Review: An Evening With Halestorm – Cardiff

Cardiff University Great Hall
Thursday 7th March 2022

Review and photos – Danni Wilkins/Rob Wilkins

A few weeks ago I saw a post on Facebook from Halestorm regarding their upcoming “Evening With…” tour. I almost didn’t dare look. Covid was once again rising rapidly and the difference in restrictions surely meant that what I was about to read was yet another “We are really sorry but….” post that have been so common the last couple of years. I clicked on the link and my heart sank as I saw that they were indeed cancelling the European stages of the tour, but then saw that the UK leg was going ahead. The other half looked a bit shaken as I shouted out but was soon as excited as I, Lzzy Hale being her rock idol in every possible way. Even better, a short time later I was told that I could have the opportunity to cover and photograph the gig. I spent the next couple of days with every limb firmly crossed before confirmation was received.

Arriving at the venue to a HUGE queue (some had been queueing since 11am that day to be at the front) we eventually entered the Student Union full of anticipation for what was billed as an intimate evening in smaller venues and saw a queue for merch that was as long as the queue to enter the building! I have never seen so many people in a line to spend money! The other half was keen to get a great spot so we bypassed the opportunity with much regret and headed in to await the band’s arrival.

This was to be a very different experience. No support bands, just Halestorm. A different setlist every night. Songs pulled from all over the back catalog. That much we knew. What we didn’t know was just how sensational an evening it would be. Rather than the usual three songs, it was explained to us that we would be in the pit for three acoustic and three electric set songs and that the whole of Lzzy’s keyboard segment would only count as one song. Talk about heaven!

Halestorm

The lights went down and Lzzy walked, almost shyly, onstage to her centrally placed keyboard. I have photographed many gigs, but the vulnerability of starting a gig like this was unique.

The set opened with “Break In” and you could hear a pin drop after the first notes. The sheer power and control of Lzzy’s delivery made the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. One song in and we were already a room full of friends and family listening to Lzzy pour her heart out. Ending the song, she talked about how it felt to be a woman starting off in the business, being assumed to be the girlfriend of one of the band or the merch seller. She dealt with it by starting gigs from the back so as to shock the audience. Tonight, she is doing the opposite, proud and confident of her place.

That led her into “Dear Daughter” and then through “Beautiful With You” (played live for the first time since 2016) and “Raise Your Horns” before she welcomed the rest of the band onstage. I had been utterly entranced behind my lens. Close enough to reach out and touch as she stood there and even at one point handing her a “Love Letter” from the crowd as the gap from the stage was too large to reach over. At one point she looked straight down my lens and smiled. I have to say, that moment made a lifetime memory.

Halestorm

Josh, Arejay, and Joe saunter on and take their places on stools and behind the kit. The rest of the acoustic set of five more songs is an utter delight. Never have I seen a band just having so much fun. The sheer joy of being together in front of an audience is infectious. First, we get “Familiar Taste of Poison”, followed by “I’m Not an Angel”. Between songs, there is a constant stream of chat to the audience and each other. Arejay is like a kid on Ritalin as he tells jokes, plays a triangle that isn’t even a triangle then a tambourine, and has great fun posing for us. Next on the setlist was “Better Sorry” but that didn’t even get close to happening as whilst playing around the band decided to launch into a superb acoustic version of “Mz Hyde” instead. On each date, the band has played a “local” song. This time however they said they had decided to do a song THEY wanted us to hear instead, then jammed a little of “It’s Not Unusual” anyway. That song was Heart’s “Crazy On You”. I implore you, take a look on YouTube and find one of the uploaded fan versions of Lzzy’s vocals to introduce this song. Absolutely breathtaking! Bringing the acoustic set to an end was “I Like It Heavy” and of course, it ended with Lzzy, back alone at the front, singing the a capella segue, accompanied by the entire hall.

A very brief break as the road crew removed the lights and stools and the band returned for the electric set.

Halestorm

Just in case anyone had somehow not realised things were going to get loud, Lzzy stepped to the mic and screamed: “I’m Back From the Dead” before we were absolutely pummelled with waves of sound. This is a venue that, in the past, has struggled to find a decent sound but the balance was utterly perfect. The song opens up about how hard she found it not being able to play during the Covid pandemic and how it affected her mental health, but tonight it allowed her to explode back into life in front of her adoring fans. Next up was supposed to be “Mz Hyde”, but we had already enjoyed an acoustic version so instead the band ripped through “Apocalyptic”. At one point a bra sailed through the air and landed close to Lzzy, to her evident delight as she commented on how she “still has it” then draped it from her guitar neck.

The energy by now was immense. Hit following hit following hit. Lzzy and Joe’s guitar playing was sublime. Trading solo spots and joining together in crushing riffs. Forget “female-fronted” or “female-led”, this was simply a rock band at the absolute peak. “Black Vultures”, “The Hand”, “I Get Off” and the wonderfully open-minded and sexual “Do Not Disturb” – all played with an intensity unlike almost any gig I have ever witnessed. Lzzy and Joe each donned double-necked guitars for “I Am the Fire” making me wish I was still in the pit for such a visual spectacle. The two six-stringers traded solos before a delicious harmonic joint effort. A hint of a chord and the faithful responded with a spirited “woohoo”, building each time the chord structure was repeated as the band encouraged and cajoled for more then “Amen” broke free. 

Halestorm

It was then Arejay’s turn as the band left to give him the spotlight and his drum solo. At many gigs, this is about twice as long as it needs to be, but his playing was so spectacular that it was a visual treat, especially when he broke out the extra-large sticks. Even twirling them as he played. Dude’s forearms must be like steel coils! There was even a portion where he disappeared off into a samba rhythm that was impossible not to move to. “Freak Like Me”, “Love Bites (So Do I)” and new song “The Steeple” closed out the electric set before the band took their leave.

No way were they going to be allowed to head to the tour bus though as the cheering, clapping and stamping became ear-splitting.

Halestorm

They returned with glasses held high to toast the crowd with “Here’s To Us” and “Bombshell” before draining the crowd of every last ounce of energy with “I Miss the Misery”. I am pretty sure they really didn’t want to go home at all as the song built and built to an extraordinary extended set of solos encapsulating the power and ability of one of the best rock bands on the planet right now.

That queue for merch was just as long as we left the hall. In fact, it may have been even longer as people were desperate for a physical memory of an extraordinary, emotional, exciting, and just plain fun show. Looking at my photos what strikes me is the sheer joy they show. Then there is that one of Lzzy, smiling right down through my lens. That will always be a special memory.

 

 

Check Also

NATE BERGMAN plunges into the “Deep End” as UK dates begin

NATE BERGMAN, the Nashville by way of D.C. singer-songwriter, is a performer with a voice …

US goth sensations LUDOVICO TECHNIQUE to make UK live debut next month

New York-based, goth-inspired, social sensations LUDOVICO TECHNIQUE recently cracked 1 million Spotify streams of their track, “Poisoned.” …

Charlotte Wessels joined by Simone Simons (Epica) for new single

Astonishing singer-songwriter Charlotte Wessels (ex-DELAIN) has joined forces with Simone Simons of Epica for her …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *