By DJ Monk

Is there, or should there ever be, a point in any artist’s career whereby they lose respect for their fans – and, by doing so, display it in an openly disrespectful manner? The obvious answer is NO. But, it could be, quite defiantly, argued that Danish hard rockers Volbeat have reached just that nexus by their behaviour on their just completed UK tour – and especially by their antics in Belfast last night.

Now, in the interests of clarity and honesty, Über Rock was not present at their show in the city’s Ulster Hall – but what went down last night has caused a shitstorm of virtually planet-imploding proportions on social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. The facts of the situation appear to be this… the band came on stage ten minutes late, and then walked off two minutes into opening song ‘Pelvis On Fire’. With fans perplexed as to what was going on, they returned ten minutes later, only to quit the stage again, this time after just 20 seconds with frontman Michael Poulsen seeming to declare “this isn’t working, show is over”:

The videos clearly show Poulsen ripping out his in-ear monitors before storming off the stage. However, one also shows guitarist Rob Caggiano appearing to stop playing before Poulsen throws his temper tantrum.

In a statement published on the band’s Facebook page after the show was supposed to be over and happy fans on their way home, Volbeat stated:

“We in Volbeat want to extend our most heartfelt apologies for having to cancel tonight’s show in Belfast. As many of you know, Michael has been having some throat issues and we ran into multiple technical issues on stage that prevented the band from being able to hear each other play. While he has mostly recovered his voice at this point, it was decided that had he continued to play the show this way he would have risked blowing out his voice again and having to cancel even more shows. We’re gutted that we weren’t able to perform for you tonight, but we will be back to reschedule the show as soon as we possibly can.”

The statement, understandably, has been rejected by many fans, who had paid £38.50 per ticket. To say that many of the reactions were disdainful, negative or downright “fuck you” would be a severe under estimation of their feelings. And the statement itself raises a couple of related issues:

  • “Michael has been having some throat issues”: are these the same throat issues which caused the cancellation of the Bristol show last Saturday night, but were cured by the time the band pulled into Birmingham and Manchester (where our own reviewer acclaimed Poulsen as being in fine voice) and then mysteriously re-appeared after crossing the Irish Sea (oh, and a day off)?
  • “We ran into multiple technical issues on stage that prevented the band from being able to hear each other play”: as stated above, the video evidence shows Poulsen ripping out his in-ear monitors, but there was a bank of traditional wedges across the front of the stage – and I have been at multiple gigs where singers have experienced similar problems, done the same thing with those fancy buds and completed the show.

I have also seen multiple shows where the singer has battled through severe illness. Not the least of them was Marillion, back in 1985, when then frontman Fish actually was rushed to hospital on the afternoon of the gig and told not to sing, only to defy doctors’ orders and deliver a truly momentous show which still lives in my memory banks. More recently, Mark Tremonti delivered a totally blinding 80 minute set despite suffering a bad case of laryngitis, the only concession to which was fans being requested not to ask him questions in the subsequent ‘meet and greet’.

To add insult to the injury of Volbeat’s, understandably, disgruntled Belfast fans, tonight’s show in Dublin has proceeded as planned.

They say that there are three sides to every story, and somewhere in there is the truth. There seem to be multiple sides to this one, with fans, backstage crew and the band all telling different tales. Which means the truth maybe never will out. But, one thing seems to be certain: Volbeat’s reputation appears to be in tatters, especially in Belfast. They may fulfil their promise to reschedule the show, but there is one question: will the fans turn up for longer than the band? The bottom line, however, is that bands need to remember who pays for the ability for them to act like, in the words of one Facebook comment, “fucktards”.

In 2015, boy band “supergroup” One Direction cancelled a show at Belfast’s SSE Arena (which is 20 minutes walk from the Ulster Hall), because one of their members allegedly fell ill on the day of the show. However, they waited until the fans were in the arena, had spent a fortune on merchandise, drinks, etc. and then sent a minion on stage to say the gig had been cancelled. Sound familiar? Maybe Michael Poulsen has Simon Cowell on speed dial…