American hard rock heroes Halestorm exploded onto the stage at The Academy in Dublin’s fair city on February 27th for their first ever Irish show. Those of us lucky enough to be in attendance were treated to one of the best and most immersive live events we’re likely to see for a very long time.
The Pennsylvanian rockers were met with a vigorous reception as they took to the stage, blasting into “Mz. Hyde”. When frontwoman Lzzy Hale announced that she’d done some research and discovered she’s one third Irish, the crowd went into hysterics. Seeming delighted by the reaction, she continued to be all smiles during a riveting rendition of Halestorm classic, “It’s Not You”. Her fellow bandmates appeared just as enthused, as her brother Arejay was practically bouncing around his drum kit while guitarist Joe Hottinger and bassist Josh Smith paced back and forth merrily.
Lzzy had no problem jumping up and down in a hefty pair of heels as the riff of “Freak Like Me” set in. For this alone she deserves a lot of respect, but it’s her awesome vocal skills that are truly worthy of admiration. Holding the final note of the word “me” preceding the song’s instrumental breakdown, the singer erupted into an ear-splitting guttural scream that reverberated through the venue.
I’ve witnessed plenty of talented singers perform live, but I can honestly say that nothing even comes close to comparing to the experience of hearing Lzzy Hale exercise her vocal talent in person. Despite hearing it countless times on record over the years, her voice is so much more indescribably awe-inspiring in real life.
Once things had settled back down, a tri-colour sporting the band’s symbol was hurled from the crowd. Joe thrilled those gathered by proudly displaying the flag atop a piece of stage equipment, where it remained for the rest of the set. This followed an earlier incident of a “Kiss me, I’m Irish” t-shirt landing at Lzzy’s feet, which she happily held high for all to see.
The fun continued as the band geared up for the next song before Joe was ready. Lzzy playfully pointed the fact out, provoking Arejay to stand up and wave his hands in mock disapproval. It was a nice lighthearted moment that provoked laughter from all those present, both onstage and off. When the banter ended, fans were gifted with the debut live performance of “Amen”, an awesome entry from the forthcoming album that builds magnificently as it unfolds.
The new track was succeeded by “Innocence”, after which the male members of the band broke into a mellow jam session. They kept going as Lzzy approvingly observed that “there is a shit tonne of ladies in the audience”, evoking a thunderous response. The masses were excited further still by her assertion that it had always been a dream of theirs to visit Ireland and that “You guys made that dream come true for us tonight.”
After assuring all of the men present that she loves them very much too because “without [them she’d] have absolutely nothing to sing about” – cheekily adding, “Good or bad, take it as it may” – she dedicated the next number to the ladies. At that cue, Arejay, Joe and Josh accompanied her in breaking into “Daughters of Darkness”. Lzzy incited the crowd to join in the fiery cry of “Na na na-na-na-na” that introduces the piece; not that any encouragement was needed to do so.
A fervent chorus of “We love you too” is what the valiant vocalist got when she ended the song by declaring “I love you guys so much!” That was ahead of her assertion that despite only having been in the country for twenty four hours, they’re already happy to come back any time. This assured that the energy in the room was at extreme levels for rock belter, “Apocalyptic”. There were more laughs as Lzzy asked Joe if he’s okay – recalling the previous moment of whimsy – before the recent single’s spirited performance took off. In its aftermath, the congregation broke into a deafening chant of Arejay’s name. Heeding the call, the drummer climbed up onto his kit to embrace his followers as his sister jokingly warned them not to “feed the monkey.”
These shenanigans prefaced the delivery of “Rock Show”; a rather fitting choice given the situation and subject matter. At its end, Lzzy was left alone for a wonderfully powerful performance of “Break In”, seguing directly into “Familiar Taste of Poison” as the guys returned. Then it was officially Arejay’s turn to take the spotlight.
The male Hale sibling barged into a mindblowing drum solo that remained entirely engrossing for its considerable duration. Yelling out “Dublin!”, he urged the crowd into howls of “Hey ho” before diving into a medley of his own, sampling tunes from artists such as Kiss, Papa Roach and The White Stripes. Not willing to allow an act such as throwing his sticks to the audience slow him down, he proceeded to bang away masterfully upon his drums using only his hands before announcing a special guest. This turned out to be a pair of novelty over-sized drum sticks with which he brought his session to a climax while gleefully declaring his love for Dublin. It was one of the most spectacular displays of percussion and showmanship I’ve ever witnessed, with the crowd rejoicing in every second of it.
Upon the conclusion of Arejay’s extravaganza, the rest of the band returned to bring “a little mayhem”, because that “never hurt anyone”! Another offering from the soon to be released third album, its riotous execution was irresistibly enthralling.
Lzzy again looked as if she could barely contain the smiles as she belted out the lyrics of essential Halestorm anthem, “I Get Off”. Slamming away zealously on her guitar into the verse, she received another impassioned response to her question of “Are we getting off, Dublin?!”
The Grammy Award winning “Love Bites (So Do I)” came next. Its relentlessly heavy rhythm made for a marvellous instrumental exhibition from all four members. Lzzy’s sensational vocals during the aggressive lyrical breakdown defy description, paving the way for the infectious riff and mesmerising final chorus. From here, a breath was barely taken before charging into “I Miss the Misery” to put an adrenaline fuelled cap on the initial setlist.
A brief respite was filled with roars of the band’s name amid pleas for one final tune. It didn’t take long for the appeals to be granted, as the troupe strolled back out to a deafening ovation, fed by the fact that they carried cans of Guinness with them. Spurred on by the loyal flock, Arejay proceeded to chug his down in one go. At this point, Lzzy prompted everyone to clap their hands in the air, asking, “Ireland, do you like it heavy?” That, of course, could signal the beginning of only one song, during which Josh joyfully thrust several guitar picks into the audience.
Succeeding this old school rock rampage, Lzzy took a moment to express their gratitude again. She then raised her Guinness, toasted “Here’s To Us” and knocked back a mouthful before bursting into an appropriately affecting grand finale. After delivering an incredible conclusion, the band took several collective bows and departed from the stage, leaving an elated crowd in their wake.
Words can scarcely do justice to the sheer scale of the energy, enthusiasm and camaraderie Halestorm brought to this event. Anyone who says you should never encounter your heroes in real life has obviously never come across these guys. They are true rock stars who clearly appreciate their fans and revel in putting on the best show possible for them. I think it’s more than fair to say that their first foray into Ireland was a resounding success and that when next they return, there will be no shortage of people waiting to offer them a warm welcome.
In the meantime, keep an eye out for the band’s hotly anticipated third album Into the Wild Life, due to hit shelves in the EU on April 10th.