Gig Review: Skillet / Like A Storm / Eva Under Fire – O2 Kentish Town Forum, London (15th April 2023)

A long-awaited return to the UK for Skillet saw their first two shows of the Day of Destiny tour hit Manchester and London. The promise of more shows in the UK back in 2019 technically wasn’t a lie as they have doubled the size of this tour compared to the last, but it’s safe to say we’d like this at least doubled again next time, please!

Eva Under Fire © Jack Barker
Eva Under Fire © Jack Barker

I always appreciate a venue that opens their doors with plenty of time for the room to fill for the first support band and this was the case at the O2 Kentish Town on Saturday night. The room was filling fast ready for Eva Under Fire to take the stage.

Playing Queen to a (mostly) British audience is a sure-fire way to get the crowd’s vocal cords warmed up and provide entertainment while waiting for the night to begin. Having checked out Eva Under Fire’s latest album prior to the tour, I will admit I was very excited to see them and it was obvious from the moment they took the stage that I wasn’t the only one, with way the crowd cheered as they appeared.

Playing a set purely made up from their newest album Love, Drugs & Misery (apart from cover of Journey’s “Separate Ways”) and opening with “Comatose”, lead vocalist Eva Marie instantly showed off the power to her voice and an impressive vocal range. The band overall performed with a confidence that, considering its only the second night of their first ever European tour, was very impressive.

Breaking up their original material with the Journey cover saw a guitar solo from Rob Lyberg, with Chris Slapnik using a drumstick as an alternative method of playing his rhythm guitar. Before “Coming For Blood” Eva Marie asked the crowd, “If we come back are you guys coming to the show?” which received a very clear yes in response. Finishing their set with “Blow”, one of the singles from the band’s latest album, it’s clear to say that Eva Under Fire have a lot of new fans after tonight.

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Next up were Like a Storm all the way from New Zealand for their first tour in over three years. We’d first seen them at Nova Rock festival in 2019 and after the years of Covid restrictions I was pleased to finally be able to see them again as part of this tour.

Like a Storm © Jack Barker
Like a Storm © Jack Barker

Entering the stage first was lead vocalist (and a multitude of other instruments-ist) Chris Brooks, moving straight to the didgeridoo for a thrilling intro. Throwing it back for the first two songs of the set were two tracks their first album The End of the Beginning. It did feel like a bit of a test to see if there were any long-term fans in the crowd, some audience member passed the test and were able to sing along, while those that didn’t know the early tracks still seemed to enjoy them anyway.

“Become the Enemy” is one of my favourites from the band’s catalogue, so I was very happy when this one started and the crowd getting involved with chants of “Hey” added to the atmosphere. Chris Brooks completed some very skilled multitasking, playing his guitar and didgeridoo at the same time.

Brothers Chris and Matt Brooks seem to be sharing lead vocal responsibilities on a few more songs than when we have previously seen them live. This was evident during the very emotional song “Pull Me from The Edge” where the lead guitar role was also shared, and you could definitely tell that the brothers had spent a lot of time playing together with how seamlessly they traded duties. Picking up the pace again for “The Devil Inside”, I did feel like Chris Brooks’ mic could have been a bit louder. His voice was at times drowned out by the instruments and the backing vocals were louder during the chorus.

Mixing things up with a cover of ACDC’s “TNT”, Chris Brooks said, “If you make enough noise I’ll come out and sing it” and the crowd didn’t disappoint. He made his way down to the barrier and easily jumped over it into the crowd, where he stayed for the majority of the song. Ending with their biggest hit “Love the Way You Hate Me” you could tell that the band were happy to be back on tour again, with energy that didn’t falter even once throughout their set. Chris Brooks made his way once more to the crowd, standing on top of the barrier saying a massive thank you, especially to some of the crowd who were out there all day waiting, and how much they appreciated the support, before taking a quick photo.

While it was evident that the majority of the room had enjoyed the show, a group on the barrier in particular had been singing along to every word throughout the whole set and were clearly overjoyed that the guys are back on the road.

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You can tell a crowd is excited when there’s a massive cheer just from a banner being raised! Skillet‘s drummer and backing vocalist Jen Ledger was the first to take the stage with a wave to the crowd and a quick bow before taking her seat at the drums. This was quickly followed by the rest of the band taking their positions at the front of the stage. On lead vocals and bass guitar, John Cooper greeted the crowd after the opening track “Feel Invincible” stating: “Tonight we say no to depression! Tonight, we rise!” before the song “Rise” kicked in.

Skillet © Jack Barker
Skillet © Jack Barker

A noticeable element of their performance the last couple of times that Skillet have toured are John Cooper’s CO2 cannons strapped to his arms. This time it was during intro to “Surviving the Game” from their most recent album Dominion.

Sometimes bands are all about the lead singer, but with Skillet this is definitely not the case. As a band, they own the stage together. During the intro to “Awake and Alive”, Ledger came down from her drumkit to sing along side Cooper for the first time this evening, along with the first appearance of touring musician Tate Olsen on the cello, and Korey Cooper briefly switching to keyboards.

Before “Hero”, which sent the crowd insane and saw Ledger down from her drums singing the full song at the front, there was a pause for John Cooper to say how good it felt to be back in London and to see how many of the crowd hadn’t seen them perform before – which I’d say was the vast majority of the room (proving once again that they just need to come over and tour more!). For a band that sits within the Christian Rock category, there is only the odd mention of religious topics at a Skillet show, and this never comes across as preachy, only sharing the occasional snippet of their beliefs when appropriate.

Tonight’s set could have been a greatest hits tour with the couple of new songs thrown in, which fit seamlessly with the band’s sound. The reception to older songs like “Whispers in the Dark” and then the brand new “Psycho in my Head” were almost indistinguishable as the crowd were singing every word to both. For the entire set the band were giving as much energy as physically possible so it was time to slow it down for “Anchor” before throwing it back to “Comatose” and the crowd outdid themselves with how loud they sang the chorus.

During another very quick break before “Finish Line”, the audience were asked how many people had come from another country to see the show and a surprising amount of them cheered. John Cooper apologised that they hadn’t made it to Spain before and that “We’re going to come, but only for you” pointing to the small group in the audience that had travelled from Spain for the show.

I honestly think the crowd sang pretty much every word to every song of the set (including the new ones), but it was exceptionally loud throughout the entire performance of “Monster”, during which the entire room went a little crazy. As the band left the stage briefly there were chants of “One more song!” almost instantly. Skillet were only too happy to oblige, returning for their signature closing song “The Resistance” which immediately reignited the energy of the crowd one last time as soon as the intro kicked in.

Tonight’s sell out show along with the previous night’s in Manchester prove that the band have a loyal fanbase in the UK and that a full UK tour is well overdue – a fact that John Cooper alluded during the set. Who knows, perhaps we won’t have to wait too long until Skillet are back in the UK.

Photos by Jack Barker Photography

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