Halestorm, Skindred and Reliqa – The Princess Theatre [Live Review]

Review: Jack Price
Photography: JD Garrahy

The Princess Theatre is a-buzzin’ with excitement on this dreary, wet Tuesday night in Brisbane. Not only are we being treated to the recently signed (with Nuclear Blast Records) prog up-and-comers Reliqa, we also get not one, but two behemoths of heavy music in their own rights – the Reggae-infused Nu Metal legends, Skindred, and Grammy-winning powerhouse Halestorm!

Straight off the bat, the super charismatic frontwoman Monique Pym smashes the crowd with her operatic vocals, the rest of band swinging into action right on cue. Despite the technical difficulties after their opening song, the Sydney group stay strong and focused with minor heckling from the crowd which was amazing to see – Good job Brissy, way to be respectful.

The groovy, rhythmic vibes booming from Miles Knox’s bass with his brother, Benjamin accompanying on drums, feel at home with the likes of Skindred, while the powerful voice of Pym is the perfect appetiser for Lzzy Hale and her band of heavy rockers.
Another round of technical issues lead to an impromptu bass/drum jam from the brothers while sound techs figure out guitarist Brandon Lloyd’s instrumental issues. Trying to hold down the fort, and managing it very well, Monique asked “Do you guys wanna hear something acoustic?” before a grungy guitar riffs breaks the silence. And with a fist in the air, the frontwoman kicks off the ride again.

The crowd are treated to an unreleased track, releasing two days from the writing of this review, titled Killstar The Cold World. And thank fuck those guitar issues were fixed, this song is an absolute face melter! And with technical precision and pinch harmonics akin to Coheed And Cambria’s Welcome Home intro, this is going to open a setting a huge benchmark for the NSW band.

As Reliqa finished up their set with a powerful high kick from Pym, the four piece has once again proved why they get to play with the big kids. Keep up the amazing work guy!
Wales is definitely not the birthplace of Nu Metal nor Reggae, but you add it the UK “Fuck you” attitude and it gives you 2 and a half decades of kick ass music to party, party, party to!! As AC/DC’s Thunderstruck blared over the house PA along with flashing stage lights illuminating the crowd.

A remix of the Imperial March took over the unsuspecting crowd and Skindred began to take to the stage, welcomed by cries and cheering from the crowd. And as the always dressed to impress, ultra charismatic frontman, Benji Webbe, took his place center stage (of course) behind a mic stand draped in a greyscale union jack flag, they opened with Set Fazer’s from their most recent album, Smile. And smile we did!

Webbe, garbed in a shiny black scaled overcoat, glittery black waistcoat and scarf, black slacks and shirt, grooved and danced his way around the stage, demanding the crowds undivided attention, which they blissfully provided. The frontman challenged the crowd with a series of vocal calls, calling them out if they didn’t meet his impeccably high standards. It’s easy to be the best when there’s no one like you, and no one is like Benji Webbe.
After Rat Race, a birthday cake is produced from side stage for bassist Daniel Pugsley, the crowd jumping at the chance to sing happy birthday. But then disaster struck – when it came to sing “happy birthday dear…” the chorus of voices wilted, much to the jeers of the frontman, who teased and instructed them to do it again.

You can tell that Benji loves ever second of interacting with the crowd. He separates the crowd into “Whoop whoop”s and “That’s My Jam”s after a mashup of Nelly’s Hot In Herre and their own That’s My Jam introduces the next track. This is where the party is, with hands swaying side to side across the room and everyone in the crowd joining in with their respected parts.
After asking the crowd repetitively if they are having a good time, Benji delivers an almost out of character speach. “Let me tell you something. In this place, we have some creative fucking genisues,” stated the frontman, “there’s gonna be people in this life of yours who’s gonna be negative and tell you, you can’t do this, you do – fuck ’em.” In pure Webbe style his hand flips over, giving the finger for the crowd. “If you’ve got a vision in your heart, go for it!” he urged the crowd. “And so what, you fuck up? You went for it.”

The empowering speech leads into a fist-in-the-air battle cry Of Kill The Power, establishing the next sing of the set, after which the frontman leaves the stage for a quick Wardrobe change. He re-emerged wearing a white tassel-sleeved jacket instead of the overcoat/waistcoat combo, with the word “Unity” written across its back.
It wouldn’t be a Skindred set without playing Nobody, the funky regae groove banger moving the crowd from start to finish, which had a bit if a surprise remix ending.

Finishing up their set with revent hit Gimme Dat Boom, and Warning in which Benji coached the crowd to crouch down and spring up into action as the song kicked off. He also taught Brisbane how to do the Newport Helicopter, encouraging everyone to take off their shirts and swing them around in the air above their heads. Skindred, there’s noone like you gents. Please come back soon!
As the stage grew gloomy, the lady herself, Lzzy Hale, struts across the dimly lit stage to a piano, crooning the crowd with a medley, demonstrating her vocal prowess that cuts the silence as the crowd watch captivated.

“Welcome to the rock show Brisbane” concluded the frontwoman before arming herself with a guitar and jumping full swing into Psycho which is followed up with Rock Show.

After three knotfest shows and a sideshow, it was painfully clear the front woman was experiencing some vocal issues but seemed fucking hellbent on giving Brisbane a hell of a show!
“I have a Confession to make,” she announced, “I have asthma,” explains the situation from Knotfest. “I’m going to need your voices” she claimed before jumping into I Get Off, creating a steamy atmosphere for the Brisbane crowd.
During the first half of the set, drummer Arejay Hale and bassist Josh Smith, engaged in a fierce battle of “How long can we throw a drumstick to/at each other before we get into trouble”. The guys in Halestorm know how to have fun and that they did!

Introducing Poison, Lzzy cried “Australia, this one’s for you”. During the final line of the song, a slight lyric adjustment with “I still love you Brissy” before the final note caused a slight vocal break, when the vocalist gave a little giggle to, before nailing it on the second attempt.
Now, I’m no drumming expert, but I know when I see a good drummer, and I know when I see an amazing drummer. Arejay Hale is the later. After the insanity I saw in the drum roll tonight, I think it’s the closest I will ever get to see The Rev (Avenged Sevenfold) perform. And to top it off, the green-hair percussionist brought two giant drumsticks to show his skills off with.

The entire set was song after song that showed the amazing guitar prowess of both Lzzy and guitarist Joe Hottinger. But nothing compared to the ridiculous guitar solo in Amen. The Reliqa guys joined them on stage for a shot to send off the end of their time in Australia, before Lzzy declaring, “This is our church, and Brissy, you are our people!” to end the set with The Steeple.
Not a single thing could have prepared me for seeing Halestorm for the first time, and despite them being at the very tail end of their run in Oz, they seemed so at home on the Princess Theatre stage. Seeing as they are becoming a reoccurring act, I can’t wait to see them again already.