I'm working on my Voivod story for Unrestrained! at the moment, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to post something I've had to cut from the piece.
I got to see Voivod five times between 1990 and their final tour in 2003, and each gig holds some special memories. I think my favourite Voivod moment, though, was at their last show in Vancouver, opening for Ozzy Osbourne and (cough) Finger Eleven. It was the first show I'd seen with their new bassist Jason Newsted and the returning Snake on vocals. Even though they were playing early to a partially filled arena, they came out and killed, playing "Voivod" as their first number (the best bands have a s/t theme song—Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Motörhead...um...). Anyway, their playing that power-drill thrasher was the one of the most defiant, joyous things I've ever witnessed at a concert.
When I got the chance to talk to Newsted last March at the Katorz listening party, I had to ask him about that moment, and why they opened their set with that particular song. It turned out there were some very good practical reasons behind playing it.
"That’s how it was supposed to be," he said. "That’s how they did it for so long. It's just bringing it out—we’re here! That was one of the things as a band that always charmed me about them. No matter how many times you’d see them they’d either open with it or close with it. You were going to get crushed one way or the other. And especially in a situation on an Ozzfest or a thing where you’re playing with three bands like on that particular tour, you’ve got to put a song out there as the first four minutes for your mixing guy to make sure all the mikes are working and everything’s happening. We all sing on that song and all the instruments are full on and it’s got a change, the swells and everything, that gives the mixing guy a chance to go find the lower volumes, and then it crushes full on, as full volume as we’re going to go all night, so he gets to dial that in before the set starts. It’s such a racous type of song that it doesn’t really matter how shitty the sound system is, it’s still a fucking cool song because of how basic it is. So that’s really what it is. It can be in your face and raw as possible, and that’s even a better thing. Whereas if you come out with 'Astronomy Domine' [Voivod's minor-hit Pink Floyd cover] or one of your very delicate, very finessed-type songs it’ll take the mixing guy till the fourth song to get your shit together. So, that’s kind of a tactical manouver at the same time as it is this slap in the face."