When you get to Nottingham prior to the doors opening and the queue is pretty much the length of Talbot Street you know Rock City is going to be busy. By 7:30pm the main floor and the balcony were already packed, a refreshing change to see people out at mid-week gigs willing to check out the support.
The Fallen State began the warm up of the waiting crowd in some style, vocalist Ben Stenning commented part way through the set that although this was an American rock tour they were here to prove that there is hard rock right here in the UK, and if their performance was anything to go on, he’s not wrong. While listening to their melodic and grooving, while fairly heavy rock sound, topped with the archetypal rock vocal style of Stenning I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to Alter Bridge (who I later found out are one of The Fallen State’s self-confessed influences). Their catchy hooks and choruses went down well with the crowd and earned them a reaction not often seen for an opening band.
At this stage I do have to admit that Wilson were the real draw for me this evening. From the moment I heard their record Full Blast Fuckery and learned of their live reputation, I’d waited for them to wing themselves across the Atlantic from their hometown of Detroit and right from the outset I wasn’t disappointed. Heading out on to the stage one by one, including front man Chad Nicefield in full marching band regalia complete with shoulder harnessed bass drum; they launched into thirty minutes of grab you by the throat, no messing rock mayhem. What Wilson do is hard to describe, each individual song blending elements of 80’s style rock (think AC/DC) with grooving metal and post-hardcore to a secret sauce recipe that seems to be uniquely them. Just a couple of songs into their set Nicefield asked the crowd for their help as the Wilson Party machine had gotten sick on their journey over to Europe — you wouldn’t have known, even a few minor mic issues couldn’t dent their full on attitude and energy. There aren’t many bands that can end a set by their vocalist playing a diminishing collection of beer bottles with a set of drumsticks, while members of the band drained their contents but Wilson are most definitely that band, and you just get the feeling that’s not even the tip of the iceberg. I can pretty much guarantee that this wont be the last the UK sees of Wilson, and their performance tonight will mean they’ll be welcomed back with open arms.
As the room darkened to welcome Halestorm, their reception from the waiting crowd was almost deafening. Striding out onto the stage alone, Lzzy Hale, silhouetted against a blinding white backlight, immediately showcased her vocals with a preview of new track She Wont Mind from their upcoming album Into The Wild Life. The screams from the crowd were soon replaced with them jumping along to I Like It Heavy as Lzzy was joined on stage by the remaining band members.
From the outset, Halestorm exuded a sureness on stage that just seemed to draw me and everyone around me in, their confidence and understated charisma without a trace of arrogance paved the way for an almost faultless musical performance, recreating their recorded sound while barely even breaking sweat.
Lzzy seems to wear the mantle of focal point for Halestorm effortlessly. Her rich vocals and undoubted skills with a guitar are complemented by her interactions with the crowd between songs, seeming genuine and down to Earth. One of those interactions was a lengthy introduction to the first live UK airing of Hate It When You See Me Cry, where Lzzy shared with us that it was written and then recorded on her phone during a drunken haze and shared with her record company at 4am, fortunately the record company responded the same as the crowd tonight who’s reaction was phenomenal.
Never one to be upstaged by his sister, Arejay Hale’s drum solo towards the end of the set was nothing short of spectacular, showcasing his incredible playing and acrobatics with drum sticks, the extended solo captivated everyone in the audience and included a number of instantly recognizable snippets such as Seven Nation Army and Last Resort.
There is no doubt that Halestorm already have an army of fans, and it’s an army that seems to be continually growing both in number and passion. Their ability to deliver their back catalogue to a live audience of 2000+ was put beyond question tonight, the next test will be whether their upcoming new material can propel them on to the next level. I certainly wouldn’t put is past them.
Review and Photos: Steve Kilmister