Review and photos by Fred Kuhlman
Promoter: Lucky Man
Venue: Marquee Theater
Date: Tuesday Jan 23rd, 2018
The lights go out, the curtain parts and we see a giant banner that reads:
“Glory to our King
The master of steel…”.
Next to it is a giant banner of the King. The music starts playing in the background and it is the new song “Glory To Our King” from Avatar’s newest album Avatar Country. The banners and curtain drop and we see an empty stage with just the drum set. Then the King appears on a raised stage behind and above the drum set. It is lead guitarist Jonas “Kungen” Jarlsby, dressed up as the King including a royal robe and crown. He is sitting on his throne and has his red guitar. All at once he slams out the beginning power riffs to “Legend of the King”. As he is assailing us with his power cords, the rest of the band emerges on stage. Johannes Michael Gustaf Eckerström struts out and grabs the mic and starts pounding out the lyrics. As Johannes is singing, bassist Henrik Sandelin and guitarist Tim Öhrström are head banging as they play along. Just up in from of the King, drummer John Alfredsson is driving the crowd (and my ears) wild with his double bass. So starts the wonder that is Avatar.
Avatar is a Swedish band that combines Metal and Shock Rock. This is not Abba. Think of them as a combination of Alice Cooper meets Judas Priest. The lead singer Johannes Eckerström is a charismatic front man that looks kinda like the Joker. He is in full facial makeup, a suit with hat. As he is singing, he struts around on the stage and sings to the different parts of the crowd. At one point in the show he sits down at the front of the stage and sings to the front row of people. At the end of the show, he tells us that it is amazing he made it through the show because he was sick and almost passed out. Given the running around he did on the stage and the gut wrenching vocals, I am also amazed he made it.
After the second song, Jonas removes his crown and robes (he has his manservant do it) and struts down from the raised platform and joins the rest of the band on the stage. He is handed is guitar and they start to play “Let It Burn”. Now the real head banging of the guitar players begin. Jonas has long hair that is in dreadlocks and as he head bangs, his hair goes everywhere.
The thing that strikes you about the other guitarist, Tim is his beard and mustache. It reminded me of some soldier from World War 1. He also has long hair and as he head bangs it sometimes drops into his guitar. His playing complements Jonas very well and at time he take over lead and belts out the power cord and amazing riffs. Henrik lays down the bass riffs and provided the underlying rhythm for the band. Along with John on drums, they anchor the group, while the other members of the band seem to wander off into never-never land.
Avatar has been around since 2005, but the majority of the songs in tonight’s set were mainly from their last 4 albums, Black Waltz, Hail the Apocalypse, Feathers & Flesh and this year’s Avatar Country. During the song “The Eagle Has Landed”, the crowd really got into it and started sing along with Johannes. The band played for 1 hour and 45 minutes. During this time I saw a few crowd surfers and a couple of mosh pits, but for the most part the crowd was just into the music and doing a lot of singing and fist bumping. They ended the main set with “The King Welcomes You To Avatar Country”. After the song, Johannes stayed on the stage as the rest of the band left and this is when he told us how sick he was. The rest of the band came back out and they played the fan favorite, “Hail the Apocalypse” as an encore. At the end, the band came together at the front of the stage to wave to us and the King, Jonas had his man servants put his crown and robes back on so he could parade in front of us one last time.
So far I have seen 3 Swedish bands in my lifetime, Abba, Sabaton and now Avatar. What a difference between them. I met a few people while waiting to get into the venue and they told me they had drove up from Tucson (about 2 hour drive) just to see Avatar. Since I had never seen Avatar before, they told me how great they were and that I would really enjoy the concert. Well, they were correct. I had a great time and Avatar is really fun to watch and listen to. I have even been listening to a couple of their music video/clip while processing the photos and writing this article. To get a real sense of who they are, go to their website and play their videos, http://avatarmetal.com/ .
Photos © Fred Kuhlman 2018
This was 1 really wild night. The evening started with what can best be described as a small circus sideshow called Hellzapoppin. Ring master and fire eater Bryce “the Govna” Graves came out and welcomed the crowd and told us to expect the unusual and the odd. He then started us off with him eating a number of turpentine coated sticks that were lit on fire. I can honestly tell you it was real, because I got turpentine on me when he did his fire breathing stunt. Next up was Short E. Dangerously, the half man. Short E. has no legs so he gets around on his hands. He got up on a platform and half barrel and did hand stands. He also did 1 handed pushups. Now comes the real bizarre part of the show, Ryan Stock puts a carabiner in his nose and eye lid clamps under each eye. His assistant, the lovely and scantily dressed Amber Lynn Walker starts to put cow bells on the chain under the nose ring and eye clamps. They start with 1, then 2, then 3 and finally 4. You think they are done, but no, Amber then adds a bowling ball. Ryan starts to swing the cowbells and bowling ball around under his head. To round out this group of performers is Dan Sperry. He is a magician that is dressed in a skeleton short and full face makeup. His first trick is to put a lifesaver in his mouth and then take some string and as he “cuts” into his throat, he pulls out the lifesaver into the string. Other stunts down are sword swallowing, drive bit swallowing, Ice pick into the nose, walking on glass and pigeon tricks. Overall it was a great show and well worth seeing. It reminded me of the days in the 60s when I was in Atlantic City and would see the sideshow performers as I walked along the boardwalk. They are very nice people and I met them after the show as they were getting their picture taken with some of the audience.
Photos © Fred Kuhlman 2018
Next up was a 3-piece band from Montreal Canada called The Brains. The band consists of members Rene D la Muerte (lead vocals, guitar), Colin The Dead (double bass, Backing vocals) and Phil The Beast (Drums). Their style is a what they call Canadian Psychobilly. They remind me of the Stray Cats back in the 80s.
Photos © Fred Kuhlman 2018
Avatar Setlist (Album):
Glory To Our King (Avatar Country)
Legend of The King (Avatar Country)
Let It Burn (Black Waltz)
Paint Me Red (Black Waltz)
King’s Harvest (Avatar Country)
Bloody Angel (Hail the Apocalypse)
For The Swarm (Feathers & Flesh)
The King Wants You (Avatar Country)
Puppet Show (Hail the Apocalypse)
Tower (Hail the Apocalypse)
The Eagle Has Landed (Feathers & Flesh)
War Song (Thoughts of No Tomorrow)
Raven Wine (Feathers & Flesh)
Smells Like a Freakshow (Black Waltz)
Statue Of The King (Avatar Country)
The King Welcomes You To Avatar Country (Avatar Country)
Hail the Apocalypse (Hail the Apocalypse)