What kind of a show was Graveyard? Allow me to set the scene. After driving two hours to Boston, my wife and I were greeted by temperatures hovering right around the zero mark, with a persistent wind that just wouldn’t let up. We were in the middle of the most rugged cold snap the Northeast had witnessed in at least two years, and the car whined much of the way about having to perform under duress. Simply walking to and from dinner was a chore, and we knew immediately that windburn had damaged the unprotected portions of our faces. To top that off, I have been fighting off, unsuccessfully, the symptoms of a sinus-based head cold for several days. More than anything in the world, I wanted the show to begin, then end, so that we could venture the long trek home and crawl back into bed.
Graveyard took the stage at the Royale, and within minutes, had captured not just my attention, but that of all those in attendance. Immediately, my illness and impatience were swept away, replaced with the excitement I had managed to repress in the hours earlier. I was seeing one of the best bands on the planet. They were living up to the billing. I, and everyone in the crowd around me, were smiling. More than anything in the world, I wanted this set to never end.
This might be overstating it, but I swear it’s only the truth; in the moment, hearing the focused passion and power of Graveyard, I idly wondered if somewhere in the hereafter, there was a table in a club populated by Robert Johnson, Ray Charles and John Bonham looking down and saying “yes, that it exactly what we meant.”
An easy-going and non-combative crowd had gathered for a night of soulful evidence that the heart of rock and roll still beats outside of a heavily corporatized inner circle. They were rewarded with an invigorating revival; a sauntering reassurance that the life-affirming power of rock and blues will still welcome those who look for it. Hearing the strains and emotions of “Uncomfortably Numb” so masterfully executed was a reminder of why we all love music so much.
In recent years, there has been increased speculation that the entire idea of the metal vocalist has become obsolete. While not a true metal vocalist per se, Joakim Nilsson is one of the best counter-arguments to the aforementioned assertion. His voice is warm and tonal, not needing power to state a message. Yet, what strikes most about seeing Nilsson on stage is how his voice is a perfect replication of what we hear pressed to CD. The live rendition of “Slow Motion Countdown” is just as equally effecting as it is on the record, a rarity in this era of digital tooling and pitch-perfect tampering.
In all my years of attending concerts, I can only recall one drummer who possessed the sheer energy and passion of Axel Sjöberg, and that was the singular Dave Grohl. Watching Sjöberg during “Ain’t Fit To Live Here,” it’s a wonder his arms don’t fall off at the hinges.
Graveyard concentrated on their two newest and most notable records, running through a catalogue of hits like “Hisingen Blues,” “The Suits, the Law & the Uniforms” and “An Industry of Murder.” Still, their debut was not neglected, making a choice appearance for “Thin Line.” The set was followed by a three-song encore, the star of which was the impossible gritty yet powerful “The Siren.” It rang in the halls and hearts of those who witnessed it, brimming with power and aplomb.
The only complaint was that the set was too short. Make no mistake, Graveyard played the standard and nominal ninety minutes, a full night’s work. Still, the smiling fans wanted more skillful and authentic rock and roll. We were joyously greedy, happily insatiable, and now have to wait until the next tour. Let’s hope Graveyard doesn’t make us wait too long.