Thursday night felt like a Saturday night at The Knitting Factory when Sweden’s Avatar, along with Eye Empire and local favorites Midline and Black Tooth Grin blew up the stage for 100.3 The X’s second free concert of 2013. The X always brings Boise some great free shows, and February’s Nonpoint show is a prime example, but bringing Avatar to the Treasure Valley may well be the station’s best coup yet.
Having lived in Dallas, Denver, Phoenix and San Francisco, I can safely attest that the local Boise music scene has the most devoted and ardent fans I’ve ever seen. They show up early, and throw faithful support to every band on the bill. On Thursday night that remained as true as ever.
When Black Tooth Grin hit the stage at 7:30 the venue was packed to standing room only, and the crowd was loud and raucous. The quartet is about to release its new CD, and they treated the fans to a couple of tracks from the forthcoming effort along with some crowd favorites. They hit it heavy and hard and the crowd responded in kind. Frontman Justin Arthur even showed his sentimental side when he honored his wife from the stage for their 15 year anniversary. Who says metalheads don’t have a heart?
It was The X’s Nic and Big J who reunited Boise’s favorite rock and roll sons, Midline, and they returned to the stage for 100.3 again looking as happy as Honey Boo Boo getting her own ride at Disney World. The guys only played five songs, but they performed them with an energy and passion that permeated the entire building. They looked and sounded like four longtime friends and rock and roll brethren remembering why they started to play music to begin with, and that sense of excitement was palpable. Welcome back, Anthony Faggiano, Scott Elliott, Stymie, and Fred Fischer. You've been missed.
“Can you feel me?” inquires Eye Empire vocalist Donald “DC” Carpenter. The capacity crowd responds with a resounding affirmative each time the question is asked. Eye Empire have been road warriors the last couple of years and their performance proves that practice does indeed breed perfection. Guitarist B.C. Kochmit was a vision of flailing dreadlocks, tight riffs and wailing solos. Bassist Corey Lowry rained down sweat as he pummeled the stage and his instrument, vibrating the stage so hard his mic stand tried to jump into the photo pit. New drummer Ryan Bennett was a hazy flurry of animation behind the kit. The stage never cleared of smoke long enough to really get a good look, but you could hear and feel his presence. The band tuned up a series of six songs from their debut album “Impact” including the hits, “Idiot”, “Bull in a China Shop” and the set closer, “I Pray”. They even offered up a new track, “One Day” for the receptive crowd.
Taking nothing away from the three bands who whipped the crowd into a frenzy, the heart of the night was wrapped in the anticipation of seeing Sweden’s Avatar who were playing their first ever U.S. tour. The quintet seemed like they might not make it to Boise when they ended their tour with Sevendust and Lacuna Coil, who will also come to town on March 21. Big kudos to 100.3 The X for getting the band here anyway, for only one of less than a dozen Avatar headlining shows. The group has two more shows before returning home, and Boise got the full 60 minute set most of the country missed out on.
Avatar released its fourth album, “Black Waltz” in early 2012 and with hits like “Let It Burn” and “Smells Like a Freakshow” burning up the radio, a new world of fans discovered the band. “Black Waltz” marks a new era for Avatar. It is their best and most intriguing album, with not a bad track in the bunch. The band played almost the entire album Thursday night, opening the set with “Let Us Die”, and “Blod”, which found frontman Johannes Eckerström stalking the stage in a black leather trenchcoat and matching black leather hood. Guitarists Tim Öhrström and Jonas Jarlsby along with bassist Henrik Sandelin, opened the show whipsawing their long hair in unison, while drummer John Alfredsson was again, obscured by the haze of smoke. Eckerström removed the leather hood, revealing the dark clown for “Torn Apart”, enthralling the crowd with his staff in hand, drinking from a black gas can, and bringing the metal circus spinning through The Knit. The singer spent much of the show parading about in his trademark dingy wife-beater, red suspenders, black cammo pants and military boots, dripping paint and sweat, and spinning the fans into a horn throwing tempest.
Avatar tore through an extremely tight 12-song set, which included nine of the 11 tracks on “Black Waltz” They also gave the fans a small taste of new Avatar with “Dying To See You Dead”, and older Avatar with, "All Which is Black" from 2007's "Schlacht” and the concert closer, “Queen of Blades”, from the band's 2009 self-titled album.
Unlike so many concerts we’ve all seen over the years, there was no mad rush to the doors during the last few songs. The majority of the capacity crowd stayed till the clown made his exit, and even then many of them swarmed to the merchandise table to meet the metal madmen from abroad.
In all it was a hugely successful and exciting show for the fans, with excellent performances from all four bands, and another fine job by 100.3 The X, and the staff at The Knitting Factory.
Prior to the show I sat down for a brief chat with Avatar frontman Johannes Eckerström to talk about the success of “Black Waltz”, touring in America, and the differences between European and American crowds. You can view the conversation below.
Note: No beer was hurt in the making of this video.
Music is the universal language: Speak it loudly!
Rustyn Rose is a veteran music journalist who owns and operates Metalholic Magazine and Metalholic Radio.