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Words by Tracey Moyle Music Maven
Photos by Paul Blackburn @wysiwyg.pix

After a ferocious set at Knotfest on Sunday, Pennsylvanian heavy rockers Halestorm gathered their hardcore fans on Tuesday night at the Princess Theatre and took them on a rock journey that appeased their dedicated followers who ‘like it heavy’.

Halestorm have been rocking hard since 1997, with one live and five studio albums, alongside ten EP releases, creating a constant flow of music for their followers. They have a dedicated fanbase that challenges even the most devoted rock fans. Once you find Halestorm, you fall deeply in love with everything they create, perform and simply are.

Their fans have many reasons to feel a strong connection to their music. Their songs are inspiring, motivating, empowering, relatable, and at times, just plain sexy. But regardless of anything else you consider the music to be, it is simply Rock ‘n’ Roll in its purest essence. That is why, once you find Halestorm, you never let them go.

So, by now, you can probably tell yes, I am a Halestorm fan/devotee.

Heading into the Princess Theatre with my 19 y.o. son, he is along for his second Halestorm gig, and me for my fifth. The pre-show crown line-up outside the venue has definitely changed since bursting my ‘Halestorm live’ cherry in 2015. No more arriving at ‘doors open’ and walking in. The crowd did not want to miss a prime position even in the constant rain. And at 5’2”, I have the same mindset. As Lzzy Hale sings; “You’ll be right in the front row. Heart and soul, they both know it’s where you gotta be”.

Inside the Princess Theatre, the crowd are hyped and happy for more than a few hundred punters who have just stood in the rain for hours. Obviously not first-timers, knowing it was worth it.

The line-up was impressive beyond the show’s stars, with the night’s support headliners in their own right. We have three heavy acts on stage tonight, all uniquely spectacular on their own.

Sydney’s progressive metal powerhouse Reliqa opened the night, with frontwoman Monique Pym commanding the stage. The band’s energy and enthusiasm, alongside Pym’s stunning vocals, didn’t falter throughout their entire set—not even when technical issues briefly held them up. Pym simply introduced the band’s brothers, Miles (Bass) and Benjamin (Drums) Knox, having them maintain the potent energy of the room with an impromptu rhythm section jam.

They played a solid set of old and new, from the popular 2020 track Mr Magic to the current single Terminal. They treated the crowd with their new song, Killstar (The Cold World), due for release this week. This massive prog track captured the pure power, heart, and soul of this homegrown metal band rising to well-deserved heights. This was not my first Reliqa show, and it sure as hell won’t be my last.

The second support for the night is a massive headlining act alone. The passion and intensity of UK alternative heavy hitters Skindred bring exciting energy to the line-up. In a world of ‘alternative’ rock/metal/music, it can be hard to stand out, but ‘stand out’ is an understatement for this dynamic band. Fans of these UK rap metal giants are evident in the crowd.

Their powerful lyrics combine with a mix of musical ingredients, including, but not limited to, nu-metal, alternative rock, rap metal, heavy rock, and more. Mix this all together into a delicious hot pot sprinkled with a seasoning of reggae and soul, and you have a recipe for an exciting and unique form of alternative brilliance.

Walking on to the Imperial Death March, the band happily took position, ready for their magnetic frontman Benji Webbe, to take the crowd on an intense metal experience.

Playing to a much smaller crowd than Sunday’s festival didn’t mean Skindred would play a half-arsed gig. They did the opposite, raising the roof with music that covered their epic career spanning over a quarter of a century. Opening with new music from their 2023 album ’Smile’, metal banger Set Fazers set the tone, the crowd bursting with energy. We travelled back to 2008 with reggae rap smash Rat Race. A birthday cake lit with candles is brought on stage for bass player Dan Pugsley, the crowd helping him celebrate, singing Happy Birthday.

The show went on. The frontman was an imposing force dressed in a long black leather jacket leading the crowd. He split the room in two, setting up one side chanting ‘woop woop’ and the other ‘That’s my jam’. Soon the jacket was off and That’s My Jam sent the venue into a massive sound-off, the crowd becoming a part of the song. The playfulness of the band isn’t lost within the important issue their music relays. From off stage, someone walks on with a small electronic keyboard decked out, looking like a very familiar guitar most (over 40) would have recognised instantly. Webbe ‘plays’ the keys as the opening of Van Halen’s classic Jump rings out. A fun moment leads into a powerful track, Kill The Power, with Webbe calling out to the crowd to ‘stop negativity’. “Don’t let anyone tell you what to do or stop your creativity”, he tells everyone.

They took the show out with their 2004 alternative rap metal smash, Nobody. Halestorms Arejay appeared on the side of the stage, filming the show through the explosive new track Gimme That Boom. The crowd was told to get down on the floor, ready to jump, and when Webbe talked, we all listened. The crowd soon ignited, jumping around for the final number, Warning. You can’t call Skindred an opening act; they were more suited to the title co-headliner or extra special guest, at least. The crowd was completely pumped ready for the main act.

The openers had the room so electric that you could feel it in your body. The anticipation of the crowd was felt. These modern-day purveyors of solid old-school rock ‘n’ roll would take the stage very soon, and the fans knew what was coming.

As I wait, with a level of excitement that can only come from a Halestorm gig, inside my head, I am already hearing Lzzy’s voice and singing along: “At the Rock Show, you’ll be right in the front row. Heart and soul, they both know, it’s where we gotta be.” And that’s where I was. And yes, I did get excited when the lights went down.

The stage was set up with Lzzy’s familiar keyboard front and centre. We were in for a treat first up.

The crowd cheered in adoration when the dynamic front woman arrived on stage. She stood at the keys as the lights shone down on this divine goddess of rock and began a medley of heartfelt songs. She opened with a stunning version of Melissa Etheridge’s I Want To Come Over, the crowd responding to every note. She addresses the crowd as she plays, “Tonight, I want you to give yourself permission to be flawed. To give yourself permission to be your truest self, right!”. The crowd responds with love. She flowed into the band’s powerful track Heart of Novocain, belting out the song with the passion it was written with.  She acknowledged the ladies in the crowd and slid into the heart-opening track Dear Daughter, the entire theatre joining in. The powerful lyrics were felt. The crowd followed her into an almost gospel moment with Raise Your Horns evoking an energy around the room that was undoubtedly felt within a 10 km radius. Horns raised the Halestorm family were united. The moment wasn’t lost on anyone.

The rest of the band arrived on stage, setting off a roar. They opened the rockfest, sticking with ‘Back from the Dead’, taking the fans into the belter Psycho Crazy with force. The theme song of every Halestorm fan, Rock Show, hits a (power) chord, the lyrics relatable to any live music devotee. They heighten the barre with their smash hit I Miss The Misery raising the roof. Guitarist Joe Hottinger is having a ball on stage, smiling away at the crowd, throwing picks out to the lucky ones who catch their memory piece. Hottinger’s guitar solo is a banger, and the crowd responds accordingly. Love Bites sends another power surge through the crowd, and then things slow down as Lzzy chats to the fans. “I have asthma.” She tells the crowd the condition she has had since she was eleven was provoked at the weekend festival for the first time in seven years. She asked the crowd to join in on vocals, with the place cheering in support, singing back and forth into I Get Off. The song rocks the venue until bassist Josh Smith takes over on keys and Lzzy belts out and impassioned addition to the song as only a live show can give you, performing like she’s temporarily consumed by Janis Joplin herself. If we were getting only 80% of the vocals from Lzzy that night, it was still phenomenal.

The band took us through old favourites; Freak Like Me, Familiar Taste of Poison, and new loves, Killing Ourselves, Takes My Life and Back From The Dead, each one its own epic rock journey. It wouldn’t be a Halestorm gig if Arejay didn’t belt out the world’s best drum solo, giving the fans the cue to chant ‘Big Sticks’. And, of course, not wanting to disappoint the fans, the big sticks come out with Arejay Hale giving us the most entertaining display of drumming you will ever see with ‘MASSIVE’ drumsticks.

More old and more new tracks lead to the (almost) close of the set. Lzzy thanks the fans and takes us into the lyrically powerful anthem Amen, leading into the band jamming together and giving fans a treat. Joe and Lzzy laying down massive riffs and solos, Josh’s bass penetrating your entire being. Arejay keeps the band’s heart beating at a marathon pace and belting depth. The three-minute track turned into a mammoth, almost twelve minutes of hellbent rock you can only truly get at a live show. Epic! Off the stage they go, but you know there’s more.

Back to close out, like a crowd of old friends, we toasted Here’s to Us and finished the night with the band praising their rock n roll family with Steeple. The night was done, and another Halestorm gig left its imprint in everyone’s memory. A night I found very few could compete with in later contemplation.

In my opinion, Lzzy is one of the most talented rock artists in the world, but so are Arejay, Josh, and Joe. Together, they are the one and only Halestorm.

Many thanks to Dallas Does PR

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