It was a tired and browbeaten Volbeat that took to the Belfast stage that night in October 2019, however Thursday night’s sold out show couldn’t have been more of a contrast, as a tight, focused, confident, and reinvigorated band electrified the Ulster Hall.
Kicking off with ‘The Devil’s Bleeding Crown’, the four-piece were on fire from the off, greeted like returning heroes from the capacity crowd.
Going straight into the propulsive groove of 'Pelvis on Fire', it was followed by the heavy, Metallica-style riffing of 'Temple of Ekur'.
Greeting the crowd and acknowledging the 2019 fiasco with a touch of welcome humour, Poulson said; "Hello Belfast. We've got one song left!", to knowing laughter. He continued; "Long time no see, huh? It feels good to be back. We really appreciate you guys coming tonight". The singer added; "Listen, it is an honour, and we're looking forward to having a good time with you".
Launching into fan-favourite, and "song about a shady lady", 'Lola Montez' saw the crowd erupt, and marked an early high point of the night.
Poulson may have been the central focus on stage - and at times, left, and right, as he negotiated which of his three mics to use - however former Anthrax man Rob Caggiano's perma-grinning proved just as infectious, as he casually tossed out improbable solo after improbable solo.
Changing tack, the ferocious ‘Becoming’, with its Benante / Lombardo beats showcased the skills of drummer Jon Larsen, holding up to Poulson’s promise of something “a little bit heavy”, before the edgy and on-point ‘Dead but Rising’.
With a clear party atmosphere in the air, the audience got their dancing shoes on for the boogie woogie shuffle of 'Wait a Minute My Girl', which saw the band augmented by by keys and sax.
With the night continuing at pace, there was a brief pause, and a heart-warming moment when Poulsen interacted with an eight year old fan up at the balcony, throwing up a t-shirt, and jokingly telling her mother “mom, you owe me $20.” When quizzed if it was her first Volbeat show, the little girl's mother revealed that amazingly, she had also been present at the ill-fated 2019 gig.
With riffing aplenty, the night continued with a clear focus on the more aggressive, post 2013, Caggiano-era. This stylistic shift was none more apparent then on the 'South of Heaven'-esque 'Sacred Stones'.
With the night coming to a close, all that was left was a final celebratory run through 'Die to Live' featuring a return of the sax and keys duo, and the ska-tastic 'Still Counting', to seal the deal on what had been a fantastic return to form for the Danes.
"Did you have fun tonight?", enquired a knowing Poulson, taking his bows; "Me too!", he continued before asking; "Can we please, somehow somewhere come back to Belfast sometime?" In this type of form, don't leave it too long.
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Check out our gallery from the show below. All photos by Warren Blair.