Tour Review: Halestorm, In This Moment, New Years Day and Stitched Up Heart
Updated: May 17, 2018
Halestorm is leading what has been dubbed the “Bad Ass Bitches Tour”. Four incredible bands, led by four incredibly powerful yet different female leads. On this tour Halestorm is co-headlining with In This Moment and being supported by New Years Day and Stitched Up Heart. I’m doing a mini tour review since I have been able to attend 4 shows during the course of this 3 week tour. I have attended shows in Houston, Nashville, Reading and Lowell. I missed out on the Asbury Park show since it was a rainout. Hopefully that show will be rescheduled in the near future.
Every person that loves music has a “band”. There is that one group that you will listen to their albums on repeat without getting tired of them, you will travel to shows hundreds of miles away, you will see 4 shows in a row and be depressed after the last one, have their logos and lyrics tattooed on you and have 20 different tour t-shirts; for me this band is Halestorm. In 2013 my fiancé and I were fighting over what our wedding song should be between a Cher song or a Kenny Rogers classic. One night on our way to dinner Halestorm was doing an unleaded performance on SiriusXM’s Octane channel. Lzzy Hale was belting out Here’s to Us, we listened to the song while we sat in the parking lot and my fiancé was like this should be our song, who is this? I said Halestorm, the band I’ve wanted to see play at Crocodile Rock a hundred times. Halestorm ended up announcing a small run of shows a couple of weeks after this. They were giving away hand written lyric sheets for Here’s to Us as part of their VIP Meet and Greet package and we thought it would be something fun to display at the wedding. So we bought tickets, met the band, got blown away by their show and the rest is history as they say. Since then, I have seen them 70 times, in 27 different states and 4 countries, and I have no plan to quit following them anytime soon.
With the obvious lack of female fronted band presence in mainstream festivals, Lzzy Hale, lead singer of Halestorm, has continuously turned this into something greater than a one or two-day festival. This is the second tour I have seen that has been strictly female-fronted bands. In 2016 I was lucky enough to catch Halestorm tour with Lita Ford and Dorothy. I loved this tour so much, I caught it 16 times! This current tour package boasting 4 ladies with immensely strong leading vocals is crossing the country, and a on a second leg later in the summer. This tour is selling out large venues and packing arena’s, showing that fans want to see this type of event happen. I am honored to have been a small part of this tour being able to photograph these powerhouses in two cities, Nashville and Reading; oddly enough I was the only female photographer at the Reading show. A big thank you to Halestorm and Atlantic Records.
Stitched Up Heart opened each night of the tour. They are led by a tiny hurricane named Mixi Demner (vocals), Merrit Goodwin (guitar), Nick Bedrosian (guitar, vocals), Randy Mathias (bass, vocals) and James Decker (drums, vocals). Each night they performed the same 6 song set; City of Angels, Monster, Event Horizon, Catch Me When I Fall, I Can’t Breath and Finally Free. Mixi briefly mentioned her vocal struggles from last year and how she wasn’t sure she would be able to perform anymore. She says how lucky she is to be on this tour and how much work she put in to get better. Mixi sounded great for the most part, there were a few notes that you could tell that she still struggled with a bit but I have major respect for her singing live and not trying to cover the fact that her vocals aren’t back 100% with tracks. She’s a great performer mixing clean and harder rock vocals while swinging 3 feet of hair around. She provides a ton of energy for the crowd to feed off of. Catch Me When I Fall and Finally Free are two great arena anthems that had the whole crowd engaged and singing along. Merritt is a great lead guitarist, he spends his time shredding and melting the faces off of the front row. Nick and Randy fill up stage left with rhythm guitar and pounding bass lines, these two also provide really smooth backup vocals along with drummer James. As for James, I love his free spirit, his half shaved head and his ability to rock a side ponytail. He’s a great drummer and provided endless faces and poses for the photographers, which I really appreciate. During the set drummers Arejay Hale from Halestorm and Kent Diimmel from In This Moment came out for a triple threat drum solo. It was a treat to see these talented guys come together and put on something different and entertaining for the crowd.
Next up was New Years Day led by the Queen of Goth, Ash Costello (vocals). The band includes Nikki Misery (guitar), Frankie Sil (bass) and new comers Max Georgiev (guitar, vocals) and Brian Sumwalt (drums). The only original member of NYD is Ash and Nikki has been in the band since 2011 all other positions seem to be rotating. The first couple of shows on this tour the band did not jive well, a few weeks in and they seemed to settle in a bit, but on this tour package this band is the weakest. They performed the same 6 song set each night doing 5 originals including a new one called Disgust Me off of their 2018 EP “Diary of a Creep” which was probably their strongest performance. The third song of their set was a cover of Pantera’s Fucking Hostile. Ash leads into this song asking the audience to be a part of a ritual. She instructs everyone to raise their metal horns with both hands and to keep them up for the whole song, the audience obliged and got into the performance. For me there are parts of their show that are strange, I get that they are trying to be performance based with the white makeup and back from the dead tattered clothing but the choreographed moves with Frankie and Max verge on corny and Nikki standing with spit running down is face is nothing short of gross and unnecessary. On a tour of this caliber they really need to step up their game for the second leg of this tour starting in the end of July.
In This Moment is led by Maria Brink (vocals), Chris Howorth (guitar), Travis Johnson (bass), Randy Weitzel (guitar) and Kent Diimmel (drums). In This Moment has become a very theatrical based concert experience in recent years. Throughout this tour the stage setup has varied slightly due to the fact that some shows were outside and they were playing in the sunlight. During the outdoor concerts many of the visual effects were altered or not used leaving the performances missing a large piece of the production. The indoor shows were a visual delight, using mixed medium’s to produce layered visual effects. There was a combination of fog, blowing fans, incredible lighting detail and projected images on both Maria and screens behind her. With so much going on there were a few moments were you could tell that Maria wasn’t quite happy with the smoke and fan effects and signaled her stage crew to correct the issues during her performances. To me it was a bit of a distraction having the crew run out every few minutes to adjust things, but I understand Maria wanting everything to be perfect. This tour has tight set times so getting everything set just right in 20 minutes has proven to be a challenge.
They opened each night with Blood, Maria appeared through her on stage dressing room shroud in her pointed crown and a religious type of robe. Her backup dancers appeared in similar robes and were wearing white masks with black crosses on them. Each night Maria belted this song out and Chris, Randy, Travis and Kent performed in a tight knit package, never missing a beat. While Maria strives on her performance and the visuals, the band members are off to the sides and often left in the dark. They do however interact with the crowd throughout the show. Chris is usually good for a playful middle finger gesture, Travis stands at the edge of the stage looking like a knight from centuries past and Randy plays with his hair flying. Kent while furthest from the crowd plays the drums like he is front and center on the stage. His conviction and style are truly unique, I love watching him play.
One of my favorite parts of each night is Maria’s duet with New Years Day front woman Ash Costello. They turned in a haunting performance of In This Moment’s Black Wedding each night. I had seen Maria perform this song last year with Chris Motionless from Motionless in White, so I was curious to see how this was going to work with another female lead. It worked out beautifully, their vocal styles meshed well and Ash’s personality and style is really suited for this song and theatrical performance.
In This Moment hit on old and new staples for the shows I attended. They performed Adrenalize, Sick Like Me and River of Fire. In Houston, Maria slowed it down with the ballad The Fighter from the 2014 release “Black Widow” an in Reading she pulled of a beautiful performance of Phil Collin’s, In the Air Tonight. These ballads show off more of the musicality and less of the performance. I wish that there were a better balance throughout the show of the music and the performance elements, sometimes the music gets lost in all of the theatrics. In This Moment puts on a very entertaining show and the crowd definitely got what they came to see form this band.
Halestorm closed the show each night burning down stages and blowing the roofs off of the indoor venues. There aren’t enough words to express how much this band has progressed over the five years that I have been seeing their live shows. Halestorm was born in the summer of 1997 when young Liz Hale and her 10 year old brother Arejay decided to enter a talent show at the Schuylkill County Fair. The story is told that they lost to a cute tap dancing cow girl but in the end they got the last laugh. Nearly 21 years later and a Grammy award to their name they are one of the hottest rock bands in the industry, and while they are pretty people I am not talking about their looks. Halestorm is led by the reigning Queen of Rock, Lzzy Hale (vocals, guitar), Joe Hottinger (guitar, vocals), Josh Smith (bass, vocals) and Arejay Hale (drums, vocals). Joe joined the band in 2003 and Josh was stolen from another band in 2004 to round out their long standing lineup.
I need to sing the praises of Lzzy Hale for a moment before I talk about the show. She is the most dynamic singer in the rock scene. Seeing her perform over several nights with other female lead vocalists she solidified herself at the top. She has control, range and depth to her vocals that very few in the business have. She crushes rock song after rock song then pulls out an Adele cover. Her sweet, clean vocals, coy smile and piano playing are enough to melt the biggest metal heads in the audience. In a time where people have a sense of entitlement and arrogance, Lzzy remains humble and true to her roots. I asked her once what she wanted her legacy to be and she said whatever her freaks decide. I think her kindness in the end may just inch past her musical talents. Now on to the show…
Halestorm has been in the studio recording a new album for well ever a year, since this record is highly anticipated by their fans they have unleashed a few new tracks during their live shows. They opened each night of the tour with Black Vultures, a song they debuted on their winter tour with Stone Sour. They promised to go back to a heavier sound for this album and if this song is any indication fans will get what they asked for. Lzzy uses the lower register of her vocals on this one, creating a smoky vibe. Joe wails out quite a few string bends creating a lot of dimension over Lzzy’s rhythm guitar. This song is quite the tease, something Halestorm prides itself on. They also snuck in another new one called Uncomfortable, the opening riff is a little reminiscent of Love Bites but that’s where the similarities end. Lzzy races through the lyrics in a staccato fashion, Joe chugs out choppy riffs then turns bluesy for the chorus and bridge, while Josh and Arejay keep a crazy pace for the rhythm section. Every time Lzzy does something that the masses get upset about she always says they are upset because they are uncomfortable. So In a way I saw a song like this brewing over the last year and as a fan I am happy with how it turned out.
One major highlight of their set is their extended jam version of Amen off of 2015’s “Into The Wild Life”. This is a big song to begin with, it’s very rock and roll with a bit of a pop feel to it. Lzzy’s vocals cut through the air like a razor blade in general but on this song she shines. She extends the words out while her, Joe and Josh literally use their instruments to speak to each other. Being able to do off the cuff jams is a talent, where other bands seemed to rely on effects or performance, Halestorm used their musical ability to soar.
About 2/3 into the set Arejay gets his 6 minutes of fame. Many bands leave time for drum solos but none are even close to being as entertaining as his. He plays several shorts bursts, sings, and engages the crowd in sing-a-longs and ends with the “big sticks” which are the size of baseball bats. He twirls them like they are regular sized sticks. If you haven’t had the chance to witness one of Arejay’s solos look them up on YouTube, they are quite impressive.
They played plenty of their tour staples during their set including Love Bites (So Do I), I Get Off, Mayhem, Mz. Hyde, Freak Like Me and Apocalyptic. One song I was excited to see back in the setlist was Familiar Taste of Poison, even though it’s more of a rock ballad this song rocks. The slow build to a great climax is always worth it. They closed the night with their big hit “I Miss the Misery”. This is another song that they jam on, it always ends the night on a high note. I can’t wait to see what they end the night with when the new album drops, after 70 shows I could use a little variety. This song would be a great opener since it always gets the crowd amped up.
Halestorm is easily on of the best live bands around. Their confidence has grown immensely over the past couple of years and their pure joy on stage is infectious. There’s nothing better than watching a band play when you can see that they actually enjoy each other’s company. This tour only has a few more shows on this leg. They start up again in the end of July but without Stitched Up Heart. If this tour stops nearby check it out, you will not be disappointed.