Live Stream Series
January 9th, 16th, 23rd, 30th
Reviewed and Photographed by Rebecca Bush
January 2021: we tentatively move forward from the ordeal of 2020 and are greeted with Avatar Ages – a series of themed live stream shows, fast becoming the norm for shows in these troubled times, taking us through the Avatar discography with fan chosen play lists and albums in their entirety, along with rarities and first time performances.
They have fully embraced the opportunity to explore the creative possibilities a situation like this presents and the result is something quite spectacular!
So four Saturday nights in January become Avatar night, with fans tuning in across the globe having voted for their favourite songs from across the eras to create some truly epic set lists.
First up is The Age of Dreams and latest offering ‘Hunter Gatherer’ gets its debut live; released in August last year, it has yet to be performed to an audience so the excitement and anticipation are high as they take to the stage. Having recorded the album in an environment not unlike that of a live show I was eager to see the vision realised, and it did not disappoint.
Johannes, ever the showman in whatever setting, is comfortable here and clearly the band are more than ready to bring Hunter Gatherer to us in all its glory, and that is exactly what they do. Working through the album song by song in running order, they perform as though there were a crowd of screaming fans within their grasp, arms outstretched and singing along energy flowing between them. All I need is someone to stumble into me and spill their drink on me and I’m there in the room.
Pushing the limits of the usual live stream set up they have created three stages which they switch between, giving a real sense of dimension and depth. Stage one simply and effectively has AVATAR in lights with nothing other than their instrument set up. Stage two resembles their music video for ‘A Secret Door’, giving them a setting to really play with, and then there is the third stage adorned with three vertical screens playing out videos and images throughout. These three settings enable them to costume change and alter the mood accordingly whilst of course adding the all important theatrics!
Being able to see the new tracks performed was a real moment and Johannes and crew couldn’t have presented it better, the bar has been well and truly raised for live streamed shows now. Having played ‘Hunter Gatherer’ in its entirety it’s clear these guys are on top form, the sheer energy is palpable even through a screen and they have created a wonderful world to pull us into and allow us to escape.
They use the remainder of the show time to take us through a mix of their classic hits from across their history from ‘Feathers and Flesh’ to ‘Avatar Country’ and then ‘Black Waltz’, changing costumes for each era.
The show finishes and leaves nothing but excited anticipation for what is to come in the next shows. It’s an unfamiliar feeling to know that there is more to come after a gig ends, it almost makes up for not being there in person, ALMOST…
Age of Illusion is the second instalment of this wild ride. As we wait for the stream to start we are shown video footage of fans around the world chanting the band’s name to increased intensity – just like at a real live show and we are in for another theatrical spectacle with Johannes on top form once again, energised and clearly over the moon to be presenting this unique take on the streamed show.
This time we have an entire set of fan voted songs from albums ‘Feathers and Flesh’ and ‘Avatar Country’. As a fan, having a say in the tracks played just makes it all the more special and gives us an opportunity to see some not played often or even ever! It makes the whole experience more personal too and in these times we definitely want to feel as connected as possible.
The added theatrics as the band move between stages bring them more to life, chasing each other through doors, testing drum kits to find just the right fit, marching from one space to the other – it’s delightful to watch.
Johannes’ wide range is really showcased with such a mixed bag of songs. From the melodic soft notes of the piano to the powerful blast of guitars his vocal acrobatics are always incredible to witness and guitarists Jonas Jarlsby and Tim Ohrstrom are in perfect harmony, their instruments extensions of themselves churning out insane riffs expertly.
Madness is the third show and follows suit with set swapping, costume changing and high energy performances all on point, these musicians are on top form and showing the world exactly what can be done when creativity and drive combine with talent and awesome production.
Final instalment Dreams takes us all the way back to the beginning, and in support tonight we are treated to footage of Avatar’s first ever performance on stage – a blonde, ‘unmasked’ Eckerstrom thrashes around his small performance space to a lively crowd, showing that early on they had the makings of what they have now become – a great band. ‘Memories’ starts with Johannes sat on an old couch, reminiscent of those found in backstage dressing rooms and rehearsal spaces as he talks to us of the early days in their rehearsal space when they were nicknamed by other bands ‘the underpants rockers’ due to stripping down to their underwear when hot in the rehearsal room.
Not in mask or costume tonight, it’s just him, the band, three stages and their first album ‘Avatar’ to work through. The set has been redesigned to look like a rehearsal room adorned with tour posters on the walls and rugs on the floor: we are given an insight into their world when it was just opening up.
It is another triumph of a show peppered with stories from their extensive history and speeches from Johannes thanking everyone for being part of this ride and reaching out to offer comfort to all. New life is breathed into the album and songs that have never been performed live burst into life such as Deeper Down, a drinking song as Johannes calls it which is just bursting at the seams with everything good – a thumping beat, sizzling guitars and those versatile vocals.
This whole experience exceeded the achievement of total success, it really gave fans a wonderful, tangible thing to lift spirits and show us that music is still there, it’s still important and it still can provide us with what we need.