Review: Halestorm – Liverpool Academy, 17/08/15

Grammy award winning American Rock band Halestorm interrupted a short tour of mainland Europe for two very special shows in England. Tonight’s gig will be followed by a show at Koko in London. Billed as ‘A Wild Evening with Halestorm’, not only would these shows be the first time that the band would be performing any of their three albums in their entirety, and in order, they also promised something special in the way of older, deeper cuts.

When the band come on stage to a fevered response from the sold out Academy, guitarist Joe Hottinger picks up an acoustic guitar and then the penny drops… Halestorm Unplugged! Lzzy Hale asks “Where are my freaks?” and the front rows go wild, before she leads the band into a stripped down version of ‘Freak Like Me’. Maniac drummer, Arejay Hale, is grinning away at the back, using a mixture of drumsticks and brushes, whilst Josh Smith is quietly bringing the beef on a gorgeous Rickenbacker bass. For the next forty minutes, we are treated to one almighty jam session, with smiles all around on stage, and lots of laughs, mainly from Arejay and Joe. When Lzzy is talking, the pair start up a Dick Dale surf guitar number to wind her up, another time it’s Nirvana’s ‘Come As You Are’, and Lzzy joins in by singing a few verses before telling them “Don’t try a song that I know the words to”. However, they do stump her on ‘Enter Sandman’ and Arejay has to help out by channeling his inner Hetfield. His older sister mentions “You know that saying about not giving the drummer a mic?”.

In this relaxed atmosphere, we get treated to acoustic versions of tracks such as ‘I’m Not An Angel’, ‘I Get Off’ and the ultimate drinking song ‘Here’s To Us’, but the real money shot is when Lzzy goes solo at the piano for ‘Rose In December’. Very rarely played live, this is a much requested fan favourite from the self-released ‘Breaking The Silence’ EP… 14 years old, and very much the holy grail to Halestorm fans… a gorgeous song that showcases the incredible range Lzzy has. When the song finishes, and jaws are picked up from the floor, Lzzy says, “We’re going to take a short ten minute break, so either go for a piss or get pissed, the choice is yours” The guy next to me chooses neither instead opting to play Temple Run on his phone, Rock ‘n’ Roll, eh?!

[caption id="attachment_6171" align="aligncenter" width="398"] Halestorm[/caption]

If ever there was an album ready for playing in its entirety, then it’s the latest Halestorm album ‘Into The Wild Life’, the pacing on it is incredible, and the way each song flows into the next with fills and outros is sublime. So when the band came back on, after their short break, the anticipation level had increased. ‘Scream’ is a fantastic opener. Easy to chant along to, and major audience participation on this one. Great playing from Arejay, who really hits those drums with such power and passion. If you are familiar with the album, then you’ll know ‘I Am The Fire’ is up next, featuring Lzzy on a stunning Gibson double-neck. I’m talking serious guitar porn here, man! Another cracking song that builds up to a crashing finale, with some serious riffage from Lzzy and Joe. The album has a great mix of heavy tracks like ‘Mayhem’ and ‘Apocalyptic’, poppier tracks like ‘Sick Individual’, ‘New Modern Love’, and ‘The Reckoning’, as well as stand out Lzzy Hale ballads with bite, ‘Dear Daughter’ and ‘What Sober Couldn’t Say’. Live, the songs take on a larger persona that can fill the entire room, they get stretched out with sweet playing from both guitarists, but special mention has to go to Joe Hottinger for his extended solo when ‘Bad Girls World’ fades into ‘Gonna Get Mine’. Too many superlatives could be used, but wow!… just wow!

After closing the main set with ‘I Like It Heavy’, complete with a solo outro from Lzzy, where yet again jaws drop at how strong her voice is, Ms Hale mentions that all the usual faffing about for an encore wastes precious playing time. Instead, she sets the stage for the artful dodger Arejay to give his bandmates a breather from the stifling heat, and that rarest of rarities occurs…an enjoyable drum solo! He no longer uses golfing umbrellas for his solo. He traded them in for oversized drum sticks and proceeds to knock the living hell out of his kit. Lzzy then leads the band into a party-like encore-without-being-an-encore. Frenzied versions of ‘Love Bites’, ‘It’s Not You’, and ‘Miss The Misery’ are welcomed like old friends, but when Lzzy says that they are going to dust off a song from way, way back before they got signed to Atlantic, the crowd does indeed go wild. Chances are, that most of the crowd were hearing ‘The Hand’ for the first time, I know I was. Therefore, everyone in attendance could say that they were there the night Halestorm blew their fans minds. They were not finished though. Nope. One more treat was to follow. After taking their bows, it seemed that was that, but the band had one more trick up their sleeves. Remember, this is Liverpool, so it was fitting that they paid homage to the city, by blitzing their way through ‘A Hard Days Night’, complete with Joe Hottinger playing his Union Jack guitar. It’s fair to say, I don’t think that I’ve ever seen a band smile as much as Halestorm did whilst doing their best Beatles impressions.

Who’s to say when, and indeed if, Halestorm will do something similar to tonight on these shores, but If they do, then look out for me down the front. Hard to miss, trust me.

Setlists

[caption id="attachment_6172" align="aligncenter" width="532"] Halestorm[/caption]

Review: David Stott

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