Album Review: Halestorm – Live at Wembley

A new live album from Halestorm is frankly long overdue after 2010’s Live in Philly so they’re finally righting that wrong by releasing Live at Wembley, documenting their monumental show at London’s arena at the tail end of last year. As a band who are no strangers to arenas in this country as a regular opener on a three-band bill and graduating to main support over the last decade, 2019 saw them take the plunge and headline arenas in their own right. However, 2020 had to 2020, hampering their momentum, along with virtually every other band on the planet. But that only meant when they came back on 9th December 2023, they’d come back with a vengeance and sell the entire place out.

If you’re going to put out a live album, you may as well do it with a momentous show. Likewise, if you’re going to do it, make sure it’s damn good. Very few live albums can truly rub shoulders with the likes of Thin Lizzy’s Live and Dangerous or AC/DC’s If You Want Blood You’ve Got It. Some in recent years have come close like Slash’s Made in Stoke, Alter Bridge’s Live at the O2 or Beth Hart’s Royal Albert Hall show. Halestorm’s attempt is a good one but it doesn’t quite measure up to those lofty aspirations or, frankly, a Halestorm show.

Whilst the band themselves are on the form of their lives and pulling out every standard you’d want from the back catalogue as well as several high points from Back From the Dead, it simply doesn’t capture the atmosphere and energy you get at a Halestorm show. From the vocal chord-shredding intro of staple “I Miss the Misery” where Lzzy Hale teases an acapella “The Steeple” before they take to the stage to one of their most enduring songs, you know this is going to be a performance for the history books. This is a band not messing about by starting with this and following it up with the gut-punch of “Love Bites (So Do I)” and “I Get Off”.

Unfortunately, these opening salvos are hampered by the ropey sound mix in the room. Whilst they’ve went for a warts-and-all approach to make you feel like you’re in the room, those first few songs aren’t quite as punchy as they normally are. Lzzy’s Hale’s vocals are lower in the mix and one guitar is completely buried to the point of non-existent on “Love Bites (So Do I)”. Thankfully, the ship is righted by the time they reach the anthemic “Freak Like Me” but for some of Halestorm’s best-known songs to cause their live album to stumble (through no fault of the band) on its opening moments is going to stop this from being a truly remarkable live album.

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Elsewhere, there’s plenty of banter and gratitude from Hale throughout and the sincerity bleeds through the speakers. There’s also the mention of the night’s support bands (how many live albums can you name where the support is name-checked?) along with the sense that the band are drinking in the moment yet allowing themselves to enjoy it such as the quick tease of “Rock Show” or the incendiary rendition of Into the Wild Life’s “Amen” (let’s be real, it wasn’t Halestorm’s finest hour so if you’re going to cut songs, this is where you do it). But what follows that is a thrilling instrumental where you can hear every band member dialled in, completely trusting in the other three bodies on-stage and feels very much like “Wicked Stone” or “Anastasia” at a Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators gig.

There’s a couple of surprises in the deep cut of “Takes My Life” and a keys-driven version of “Shatter Me” (Lzzy Hale’s collaboration with Lindsey Stirling) but for the most part, this is the perfect setlist. Arejay Hale also has his moment in the spotlight with his standard drum solo and whilst not a slight on his excellent abilities, it’s the moment where you keep the album rolling and make yourself a cup of tea or coffee because drum solos should be consigned to the same bin as encores.

Elsewhere, it’s the tender moments which become some of the true highlights. For a band that has no shortage of high-octane rockers, it’s in their more sedate moments where you can truly appreciate their lyricism and craft. “Break In” is vulnerable and confessional in its stripped back state and “Raise Your Horns” is powerful, igniting emotion in an explosion as it offers a hand of encouragement to stand tall. Likewise, “Terrible Things” slinks around in its acoustic-led moments as it shines a light on the ugly side of human nature.

There’s great moments to be found on Halestorm’s Live at Wembley and the Hale siblings, Joe Hottinger and Josh Smith continue to be a force to be reckoned with. Certainly, any time you see them, you can’t accuse them of giving less than their all. If you were at the show, I don’t doubt you saw one of the greatest performances from the band as you can hear it in the playing. But between the rough opening numbers and the fact that listening to it doesn’t make me feel like I’m seeing one of my favourite bands (like all good live albums should), it’s a slight mis-fire on their part. You’d get as much from this as you would if you made a playlist on your streaming service with the studio versions but I’d imagine their ardent fanbase will lap it up regardless.

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Live at Wembley is out today

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