Well, here we are, over a year since it was announced and so many years in the making – Halestorm are headlining arenas in the UK. Backed by New Year’s Day and In This Moment, for a lot of people, it’s a hell of a package. And as the first ever rock band to tread the boards of the Hydro (as they supported Alter Bridge), it’s almost as if things have come full circle.
Hitting the stage with as much force as they can muster, New Year’s Day are out to impress and get the crowd duly warmed up. With more of a metal edge to them and blending it with a healthy dose of darkness and melody, it’s not completely left-field. However, it’s exactly what was required on this moist Sunday evening. Kicking things off with a bang, it’s obvious the already large crowd assembled on the floor are buying what New Year’s Day are selling. And the band ensure those in the seats don’t get off lightly, playing to them and involving them, it makes it feel like they’re playing to each person in the arena. As a live act, they’re ridiculously tight, making the most of their time whilst ensuring they have plenty of time for banter with the crowd. By the time they’ve finished, it’s clear they’ve made a few new fans, playing with just the right balance of their own DNA and keeping steady pressure on what they can show themselves to be.
After the mass singalong of “Bohemian Rhapsody” which is rudely cut short just after that part, it’s replaced with Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” – a bit anticlimactic, isn’t it? Anyway, In This Moment are all about creating atmosphere, using light and shade (quite literally) to enhance their own live show, making it as much a visual spectacle as it is an audio one. Backed by a couple of dancers, Maria Brink’s vocals have an interesting take – especially since there seems to be a good dose of lip-syncing going on. You can just tell because they just sit oddly in the mix as the band perform their work live and makes for a jarring performance. That said, the final song of their show, “Whore” with its Handmaiden’s Tale visual allusion and accompanying lyrics, is perhaps the highlight of the evening. Despite their technical issues, the band march on, intent on delivering their goth-tinged metal with industrial twists and turns. Full of riffs, it’s a decent hour and like New Year’s Day, know their own special formula and stick to it.
Now, it’s time. With the Hydro plunged into darkness, the familiar strains of Lzzy Hale’s powerhouse vocals punctuate the darkness before Halestorm are revealed in all their glory for “Do Not Disturb”. The sultry opener makes for a low-key opener. But they just want you to get settled before they truly kick things off with the two-fer of “Love Bites (So Do I)” and “Mz Hyde”. Even by this point of their set, it’s blindingly apparent – they’re playing better than ever. As one cohesive unit and the chemistry you only get from constant touring the globe, their first night of their UK run isn’t lost on them. Instead, they provide a dominating performance for the duration, whether it’s their slower numbers or as hard and heavy as they can be.
After teasing the intro of “Familiar Taste of Poison” into “Amen”, it’s time for Arejay Hale’s drum solo. Despite being tucked away behind the kit, he’s still a showman in his own right and one of the few drummers on the planet that can actually make a drum solo entertaining rather than the obligatory get another beer/toilet break/check mobile moment (delete as appropriate) of the show. It’s also got Arejay’s signature big sticks but more than that, before he takes his own solo moment, there’s some great interplay between him and Josh Smith who throws some meaty bass lines at him and they bounce against each other. And it’s this which makes Halestorm such a special band – the Hale siblings’ name may be the band’s namesake but that’s exactly what this is. It’s a band and everyone onstage tonight is equal.
Once the drum solo is done, any easing in the band had planned is firmly behind us – it’s heavy hitter after heavy hitter until the very end. “Freak Like Me” is the only faithful to make it this far, before a run of Vicious songs with “Killing Ourselves to Live”, “Black Vultures”, “Uncomfortable” and B-side “Chemicals”. Whilst “I Am the Fire” ends the set, it’s the lengthy encore which seals this as a victorious night for Halestorm. The medley of “Break In”, “Dear Daughter” and a cover of “I Will Always Love You” with Lzzy Hale leading it alone with a keyboard allows her to show the versatility of her voice in the more tender moments when she’s not producing some mind-boggling screams.
However, the finale of “I Miss the Misery” shows the band at their finest. Through all the jokes and love the band have shown between songs, this is the jewel in the crown of the night. It’s the band at their utmost best, riffs and solos battering against each other, their interaction between one another as they give everything they’ve got on this final number. Drawing it out, it never becomes over-encumbered and makes for a thrilling and fitting end to the night. It’s showing how hard they’ve worked to get to this point. Because if any band of the last decade has earned their place to headline arenas, it’s Halestorm.
Pics by Katie Frost Photography