The second set was the promised rendition of ‘Into The Wild Life’ in full; the album has been a bit of a Marmite record even with their own fans as some praised the change in direction while others (myself included) were hoping for a heavier record to capture their live sound better. They played the album in order, but there was a marked difference with this material when presented live. Without the polished production, and with just the four of them, the songs took on a whole new form. One of my main gripes about the album was that Joe Hottinger didn’t get unleashed enough – no such worries here, his guitar was right up there adding much-needed weight to the tracks. Even on the slower songs such as ‘Dear Daughter’, he came out and delivered a tasteful solo after Lzzy performed the main part of the song accompanied by just her keyboard. On some songs, bassist Josh Smith provided additional keyboards, he usually fills that role and it was unusual to see Lzzy play anything other than her guitar.
The thing I took from that live performance of the album was that it was much more of a band delivery than the record, which came across to me more like a Lzzy Hale solo album. This was the real Halestorm, and whether this record would have benefitted from less production sheen we’ll likely never know, but I found myself playing air guitar to these songs live whereas the recorded versions had me leave it on the stand. After ‘I Like It Heavy’ Lzzy said they weren’t going to do the usual encore business of going off and playing two more songs, instead they’d just do a few more to save a bit of time. She then gave the stage over to brother Arejay, who proceeded to do his usual manic drum spot incorporating a bit of vocal and of course, the over-sized sticks! ‘Love Bites (So Do I)’ then followed, and in this part there was another treat: they played ‘The Hand’ from their ‘One And Done’ EP. After ‘I Miss The Misery’ they then took their bows and we all thought that was it as they exited. Except they didn’t quite leave the stage; Joe Hottinger was handed a guitar emblazoned with the Union Flag and the rest of the band ran back on for one last treat: a near-Thrash rendition of ‘A Hard Days’ Night’. Even after 50 years, American rock bands still acknowledge The Beatles whenever in our city. Then that really was it, as the packed venue made its way out of the upstairs part of the o2 Academy.
It’s been five long years between first seeing Halestorm in this venue as an unknown support band, then seeing them progress into headliners and finally seeing them return to this place as headliners of a sold-out show. At least it will not be another five years before they’re back here, as they will play as part of a four-band bill on an arena tour in 2016 which calls at the Echo Arena. But they won’t get a slot this long to play rarely-played songs for their devoted fans on that tour, this was a privilege to be at and a real pleasure for me personally to see such a special show in my own city.