|Halestorm/Heaven's Basement/Zico Chain - Bristol, Fleece - 1st October 2012|
|Written by Gaz E|
|Wednesday, 10 October 2012 05:00|
The first thing I notice as I people-watch the longest queue I've ever seen outside the always cool Fleece venue in Bristol is the vast cross section of humanity waiting patiently to catch the last date of the debut headline tour from Red Lion, Pennsylvania's Halestorm: middle-aged women stand shoulder to shoulder with teenage girls, both ends of the lady spectrum checked out by gig-hardened males in bad metal t-shirts.
Entering the sold out venue, packed to the rafters almost as soon as the doors open, as openers Zico Chain are partway through their first song I have to stop for a double take: is this really the edgy band championed by Uber Rock in the past? Has there been a change to tonight's bill without me knowing? The Zico Chain of late 2012 are a slick proposition with sampled backing vocals and keyboard enhancements that are intended to add atmosphere to the band's unfortunate 30 Seconds To Mars-style makeover. They go down well - it would be harder not to in front of a packed out venue with more than the usual quota of gig debutants - but the links in this chain are straining in the search for public acceptance. This wasn't an off-night, this is an off-direction.
Heaven's Basement have had almost as many different members as band names: I honestly can't remember if the line-up stood in front of me is the same as the one I watched when I last saw the band in the Summer of 2011. As always, the perennial support band turn in a high octane performance that pushes many excitement buttons if not musical ones. The fact that the high point of their set is when the singer (who would look equally at home fronting a Channel 5 documentary about pre-op transsexuals on British housing estates as a rock band) crowd surfs to the back of the venue before returning to the stage after walking the length of the bar perhaps says it all. The songs from their debut album, 'Filthy Empire' (set for a January release), that get an airing suggest that these guys should at least be looking to usurp the attention afforded the likes of Jettblack who walk a similarly modern cock rocking path, but the fact that one of them is called 'Nothing Left To Lose' pretty much tells me that the long player will be a spirited affair that smacks of seen-it-all-before histrionics...pretty much like their live show.
Opening your set with arguably your biggest tune is a ballsy move. 'Love Bites (So Do I)' flies out of the speakers as Halestorm hit the small stage, it becoming clear almost immediately that the stages that beckon for this band are much bigger.
Biggest tune? Scrub that. There are so many massive tunes in the Halestorm setlist that you'd be a fool not to ink these guys and gal onto the list marked 'Most Likely To...'
'Mz. Hyde', 'It's Not You' and 'Freak Like Me' follow, and I struggle to remember a more impressive live opening salvo in this gig-going year. Lzzy Hale, nailed on as the next rock star pin-up, looks out over wall to wall fandom to see almost every person singing every one of her lyrics back at her, the electricity in the room not just confined to the stage.
Such is the confidence in the band's ranks, song five in the set list is the first of a trio of slower tunes - 'In Your Room', a rarer outing for 'I'm Not An Angel', and 'Familiar Taste Of Poison' - much like the similarly early clutch of slow songs on this year's storming 'The Strange Case Of...' album. 'Rock Show' reintroduces the volume, Lzzy's speech about the importance of the night being someone's first gig resonating with many in the audience, an audience gripped totally in the palm of her horn-throwing hand.
Don't forget that there's another Hale in the band, Lzzy's brother Arejay, who turns in an OTT performance that catches the eye with ease, even if his drum solo spot does its best to drag him back to normality - is there really any point when the drummer looks like he's playing a solo in every song? The introduction of three foot long drumsticks at solo end does offer some welcome light relief, however.
'You Call Me A Bitch Like It's A Bad Thing' shakes this show back to life with its mammoth riffing and delicious hook - actually, I could write those words about almost every song in the Halestorm arsenal. Not so next song, 'Dissident Aggressor', a cover of the Judas Priest song from 1977's 'Sin After Sin' album, learnt as a thank you to the UK and thrashed out in impressively heavy fashion. 'I Get Off', the massive song from the band's debut album, ends the set proper in great style.
'I Miss The Misery' is the first of a two song encore as big sounding as the rest of the set. 'Here's To Us', the band's true anthem in a collection of anthems, brings the night to a close, the last time Halestorm will be playing in venues of this size, you would guess.
It would be easy to overly-cynical about this performance: despite having 20something songs in their back catalogue the band's main set lasted less than an hour, for example, and that included a lengthy drum solo and a slower three song section. But sometimes you just have to suck it up and accept things for what they are: I think I just saw a band step up a couple of rungs on the ladder to major success at a club gig that people will lie about being at in the future. Hugely impressive.
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