Words by Alan Daly
© Olga Kuzmenko
Photos by Olga Kuzmenko
Roll up, roll up! Behold the greatest show on earth! Or at least the greatest show on Arran Quay, as Avatar comes to town. The Voodoo Lounge is their big top tonight and the freakshow is about to begin…
Despite forming more than fifteen years ago, one could be forgiven for not having heard of the Swedes before they landed an unexpected support slot for Avenged Sevenfold in the O2 Arena Dublin in late 2013 when David Draiman’s Device pulled out of the tour at short notice. A few months later, the band had their own headline show here at the Voodoo Lounge giving their new Irish fans a fuller Avatar experience before another lucky break at Bloodstock 2014 saw the band promoted to the main stage after Graveyard suffered transportation problems. So by now, word has gotten out that Avatar are a band worth checking out, and a bustling crowd is crammed into the venue. Many are teenagers and their youthful energy and excitement remind me of my own early concert-going days, jostling at the front row for the ultimate fan experience.
The house lights dim and an array of old-fashioned carnival light bulbs arranged to spell the band’s distinctive logo glow brightly as four of the five emerge from the stage trapdoor and immediately begin jamming an instrumental intro to ‘For the Swarm’ from their 2016 album Feathers & Flesh. A few moments later, ostentatious frontman Johannes Eckerström joins his fellow performers and starts his exuberant stage show. There is no doubting that this man loves the spotlight, and his unhinged ego rouses the crowd with pompous showmanship and narcissism. Red and yellow colors echo the circus theme around the stage (and even at the merch stand), and the band members themselves are dressed in circus attire, led by Eckerström as their insane ringmaster, who spends most of the night showboating on his circular podium. Of course, this is exactly what we expected and the crowd is absolutely loving it.
Unsurprisingly, the setlist draws heavily from Feathers & Flesh but also features several fan favorites from earlier popular albums Hail the Apocalypse and Black Waltz. Occasionally sipping an unknown beverage from his petrol canister, Eckerström addresses the audience regularly, never breaking character. His joker-like ear-to-ear grin, extended tongue, and manic eyes make it hard to refuse his requests… no… demands for everyone to put their devil horns in the air. After all, this is a room filled with beautifully deranged metalheads, he reminds us. There are certainly similarities with early Marilyn Manson and the likes of Murderdolls, but with enough originality to make it feel fresh. Stomping renditions of ‘Hail the Apocalypse’ and ‘Vultures Fly’ combined with singalong tracks like ‘Bloody Angel’ prove that the crowd is familiar with their earlier works as well as brand new tracks like ‘New Land’ and ‘House of Eternal Hunt’. We are even treated to the exclusive international live debut of ‘When the Snow Lies Red’. And with the show in its climatic final quarter, there’s still time to reach back to Black Waltz, their 2012 album which introduced Eckerström’s clown-like persona, for popular tracks ‘Let it Burn’ and the appropriately titled ‘Smells Like a Freakshow’.
The penultimate offering of the evening, ‘Night Never Ending’ is their latest video release, and was inspired by Celtic jigs and the dual lead guitars of Thin Lizzy, and sees guitarists Jonas Jarlsby and Tim Öhrström standing shoulder-to-shoulder atop the tiny circus podium as the crowd sing along with the distinctive guitar line, and the band leave the stage as the chanting fades out. A final encore of Feathers & Flesh closing track ‘Sky Burial’ wraps up the night, and none could say that they were short-changed on the show. Close to twenty tracks, new and old, and an enigmatic and enthusiastic performance from the band. An enjoyable live show for those who don’t take their metal too seriously, and still worth the time for those who do.
Avatar Euro Tour
Nov 30 Maasvallei Maasmechelen, Belgium
Dec 02 Legend Club Milano, Italy
Dec 03 Ninkasi Kao Lyon, France
Dec 05 Le Trabendo Paris, France
Dec 06 LA LAITERIE Strasbourg, France
Dec 07 Doornroosje Nijmegen, Netherlands
Dec 08 Rockfabrik Ludwigsburg, Germany
Dec 09 Backstage Club München, Germany
Dec 10 White Trash Berlin, Germany
Dec 11 LOGO Hamburg Hamburg, Germany
Dec 12 ROCKPALAST Bochum, Germany
Dec 13 Pumpehuset Copenhagen West,
Dec 14 John Dee Oslo, Norway
Dec 15 Klubben Stockholm, Sweden
Dec 16 Sticky Fingers Göteborg, Sweden
Dec 17 Sticky Fingers Göteborg, Sweden