My first gig at Glasgow’s SWG3 was to be a belter, and I’d like to start by complimenting the venue. A converted… steelworks [galvanisers – Ross] or something, it has the perfect ambience for a metal venue as well as very good sound (when things work, more on that later). Even the toilets are fitting for the setting, and the staff were really friendly. Tons of free parking, spacious, warm and with three halls so they can host a variety of acts. Impressed.
So what was my cherry-popping show like? Things got off to a rocking start as Germany’s Kissin’ Dynamite exploded onto the stage playing a cover of their namesake track… and looked like they were miming. Badly. Even a non-expert like me could tell that something was amiss as the vocals and the drums were well out of whack. I was watching mouths open and close, fingers strum and cymbals being clashed, but the sound just wasn’t matching up. However, what I heard was spot on – really good. So obviously they were playing to a recording.
It turns out, as singer Johannes spoke to the crowd, that a sound desk fault was causing a delay of around 3-4 seconds between the band playing and the sound coming out of the speakers. And despite this, they’d played two tracks flawlessly. That, ladies and gentlemen, is both talent and professionalism. Have you ever had your own voice echo back at you on a phone call? Puts you off, doesn’t it? Imagine that with a 5-piece live band. Kissin’ Dynamite, for that alone you have my respect.
A few minutes delay as the sound tech did something technical (switched the desk off and on again) and we were back on track. For an opening band who aren’t that well known over here (but broke the top ten in the German charts with current album Ecstacy) you would not have guessed this wasn’t a headline set. From my position at the front, I could see hands waving and fists punching the air all the way back in the crowd. While the hall wasn’t quite full, it was far from empty and they were lapping it up.
Their t-shirts proclaim “Bring Back Stadium Rock” and they did it with “You’re Not Alone” which had the entire audience singing, clapping and waving their arms. A brilliant performance and one of the strongest opening acts I’ve seen in a long, long time (not including Obituary).
Amaranthe were next up with the Swedes’ female vocalist Elize Ryd proclaiming that Scotland had the sexiest accent in the world and that there would be much shagging (her words) later on. Sadly, I’m from Newcastle so I wouldn’t get a look in and had to make do with the musical performance instead. They played to a now-packed house, bringing three vocalists onto the stage and they knew how to use them. It’s easy to think that this is some kind of novelty, but if Kane’d can do it then why not anyone else? Amaranthe play the “variety” card with clean female, clean male (mid-range) and harsh male vocals.
Their sound mixes music from the very heavy end of the metal scale up to the kind of material you’d not think misplaced in the top end of the charts… and it was just too diverse for me. The heavier stuff was great. Ryd’s singing was superb, but (as one audience member near me said) she sounded like Rihanna. Who I looked up when I got home and found out is a pop singer. Thing is, she’s a very good pop singer so I’d take that as a compliment. The issue, for me and the other chap, was that what she was singing was more like Rihanna material than rock or metal and it wasn’t to our taste.
However, we were without a doubt in the minority. Amaranthe got the first crowdsurfers of the night. I saw a couple of guys ballroom dancing to one song, only to kick off a moshpit with the next. So for my money, too many samples and poppy bits but the crowd were bloody loving it. What they did do was entertain. They’re a great live unit, but when the best part of the set was bassist Johan Andreassen essentially doing stand-up and trading insults with some good-humoured hecklers (reminding me of Billy Connolly when he was funny) I know they’re not my cup of boiled leaves.
But we were all here for the headliners. Powerwolf have never played in Glasgow before. Hell, as long as I’ve known them they’ve never played anywhere in the UK outside of London before (except maybe a festival appearance), one reason I traipsed all the way to Sweden to see them at Sabaton Open Air last year. So of course they tour a few months later. And are down to play Bloodstock in August. Typical.
With an early curfew, the band took to the stage in plenty of time to give us a full set and such they did – eighteen songs over around an hour and three quarters. Jokes with the audience, “who can sing the loudest” games, pretending to end the show at least three times, a huge stage set… nobody here could deny this was a value-for-money performance. And that’s before even mentioning the musicianship and sheer entertainment value.
Powerwolf don’t just play songs, they put on a show. And much as the two openers impressed in this fashion they paled into insignificance compared to the might of heavy metal sermon preached by Attila Dorn and his merry monks. Everything Powerwolf do is full of pomp and ceremony, and that bit over the top. They’re fun, their tongues couldn’t go any further into their cheeks without ripping a rather disfiguring hole and they give it their all. Simply put, they’re the ultimate stagemen.
Like Rammstein, Powerwolf’s keyboardist (Falk Maria Schlegel) is given plenty of time to get out from behind his stationary instrument (the musical kind, you filthy beggars) and lampoons like a court jester. Indeed, he’s probably the second most likely to be engaging the audience behind Dorn. The Greywolf brothers gurn and pose for the crowd throughout (two guitars, no bass as far as I could tell), and when the band stopped for a breather, they often congregated in the top corner so that drummer Roel van Helden didn’t get left out.
Crowdsurfers overwhelmed the barrier staff on one or two occasions, and this was handled well by crew and punters alike. The sound was great, the visuals brilliant and the setlist couldn’t have been any better. Most importantly, the band themselves appeared to have a whale of a time. They were exchanging looks that said “this is great”, as if the decision to expand their borders out of London was a gamble that had very much paid off. This would have been their first time experiencing the unique Glasgow “here we fucking go” chant. If that doesn’t get them coming back when the next album and tour cycle come around, nothing will.
I’ve not named a single song they played because I don’t need to. They were all great. I left the venue with sore feet, aching shoulder from clapping and a huge grin on my face. Job done, Powerwolf. Thank you. And I have no doubts that we’ll see you back here again sometime.
Photos by Ya Cheng Photography