Photos + Review: Crobot, Anthrax, & Volbeat at the Aragon (Chicago, IL)

Crobot (Pottsville, PA), Anthrax (New York City, NY), and Volbeat (Copenhagen, Denmark)
May 20, 2015
Aragon Ballroom in Chicago, IL

A half hour isn’t enough to contain Crobot. They were the opener you’d hope for; someone to spark off an evening of metal and hard rock faster than a gasoline-drenched fire pit that’ll burn the hairs of your arm off once that match drops. That match? Brandon Yeagley and his harmonica, especially as they cut into “The Necromancer.” Discovered by Wind-Up Records in 2013, the four-piece’s debut Something Supernatural is peppered in southern rock influences and explosive percussive bursts from Paul Figueroa. It shone right through, urged into overdrive by Brandon’s cajoling harmonica threatening to leave Jake Figueroa and Chris Bishop’s bass and guitar in the dust.

Crobot is tearing up radio with the double barrel singles “Nowhere to Hide” and “Legend of the Spaceborne Killer.” Even as doors opened and the Anthrax shirts began to fill in underneath Aragon’s galaxy ceiling, they framed the opening set from the get-go perfectly. Despite only forming a few years back, the dudes are already into new material with “Welcome to Fat City”  slipping halfway into the set. “Chupacabra” reared its wicked, bloodsucking head afterwards, leading towards the wrap up “Fly on the Wall.” Here, Paul and Chris took their heaviness, wrapping iron links around the sound on stage before pushing those encased notes into Lake Michigan. It was a pure and simple pounding; the weight tipping the scales towards Anthrax.

“Caught in a Mosh” changed the night’s direction abruptly, ratcheting guitars into thrash. Joey Belladonna took to stage, flanked by Scott Ian and Shadows Fall’s Jonathan Donais, searing alongside guitars like the 90s and 2000s never occurred. Frank Bello’s berserk of basswork opened “Got the Time,” as classic of Anthrax’s punk influences as Matt Freeman is to Rancid. “Madhouse” gave into “I am the Law,” and suddenly, personally, I was thrust back into the skate parks growing up where the local metal groups covered this classic to vice-like precision. Except now, that ringing in the ears was the headbanging original. The rest of the set tore into “Antisocial” before wrapping up with “Indians.” (The latter heard from above, where we were interviewing Crobot for a feature to come.)

Volbeat unexpectedly, and rapidly rose to be one of the premiere heavy metal groups in Europe. If you’ve experienced Volbeat only through the radio or recordings, it’s wholly impressive when Michael Poulsen’s voice broke into “Hallelujah Goat.” Exceptional, so much it’s won awards, that Danish voice has no equal. It dipped into “A New Day,” pacing the crowd before the breakout “Lola Montez” transformed the packed Aragon into an arena. Rightfully an unequaled single that introduced multitudes of people to the group off their last album Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies, “Wherever she walks…” brought an epic triumph onto the stage.

Not soon after a brief trip into a Johnny Cash cover (“It’s alright. I’m a good thief.”), “Dead but Rising” broke into “Still Counting.” A personal preference perhaps for the fact the guitar sounds better fitting on ska (don’t hurt me-it just does), it burst the walls into thrash with blustering force. The rest of the set saw “The Garden’s Tale” merge into “Doc Holliday” and “Heaven nor Hell.”

Like Crobot, Volbeat has new music in the pipeline. The catch? Volta is making you wait till later this year to experience the second half of the unknown song. Debuted in the encore, it was the last touch before “The Mirror and the Ripper” dashed towards the finish line.

Stories have been told about how superb Anthrax and Volbeat are live-it’s time to carve Crobot into those traveling tales.

Thoughts?