Review by Woody, photos by Lisa Billingham
I have been a longstanding fan of Halestorm since I discovered them and their self titled debut album back in 2009 and even though they have played frequently in the UK over the years I’ve never been to see them. Now normally they play Brum so when this show in Wolvo was announced I was more excited than a kitten with a ball of wool as it definitely meant I was going to be seeing Halestorm kick up some dust right here in the Black Country. My excitement was of course compounded by the bands reputation as a killer live band and the fact that their ever increasing fan base has made them have to upgrade to a bigger venue.
First to hit the stage was Wilson and I have to admit I’m not sure what to make of these guys. Visually they were manic and bouncing off the walls and a good portion of the crowd got involved and were either established fans or definitely into this noisy rambunctious group. Personally I couldn’t to grips with their vocalist who just screamed down the mic and went completely bat shit crazy all over the stage. Musically they were messy and one song very much resembled the next, with shouty vocals and a very disorganised musical backing, I found it confusing and difficult to enjoy. Their cover over AC/DC’s ‘Back In Black’ was by far the best song they performed as it saw their vocalist tone the shouting down as he tried to emulate Brian Johnson’s gravelly vocals and that familiar riffage was created by the band near faultlessly.
Nothing More were next up and are currently winning lots of new fans and building up a decent reputation. It was clear to see from the crowd reaction that many were huge fans and looking down into the crowd from the balcony I could see many punching the air, head banging and singing along with reckless abandon. I breathed a great sigh of relief as their semi naked front man is an actual singer and even though he is extremely physical onstage, bouncing around the stage just as manically as his predecessor he does have a decent singing voice.
There is no denying these guys are very visual entertainers and this was represented really clearly during their bass solo (yes, I said bass solo), don’t panic though! They actually managed to make it interesting, well visually anyway. A set of two drums had been assembled at the front of stage on which all band members, bar the drummer, took turns swinging it around and bashing on it. Lead singer Johnny Hawkins actually spent just as much time standing and bouncing on these drums as he did playing them. On a few occasions I thought he was going to fall off the stage especially when his boomed out a powerful vocal that would see him arching and twisting his body and almost unbalancing himself. They were strong and intriguing visual performers but to me, their songs lacked that little bit of zest and memorabilty for me to really get into them.
Tonight though was always all about the headliners; it was the anticipation of seeing Halestorm tearing up the Civic stage that was giving me butterflies. Everything I hoped this show could be Lzzy, Josh, Joe and Arejay brought to life tenfold – they well and truly delivered the ‘Rock Show’ to the ravenous Wolvo faithful. These guys are rock ‘n’ roll to the core, full of piss and vinegar with bombastic fist pumping anthems which they banged out one after the other leaving the audience screaming for more after every single song!
Lzzy Hale is a wonderful role model for young female rockers, a true rock chick who whilst been extremely beautiful doesn’t sell sex in her performances and stage wear, she sells her music in her passion fuelled performances. To say I was blown away by her dominating stage presence is a total understatement, she demanded our attention and she got it and what she asked for from the crowd she received in massive roars! The band as a whole have very powerful and demanding stage presences and provide stomping and energetic visual backing to Lzzy’s full frontal barrage of awesomeness. Arejay evens gets some spotlight time during his drum solo which he takes full advantage of and interacts frequently with the crowd, therefore stopping it getting tedious and drawn out, which to be honest is the downfall of many a drummer during their solo’s, also the use of some oversized drum sticks added some levity and joviality to his time in the spotlight, which was nice…
The set list was as you’d imagine it to be – here’s the hits, let’s rock ’em out – and the crowd bounced around like a bunch of nutters. This tour is to promote their forthcoming album, Into the Wild Life, so obviously there was a good chunk of material which is unfamiliar to most as the album doesn’t hit the streets until the middle of April. It’s great testament to the strength of their new material that fans reactions and involvement in the show never dipped during these new tracks. They opened with ‘Apocalyptic’ which got everyone up and rockin’ and hungry for more fist pumping rock anthems. Alongside ‘Mayhem’, ‘I Like It Heavy’ and ‘Amen’ these tracks are set to become fan favourites in the future. New song ‘I Am The Fire’ got its live debut here in the Black Country and was one of my highlights of the evening. It sees Lzzy taking up a twin necked guitar for the slow build to what is a fantastic anthemic chorus which really gave me goose bumps. I’m going to be annoying my neighbours with this tune a hell of a lot once I get my donnies on the new album!
Of course tonight wasn’t all about the new material, we all had our wish lists of what we wanted to hear and I’m sure most went home happy with what Halestorm blew our ears away with. ‘I Get Off’, ‘It’s Not You’, ‘Mz Hyde’, ‘Freak Like Me’, ‘I Miss The Misery’ and the song I was most hoping for ‘Love Bites’ all went down a treat to an energetic and loud audience. They didn’t drag the wait for the encore out and came back to bang out ‘Rock Show’ before finishing on a lighter note with ‘Here’s To Us’ which was a really cool way to end the night!
With the right band and the right crowd, Wolvo Civic can give you one of the best atmospheres you’ll ever experience and tonight was one of those magical nights. I’m a firm believer in once you go Black Country you never go back, and with such a good crowd reaction tonight it’ll be interesting to see if they go back to Brum on their next tour or return to Wolvo. I could really have summed this gig up in two words and a symbol; Halestorm = Awesome – but if you made it this far anyway, thank you, here’s a high five!