HALESTORM/AVATAR/REWS – O2 APOLLO MANCHESTER – 9/26/18
Review and Pictures: Nicky Barker
Wednesday the 26th was an unusually warm, and even more unusually dry late September afternoon in Manchester. It was early, but the queues of excited fans were already beginning to snake around the O2 Apollo. Tonight’s Halestorm show, as are all the other UK dates was completely sold out.
First up on tonight’s bill was Rews. Rews are an alternative/Indi rock duo based in London/Belfast. They are Shauna Tohill (vocals/guitar) and Collette Williams (drums/vocals). The room was still only half full when the two girls took to the stage to perform their short set. The high energy they both display is infectious and before long there was lots of toe tapping going on in the room. For a young duo they make a huge noise.
Next up was Swedish heavy metal band Avatar. Avatar are – Johannes Eckerstrom (Vocals), John Alfredsson (drums), Kungen (guitar), Tim Ohrstrom (guitars), Henrik Sandelin (bass).
The band started their set by illuminating letters at the back of the stage, one letter at a time until AVATAR was spelled out. They then erupted and hit the stage hard and heavy. Johannes Michael Gustaf Eckerstrom on vocals is leader of the ‘freak’ show. Dressed as a circus master with his face painted, he brought throaty, scream vocals like I’ve never heard before.
Guitarists Tim Ohrstron and Henrik Sandelin with their extremely long hair provided their own show, front of stage with their amazing guitar skills and constant simultaneous head banging/hair swirling. It’s a sight to behold.
Avatar quickly got the undivided attention of the crowd, before long they were fist pumping and head banging to a band they knew very little about only a short while earlier. The theatrical drama continued throughout their short but mind-blowing set. Avatar are quite exceptional artists and most definitely original. I suspect everyone that saw them at this show will be wanting to see them again in the future. The whole room was now buzzing and ready for the main act of the evening.
Halestorm are a four-piece, Grammy award winning, rock band originally from Pennsylvania, USA, although a few members of the band now reside in Nashville, Tennessee.
Halestorm began life with Lzzy Hale and her brother Arejay when they were just 13 and 10. They were joined in 2003 by Joe Hottinger on lead guitar and in 2004 Josh Smith took over for Lzzy and Arejays father on Bass. This year the band celebrates its 21st birthday and continues to grow from strength to strength. I first saw Halestorm at Download in 2012. I knew little of the band then but after their set I was hooked. I have seen them several times since then, from very small backstreet venues with a few hundred people, to arena shows with several thousand. Halestorm are currently on a European tour promoting their fourth studio album ‘Vicious‘. Their UK leg of the tour is completely sold out.
I have been to quite a few shows at the Apollo but have never seen it so tightly packed. There was a noticeable buzz of excitement awaiting Halestorm’s arrival on stage. Soon enough the lights dimmed, and the four musicians came out on stage to an almighty roar. Lzzy in her long-fringed leather jacket and silver, sparkly platform boots erupts into a song off their new album, ‘Skulls‘, then straight into ‘Mz. Hyde’ the crowd went wild, singing along whole heartedly with their rock goddess. Next up ‘Love Bites‘, then ‘I Am The Fire‘ Lzzy’s vocals are super raspy, donned in her signature Gibson Explorer, she is the epitome of rock n roll.
Joe, wearing his black hat and leather jacket, shreds his guitar alongside her. He is a very talented and unassuming guitarist and there is a real chemistry between them on stage. Next up “Apocalyptic” after which the stage goes into darkness. Then from the darkness Lzzy begins singing a cappella the intro to ‘I Get Off’, until the line “to stand here in the light,” at which point a solitary spot light, lights her up. The song leads into the slightly risqué number off the new album ‘Do Not Disturb’ this track lends itself very well indeed to the live environment. ‘Amen’ is next before things tone down a little as Joe and Lzzy sit together at the front of the stage, under the spotlight and sing the beautiful and heartfelt song ‘The Silence’. Each note played, and every word sung with profound and sincere emotion.
The pace is picked straight back up again, as the band play ‘Black Vultures’ this is my personal favourite track off the new album and sounds even better live. Josh at the other end of the stage plays a thunderous bassline, combined with screaming guitars and Arejays energetic drumming; Halestorm are sounding louder and heavier than ever before. ‘Vicious’ the title track off the new album brings us to Arejays drum solo. Arejay is a highly spirited, colourful drummer. Wearing a leopard print shirt, he pounded his way through the solo, then as usual in his drum solos the ‘big sticks’ came out. This is always a crowd pleaser, as he drums away around the kit with the giant sticks.
‘Freak Like Me’ and ‘Killing Ourselves To Live’ see the end of the first set. The crowd are absolutely buzzing now, Lzzy and the boys have given them a brilliant set and it’s left them wanting more, which is what they got as the band came back out with ‘Uncomfortable’. A long scream from Lzzy brought the start of ‘I Miss The Misery’ and saw the whole room bouncing and fist pumping, I think the roof lifted slightly. The final song saw the band each being served a shot with cheers to the crowd, they then sang ‘Here’s to Us’ to draw the evening to a close.
For me this had to be the best Halestorm show I have been to. They were a lot heavier than the previous shows I had been to and it really suits their new music. Lzzy, Joe, Josh and Arejay have to be some of the nicest, genuine people on the rock scene. I have never read or heard anyone say anything bad about them. Cheers guys ‘Here’s to us’!
The European Tour Continues…
02 Oct – La Cigale, Paris, France
03 Oct – Trix Centrum Voor Muziek, Borgerhout, Belgium
05 Oct – Vega Musikkens Hus, Cpenhagan, Denmark
06 Oct – Train, Aarhus, Denmark
08 Oct – Debaser Strand, Stockholm, Sweden
09 Oct – Rockefeller, Oslo, Norway
11 Oct – Markthalle, Hamburg, Germany
12 Oct – Kesselhaus In Der Kulturbrauerei, Berlin, Germany
14 Oct – Batschkapp, Frankfurt, Germany
15 Oct – Live Music Hall, Cologne, Germany
16 Oct – Werk, Munich, Germany
18 Oct – Simm City Festival, Vienna, Austria
20 Oct – Les Docks, Lausanne, Switzerland
21 Oct – Dynamo, Zurich, Switzerland
22 Oct – Alcatraz, Milan, Italy
24 Oct – Salamandra, L’Hospitalet De Llobregat, Spain
25 Oct – Sala Black Box, Madrid, Spain