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The Hellacopters w/ Nebula & The Datsuns 
Washington DC, 12 March 2006

by Travis Becker

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Our Nation's Capital hasn't faced such certainty of being razed to the ground since the British Invasion, and I don't mean the one featuring the Beatles. The center of this conflagration was Black Cat in downtown DC and featured the blazing Rock and Roll torches carried by Sweden's mighty Hellacopters and their cohorts on this night, Nebula and the Datsuns. Burning with the intensity of late Sixties and early Seventies garage proto-punk and the sheer magnitude of Arena rock, each of these bands conjured the past and foretold the future while exploding ear drums and sending shock waves through the whole building. While not tacky enough to have a tour name, the message from this set was clear: to quote the Hellacopters themselves, Respect the Rock America.

Despite most of their equipment being lost on the way to America, the Hellacopters still solidified their place as the greatest Rock and Roll band on the planet. For some inexplicable reason, the band has never caught on in the US as they have in Europe and other locations, but the packed crowd at Black Cat did its best to try and make the Swedes feel at home. Fists filled the air and lyrics were shouted along with songs spanning the band's entire catalog. This seventh stop on a rare U.S. tour found the band in fine form from early favorites like "Gotta Get Some Action", when the Hellacopters were a bursting-from-your-speakers garage meltdown, to a barrage of future, should-be hit-singles from their latest release, Rock and Roll is Dead. If Rock and Roll is dead, then someone had better hurry up and come up with a new name for what the Hellacopters are doing. 

If the Hellacopters exemplify the pure soul and power of Rock and Roll, Nebula adds the psychedelic element, riding the wave of the past into a space-age future. Both opening acts helped to weaken the rafters so that the Copters could eventually tear the roof off of the place, hell, the whole top floor. Nebula in particular turned in a lean, mean, and far too short set, drawing heavily from their new album, Apollo, released last month on Liquor and Poker music. Great new songs like, "The Eagle has Landed" were mixed in with some old favorites. "To the Center" from the album of the same name was a highlight, as were the two covers mixed in. "I Need Somebody" also from To the Center felt right at home in the midst of their set and the closer and Bowie smash, "Suffragette City" had the crowd playing right along. As eminent rock historian, William Mullins, put it-[Nebula guitar slinger] "Eddie Glass is about the closest thing to Hendrix still living." In DC last night, Glass proved it, dealing smooth and complex solos like the model citizens of DC dealing crack about two blocks from Black Cat.

The Datsuns, hailing from New Zealand, also turned in a raucous set of pure rock fury. While they may owe quite a bit to bands like the Hellacopters, they showed that they are preparing to put their own stamp on the well-traveled package that is real Rock and Roll. Mixing parts AC/DC, Rose Tattoo, and LA Punk, the twin guitar assault obliterated expectations and built up some solid new ones. This will be a band to watch.

By the time the Hellacopters hit the stage, the crowd was ready for some action-now! Seeing the band work on stage reveals why they're so popular in their homeland and throughout most of the surrounding continents. Their live show is rock solid. The Hellacopters keep things loose enough to be fun, but the band is a machine musically. That's not to say they're robotic in the least, the band has more soul than a Nike warehouse. Take one look at the grooving gyrations of bassist Kenny Hankansson, and that's certain enough, but for the entire performance there was nary a note out of place. Frontman and lead guitarist, Nicke Andersson traded explosive solos with co-lead guitarist Robert Dahlquist throughout a veritable greatest hits album of a setlist. "Move Right Outta Here", "Soul Stealer", "Toys and Flavors", and "Everything is on T.V." all have huge hooks and by all rights should have been huge singles here. Being retro without sounding dated is lightning in a bottle, and the Hellacopters have a fridge full of the stuff. I just hope I don't have to wait four more years to hear "By the Grace of God" or "Before the Fall" live again.

Perhaps the highlight of the whole show came in the encore. As the Hellacopters wrapped up a lengthy encore, Eddie Glass, along with the two guitarists from the Datsuns, hit the stage for a five guitar version of "Kick Out the Jams". As soon as the song's famous intro line was uttered, the entire club seemed on the verge of breaking out into a riot. Not so much that people acted unruly, but that kind of energy ripped through the air. As the guitarists ended in simultaneous windmilling, a la Pete Townshend, a message went up before all of those present: Rock and Roll sure as hell isn't dead, and by God, we're in the presence of the greatest Rock and Roll band on the planet. Next time the city is invaded, it will be ready, and instead of calling out in fear of the British, joyous shouts will fly from house to house, "The Hellacopters are coming, the Hellacopters are coming!" 

Rating:

If this tour comes anywhere near where you live--go.
 



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Nebula 
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The Datsuns
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