Halestorm & Avatar & Rews
@ The Brixton Academy, London
28th September 2018
Review & Photography By Graham Hilling
Arriving at the venue about 10 minutes after doors there’s still a sizeable queue of punters snaking around the large expanse that is the Brixton Academy. This evening’s gig promises to be very busy indeed! Inside the venue, there is already a sizeable crowd for opening band this evening, Rews.
They’re comprised of a duo from Belfast/London. So that’s just drums and a guitar with vocal duties shared. Because of the sparsity of instrumentation, the sound is actually very raw and ballsy.
The vocals of Shauna Tohill cut through the mix nicely and the sound in the venue this evening is crisp and punchy, which suits the sound well. Collette Williams looks comfortable behind her kit and hammers out solid beats to layer the guitar onto. Lots of energy and contagious dancing…..
Rews are well received by the crowd too; the songs are relatively simple in construction but laden with hooks aplenty, definitely enough to win over the audience with this short set. I still kind of miss a bass, to be honest.
At the end of the set Collette Williams hugs Shauna Tohill as they exit. It’s obvious that this tour is an important step in their career and they leave the stage to well deserved applause.
Next up are Avatar, Swedish masters of the strange! For anyone who is not familiar with Avatar, they are as much a feast for the eyes as the ears, with a larger than life stage show and a performance to match.
5 guys (although 4 tonight because Henrik Sandelin and his bass are missing tonight due to family matters), full stage dress, make up, the works.
A massive illuminated Avatar sign adorns the back of the stage and the whole band are larger than life itself. Frontman Johannes Eckerström stomps around the stage, a master of ceremonies fully in charge of the show, drinking from a petrol can at intervals!
He loves interaction with the audience too, conversing at length between most of the songs. And once again, the sound in the venue does full justice to the music.
“Hail the Apocalypse” sets the scene, heavy as hell and driving along at a pace. Mixing just the right balance of heavy with accessible riffs is a fine art and Avatar have pretty much mastered it. “Paint Me Red”, with its infectious chorus, follows.
The songs are an intriguing combination of styles: death, melodic, progressive, even slightly avant-garde! Amazingly it all works very well though. Combine all of this with some very tasty solo work and some very solid drumming and you have something special even before the visuals and performance are in the field of view.
“A Statue of the King” brings us back to no-nonsense metal and some full on stage windmilling, and then Eckerström encourages the audience to join in with “The King Welcomes You to Avatar Country” and is duly obliged.
“Smells Like a Freakshow” closes up the set, Eckerström musing on how those in the audience who had not seen the band before had started off sceptical but by the end had been won over. He’s pretty much on the money too. Avatar leave the stage having done a fine job of warming up the crowd ready for Halestorm.
So, while Avatar are good, very good in fact, the evening undoubtedly belongs to Halestorm. After what seems like an eternity and a nice build up of expectations, the lights dim and Halestorm take to the stage.
They remain an immensely popular band, with this tour selling out in what looked like record time and, indeed, by the this time the venue is heaving, possibly as full as I have ever seen it. There is barely any room to move downstairs.
Starting with “Vicious” from the latest album of the same title, it’s clear that this is a band that is squeaky tight and is here this evening to entertain and to have a good time in equal measure.
Lzzy Hale is undeniably the focal point for the band, with vocals that have fantastic range and power. Having watched this evening, it is remarkable that she can produce this kind of vocal performance night after night when on tour.
Truly impressive. Equally impressive are the mega platforms that she is wearing and her ability to navigate the stage without twisting an ankle!
“Love Bites (So Do I)” hits the spot too and it’s clear that the set this evening, while focused on the latest material, will not neglect older fan faves either. “Amen”, with its rocky feel, is well received and slows proceedings down a little. Crowd pleaser “Mz Hyde” speeds things up again and sees the whole of the venue bouncing up and down.
This is followed by a drum solo from Arejay Hale. Impressive and never self-indulgent, this is the kind of drum solo I like. Not too long and maintaining a beat throughout to give the solo direction and context. Very impressive, this is a man who knows his way round the kit.
For the last part of the solo he plays with massively oversized sticks, which, while being amusing to watch, also underlines how well this guy can play.
Not to be outdone, Joe Hottinger’s solos are also very much on par and note perfect throughout the set. “Freak Like Me” is greeted with cheers from the crowd and it’s good to see the older material sitting nicely in the set with the new material from Vicious.
It’s also quite obvious that Halestorm fans don’t do things in half measures. Many are singing along to all of the songs on display tonight, word for word.
Lzzy comments on how the band dreamt of headlining in London and how it felt to be playing here this evening. She has a way of really connecting with her audience and there is something very genuine about her interactions.
“Killing Ourselves to Live” closes up the set in a majestic manner and, as quickly as the evening began, the show is over. Except we get a further three songs in the encore to keep us happy for the journey home. “The Silence” showcases Lzzy’s vocals to great affect with its sparse musical arrangement, and this is followed by an old favourite in the form of “I Miss the Misery”. More fantastic vocals here, and then “Here’s to Us” really does close off the night.
There can’t be (m)any complaints about tonight’s entertainment – 3 great bands and a headlining performance worthy of note. Judging by the grins on peoples faces as they leave, this seems to be the overwhelming feeling from tonight!
Love Bites (So Do I)
I Am the Fire
Do Not Disturb
(singing part of Why Don’t You… more )
Freak Like Me
Takes My Life
Killing Ourselves to Live
I Miss the Misery
Here’s to Us