. N*zi Punks…!” and Wembley finished the title for him. It was evident that the Californian band are a strong influence on Napalm, as their own music shares the punk tendencies present in the track.
Signing off, Mike said, “Enjoy your evening, we’ll see you again soon. We were Napalm Death.” A lively half an hour from the grind metal Midlanders.
Napalm Death setlist (19:00-19:30):
- Backlash Just Because
- F*ck the Factoid
- You Suffer
- Suffer the Children
- When All Is Said and Done
- N*zi Punks F*ck Off (Dead Kennedys cover)
Skindred have always been a band that have given 110% on tours and at festivals and have become renowned for never having a dull moment during gigs. Founded in Wales, their style varies from metal to reggae, often fusing both genres.
As a remixed version of “The Imperial March” from Star Wars played, the arena was bathed in blue as white rays darted around like searchlights in the dark. Singer Benji Webbe took to the stage in a black, glittering suit with a rose in his mouth, while Arya Goggins on drums donned a Darkthrone tee before the quartet launched into “Stand For Something”. “London, England! Are you ready to rumble?” Webbe asked, causing fans to scream back at him. He also took the liberty of adding the words “Stand for freedom”, expanding on the existing lyrics that address imprisonment and slavery.
“Ratrace” saw Mikey Demus use the stage extension (part of the barrier formed by the golden circle standing area) strutting along the black walkway as he riffed away. Virtually everyone in the standing area bounced away to the rhythm of the infectious song, encouraged even more as the guitarist got closer to them. A snippet of Wonderwall was sung halfway through “Ratrace”, giving the musicians a short break and a chance for Oasis fans to come out of the closet. Benji joined Mikey shortly after, having a go at hyping up the crowd himself. As soon as the song concluded, Arya got up from his drum stool, ran up to Benji and tapped him on the head as the comedic Benny Hill Show theme played from the speakers (amazingly starting a dozen-strong mosh pit). “This f*ckin’ drummer, every day…!” Webbe cursed.
The natural-born showman had everybody in the palm of his hand for the entirety of the third number and even before, dividing the room into two for the chants of “whoop whoop” and “That’s My Jam”. Ahead of the song, he hilariously spotted a “gentleman” in a “blue shirt” who “looks like the f*ckin’ Liverpool manager”. As Pugsley’s bass work trembled away for the last verse, a sea of waving hands swayed from left to right, mirroring the vocalist.
A representation of the band’s eclectic taste and the resulting output, a medley of songs by Van Halen and House of Pain (both called “Jump”) got people doing just that. Mr Webbe even wielded an EVH keyboard for the synth-rock portion of the mashup, pretending to play the melody on it.
“L.O.V.E. (Smile Please)” from their anticipated album which will drop next year, preceded by a message stating that love is what brought everyone together on the night, in contrast to “all the war, and all the racism, all the sexism. All the bullsh*t!” During the song, As he sang, Benji got to spell out the four-letter L-word that is repeated throughout. While less metal in nature, attendees seemed not to mind as they smiled as the feel-good song played.
Brexit, “negative kids” and Benji Webbe’s brother Clifford were dissed in the middle of “Kill the Power”, which was a middle finger to bad vibes. The mini keyboard was out again as the intro to Dr Dre’s “Still Dre” could be heard, showing how uniquely entertaining Skindred are. “Gimme That Boom” – another single taken from their forthcoming record Smile – filled the arena with its relentless rhythm section, turning the majority present into teenage boppers.
Volbeat and the tour crew were thanked for their hospitality over the past 3 months, which roused the audience to applaud showing their appreciation. Then “Nobody” was dedicated to “every-f*cking-body!” The ragga metal juggernaut had fans throwing shapes as they were directed to put their hands up as the stage lights flashed green and yellow against the black stage setup, depicting the colours of the Jamaican flag.
A remix of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” could be heard over the PA, decorated with exclamations such as “Putin, you blood clart!” from the singer, who went on to direct people to “put their hands up,” which they did without hesitation.
Everyone was bid a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year before the guys dived into “Warning”, a phenomenon of a song that gave birth to the Newport Helicopter at Download Fest 2011. Existing fans did not even have to be instructed to remove their tee shirts. As soon as the music lost its heaviness and Benji held his scarf in a square with no hands above his head, they knew what time it was and copied him. “F*ck off, take off your shirt, you bastards! Do not move it, sir, keep it still!” he encouraged a few shy individuals. On the count of four, a field of shirts were windmilled and The Helicopter was reborn once again.
“We’ll see you next year! God bless, piss off!” the vocalist promised over the sound of excited cheering. The bond song “Nobody Does It Better” by Carly Simon played as the band left Wembley with their flying finish.
Skindred setlist (19:45-20:30):
- Stand for Something
- Rat Race
- That’s My Jam
- Jump / Jump Around
- O.V.E. (Smile Please)
- Kill the Power
- Gimme That Boom
Thirty minutes later, headliners, Volbeat appeared on stage. Jon Larsen emerged first in a “Jackal of Salzburg” Mercyful Fate long sleeve, drumming up a succession of shouts of, “Hey!” from the geared-up audience. The band was completed once the other members walked on to see their screaming devotees and play them one hell of a show. A few minutes into frontrunner “The Devil’s Bleeding Crown”, lead singer/guitarist Michael Poulsen – donning a Derek Chisora top – made his first request. “London, you show Volbeat those horns!” he growled and as they did, the screen dripped with blood to illustrate the title of the first song of the night.
“Pelvis On Fire” served the first helping of Elvis metal, with its flirtatious lyrics, purposefully stuttered words and rockabilly-style instrumentation. The visualiser behind the band depicted a jukebox, contributing to the mid-20th century vibes. A blisteringly fast solo from Rob Caggiano brought the old-school song to an end, while also bringing Wembley back to the present day.
Soon after exploring Egyptian themes in “Temple of Ekur,” Michael expressed his gratitude that people turned up and turned Volbeat’s ticket over sitting at home worrying about their electricity and gas bills. He also revealed that he had a cold, going on to say there was no way would be cancelled because of it. This earned him a respectful round of applause.
Barney Greenaway from Napalm Death was invited onstage to deliver his parts on a performance of “Evelyn”, a union that has not occurred live since 2018’s Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie tour. Other death metal vocalists, such as the late L-G Petrov and Mark Grave have previously stepped in to lay down the harsh parts. The blend of deranged screams and crooning cleans seemed to confuse some frozen unsuspecting attendees (who had probably just arrived in time for the headliners), whilst others whipped their hair back and forth like there was no tomorrow.
“We wanna celebrate life together with all of you tonight. So please turn on the light on your iPhone and let that be the symbol of life,” Michael requested and hundreds complied (some Samsung devices were also spotted). A ballad in the shape of “For Evigt” began, after being dedicated to the frontman’s wife and children. He sang both in English and also Johan Olsen’s choruses in Danish as the Scandinavian lyrics appeared on the screen behind him and red confetti fell. The dedications did not stop there, as “Fallen” was played in memory of Poulsen’s father, Jørn.
Armed with an acoustic guitar like the electric one he used for previous songs, the frontman strummed and sang a delicate version of Dusty Springfield’s “I Only Wanna Be With You” chorus and was answered with a polite round of applause. He then spoke about his daughter asking him to play JoJo Siwa, to which he said he replied, “Absolutely not!” receiving some laughter in response.
He remembered his child later asking him to play some Johnny Cash, using that as a way to introduce his next snippet of a cover, “Ring Of Fire”. Though this time, he beckoned those who knew the words to sing along. He then admitted he likes JoJo “‘cause she is a good singer, a good dancer… she makes my daughter happy!”
Giant Volbeat-branded balloons were unleashed at the start of “Wait A Minute My Girl”, the song also pianist and saxophonist duo ZZ Bottom who joined the band on stage. Mr Poulsen was given a chance to rest his voice for instrumental “Becoming”, riffing his way through its duration with fellow guitarist Rob Caggiano before it was time to “Seal The Deal” with a shredding solo from the lead axeman.
“Last Day Under the Sun” got droves of fans belting out its title during the chorus, then it was announced that this was Volbeat’s first time at Wembley, impressing attendees with such a massive achievement. The crowd were thanked and asked to give themselves “a hand”.
Red, white and blue confetti fell, flying the colours of the Union Jack after the Russian president was referenced and condemned once again on the night ahead of “The Devil Rages On”, marking the end of the Danes’ main set.
After describing Wembley as beautiful, thanking everyone and wishing them goodnight, they left the stage and thousands almost immediately beckoned them back with chants and claps. It was only a matter of minutes before Poulsen & co. returned with “Let It Burn”, much to the relief and excitement of their waiting fans.
“Die To Live” welcomed guest musicians Zac and Zeke Bottom back, with the song going out to Jerry Lewis, who passed away a few months ago. Caggiano changed to an EVH purple and white guitar in preparation for the third encore song “Slaytan”,
A band introduction proceeded . “please give all of the love and noise you got to Casper Boye Larsen on bass guitar,” and when many did, he jokingly added “That’s enough, it’s only bass!” gaining some giggles. “The old thunder car on drums” Jon Larsen was given a shoutout before RC “the fast fingers on guitar from New York” asked the crowd to “give it up for Michael Poulsen on vocals and guitar, please!”
It was almost “time for Volbeat to go to bed,” but they still churned out “Still Counting”, which gave everyone a last chance to show some love to the four-piece. They clapped along to the intro, shouted along to the line “counting all the a*sholes in the room,” circle pitted and banged their heads to the upbeat show closer.
The night was young for Volbeat fans, as there was also an afterparty scheduled post-show for all who stood front and centre in the Parasite Pit. With such a well-received debut at Wembley Arena, the men would surely be back in the near future with their rocking brand of groove metal.
Volbeat setlist (21:00-22:40):
- The Devil’s Bleeding Crown
- Pelvis On Fire
- Temple of Ekur
- Lola Montez
- For Evigt
- Sad Man’s Tongue
- Wait a Minute My Girl
- Seal the Deal
- Last Day Under the Sun
- The Devil Rages On
- Let It Burn
- Die to Live
- Dead but Rising
- Still Counting