LIVE REVIEW: Halestorm @ O2 Academy, Liverpool – 17th August 2015

Albums are usually only played live in full on an anniversary or when they have made a considerable, genre-affecting impact on their scene. But Halestorm [8] are never ones to do things by the book, by announcing two UK shows – one in Liverpool and one in London – playing Into The Wild Life, not even five months old yet, in full. Promising a “wild night” also filled with acoustic reworkings of Halestorm tracks, covers and rarities, it’s fair to say expectations were running high.

As the quartet take to the stage to rapturous screams and cheers, frontwoman Lzzy Hale straightaway explains that this is not a standard Halestorm show, and will be split into two sets. Launching into an acoustic version of Freak Like Me, the whole room, (adults and children alike) sings along in unison, and one can’t help but feel a massive community spirit emerge. This continues for the rest of the first half, with In Your Room and Here’s To Us from The Strange Case Of… and I’m Not An Angel and I Get Off from Halestorm getting the acoustic treatment. And it makes each song feel incredibly special. In Your Room and I’m Not An Angel feel ten times more tender and vulnerable, and with Lzzy Hale’s vocals arguably better live than on record, she manages to rework every track with vocal freestylings and notes that travel out of the stratosphere. This is especially evident when her bandmates leave the stage and she plays old track Rose In December on piano, which can only be described as beautiful.

But perhaps the best thing about this acoustic portion of the evening is the banter between Lzzy, drummer brother Arejay Hale and guitarist Joe Hottinger (bassist Josh Smith is rather quiet) which results in giggles from the crowd on more than one occasion. The lads’ messing around results in short impromptu covers of Nirvana’s Come As You Are and Metallica’s Enter Sandman, and replaces the concert vibe with just friends having fun.

Sadly, this spark is lost in the second half, when Into The Wild Life is played in full. While the crowd goes crazy for high-octane tracks like Scream and Mayhem, slower numbers like The Reckoning halt the flow of the evening. As the album was only released in April, too, the only people in the room who know most lyrics are diehard fans. This paired with the loss of the banter and larking about from the band themselves means the original community feel is gone, and the show feels a lot more manufactured.

However, the technical excellence of Halestorm mostly makes up for this. Into The Wild Life sounds virtually the same live as it does on record. Lzzy’s vocals are unfaultable, and it’s clear her ability to get a crowd wrapped around her finger runs in the family, as every person in the room is captivated by Arejay Hale’s ten minute long drum solo (including ridiculous yet chuckle-inducing “BIG STICKS”), showing why he is one of the most underrated drummers in the game.

The quartet finish off with a trio of their biggest hits, and old track The Hand, which is somewhat disappointing sandwiched between It’s Not You and I Miss The Misery. The latter of these two gains the biggest singalong all night, and lets the band end on a high…until they burst back onstage, Union Jack guitars in tow, to finish with a cover of A Hard Days Night. Some may argue this is a bit of a cliched choice considering the setting, but it seems to reflect how personal this evening has been just as well. Although the momentum has been a tad disjointed, the uniqueness of tonight means one thing’s for sure – you will never see Halestorm quite like this again

Words by Georgia Jackson

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