Who: Avatar Country Tour,Â Avatar
Where:Â Vinyl Music Hall, Pensacola, Florida
When: September 5, 2019
It started off as a bright, cheerful Autumn afternoon. But as the day progressed to night, a chill and sense of dread filled the air. Shadows began to overtake the light and there was a sense of some supernatural presence slowly descending on the City of Pensacola. A mysterious bus pulled up alongside the Vinyl Music Hall with five dark figures emerging from their moving lair. As they exited, they suspiciously glanced to the left and right and then stealthily slid through the side door entering the Hall. Who were these ominous beings? What was their purpose? We were all about to find out because Avatar had just arrived to bring their menacing freak show to their cult of loyal followers.
The music hall was packed with anxious fans occupying both levels. The chill from outside had slowly crept into the building. The lights were low with music creating a dark ambiance as the anticipation of the crowd was increasing. Fans in the upper level were leaning over the rail looking for any signs of their heroes. Suddenly, the music stopped, the hall went dark and cheers arose from the crowd.
John Alfredsson, perched at his drum set, began pounding out the intro as Jonas Jarlsby,Tim ÃhrstrÃ¶m, and Henrik Sandelin emerged from the back of the stage.Â They took their positions and launched full steam into “Hail to the Apocalypse” from their album Avatar Country.Â Jarlsby and ÃhrstrÃ¶m were on opposite sides of the stage shredding away on their guitars with heads bobbing and long hair moving from side to side in a circular motion looking like the propellers of an airplane preparing for takeoff. The crowd was stirred into a frenzied mode; pushed up against the barrier, bobbing their heads in unison with the music. They were ready for the band to lead them on a journey for the evening.
After a momentary break in the music, Jarlsby, ÃhrstrÃ¶m, and Sandelin, stood erect with guitars held high as lead singer Johannes EckerstrÃ¶m emerged. He stalked to front stage center dressed in his ringmaster attire with a cane in hand preparing to direct his freak show companions. Wearing a grin on his face, he glared longingly into the crowd with a menacing look like he was preparing to devour each one of them. The music kicked in and he started barking out his low guttural death growl vocals with legs stomping up and down, rapidly waving his cane in the air. The red, green, and white stage lights flashed in all directions blinding the eyes.Â As he placed his foot on the top of the speaker at the edge of the stage, he leaned in towards the crowd with his 6â4â frame presenting a menacing and frightening look.Â Being only a foot or two away from him in the photo pit, the sound hit me like a punch in the face. I was in a state of shock, fearful and yet exhilarated, but loving every minute of it. My camera was in full burst mode, shooting frame after frame in quick succession, trying to capture his movements.
The next song, “A Statue of the King“, began with a galloping guitar intro by Jarlsby. EckerstrÃ¶m seamlessly transitioned from his death growl into an eerie melodic operatic tone which showcased the dynamic range of his voice. He is a dynamic multi-talented performer that could just as easily be starring in musicals on Broadway rather than being the lead vocalist of a metal band. The song concluded with all band members bent over, throwing their hair about in circular fashion in unison with one another.
The show was a mix of both music and crowd interaction.Â EckerstrÃ¶m paused several times throughout the night to connect with the audience.Â The dialogue tended to be dark and cheeky with comments like “we are here to hurt you”, “you’re here because you are sick in the head”, “we’re here because you like it” and “are you ready for some fun?”.Â He made sure the crowd knew that the band was aware they were in “Pens-a-cola” by accenting the word several times during the show. He encouraged them to get involved by leading them in back and forth chants of “Hey! Hey!”.Â The crowd was into the show the entire night.
Eyes are naturally drawn to EckerstrÃ¶m because of his dominating stage presence.Â However, there is more to Avatar than just him.Â The rest of the band all contribute to making the band what it is, one big machine with each member providing a needed function to make it operate.Â Alfredsson, on drums, and Sandelin, on bass, deliver the pounding rhythms while Jarlsby and ÃhrstrÃ¶m contribute a wide range of galloping and shredding guitar licks and riffs.Â Taking one member out would throw the whole machine out of balance.
I am not a hardcore metal fan but this ended up being one of my favorite shows of 2019. It was without a doubt the most visual performance of any band that I saw.Â An Avatar show is not your typical concert, but rather a theatrical odyssey filled with visual and auditory stimuli pulling the eyes in all directions resulting in sensory overload.Â My expectation for the show was to take some photos of an interesting looking band and write a small review.Â All I can say is I walked through the door at the beginning of night not knowing much about the band and walking out the door at the end of the night being one of their newest fans.
Did you attend this tour? Comment below.
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