Gig Review: Halestorm / Avatar / Rews – O2 Academy, Glasgow (23rd September 2018)

It’s been quite some time since Halestorm visited Glasgow and when a band of their magnitude rolls into town, especially on a weekend, it takes over the city. Wandering around the centre before the gig, there’s a number of people that you just know are heading down to the rock show tonight. And by the time the doors open, it’s obvious people have missed Halestorm with a massive queue which grows by the minute.

Rews (c) Katie Frost

Not long after the doors have opened, two-piece Rews take to the stage. Taking the rapidly growing crowd in their stride, they take full advantage of their captives and rightfully so, impress. Their alternative, poppy sound is stripped back to make something far heavier and rawer – a great call, given tonight’s headliner. They batter through a number of songs from their debut album, Pyro, as well as their new single “Can You Feel It?”.

Throughout, both vocalist/guitarist Shauna Tohill and drummer Collette Williams are at the top of their game, both taking turns to thank the crowd and Halestorm for having them on the tour. Williams smashes her kit with an intensity matched only by The Virginmarys’ Danny Dolan whilst Tohill thrashes her guitars as she strides across the stage, her vocals powerful but muddied by the Academy’s notorious piss-poor acoustics. It’s an all-too short set for them but they’ve done their job excellently, warmed the crowd up and left the stage with more fans.

Avatar (c) Katie Frost

Avatar bring a much heavier aspect to the night as well as a touch of theatricality. Decked out in snazzy suits, and for frontman Johannes Eckerström makeup, the music marries melody with flamboyance and chucks in a good dollop of heavy to keep things interesting. Musically, they’re talented musicians and the highlight is the twin guitars but as a unit, it feels over-rehearsed and contrived. Eckerström takes time out to speak with the crowd, trying to act as a creepy master of ceremonies but it falls flat and comes across about as intimidating as a three-month-old kitten. Regardless, the crowd lap it up between their hardcore fans and converting some new fans into the bargain.

Striding onto the stage in darkness, Halestorm launch into the title track from their latest album, Vicious, and with its funky verses before a more aggressive chorus, it’s not quite assaulting the audience straight from the off. However, they make up for it by following it with “Love Bites (So Do I)” which the crowd lap up feverishly, followed by “Black Vultures” – this is Halestorm taking no prisoners.

Halestorm (c) Katie Frost

Vocalist/guitarist Lzzy Hale explains they’ve been playing a different set each night: “We’re gonna throw you a curveball,” she drawls as she explains the upcoming vinyl edition of Vicious has four extra songs, the following song “Golden”, being one of them. After its ethereal opening, it becomes one of their most aggressive songs to date before Hale gives a stripped back, haunting rendition of the first verse of “I Get Off” – her voice a force of nature before the band launch into “Do Not Disturb”.

Elsewhere, there’s more reliance on the new album with songs like “Skulls” and “Uncomfortable”. It’s a testament to the quality of the album and the band’s own faith in it. However, it’s the bombastic moments from further back in the band’s catalogue that receive the biggest cheers with “Mz Hyde”, “Amen” and the empowering “I Am the Fire”.

There’s also time for Arejay Hale to have his moment in the spotlight with his drum solo, complete with the trademark “big sticks”. Much like his performance throughout, it’s full of finesse and most importantly entertaining, and doesn’t overstay its welcome. The call-to-arms of embracing who you are “Freak Like Me” and the dark as fresh tar “Killing Ourselves to Live” close out the main set and there’s a sense emanating from the band that they’re just getting started.

Dropping things a gear for the encore, Joe Hottinger and Lzzy Hale run through the tender yet powerful “The Silence” before the band return full force for two of their best known songs – “I Miss the Misery” and “Here’s to Us”. The former sends the crowd into a wild fervour whilst the latter also features the outro lines of “I Like it Heavy” and the mass singalong which was “Here’s to Us” comes to a sharp stop.

What was noticeable from the outset, other than Halestorm’s usual drilled to perfection performance was what they also portrayed on Vicious; this was a band reflecting the more mature sound found on it. More sure of themselves than ever before, previously Halestorm was a band clawing their way up the ranks and touted as an act to watch as their popularity continued to expand. Now, between the album and a sold out UK tour in venues where they were the supporting band only a few years previously, there’s a feeling between the crowd and the performers that they’ve blossomed into their true form – they’ve arrived.

Pics by Katie Frost Photography

Halestorm: official | facebook | twitter | youtube | instagram | tumblr

Avatar: official | facebook | twitter | instagram | youtube

Rews: official | facebook | twitter | soundcloud | youtube

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