Supporting live music, running a business, and keeping punters happy is a juggling act for promoters these days. It seems that every other week there is an online petition to save an iconic venue from being closed down and turned into a poncey wine bar. Having a club night straight after a gig is one solution, but one that inevitably leads to the current scourge of gigs up and down this sceptered isle – the early doors. Going to the four band line up featuring Black Star Riders later this month? Best phone in sick that day. Likewise, the co-headlining tour from Fozzy and Hardcore Superstar had the same issue. Opening band, cunningly titled The Last Band, arrived on stage at 5.50pm to hearty cheers from those wise enough to get in early, but one can’t help but think of how many people missed out on the hardcore/metal hybrid musings from the Gothenburg outfit. If you did miss them, check out their latest single ‘So What’. Highly recommended. Act number two, Madame Mayhem quickly followed, but had finished their highly charged set before most people had finished their pudding and still had the three S’s to take care of. Current single ‘All Around The World’ is a banger, co-written with Clint Lowery from Sevendust. Reason enough to hit the band up online.
By the time Hardcore Superstar took to the stage, the venue was packed, the words “sold out” emblazoned across every online advert for the show. The Swedes are old hands at this game, they really do make it look easy. By my watch, the band are celebrating their twentieth year together, and it shows, not in a bad way though. The way they attack the stage is a joy to watch, and my first thought is that anyone following these guys will have to bring their A game. Vocalist, and co-founder, Jocke Berg was born to be on stage. I cannot imagine him doing anything but fronting a sleazy rock n’ roll band. He has the authentic looks and image down to a tee. Pass him in the street, and you would do a double-,take and ask for a picture. You might not exactly know who he was but you would have an inclination that he was a rock star. Hardcore Superstar gigs are fun and joyous occasions. You want to escape reality for the time they are on stage, and they set out to ensure that everyone leaves with a smile on their face. The crowd are beaming and bouncing along as the band peel off anthem after anthem; ‘Liberation’, ‘Dreamin’ In A Casket’, ‘Touch The Sky’, and ‘Above The Law’ are all met with huge roars of approval, and rightly so. The party anthem ‘Last Call For Alcohol’ features a bottle of bubbly getting downed by the band before the remainder is sprayed everywhere in true F1 style. Cue the introduction of someone from the venue with towels to dry the floor. Health and safety and all that. We don’t want someone slipping do we? Only one song could close the seventy minute set, what else but ‘We Don’t Celebrate Sundays’. Drinks are thrown in the air, chaos ensues, and it’s still only 8.30pm. Hardcore Superstar, the real deal, the genuine article, and the perfect band to get any party started.
After some Bee Gees blasted out during the changeover, the mood was one of fun, and basically it’s Saturday night, so let the hair down. The lights dim and red flashing lights start up like an emergency vehicle on the highway to hell. The familiar strains of ‘War Pigs’ come blaring out of the PA… and I mean BLARING! After a few moments of teasing, the figures of Fozzy can be made out as they take to the stage. Last one to take his place is, of course, vocalist Chris Jericho. Flash of light, plumes of smoke, and bang, we’re straight into the title track of current album ‘Judas’. Not so much a case of get the newer ones out of the way first, more of a case of it’s the perfect way to open the short set. The initial stages of the song are lost in the sheer volume and distortion coming from the PA, but this settles down in time. As the song fades out, it’s straight into another new one ‘Drinking With Jesus’. ‘Judas’, the album, has some catchy moments, and this is one of them. The vocals are strong, a chorus that involves mass audience participation, and guitars that give the neck muscles a workout. It’s much heavier live than it is on the album, but the hooks from the studio version are not lost on the live stage. The guitars from Rich Ward and Billy Grey are like buzzsaws cutting through the night, and the pounding rhythms from bassist Paul Di Leo and drummer Frank Fontsere actually shake the foundations. Make no mistake, this was a loud one.
The first dip into the Fozzy back catalogue comes in the shape of ‘Sin And Bones’ from the 2012 album of the same name. Throw in ‘Spider In My Mouth’ and ‘Sandpaper’ from the same album, and other nuggets like ‘Do You Wanna Start A War’, ‘Bad Tattoo’ and ‘Lights Go Out’, add the incredible cover version of Abba’s ‘SOS’ (yes, Abba), and it’s a fast-paced set with no real dips. Jericho is, of course, the consummate showman, and no opportunity to play up to the sold out crowd is passed up. From the standing back to soak up the applause, cupping his ear to cajole the crowd into upping the ante, starting chants, and, of course…the light up jacket. These are the actions of someone born to be in front of a crowd, be it sport, TV, or music, Jericho is incredibly at ease performing. There’s a lot of camaraderie between the band members, and it’s obvious that Fozzy are way more than a solo vehicle, even though Jericho naturally gets the most attention. It’s easy to be cynical about almost everything these days, but even the most hard-nosed of cynics would have a wry smile on their face after a Fozzy gig.
Review: Dave Stott