Halestorm, Nothing More & Wilson @ The Apollo
Post-interview with Josh Smith of Halestorm, discussing matters such as the glamourous side of rock and roll that is putting up new shelves [click here to read], Kat Hilton took up a place at The Apollo to see Halestorm on their biggest UK tour yet.
Playing to a fairly full Apollo, opening act Wilson hit right from the off. Lead singer Chad Nicefield stomps on stage dressed like a full on tin soldier, complete with a drum and a big hat, it makes you stand up and pay attention.
This is pure guitar driven, in your face, down and dirty rock that will squirm its way into your soul and pitch a tent. They will pummel your ears, they will blast their way through the door of the mundane, barging past the bouncers whilst slapping them cheekily on the arse, to hit you in the face with a barrel load of riffs, drum beats and stonking vocals. They play rock n’ roll like they are on fire; the only way to douse the flames is to throw immense amounts of guitar licks and vocal smoothness in the general direction and hope for the best. The crowd were going wild, heads banging, fists pumping, out and out having a blast.
They go out like they have something to prove, it is loud, it is sweaty, it is REAL, and fuck it's good.
Nothing More - with the crowd now energised - follow. With Wilson proving a smash hit with all, they have a big act to follow. Some props have wormed their way on between the sets, a Victorian ear trumpet set up that is something akin to a Willy Wonka experiment lurks at the front and whilst intriguing makes you worry that this is more substance over style.
Vocalist Jonny Hawkins ambles onto the stage looking like a discount version of Jim Morrison, leading the way through a mix of songs from Christ Copyright to The Matthew Effect, all of which are comparatively cold and boring. Mid-set they break off and indulge the crowd's curiosity as to what the Wonka-esque equipment was by strapping a guitar to it. Two guitarist’s attack it as it spins whilst the singer uses drumsticks to illicit sound from this poor strung up beast as it mournfully howls into the gloom. It should be impressive but really isn't. All the flashy gimmicks and aping on stage can’t make up for the fact that they are beating the crap out of said guitar and should be arrested for assault of a musical instrument.
With the singer spending much of his time crouched like Gollum at the back of the stage, the constant equipment twiddling and complete lack of presence, they are generally disappointing although Salem (Burn the Witch) is a highlight. Here there is a real glimpse of talent that may well have been lurking underneath all along.
With a slightly dampened atmosphere, there is a lull whilst the stage is set for Halestorm. Then the excitement builds until they make it on stage to deafening screams, stamping of feet and horns thrown all around. Astonishing really, the band have no work to do to raise the atmosphere, the crowd have already done it for them and yet somehow they do.
Starting with the aggressive and anger fuelled Love Bites, the crowd go wild, to say that they are loved would be an understatement, men, women and children of all ages, dress and attitudes fill the rafters, shouting, chanting and singing along to increase the noise levels tenfold.
With the vast majority of their set from third album The Strange Case Of, the likes of Freak Like Me, You Call Me a Bitch Like It’s a Bad Thing and Daughters of Darkness go down smoother than cold milkshake on a sore throat. With their catchy lyrics and able guitar, each one riles the crowd even more.
As the, now traditional, Arejay drum solo begins, his spotlight moment, he teases the audience by drumming sections of infamous songs Dirty Deeds and Last Resort amongst them, getting the crowd to sing along before a group of men begin chanting “We love you Arejay, We do”, well and truly feeding the gremlin after midnight it literally stops him in his tracks to appreciate the moment, and that he does, the joy etched onto his face. Rumour has it that Animal and David Lee Roth once got wankered on far too much whisky and Arejay is the resulting lovechild.
A few nods to their début, self-titled work Halestorm with the sex laden, power crazed, horn fuelled I Get Off making an appearance as well as the cowbell filled offering It’s Not You. Treating the crowd an album glimpse Amen and Apocalyptic make their Manchester début in style.
Earth shattering, brand new, never heard by the likes from Halestorm before? Well no. More of the same as it happens but, and it is a big but one look around the room to take in the atmosphere and it's one of pure delight.
Lzzy Hale and Joe Hottinger play phenomenally well together, ably supported by the cool, calm and collected Josh Smith; consistently good but lurking in the background whilst Arejay Hale constantly thrashes away, bouncing around like Tigger on acid, I have yet to see a more animated drummer.
Sure, at times the vocals were a bit ropey, but as you will- you see that, will, have read from the interview with Josh, Lzzy is recovering from a nasty flu type bug, sure they could have cancelled but then for a band that easily does 250 performances a year from Stockholm to Texas without forgetting the little guys in between, that was never going to happen. In all reality it didn’t detract from the show either, the band thrashed out every song with vim, vigour and voraciousness.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em you got to give them credit for getting on with it and letting the passion they have for their music shine through, every time.
Words: Kat Hilton