Photos by David Rubene
After being unable to attend the Halestorm show on December 8th at the Minneapolis Armory we were excited to see them add a show in Mankato just four months after. What’s interesting is that following the Armory show the band played a couple of concerts in Texas and Florida then took a break. Then they trekked to Australia, New Zealand, and Japan in March before making a return to Minnesota their first stop back in North America. Lucky us!
After hearing that Hwy 169 was closed due to mudslides from the recent rain, we were pleasantly surprised to find no sign of closure on our hour-long drive so we would arrive by the 7:30 pm start. Even better, we easily found parking right next door to the Verizon Center with many open spots remaining in the US Bank ramp even at showtime. And get this, parking was free, which seems completely crazy to a Twin Citizen. We bought a ticket from a scalper for $30 which was discounted nicely from the $39.50 face an also learned a bit about the Grand Hall having a capacity of around 2,600 compared to the Verizon Center Arena which can hold 6,200 for concerts (this is coming from a ticket scalper so don’t hold me to it but it seems reasonable.) With an easy drive, free parking, and a cheap ticket it was shaping up to be a good night.
The opening band Beasto Blanco was already playing as we entered the Grand Hall. It looked like a newer version of the Roy Wilkins Auditorium without the upper deck seating, although there was limited seating in an upper deck that a few folks found. Everyone else was on the floor for this GA-only show. If our friendly ticket vendor was correct and the place holds 2,600, I would guesstimate that there were 800-1,000 bodies there for the opening band and maybe 1,200-1,500 eventually for Halestorm. While densely packed around center stage, it allowed everyone in attendance to be within 100 feet of the stage if they wanted to. We easily secured our favorite spot, front row and just left of the stage.
Catching sight of the this grizzly group on stage required a closer look. This must be what Neanderthal rock shows looked like back in the day. Long hair and beards of course but also plenty of fur, leather, and crazed female Calico Cooper strutting, gyrating, and crawling around the stage. For most of their performance the rock goddess wielded a bat, large bone, or arm in her hand. Well respected musician Chuck Garrick fronts the band and is supported on vocals by the creepy yet sexy Cooper. Their music is along the lines of White Zombie or Nine Inch Nails with their pounding industrial rock beats that got the crowd pulsing along. They concluded their 30-minute set promptly at 8pm after coaxing the audience into chanting with them “We are Beasto Blanco!” Check out their new album We Are which is out now.
Later on in the evening, Lzzy Hale, thanked long-time friends Beasto Blanco and new friends Palaye Royale and even mispronounced the young band’s name which is excusable for their first show with them. While Hale described Beasto Blanco as “scary” she described Palaye Royale as “delicious.” While their large lighted PALAYE ROYALE sign screams big time, lead singer Remington Leith, with his spiky bleached hair and eye makeup, told the audience this was the largest room they have every played. The Canadian fashion rock trio tours as a five-piece and appeared youthful and glam in contrast to the opening act. They brought plenty of energy and often got the crowd clapping along. Southpaw guitarist Sebastian Danzig, sporting an all black suit, was spinning and prancing as much as he playing his guitar. Leith scaled the six-foot high speaker stack and jumped down to the stage before even the first song concluded. By the end of the second song he had leapt over the photographers in the pit to perch himself on the metal barricade railing with the help of supportive front row fans. He returned to the stage with a backwards somersault. Oh, to be young again! Leith’s coarse voice gives the band its distinctive sound and would only make Mz. Hale’s voice sound that much sweeter later on. He often turned to his water bottle, but there is not enough water in flooded Mankato to soothe those gravelly chords. They got the crowd clapping for the older “Get Higher” and played “Mr. Doctor Man,” one of my favorite songs from Boom Boom Room (Side A), before thanking the Mankato crowd for making them feel at home. Of course, Leith would need to end their set like he started it by climbing the speakers, this time on the far side of the large stage. The skinny lead singer would be in the outer lobby after the show allowing fans to take pictures with him. Pick up their latest album which is a continuation of their previous album, this time Boom Boom Room (Side B).
Lzzy, Arejay, Joe, and Josh have been a family favorite for years. It brought back memories seeing a dad next to us brave enough to bring three young kids to the concert. They all wore protective headphones and the youngest wore a Hello Kitty shirt. Security was kind enough to let them look around the barricade or stand on its railings to see a little better. It was not so long ago our kids were this cute age but now have advanced to the freaks and monsters stage. It also reminds us how important it is as parents to introduce our kids to live music to keep this great thing going.
We’ve seen Halestorm at least a half-dozen times at various venues, including 2011 Avalanche Tour at Roy Wilkins (opening for Skillet, Theory of a Dead man, and Stone Sour). Also, at Milwaukee’s Summerfest in July 2012 then closer to home with In This Moment at First Ave that year. Next, at the Myth with Pop Evil in 2013 and at the Carver County Fairgrounds in July 2014 for the rescheduled Taste of Minnesota (as Harriet Island was flooded). After one more at the Myth in 2015 our string of at-least-annual Halestorm concerts came to an end. After this brief hiatus, we were excited to see one of our favorites once again.
Guys from Rock95 thanked Mankato for hosting great shows like this then introduced Halestorm. The crowd shrieked as Lzzy and crew took the stage. She wore a stunning all-black outfit with rhinestone-garnished leather jacket and similarly bedazzled skinny bellbottoms. She bravely walked around in some incredible white platform high heels. Her current shorter hairstyle certainly is remindful of rock goddesses Joan Jett and Pat Benatar. They opened with Black Vultures which is also the first track off their latest album. Hale then asked, “Mankato, do I make you “Uncomfortable”?,” as she launched into that additional cut off their new CD. With fans immediately into it and singing along to the chorus it was clear that most have already been enjoying Vicious. During the evening they would be treated to seven from the new album along with plenty of their other favorite hits.
Before the third number she brought the crowed together and said no matter what else is going on out in the world, tonight you came to a rock show. Thinking that might be the lead-in to “Rock Show” I was mistaken. She had the crowd turn on and raise their cell phones and proclaimed, ” Tonight, you are the fire!” as they started “I Am the Fire” from Into the Wild Life. Lzzy used her double-neck guitar for this one. She would also get to five songs from 2012’s The Strange Case Of …. starting with “Mz. Hyde” which certainly brought out the other side of the long-time Halestorm fans like me. She paused mid song and asked all of the ladies to sing along to the chorus and I have to admit I was still singing with the ladies.
The opening notes gave away the next song as I heard a young girl exclaim, “Oh my God, it’s “Do Not Disturb”!” Even those not familiar with Vicious seemed to know this popular track as most everyone shouted along to “Do Not Disturb!” After starting into “Dear Daughter,” which proved to be just a snippet, Hale paused and asked where all of her “Daughters of Darkness” were and went that direction instead. After practicing a few of the “Naaa, na, na, na, naaa’s” the fan-favorite was on and featured Lzzy squealing her sunburst guitar. She slowed it down mid-set with “Familiar Taste of Poison” to showcase her amazing voice. Overheard, was one inebriated gentleman who did say what I think all of us were thinking, ” I love her voice!” I love a female singer that can belt it out and Lzzy Hale is the epitome.
Picking up the pace again, was band’s hit “Amen,” about personal freedom with those lyrics, “My life, my love, my sex, my drug.” This song turned into a guitar jam between Joe and Lzzy and eventually Josh joined them in surrounding Arejay by his lime green Pearl kit before getting back to the song which seemed to be the one they didn’t want to end, even with the sound cutting out for a moment on Lzzy. After complete quiet and darkness, a drum intro led into one of the other really cool songs off Vicious, “Skulls,” which the crowd loved.
Lzzy asked those in the Grand Hall how many were actually from Mankato and how many drove a distance to come see them. Definitely more indicated they drove some distance to come to the show and she thanked us for doing that. After also thanking Beasto Blanco and Palaye Royale and the line about the young bad being “delicious”, she told us, “Mankato, you make me “Vicious”,” as she began the title track from the new album.
Anyone who’s been to a Halestorm concert knows one of the features is an Arejay drum solo. Now to be honest, most drum solos are pretty boring and just a way to buy the rest of the band a break. Not so when Lzzy’s little brother takes over and always makes it entertaining. Many moved to be able see better and that was even before he brought out giant-sized drum sticks and actually used them to finish his solo. Arejay stood and absorbed the loud cheers then said, “Minnesota, I love you! You have thousands of lakes, and thousands of freaks!” Of course that was the cue for “Freak Like Me” and Lzzy returned without her coat after cooling off during the break. She told us, “Mankato, we are all freaks tonight.” After the song she asked how many of us had their new album Vicious and after “Killing Ourselves to Live” Hale told us that April marks ten years since this next song came out. It was of course, “I Get Off.” After the song, the band did get off the stage but would return to chants of “Halestorm, Halestorm” for an encore set.
Joe and Lzzy emerged and took a seat at the front of the stage. Lzzy asked us how many had been to a Halestorm concert before and who was seeing them for the first time. It was pretty even. She wanted to make sure we knew how awesome we were to come out and support live music. They started the band when she was 13 and Arejay was 10 and all they wanted to do was to be able to play music in front of an audience. We were continuing to make that happen. Joe and Lzzy played an acoustic version of “The Silence” which truly was one of the highlights of the show as it really let the vocalist command the crowd with her captivating voice.
The rest of the band returned to close out the night with two more of their top hits, “Love Bites (So Do I)” and of course “I Miss the Misery.” The crowd sang along loudly to the “Oh, oh, oh, oh……. oh, oh, oh’s” before things came to an end. Joe happily flicked out plenty of guitar picks and Arejay came up front in his all red outfit to toss out drum sticks before the band took a stage bow at their mandated 11pm end time.
A few closing points to leave you with: 1. Make sure to see Halestorm the next time they are back in the area. Lzzy Hale is a true rock star and they always put on a great show. 2. If you haven’t grabbed their new album Vicious do so now and you won’t be disappointed. 3. Don’t be afraid to drive an hour to Mankato for a show. With no traffic, free parking, and less of a crowd you may find it more convenient than going to downtown Minneapolis. 4. Continue to support live music, especially at the smaller venues. Only your support allows bands like Halestorm to become what they have become.
Black Vultures / Uncomfortable / I Am the Fire / Mz. Hyde / Do Not Disturb / Daughters of Darkness / Familiar Taste of Poison / Amen / Skulls / Vicious / Drum Solo / Freak Like Me / Killing Ourselves to Live / I Get Off / Encore: The Silence / Love Bites (So Do I) / I Miss the Misery.