live music review

Billy Talent @ The Metro Theatre 13/8/16 (Live Review)

First seen on AMNplify here!

Off the back of their fifth studio album, Afraid of Heights, Canadian four piece rock powerhouse Billy Talent returned to Australia in their first headline tour in over four years. Forming in 1993 under a different name, Ben Kowalewicz (vocals), Ian D’Sa (guitar), Jonathan Gallant (bass) and Aaron Solowoniuk (drums) were part of the Toronto indie music scene until 2001, when they reached mainstream success. While Aaron continues his long-standing battle with multiple sclerosis, Jordan Hastings of Alexisonfire filled in for him, with local five piece The Lazys supporting the tour.


Billy Talent

Billy Talent | Britt Andrews Photography


After hooking up with Billy Talent at Canadian Music Week 2014 in Toronto, The Lazys arrived on stage with literal buckets of energy, rock god shapes and tunes to make AC/DC head bang along. In actual fact, I expected them to break into an AC/DC song from the outset of every intro. The influence is obvious with power chords, songs soaked in guitar solos and feel-good lyrics. The highlight of their set was lead guitarist Mathew Morris foraying from the stage to the sound desk to rock out amongst the crowd. They did an excellent job of rallying the audience for the headliners.


The Lazys

The Lazys | Britt Andrews Photography


In a blaze of guitar riffs, screaming, and clashing percussion, Billy Talent took the stage like a foreboding storm. Vocalist Ben was a veritable lightning strike, unable to stand still for more than a few moments. His range included anything from a whisper to a scream with a decidedly theatrical expression colouring every lyric he sang. Ian‘s guitar work was formidable however it needs to be said he provided an intriguing vocal dynamic for Ben to play off, especially prominent in the harmonies of Saint Veronika and later tracks from the set list. Not to be left behind, bassist Jonathan provides gravely backing vocals on every chorus while Jordan keeps everyone in time on the drums.


Billy Talent

Billy Talent | Britt Andrews Photography


The setlist had an even focus across all five studio albums, revisiting some oldies like Prisoners of Today and This Is How It Goes, as well as playing Pins and Needles – a track that is rarely played live. Ben dedicated Surprise Surprise to himself for being awesome, and Stand Up and Run was dedicated to Gord Downie.


Billy Talent

Billy Talent | Britt Andrews Photography


There was a really cool moment in the show where Ben left the stage, strengthening the focus on Ian, Jonathan and Jordan jamming in an extended version of Try Honesty. The best part was that he actually joined the audience and watched the boys on stage tear it up for a good few minutes. It must be a mark of professionalism and respect, as well as his deep appreciation for music, to act this way. When he returned to the stage he made a point of thanking each of them for their contributions to the band, saying they would miss Jordan when he returns to Australia in January 2017 with Alexisonfire‘s forthcoming tour.


Billy Talent

Billy Talent | Britt Andrews Photography


Much of Billy Talent‘s repertoire having a socio-political focus, there wasn’t much time wasted on speechifying. However, during the encore Ben laid down the law: “Times are tough. Every day there’s a new tragedy in the news. Let’s be thankful we’re together, safe and happy […] Because my reality does not include people like Donald f**king Trump!” He also spoke out against the mass murder in Orlando before switching back to lead singer mode and powering through Falling Leaves and Viking Death March to close out. Overall the night was nothing but hard rock and fun for all. It was great to see these guys finally on the road again, performing their new material live. The fan base is as strong as ever and stoked to be a part of Billy Talent‘s journey.

See Britt Andrew’s gallery from the night here!


Connect with Billy Talent!

Official WebsiteTwitterFacebookInstagramYouTube


Set list:

Devil In A Midnight Mass
This Suffering
Big Red Gun
This Is How It Goes
Afraid of Heights
Rusted From The Rain
Saint Veronika
The Crutch
Pins And Needles
River Below
Prisoners of Today
Surprise Surprise!
Stand Up And Run
Louder Than The DJ
Red Flag

Try Honesty
Fallen Leaves
Viking Death March


Jack Garratt @ The Metro 21/7/16 (Live Review)

First seen on AMNplify!

The award-winning London-based singer, producer and multi-instrumentalist Jack Garratt hit Australian shores earlier this week, playing some sideshows ahead of his spot in Splendour in the Grass at North Byron Parklands. His debut album Phase dropped in February this year to critical acclaim and was awarded triple j’s feature album. AMNplify had the opportunity to check out his sold-out Sydney show on a Thursday night at the Metro Theatre.

Jack Garratt

Jack Garratt | Andrew Evans Photography

Supporting from the US: Kacy Hill and her two band mates contributed a sound that was easily much larger than the space they were given to work with. The drummer and keyboardist’s matching striped shirts and black blazers made a nice touch, backing Kacy’s high tremulous voice with deliberate beats and atmospheric electronic pop. With only six tracks to rev up the packed crowd, Kacy and the boys started the set at 100% and turned it up from there.

After smashing out the first track, Kacy eagerly greeted us. Her awkwardness came off as a goofy sort of charm that instantly won over her audience, although it seemed totally at odds with the maturity of her music. She debuted a new song from an upcoming album, Hard To Love as well as Keep Me Sane, both worth checking out when you get the chance.

Kacy Hill

Kacy Hill | Andrew Evans Photography

In between songs Kacy was so overcome with excitement/delirious with jet lag, she sounded at times a bit like a voice actor from a Disney Playhouse episode. All three of them were characters in their own right, the drummer beating the shit out of his kit like it did him a grievous wrong, and the keyboardist had some dance moves that simply need to be seen to be believed. The Metro grew incredibly fond of her, whether as an adorable somewhat clumsy kitten (for she told us about only wearing one contact and almost tripping because of it) or as the fierce lion she sings about, I’m not sure.

Jack Garratt’s set was nothing short of eventful, filled with hilarious improv, covers and technical difficulties as well as guitar and drum solos amongst crowd favourite tracks Breathe Life and Worry. He stood at the centre of the stage cloistered by instruments and surrounded by angled lighting rigs, utterly a one-man band, as he powered through the first two tracks, inserting a cute little “Hello Sydney!” address mid-song.


Jack Garratt

Jack Garratt | Andrew Evans Photography.

With a guitar in hand for the third track, he teased the crowd mercilessly, seemingly enjoying himself and miffed at the same time that they would anticipate what song he was about to play. At one stage they cheered so loudly Jack silenced them with the closing of his fists such as you would for a choir. Jack began to pick out the melody of Weathered and the crowd immediately began to sing along, at which point he stopped them and explained this had happened in Melbourne the night before. He asked for someone backstage to film the crowd as they essentially sang the whole first verse and chorus before he took over, ramping it up with drums and layers of keys and synths. The entire venue sang along, and credit to the sound techs for keeping Jack’s lovely voice audible without deafening us.

Having finished that track, Jack claimed those were the only songs he had and launched into a piano and vocal cover of Michael McDonald, drawing cheers until he abruptly stopped and said, “No, I’m not fucking gonna play that!” Apparently he only found out a week ago that Phase did well here.

Unfortunately, after playing through Far Cry, technical malfunctions struck.

Jack Garratt

Jack Garratt | Andrew Evans Photography

While stage hands fiddled about with his setup, Jack treated us to several instances of improve jazz piano that was later embellished with mouth trumpet that drew far too much applause than he thought it was worth. (It was honestly the best mouth trumpet I’ve ever heard though.) When everything seemed to be resolved, it seemed like Jack was testing out the device when people recognised the beat from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme. And so went another performance shared between The Metro and Jack Garratt, the endless good sport even in the face of some apparently significant malfunctions.

The Craig David/Justine Timberlake mashup cover Jack performed on BBC’s Live Lounge made an appearance. Definitive crowd-pleaser right there. From there the rest of the set went quite quickly, cut a bit short from all the delays between songs. His final address was the only point in the night where Jack became somewhat philosophical: “Every award I’ve won and everything I’ve done is nothing compared to what I might do tomorrow” – an attitude he encouraged his audience to carry as well.

Even though some things went wrong last night, a lot of things went so right. Jack Garratt is the kind of performer who will stop at nothing to make sure that his crowd is enjoying themselves. Even in the face of glitches he displays a professionalism alongside sheer instrumental talent and melodic genius and one of the few falsettos that lends itself beautifully to his music. It was an honour to witness this man on stage.

Check out Andrew’s full gallery HERE


Connect with Jack Garratt

Official WebsiteTwitter Facebook YouTube


Set list:

Coalesce (Synaesthesia Pt. II)
Breathe Life
Far Cry
Seven Days/Senorita (Crag David/Justin Timberlake)
The Love You’r Given
Surprise Yourself

The Bennies @ UOW Uni Bar 8/7/16 (Live Review)

First seen at AMNplify.

Some bands don’t want to subscribe to a genre, The Bennies on the other hand can’t seem to make up their mind. They’ve been taking their unique blend of “Psychedelic Reggae Ska Doom Metal Punk Rock from Hell” to all corners of Australia in a massive 27 dates over 40 days to promote the recent release of their third album, Wisdom Machine. With Anty taking care of vocals and korg, Jules on the guitar, Bowie drumming and Craig covering the bass, you won’t be bored at one of their shows. Friday night saw them in University of Wollongong’s Uni Bar with local punk rock trio Kaleidoscope alongside the tour’s special guests, Axe Girl and Clowns.


The Bennies - photo by Britt Andrews Photography

The Bennies – photo by Britt Andrews Photography


Kaleidoscope kicked off a full lineup, punching out a half hour set of tracks very reminiscent of late 90s garage punk. Instrumental was definitely their strong point with the three South Coast locals head banging long dreads and defiantly shouting their lyrics to be heard over the rolling melodies of guitar and bass. Mayalla was the standout track from their set.



Kaleidoscope – photo by Britt Andrews Photography


Originating from Perth, aka the other side of the world, Axe Girl’s distinctly brighter, fast-paced pop punk, wasn’t exactly what the crowd was expecting. However, by the time the set was over, many were declaring “I’ve never heard of them before but they were fucking awesome”.


Axe Girl

Axe Girl | Photography by Britt Andrews


Their set started out slow bass-heavy with rumbling guitar riffs and it only accelerated from there, accented by the off-centre, explosive feminine vocals of Axe, reminiscent of Metric’s Emily Haines or Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. From the second track of their set onwards, they were winning over the crowd. Mid-way through Axe picked up a glittering red guitar and added some welcome layers to their melodic full sound. With her blue tipped fly away hair, blue eye shadow, star spangled leggings, and endless bounds of energy, manic pixie Axe is definitely the epicentre of the group. On the last track, they even threw in some screams, a great way to transition to Clowns’ music.

Clowns’ frontman Stevie came out to three jamming band mates, declared the song was about those few times why it’s bad to take drugs and was crowd surfing by the end of the second chorus. A-rhythmic short fast loud songs interspersed throughout the set list. Clowns know how to build a song with an apex of intensity. Early on in the set they debuted a new song with a ripping guitar intro (didn’t tell us the name though). Stevie gleefully staring into the pit of writhing punters. If your dream was to crowd surf, Clowns would be the band to make that happen. They’ve got audience engagement down to a science.

They were absolutely unwilling to let any silence into their whole set from the moment they entered the stage to the time they left.



Clowns | Photography by Britt Andrews


Jared King aka Goon’s guitar string snapped mid-song and threw off the rest of the band. Apparently they’d never fucked up a song that badly before and Stevie joked that would be his last show with them. “Does anyone know any guitarists looking to rock with the Clowns?” Regardless, they went back, fixed it up and finished out with aplomb. The pinnacle of their set was when Stevie climbed up to the top of two speaker stacks and jumped off to be caught by the ecstatic clump of fans several metres below.

To give you an idea of The Bennies set you need to know this, elicit substances consumed on stage sets the tone for the rest of the evening. Puffing on a joint in between lyrics, Anty was barely in one place for longer than a second, at one point flapping his arms like he was about to fly away. Right from the start the set was supercharged reggae ska rock. Axe came on and shouted out a verse from Heavy Disco. She and Anty shared some adorable in-joke choreography to a synth percussive accent in the track. They also invited Stevie of Clowns back to lend his vocals to Corruption.


The Bennies Axe Girl UOW Uni Bar Britt Andrews

The Bennies featuring Axe Girl | Photography by Britt Andrews


The chemistry between these four blokes is incredible to behold. At one point, Anty lovingly stroked the hair behind Craig’s ears while he continued to shred the bass. Throughout the set they took the time to feature each other. Craig demolished a particularly compelling bass solo in Acid on Me Brain. Even though Anty took a break in My Bike to get the audience involved in the lyrics, the highlight was him, Craig and Jules sitting on the stage like good little school kids watching Bowie thrash his drum kit in a killer solo. Jules had some amazing moments to shine all night long with every melody intricate yet catchy, a standout example being the intro to Anywhere You Wanna Go. Anty, Jules and Craig’s voices could be heard in different parts of each song.

The final few tracks took a decidedly theatrical turn with Party Till I Die (Or Die Trying) and Corruption – reverb everywhere, slow, thick and greasy bass, guitars, everything really, punctuated by painstakingly screamed lyrics.


The Bennies UOW Uni Bar Britt Andrews Photography

The Bennies | Photography by Britt Andrews


They made you work for the bridge of Party Machine: everyone’s favourite line to shout over and over, “One part party, one part machine!” The final message to us before closing out with Knights Forever was “Make slow changes with massive outcomes by being nice to each other”. Telling absurd stories in their songs makes people comfortable to behave however they want. Perhaps that’s why there were shoes flying everywhere the whole night (and some dejected looking patrons missing half their footwear at the end of the night).

If anyone ever said smoking too much weed makes you complacent and lazy, they haven’t seen The Bennies live. These guys will stop at nothing to get every single person moving and screaming.

Check out Britt’s full gallery HERE


Connect with The Bennies!

Official WebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagram

Set list:
Heavy Reggae
Detroit Rock Ciggies
What’s Ya Fucken Problem?
Heavy Disco
Sensi Mi
My Bike
Burnout City
Party Till I Die
Party Machine
Knights Forever

Cherie Currie @ Manning Bar 27/05/16 (Live Review)

First seen on Amnplify here

This was the first time touring Australia for Cherie Currie, iconic lead singer of The Runaways, and, for a long time, the other half of Joan Jett. At the tender age of fifteen, Cherie performed David Bowie covers until she found out Joan Jett and Kim Fowley was looking for a singer for the first all-girl rock band. The flame burned fast and hot for The Runaways, fizzling out within three years of its inception but forever immortalising these queens of noise. In 2010, a little of the band’s history was documented in film form, with Dakota Fanning portraying a young Cherie opposite Kristen Stewart’s Joan. Decades later Cherie finally graced our shores performing some of her old band’s hits, some covers and debuting tracks from her forthcoming album, Blackheart.


Cherie Currie Live at Manning Bar Sydney

Cherie Currie by Peter Dovgan


Hot Sweets kicked off the show with a short and—you guessed it—sweet 20 minute set. The vocals were very much in the spirit of late 70s, early 80s rock. Vanity Riot followed up with a punch wall of sound and wailing vocals backed by some really stellar pick work on the lead and rhythm guitars. But the crowd really only cared about one person and that was the rock queen herself, without a doubt.

Cherie Currie and her band took the stage with zero fanfare, launching into a rousing rendition of American Nights. Cherie was nothing but vibrant on stage, power in every step and every syllable. That remarkable voice was a thrill to hear in person. Full of funny anecdotes in between songs, she regaled the crowd with funny quotes like, “I do like Black Sabbath. I just don’t write like Black Sabbath!” Cherie had nothing but praise for Suzi Quatro, demanding she be immortalised in the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame before The Runaways since she was such an incredible influence paving the way for them.


Cherie Currie live at Manning Bar Sydney

Cherie Currie by Peter Dovgan


Possibly the most striking moment in the night was when Cherie stopped to do her David Bowie tributes. Upon introducing them she referred to Dakota’s re-enactment in The Runaways, in which the fictional Cherie was pelted with food for being so extraordinarily out there. After exclaiming, “I fucking ran that show!” Cherie was overcome with grief for the late pop icon and master influence on her. Tears interrupted her utterly heartfelt cover of Lady Grinning Bare, which transitioned into an exhilarating performance of Rebel Rebel. Later Cherie confided it was the first time she had cried since his death earlier this year.

Lacking a barrier between stage and pit, the set was intimate and Cherie took advantage of every second, thrusting the microphone in front of as many punters as possible. One girl with lilac hair seemed to be an expert at memorising lyrics and the only one confident enough to actually project into the mic… Cherie came back to her again and again. She definitely made a few people’s nights with her passionate crowd engagement.

See Peter Dovgan’s full gallery here!


Connect with Cherie Currie!

Official Website




American Nights (The Runaways)
Rock & Roll (The Velvet Underground)
Rock n Roll Rosie
Dear Mum (Shameless)
Is It Day or Night? (The Runaways)
Roxy Roller (Nick Gilder)
Heartbeat (The Runaways)
Queens of Noise (The Runaways)
California Paradise (The Runaways)
Midnight Music (The Runaways)
Lady Grinning Soul (David Bowie)
Rebel Rebel (David Bowie)
Do You Love Me? (KISS)
Cherry Bomb (The Runaways)

Little May @ UOW Uni Bar – Thursday 5 April 2016 (Live Review)

First posted on Amnplify here.

The Sydney-based indie/folk trio kicked off their Australian album tour at University of Wollongong’s Uni Bar. For the Company is their debut LP and was released in late October last year. After opening for the likes of Dallas Green of City and Color, they are headlining their own tour with a range of dates across the nation. Liz Drummond, Annie Hamilton and Hannah Field began their musical journey together as a covers band without the Little May title, testing out their original songs on pub crowds as though they were also covers. Drummer Cat Hunter and bassist Mark Harding fill out their sound from quiet folk to a sort of indie rock.

Little May - photo by Josh Groom

Liz Drummond, Little May – photo by Josh Groom


The Duk has Peked

The Australian electronic music duo of Adam Hyde and Reuben Styles returned to the homeland fresh from a tour of over 20 dates across North America during January and February. This was my first experience of a live DJ set (beyond the perfunctory performances offered at your average night club) and I have to admit it is a must-see, must-experience. Before I tell you about the main attraction, there are two artists who deserve a mention or two (or three or four…)

Photography courtesy of Patrick O'Hara (more…)

Limitless era is looking up for Tonight Alive

Hailing from Sydney, Tonight Alive returned to local venue, The Metro, for an “intimate live album preview” according to the venue’s Facebook event. Limitless is due for release in 5 weeks and to say the band and the fans are excited is a massive understatement. Tonight Alive is undergoing a transformation towards a larger audience, securing their first commercial radio time with the track Drive, the third single from the upcoming album.

Photos courtesy of Sian Sandilands. Check out the full gallery HERE.

D At Sea opened, just one man and his acoustic guitar smashing out a very quick chilled set. The playlist in between sets included such classics as Blink-182’s I Miss You and, to the entire crowd’s utter delight, John Farnham’s You’re The Voice, which triggered an anthem-like response. The lights went dark and lead guitarist Whakaio Taahi, rhythm guitarist Jake Hardy, bassist Cam Adler and drummer Matt Best entered to the sound of Jenna McDougall’s disembodied voice singing the intro to To Be Free. She ran on stage in Adidas track pants and I was momentarily confused as to whether I was at a rock show or a rap concert, especially with the addition of lasers. While it may have been jarring at first, Jenna effortlessly conveyed who she was as the band’s front woman, barrelling through 3 tracks before stopping to introduce them all:

“We are Tonight Alive and, if you don’t know what we’re about, we stand for personal expression and emotional freedom.”

Full of power poses and spinning roundhouse kicks, Jenna spent most of her time dancing on top of a narrow riser the ran the width of the stage, her voice impeccably clear and bright. The crowd was all too willing to sing the lyrics for her whenever she pointed the mic their way (which was often). Jenna also recognised some audience members who’ve been coming to their gigs since 2008.

Photos courtesy of Sian Sandilands. Check out the full gallery HERE

Five tracks in and the boys left just Jenna and Whakaio sitting on the edge of the riser with an acoustic guitar. They played Closer on request. Jenna dedicated Breaking and Entering to their record label, Sony Music, in an attempt to dispel some preconceived notions about being on a major label and to thank them for being “like a family”. Afterwards Jenna left Whakaio to adjust something. The crowd chanted for a solo and Whakaio played a few bars of Blink’s I Miss You to elated cheers. When it came to introducing the third acoustic track, The Other Side, Jenna cheekily replied to the audience, “Oh, you don’t want to hear this one? I’m so sorry!” and played it anyway.

They didn’t bat an eyelid when a man dressed in a Spider-Man morph suit made it on stage. Whakaio, Jake and Cam were full of a bro-type camaraderie, each of them trying to include Matt as much as possible. There was a moment where the three boys perched on the corner of the drum riser and jammed together while Jenna did her thing up front.

Even though they left the stage before doing an encore, they didn’t waste much time teasing the audience. It was barely a few minutes before a roadie was on the drum kit to play the intro recording to How Does It Feel.

Overall, the band is filled with such energy and electricity; I anticipate this new Limitless era will be something worth seeing

Connect with Tonight Alive!

Limitless will be available on 4th March!

Set list:

To Be Free
The Fire
The Ocean
Hell & Back
What Are You So Scared Of?
Closer (acoustic, played on request)
Breaking & Entering (acoustic, dedicated to Sony)
The Other Side (acoustic, extended unreleased version)
Human Interaction
Don’t Wish
Wasting Away
The Edge
How Does It Feel
Lonely Girl

Shuddering before Nightwish’s beauty

Originally posted at Amnplify, check it out here.

In the last 20 years, the Finnish symphonic metal band has produced 8 studio albums and toured around the world multiple times. In 2013, Nightwish brought the Imaginaerium tour to Australia and I had the good fortune to see it. To this day, they remain one of my favourite live acts. This is really saying something as they lost vocalist Annette Olzon in between booking the tour and actually making it here. Annette features on both Dark Passion Play (2007) and Imaginaerium (2011), the albums that first got me into the band, so I was understandably nervous about her replacement, Floor Jansen. This was a waste of nerves though. Needless to say, Nightwish had a lot to live up to after 3 years of waiting for them to return.

Photo of Nightwish at Enmore Theatre

Check out Gwendolyn Lee’s Gallery HERE

First things first, Teberah – a Tasmanian heavy metal quartet – opened to an already crowded Enmore theatre. They rocked a dialled back version of 80s Guns N Roses aesthetic, offering some suitably loud music and a lot of enthusiasm to rile up the audience for Nightwish.

The headlining set began with the customary recording of Hans Zimmer’s Roll Tide, to which the band entered one by one. They immediately launched into an animated Shudder Before the Beautiful, the opening track to tour album Endless Forms Most Beautiful. From the first note they were impeccable, even with Kai Hahto drumming in Jukka’s place. With Marco Hietala and Emppu Vuorinen continually crossing to Tuomas Holopainen’s side and Floor’s power poses to bolster her already remarkable vocals, there was always something happening on stage, even if it was just Kai an blur behind the impressive drumkit. Tuomas by comparison, would hunch over the keys with his eyes shut and shoulders tensed, like he was just a conduit for the music to flow through.


View Gwendolyn Lee’s photography HERE

Two thirds of their show was an even spread across 15 years worth of tracks, particular “golden oldies” include: She Is My Sin, Ever Dream, crowd favourite Nemo, and Ghost Love Score for their instrumental track. The inclusion of While Your Lips Are Still Red was an interesting choice. The song is not officially associated with Nightwish as it was written by Tuomas Holopainen and Marco Hietala for the Finnish film Lieksa! Towards the end of the track, Floor lent her voice to support Marco. 6 tracks from the tour album featured, most notably the 2nd and 3rd chapters from The Greatest Show on Earth, the band’s longest song to-date at almost 24 minutes.

It was such a pleasure to see them come back and perform something they’d all worked on together in a studio as well as on tour, as opposed to only tracks from previous incarnations of the band. Floor and Troy Donockley have carved out a place for themselves both in the hearts of their bandmates and in the fans they perform for.


Connect with Nightwish!
Official Website

Set list

Shudder Before the Beautiful
Yours Is an Empty Hope
Ever Dream
She Is My Sin
My Walden
While Your Lips Are Still Red
Weak Fantasy
7 Days to the Wolves
I Want My Tears Back
Ghost Love Score
Last Ride of the Day
The Greatest Show on Earth

Lzzy and the boys brought the literal Halestorm to Australia

Via AMNplify, see the original post here.

It’s no coincidence that, two days after Grammy award-winning band Halestorm took the stage, Sydney was hit with hail stones the size of fists not to mention a tornado or two. This was the four-piece band’s first tour Down Under after playing together for nearly 13 years and with 3 studio albums under their belts. Rock n’ roll is far from dead and that’s what they were here to prove.

Manning Bar wasn’t too crowded when doors first opened. The opening band Bellusira, part Australian, part Kiwi and two parts American, set the scene with loud and heavy sound and a genuine thrill to be on stage. Frontwoman Crystal Ignite talked about her abusive and bullied upbringing and how that gave her the strength to pursue music, which gelled well with the tracks from their most recent album, The Healing. By the time they left the stage, the bar was packed and the crowd was ready for the main act.


Halestorm @ Manning Bar, 13/12/2015. Check out Peter Dovgan’s full gallery HERE!

I had no idea what to expect when Arejay Hale strode on stage and took his seat behind the sparkling gold Pearl drumkit. Josh Smith, bass player, and Joe Hottinger, guitarist, joined him and Arejay immediately started in on the intro drum solo of Sick Individual with his sister, Lzzy Hale, taking centre stage after an appropriately dramatic pause.

Right from the beginning, they were gonna do whatever the fuck they wanted.

They seamlessly segued into Apocalyptic, also from the newest record Into the Wild Life, and it was awesome to hear the crowd singing the lyrics alongside Lzzy. Joe shredded the guitar solo to pieces and the song ended on just Lzzy’s voice, leaving the perfect set up for her to address the crowd. She apologised for how long it took Halestorm to finally make the trip here and listed the rules for the evening:

We are here to have a fucking good time and,
When I say “scream”, you fucking scream!

This was again another flawless transition into the first track from the new record, appropriately titled Scream. Josh’s bass and Arejay’s drums were wonderfully heavy, Joe ripping up the guitar and Lzzy generally just running amuck with her powerful vocals and custom Gibson. As with the record, Scream bled into anthem track, I Am the Fire. The crowd sang along with – if possible – more enthusiasm. Lzzy asked the crowd if we liked it heavy, to which there was nothing but screams of agreement and there was yet another track from the new record. The emphasis on the most recent record was pretty obvious but broken by a crowd favourite from The Strange Case Of…: Love Bites (So Do I).

I don’t want to continue commentating the setlist so I’ll leave it down below and tell you that these musicians were flawless. (The sound guys could probably use some practice with their levels though,Lzzy’s guitar drowned out her vocals every time she played. If it weren’t for the crowd singing along I wouldn’t have heard most of the lyrics.) Their thirteen years on stage together showed in the well-oiled machine that was their set. You could see how much they care about their fans, making eye contact with anyone and everyone they could see.

Midway through the set, the boys left Lzzy alone on stage with her keyboard and guitar. She addedBeautiful With You to the set list in front of Dear Daugher at the request of “girl with the glasses”. During this touching dedication, she then declared her new go-to answer to the question of “If you could have any super power, what would it be?” was to know everyone’s names and wouldn’t they “freak the fuck out?”

Every time Joe stepped forward for a particularly thrilling bit of guitar work, I could see him mouthing something. I know it wasn’t lyrics because there was no singing going on. I can only assume he was counting time? He and Lzzy had a terrific rapport of ridiculous facial expressions throughout the show. It was great to see their onstage chemistry unfold especially as, towards the end of the set, Joe crossed over to share Lzzy’s centre stage mic and the two faced off in a mock challenge.

Arejay’s energy blew me away. By the end of Apocalyptic he’d already jumped clear over the kick drum and landed behind his sister brandishing his drumsticks in one hand and the Horns in the other. The photographers scrambled to get evidence – it was the first time Sydney had seen his antics – but the crowd soon grew to expect this kind of enthusiasm from Halestorm’s drummer. Not one to fade into the background, he was every bit the frontman to Lzzy’s frontwoman.

He was especially riveting during the longest, most impressive drum solo I’ve ever been able to pay attention to. Arejay even got the crowd involved, clapping and chanting along, before his bandmates reclaimed their instruments and they launched into a heavy rendition of Mayhem. Not long after, he smacked himself in the head and roadies were popping on stage in between songs to hand him a tea towel (“Yes, you are bleeding”) and then an ice pack.

I should mention I was right in front of Josh the whole time and he was every bit the classic bass player, understated but dynamic. His presence was undeniable.

In the words of Lzzy, we’ve opened the door to Halestorm, we can’t stop them from coming back. And I absolutely wouldn’t want to. The night was incredibly inclusive; all the fans were friendly and the band made everything feel like the family reunion you always wanted to have. The sooner they return the better!

Sick Individual
I Am the Fire
I Like It Heavy
Love Bites (So Do I)
The Reckoning
Rock Show
Bad Girls World
Mz. Hyde
Beautiful With You (unplugged with just Lzzy on the keys)
Dear Daughter (mostly unplugged again)
New Modern Love
Arejay’s Drum Solo
It’s Not You
I Get Off
Freak Like Me
I Miss The Misery

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