Review by Sophie Maughan. Pics by Sean Larkin
It is 7.20pm on a positively ARCTIC Monday evening as I finally get past the queues and enter the ’Citeh. My cockles are warmed immediately as I snake my way through a swell of rapidly defrosting bodies to get a good vantage spot for tonight’s proceedings. Surprisingly, it isn’t a sold out show but you would be forgiven for believing that it was judging by the ever increasing crowd surrounding me.
The first of the two support acts up are Brit boys Sacred Mother Tongue. The four- piece hail from Northampton and are quickly rising up the ranks of heavy metal. Word on the street is that guitarist Andy James has even been nominated for the illustrious Dimebag Darrell Shredder accolade at this year’s Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards. High praise indeed. Having heard relatively little of SMT’s material prior to tonight, I wasn’t sure what to expect. One song in and I am sold. A new fan is born. Darren South has got some serious pipes on him and he stalks the stage as he roars and rips his way through opener ‘Demons’. The bass is heavy and the drum snares plentiful on ‘The City Is Crying’ and the assembled throng are engaged from the get go.
There’s a huge cheer when South drops in the not too shabby announcement / reminder that the band are in fact playing the Sunday at Download this June. This is actually news to me and I come over all unnecessary for a brief moment. The remainder of the set consists of songs from the band’s current EP A Light Shines and all sound great. ‘Seven’ is my personal highlight of the night. The riffs on this one are meatier than a butcher’s shop window and I realise that those gleeful cries of “Beat the creature!” are coming from my own mouth. The band are humble in their thanks to the Rock City audience and go off to a resounding din of applause. An awesome start to the night.
Less than five minutes before In This Moment are due to hit the stage and I am close to actual combustion. The lights dim, dry ice begins to billow out and the opening strains of ‘Rise With Me’ echo throughout the now close to capacity packed venue. Shrieks of “we love you Maria!” start to filter out as the feisty frontwoman takes to a raised platform. She looks as delectable as ever in black and white pvc, very high heels and the hair is flowing. Brink’s soaring vocals cannot be faulted and are just about note perfect. The band tear seamlessly into the brilliant ‘Adrenalize’ and her command of “get your fucking hands in the air Nottingham!” during the song’s storming breakdown sends everyone batshit crazy.
Whilst there’s no denying that she is the focal point for many here, it would be unfair to not give kudos where it is due to the rest of the band, who headbang to within an inch of their lives and never miss a riff or roll. There’s a very swift costume change. Maria dons what looks like a cross between a wizard’s hat and a dunce’s cap (with the word Whore emblazoned on it) before the band deliver what is perhaps, the best live version of ‘Whore’ that I have ever heard. The lyrics “Well let me tell you somethin’ baby / You love me for everything you hate me for!” are spat rather than sung and are dripping with pure vitriol. We are ordered to get our lighters and cells (that’s mobiles to us Brits) in the air for the next one as this is “the type of song that sets your heart on fire.”
The theatrics are all the more prevalent on ‘Burn’ as Miss Brink gesticulates wildly waving her arms and two huge white flags that are attached to her back like angel wings. Fists are pumped and horns / beers are aloft from left to right then front to back during ‘Beast Within’ before a mass singalong on set closer ‘Blood’. Epic stuff and an exciting prelude to what is sure to be a storming performance at Donington this summer.
The mood is becoming all the more frenzied as the clock rolls around to 9.42pm and the lights dim for the main event. The chants are deafening and the whistles piercing as Pennsylvania’s Halestorm hit the stage and launch straight into fan favourite ‘Freak Like Me’. It has been one hell of a year so far for the quartet who recently scooped a Grammy for Best Hard Rock / Metal performance beating off stiff competition from stalwart acts like Iron Maiden and Megadeth. They are also the first female fronted metal band to win such an award. And judging by the adoration the guys and gal are greeted with tonight, surely the only way is up. Lzzy Hale is an undeniably charismatic frontwoman and her vocals pack a real punch as she takes instant command of the stage and waves that flying V around with panache. Like In This Moment’s Maria Brink, she is the force majeure of the band but do not make the mistake of believing that the talent ends there. No sir. Along with brother Arejay (drums) Joe Hoettinger (lead guitar) and Josh Smith on bass, the ‘Storm really bounce off one another and shine as a collective unit.
‘Love Bites’ (so do I) and ‘You Call Me A Bitch…’ follow in quick succession and everything gets a tad hysterical. An older looking gent standing next to me (who had been relatively sedate during the previous bands) proceeds to bounce up and down like a manic jack –in –the-box and almost perforates my eardrums with his girlish shrieks of “We love you Lzzy!” He is genuinely delighted to be here and it is a nice moment. There is a real feeling of intimacy when the rest of the band exit the stage for a brief spell whilst Lzzy treats us all to a rather stunning solo rendition of ‘Break In’ on the piano. Cue the cigarette lighters.
Unfortunately, the security personnel gathered here tonight prove themselves to be real arseholes on many an occasion regarding the use of flash on iPhones / cameras. The fun and excitement is thankfully restored with many a humorous exchange of banter between the bandmates and a thoroughly entertaining drum solo courtesy of Arejay during ‘Daughters Of Darkness’. Halestorm chuck in a couple of covers for good measure during their set and I am beyond surprised when they drop some Dio and Judas Priest’s ‘Dissident Aggressor’ too. It’s a brave move but it works – largely due to Hale’s impressive vocal range. The band end with ‘I Get Off’ before the entire room joins in for a deafening singalong on the anthemic ‘Here’s To Us’ and ‘I Miss The Misery’.
Great band and a bloody great night of music. Halestorm – here’s to another ten years of the same.
See more of Sean’s photos, below.