||AVATAR ARE ALL FEATHERS AND FLESH IN AMAZING FREAKSHOW IN GLASGOW
Avatar/The Last Band: O2 ABC 2, Glasgow
Words: Ian Sutherland
Both bands on the bill in Glasgow tonight are from Gothenburg but opening act The Last Band take a completely different approach to Metal than the theatrical leanings of headliners Avatar. They have a straight forward, no nonsense approach both in their supercharged hardcore/Metal/punk hybrid style and their attitude.
They were just here to rock so there wasn't much in the way of subtelty or variety, just a cheerful wish to get the hell on with blasting their way through the set. The closest they got to any sort of stage show was when singer Chris Blood took off his jacket to reveal an impressive number of tattoos but their approach works for them.
The crowd showed a typical Glaswegian enthusiasm in response and they went down really well, although those aggressive, growling, rasping vocals weren't a style I really enjoy personally. I thought leading the crowd in a chant of "Avatar, Avatar" was a nice touch though and there was just something really likeable about these particular sons of Gothenburg's Metal scene.
Glasgow's ABC 2 is a cosy club sized space underneath the main hall in the building and I wondered how Avatar would deal with the small stage and the low ceiling hampering their stylish circus of freaks style stageshow. I needn't have worried as somehow their roadies shoehorned their set into place and they started off with their ringmaster from hell, singer Johannes Eckerstrom suddenly being revealed frozen in place before cracking an evil looking smile and launching into the mad energy of 'For The Swarm'.
With a raised platform at the front of the stage to use Eckerstrom could still be the dominant force in the room with ease and he soon had the audience following his every move. If you have never seen Avatar then you won't yet have been able to appreciate how much of a charismatic frontman they have. Part Alice Cooper, part Marilyn Manson, part The Joker goes Metal and full of his own wild energy and imagination he is totally captivating to watch.
During the songs he is all movement but is often adding touches of irony or whimsy to proceedings as leading the crowd in a sweaty celebration. Not an easy thing to do despite the freakish make up he uses. Between songs he switches from manic mode into a quiet stillness and holds the crowd with mostly softly spoken rhetoric. When he informs everyone that they are no longer in Glasgow but in Avatar country no one thinks that's a bad thing.
The rest of the band haven't dressed up in their circus outfits for nothing and they get to join in on the fun too. I loved the little vignettes sprinkled through the set such as when all the band froze in place like they were doing the mannequin challenge except drummer John Alfredsson who capered around the stage in delight, playing with his leader's hair and generally hamming it up.
The focus is almost always on their main man though. Whether he is growling his way through the pounding metal or crooning sadly dressed as a clown he always draws everyone's eyes in his direction.
All this showmanship is fabulously entertaining but of course it needs songs to back it up. The momentum has been building for a few years now for these graduates of Sweden's burgeoning Metal scene and they have songs regarded as old favourites now like 'Black Waltz', 'Hail The Apocalypse' and their trademark tune 'Smells Like A Freakshow' which really showcases that they can write some great tunes.
Their latest album, 'Feathers And Flesh', might have a concept based around a kind of wild fairy tale about an owl trying to stop the sun rising but it's also chock full of memorable songs in a variety of styles which sees the band spreading their owlish wings musically. Their confidence in including so much new material is justified in spades by the crowd reaction to the swinging strut of 'The Eagle Has Landed', the memorable chorus of 'Black Waters' and the rousing crowd singalong that closes the set in 'Night Never Ending'.
An encore is inevitable and once more they do something different with the restrained tones of 'Sky Burial' bringing things to a close, then they return to the stage to take the audiences applause with a sombre Rammstein style attitude, adding a little theatrical presence and drama to an age old ritual.
Eventually the band stride off the stage in a serious fashion one by one but guitarist Tim Ohrstrom is last and suddenly breaks into a huge grin and pirouettes before heading off stage. Another example of how Avatar just put so much thought into their show and sometimes it's the subtle little touches that work the best.
These guys are obviously a band on the up and deservedly so. They have the songs, they have the backing and they have an imaginative stage show run by one of the best frontmen on the planet today. It's only a matter of time until they are playing much bigger places than this. I can't wait to see the show they'll put on then.
The Last Band