Gigantour: Megadeth/Volbeat/Lacuna Coil: Verizon Wireless Theater, Houston, TX, 3/02/12

We tend to forget as music fans that when our favorite band plays live on stage… they are quite vulnerable. So when someone hurls a cup full of beer towards them, our favorite musicians can be hurt. Dave Mustaine had every right to stop his band’s set after three songs to chastise the crowd in Houston after someone threw a cup at the band. Angered, he told them the band would return when certain concert-goers decided to grow up, and Megadeth did indeed walk away for about ten minutes, giving fans time to cool off or leave.

Although there were a few people who shouted obscenities to an empty stage, burning Mustaine in a verbal effigy, most people waited patiently. And when Megadeth did in fact return, Mustaine actually apologized yet stated that his band was there to give fans some great music and for everyone to have a great time with them; and that when people throw things, they can slip and fall or worse. Think what you may of Mustaine’s reputation, but he is indeed 100% correct.

Gigantour’s stop in Houston was already looking to be a downer with the cancellation of Motorhead due to Lemmy’s illness but the other bands on the roster were keeping their hopes high for an eventful night, which was one show away from the end of the tour. “It’s been a great tour for sure,” Lacuna Coil guitarist Cristiano Migliore told me before the show. “It’s been one of those things where you are happy to go home but at the same time you’re going to miss the people you were out with”. Volbeat drummer Jon Larsen agreed: “The overall reaction from the crowd has been pretty good. I mean, there are some really die hard Megadeth and Motorhead fans out there so that’s definitely been a challenge to try and win them over. And I would say for most of the nights we have actually succeeded”.

“We were about to release a new album at the end of January and we were looking around to see what kind of tour would make the most sense for the album release,” Migliore explained about how Lacuna Coil became the openers for Gigantour.

The album, Dark Adrenaline, has already become a hit across the board with it’s first single “Trip The Darkness”. With a spice of hard rock and cool verve, Lacuna Coil sprung from the dance club heavy Milan, Italy, to break through with a sound that was not necessarily what would make them succeed financially in their homeland. “You know, the rock scene in Italy is not huge,” Migliore laughed. “It’s mostly pop and dance”. Forming in the late 90’s, they fought to stay true to their musical heartbeat. “We didn’t have Facebook and the internet wasn’t like all this huge so we had to do it the old way”.

Their set was definitely a highlight, filled with a ton of rock & roll energy and sass. Dual vocalists Cristina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro brought the house down, punctuating their uniqueness with killer guitars and rhythm. With new tunes “Trip The Darkness”, “Kill The Lights” and “Upsidedown” mixed amongst older favorites “Fragile” and a mesmerizing “Spellbound”, they have the strength to be the next big band of the genre.

Following with a strong set of their own, Denmark’s Volbeat spruced up a Social Distortion meets Slayer moxie of songs that ranged from growling hyperboles to 80’s pop influenced seltzers with a sprinkle of rockabilly. How in the world does a band this loud come up with so much variety in their sound? “We just blend everything,” drummer Larsen explained, sitting backstage on a couch outside their dressing room. “We’re four different people that listen to different types of music. It just seems logic for us to just mix everything that we like. I guess that is basically how we got our sound. We just do whatever we want to do and a lot of people now have picked up on it”

Having celebrated their tenth year in music last year, the band released a live DVD/CD combo focused around their most recent studio album Beyond Hell/Above Heaven. If all goes well, “we might go into the studio around October this year so maybe a new record early next year in the spring,” Larsen speculated hopefully. In the meantime, they tour: “We’ll be here somewhere in time,” Larsen laughs about their plans for the rest of 2012. “All over. Check us out. You won’t regret it and we will probably hit your city very soon”.

With such an amalgamation of genres twisted into their sound, I asked Larsen how Volbeat stood out and succeeded in Denmark above all the other bands trying to make it: “Well, you see, if I knew that I would definitely leave the band and become a manager (laughs). It’s hard to say. We came at the right time, did something that apparently nobody has done before. We’ve put a lot of dedication into this, a lot of hard work, and of course a little bit of luck”.

Kicking off with the popular “A Warrior’s Call”, Volbeat hit the stage running and never stopped to even wipe the sweat from their faces. Lead singer Michael Poulsen was slinging the wet stuff after the first couple of high-octane songs, his body a constant throb of vein-popping testosterone. Larsen’s heavy beat and Anders Kjolholm’s smarmy bass lines had the crowd fist-pumping with the notes. The triple-threat-treat of “Hallelujah Goat”, “Who They Are” and “Fallen”, which Poulsen dedicated to his father, was a breath of hellfire, while the giddy fun of throwing in Motorhead’s “Ace Of Spades” wrapped around a Johnny Cash lisping “Sad Man’s Tongue” was brilliantly speed metal executed.

So what did that leave for Megadeth to do? After the cup throwing incident, it made for a blistering session of what a metal band with some age on it can do. In other words, show the youngsters how it is done. With nary a dull moment in the whole set, Mustaine, Dave Ellefson, Chris Broderick and Shawn Drover called out the devil and then ran him off in fear. It was that good.

This appears to be a prosperous time for Megadeth. Gigantour has been roaring along and their latest recording, TH1RT3EN, has been well-received. “I think it’s an awesome CD for Megadeth,” guitarist Chris Broderick told me a week before the band’s stop in Houston. “To me, it kind of quantifies the whole discography of Megadeth. It’s almost as if you pulled a track from each CD from Megadeth’s repertoire and put it on that CD. That’s what you would get if you had TH1RT3EN”. And they have been enjoying playing some of those new songs, like “Public Enemy #1” and “Guns, Drugs & Money”, live on Gigantour. “You try and put your fingerprint on them and for me that is a huge accomplishment,” Broderick said happily.

And what exactly did Megadeth give to the loud and excited crowd? One hell of a show. Getting all riled up over some fan’s stupidity only invigorated the band to play a balls-to-the-wall locomotive set, culminating in a masterful fire-breathing dragon of an instrumental orgy of “Holy Wars/Silent Scorn”. Proper credit has never been given to this band, much less for their guitar onslaughts, grown ever more vigorous with the addition of Broderick in 2010. There is definitely a new fire in their soul, which is apparent on old Megadeth standards “Peace Sells”, “Symphony Of Destruction” and “A Tout Le Monde”, which saw Lacuna Coil vocalist Cristina Scabbia joining the gravel-voiced one for a duet.

Below is more from my interview with Lacuna Coil’s Cristiano Migliore.

For those unfamiliar with Lacuna Coil, what can you tell us about the band and it’s music?

We are an Italian band from Milan. I think we can describe our music as rock/metal. We have two singers: one is a guy and one is a girl. Our music is very dynamic and I think melodic but sometimes powerful at the same time.

You said before that Milan is dominated by dance pop. How did you guys stand out and make it in this kind of musical environment?

Well, you can still hear rock if you’re a kid and most first bands that you listen to are going to be American or English or Swedish. Rock and metal are more prominent but it’s more underground and people only know the bigger bands like Iron Maiden or Metallica. It’s actually not easy when you want to try to do something with a band playing this kind of music. We actually started sending out demo tapes in like 1997, which we sent to a lot of different record companies.

So you fought for this.

Yes, they were different times. We didn’t have Facebook and the internet wasn’t like all this huge so we had to do it the old way. We sent out tapes and many actual labels called us back. Some had better deals and worse deals so we actually got to pick the one we wanted. It doesn’t really happen and we were actually very happy. We obviously were doing the right thing at the right time (laughs). But it took us like ten years before we were able to do this as a job.

Did you come to America during that time?

No, the first time we came to the US was I think in 2001. We did a very short tour with a band called Moonspell from Portugal that used to be on the same label at the time and that was our very first experience. We played small bars with like 300 people. It was pretty rough (laughs). It wasn’t until 2003, which is a year later than our album at the time, Comalies, was released. So we had already toured for like one year in Europe before we came back and started touring one of the singles off of the album and got picked up by several radio stations. From then on we were almost here in the States than we play actually in Europe.

Your last CD came out in 2009. What took so long to release Dark Adrenaline?

We were touring a lot. Usually a touring cycle lasts like two years and then ideally you have a new album ready. But we can’t really write much when we’re on the road because we’re not focused enough. There is always stuff to do, you don’t have the right environment, there is always something going on, so we tend to write more when we go back home. That’s why it took so long. We actually took five, six, months before we were ready with ideas we were ready to go record.

We all usually try to come up with parts and ideas that we can then work on but on this album mostly the songs were written by Marco Zelati, our bass player, and Andrea and Cristina, who did all the vocal lines and lyrics. We always write a lot of songs and we always try to come up with as much stuff as possible but then you actually choose only a few of them.

Have you been having a good time on Gigantour?

It’s been great. We get to play half hour in front of usually all the people and then it’s most of the time hanging out with everybody. The bands are all great and we’ve made friends with everybody.

Do you have a favorite Megadeth song?

I’ve got many (laughs). I’ve got all their albums.

How old were you when you discovered them?

Maybe seventeen, eighteen, or something like that. I know pretty much every song in their set (laughs)

When did you start playing guitar?

My dad used to play as well when he was younger and one day I was like, I want to play guitar. So I asked him and he had a huge record collection, like from the 60’s and 70’s, bands like Cream, Pink Floyd, the Eagles, Chicago, all those bands. So they were listening to that kind of music and I grew up listening to that too. At some point I asked him, “Why don’t you teach me something?” and that was it. Then I started buying my own records and started getting into the metal scene and stuff like Megadeth and Metallica and Iron Maiden. And that was it (laughs)

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