Zico Chain / Heaven’s Basement / Halestorm Live in Nottingham

I first heard Halestorm earlier this year, when I was asked to review their Hello, It’s Mz Hyde EP for this very site. From that sampler, I fell in love with the band. Not in a screaming girlie type of way of course, but just because of the quality of the music, and Lzzy Hale’s  voice. When the album was due out, review duties were again handed my way, due to much jumping up and down, grovelling and begging on my part. When the UK headline tour was announced, I grabbed a ticket the first day they went on sale. I wanted to see if they sounded as good live as they do on record….

Now this was probably one of the biggest bargains of late, especially in this day and age with soaring ticket prices. £10 for three bands? I can’t remember the last time I went to a ticketed concert, with internationally renowned bands, for that kind of money. This was my first time at the Rescue Rooms, and honestly I was quite impressed with the venue. My only complaint, is that the people at the very front could hardly hear any vocals at all, from ANY of the bands. It was only when you got back around two or three meters that you could actually hear everything. I was left with the difficult choice of staying at the front so that I could get some half decent photos or moving back from the stage, so that I could hear everything as well as I should have been able to. I decided to stay at the front, but the poor sound did spoil the enjoyment a little. I know it wasn’t just me, as there were a lot of people at the front shouting “turn your mic up, I can’t hear you” which was a real shame. I’m not too sure if this was the venue’s sound system, or it was down to the sound engineers themselves, but I find it hard to believe that 3 different sound engineers all had the exact same problem. I was there for the sound checks, and from the back of the room, they sounded awesome.

First up were Zico Chain, who I didn’t even know were playing until I got there. I knew it was a “plus special guests” and that’s as far as my knowledge went, until I heard from a friend that Heaven’s Basement were going to be there, but I’ll get to them later on. I didn’t know that this band had even existed so I had no expectations and no idea what they’d be like. From the very first song they’d won me over completely. They play fast, energetic and aggressive rock music. They completely owned the stage from the start of their set, and by the end of the first song, the crowd were with them all the way. These guys were simply stunning, and if they ever head out on a headline tour themselves, I’ll definitely try and get to a gig. Their latest album is on my ‘must buy’ list for sure. They played to the crowd, engaged in some chat, got us to sing along with them. They deserved to be on that stage, and they loved every minute of it. After a performance like that, I wouldn’t have wanted to be following them onto the stage. The crowd were hungry for rock, and Zico Chain delivered on ALL counts. Go check them out because they blew everyone in the room away with their raw power and energy.

Up next were Heaven’s Basement. I’d heard great things about this band and I couldn’t believe that in between the times appearing at festivals and shows all over the world that they had yet to produce an album. After the opening act though they were going to have to come up with something pretty damned good. Once again, we weren’t disappointed. They took the crowd by the scruff of the neck, and set about bursting their ears with trademark no frills, straight up in your face rock. No gimmicks here, just four guys having a great time and inviting everyone else along for the party. These guys have a stage presence all of their own and They took control from the start, and played a blistering set, including the new single Fire Fire which went down a storm. The musicians themselves just ooze charisma and had the whole room eating from the palm of their hands.

It won’t be long before you’re seeing these guys on their own headline tour, and with their debut album due for release in January 2013 I predict that it’s going to be a big year for the guys. Keep an eye on them as they’re going to be huge.

So with two faultless performances out of the way,  Halestorm had their work cut out for them. I found myself wondering “how the hell is anyone supposed to follow THAT?” It wasn’t long before we found out though. Arejay was the first to appear, having put on sunglasses and a bandana, and proceeded to ask the crowd if we were ready. Of course we ALL were, and by this point of the evening, most of us were hoarse from cheering, shouting and singing, but we still managed to raise the roof with a massive cheer. The rest of the band literally EXPLODED onto the stage, and the whole room went nuts from there on in. Yep, the crowd was wall to wall Halestorm fans. Bearing in mind that this was their first headline tour outside the US, they were absolutely in their element. I’ve heard the band get some bad press, usually regarding some of their subject material. The thing is though, the men of the rock world have been singing about the same thing for years, so why is it so wrong for Lzzy to do it? If you judge them purely on the music, these guys kick ass, end of story. Coupled with the fact that Lzzy has an amazing voice, they are a rock band that demands respect. Arejay  to put it politely, is an absolute nutter. His drum antics are a show all by themselves. I’m not a huge fan of drum solos, but I can honestly say that he left me absolutely struck dumb with awe. He made it entertaining, and he is one of the finest drummers I’ve had the pleasure of seeing live (and I thought Zico Chain’s drummer was a bit of a card too). Joe Hottinger was on fire too, playing some screaming solos, and Josh Smith on bass carved up the place with chainsaw-like bass lines and thundering rhythm. One of my personal highlights tho, was Break In with no one on stage except for Lzzy and a keyboard. One instrument plus one voice is to me almost as pure as music can be. It was spine-tingling.

All in all, it was a night of some of the finest rock you’ll hear. More to the point, for the price of three or four beers, one of the most value for money gigs I’ve been to in a VERY long while. Every single one of the bands made a lasting impression on me, and there isn’t one of them I wouldn’t want to see again, unless of course they might happen to be playing the same venue again. If it wasn’t for the sound issues, it could have been up there with the best gigs I’ve been to, but as it was, it was just a good gig. The musicians themselves were absolutely stunning, every single one of them, but the poor sound let them down. That, as I said, was my only disappointment, but as disappointments go at gigs having sub-standard sound is one of the worst there is in my opinion. I do feel a little bit cheated, as I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I should have. The people behind me seemed to have enjoyed it though………