Halestorm review – proudly uncool rockers blow the house down 3 / 5 stars

SSE Hydro, Glasgow
Fronted by Lzzy Hale and her gale-force voice, the Pennsylvania band whip up thunder and rage – even if their solos drag on a bit

Katie Hawthorne

Mon 25 Nov 2019 07.01 ESTLast modified on Mon 25 Nov 2019 09.52 EST

The band’s centrifugal force … Lzzy Hale of Halestorm.
 The band’s centrifugal force … Lzzy Hale of Halestorm. Photograph: Roberto Ricciuti/Redferns

Darkness falls in the Hydro and Lzzy Hale’s gale-force voice rips through the arena before the band are visible. She has a howl for the ages, so steely and full that it’s hard to imagine how she’d fit in a venue even an inch smaller.

This is Halestorm’s biggest Scottish show yet, and almost their hundredth performance of the year. The perma-touring Pennsylvania hard rockers are a slick, self-assured machine and, flanked by guitarist Joe Hottinger and bassist Josh Smith, Hale takes centre stage, lunging into power stances as if she’s braced against a hurricane.

With four albums and nine EPs since their 2009 debut, Halestorm have landed on a Grammy-winning formula designed to please a crowd: buzzy, sharp verses are teamed with thunderous, surging choruses that launch hundreds of devil horns held high. Black Vultures, the opening track on their latest album, is a roaring, dystopian nightmare. Uncomfortable, a biting, punky rage against the patriarchy with an enormous, grinding riff, is prefaced with a wholesome pep talk about gender in rock. “Ladies of Scotland, let me hear you scream!” Hale yells.

Less convincing is the clunky lasciviousness of new song Do Not Disturb. “I love your accent / I wonder what it’ll sound like when you come” is a line made worse only by the sheer volume of its delivery. Later, Hale’s controlled, emotional version of early hit Familiar Taste of Poison, backed by a bassy drone, bleeds into a full Guitar-Hero reworking of Amen – the solos are blisteringly fast and incredibly long. Then Hale’s younger brother and band co-founder Arejay does his best to steal the show – his drum riser is half-way to the roof, brightly lit in order to highlight his circus of drumstick tricks. His showboating feels as if a show’s worth of fireworks has accidentally simultaneously exploded: it’s impressive but completely numbing after five full minutes.

It clarifies, too, that Hale is the band’s centrifugal force. Halestorm are proudly uncool and when she preaches a narrative of togetherness it’s with real, visible emotion. During the encore, she sits alone at the piano with all the stage-school theatrics of a metal Lady Gaga. An iron-lunged cover of I Will Always Love You brings the house down, and leaves Glasgow’s moshers happily clinging to each other.

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