January 29, 2018 Avatar Invade Regent Theater Los Angeles, CA 1-24-18
In the world of Heavy Metal and Rock-n-Roll, there are plenty of unusual and magical stage moments to be had, but certain bands really bring it to the next level conceptually. That in mind, on Wednesday, January 24, 2018, Sweden’s own Avatar did just that as they continued on The Avatar Country Tour across North America with a stop at Regent Theater in Los Angeles, CA. A headlining tour in support of their latest album, Avatar Country, released back on January 12th, their traveling Metal circus included entertaining supporting acts The Brains and Hellzapoppin Circus Sideshow.
Starting as a Melodic Death Metal band back in 2001, Avatar have grown album to album, crafting a sound all their own. Their latest release, the aforementioned Avatar Country, is naturally the focus of this headline tour, and it is definitely a themed album since all titles revolve around a King. The “King” in this case happens to be Avatar Guitarist Jonas “Kungen” Jarlsby whose commanding presence on stage portrays a very theatrical king persona. The rest of the band, Tim Öhrström also on guitars/backing vocals, Henrik Sandelin bass/backing vocals, John Alfredsson on drums, and signature caricature Johannes Eckerström on lead vocals certainly carry their own weight as well.
This theatrical imagery provided, the carnival kicked off right with the unusual opening act from Florida calling themselves Hellzapoppin Circus Sideshow. A brief thirty minute Rock-n-Roll circus stunt show of non-stop magic tricks and mayhem, from their sword swallowing to turning doves into a parrot, this freak show of players did not disappoint. While many tricks were performed in silence, except for commentary by the ring leader, other tricks took place with Rock tunes – some noteworthy moments were the face hooks that balanced the weight of a hanging bowling ball and a long narrow drill bit attached to a drill that was also swallowed and regurgitated as appeared to the naked eye. There are only so many “actual” sword swallowers in the world, and this man claimed to be 1 in 100.
They also had a man dressed in a chicken costume performing various tricks and a half-man with no legs who could practically float in the air and walk with his hands over broken glass. It was all in all very impressive and nicely done. That is why it would behoove anyone to see Hellzapoppin Circus Sideshow in an even longer more grandiose setting.
From there it was a very speedy set change from Hellzapoppin Circus Sideshow to the next band, Montréal, Québec’s The Brains. An oddity in the lineup of acts that were all unique in their own right, The Brains is a Rockabilly three-piece act – Rene D la Muerte (guitar/vocals), Colin the Dead (bass/vocals), and Phil The Beast (drums). The only act on The Avatar Country Tour bill without any theatrics involved, despite few sound issues through no fault of their own, The Brains managed to put on a very entertaining show.
As Avatar had their theatrical stage set up preset and taking up most of the stage, The Brains’ drummer was pushed to front and center stage, which, if not intentional, was a blessing in disguise because he happened to be the band’s strongest and most enlightening asset. From the fun upright bass to the heavy, yet Swing enhanced style of Rockabilly, to the creatively powerful drumming of the big gunned Phil The Beast, who apparently had a broken foot yet no one noticed, this band was highly entertaining. Matched with a perfectly timed set and vocals of Rene D la Muerte amidst the muddy tones, The Brains were a great choice as direct support for Avatar.
After the good energetic vibes of The Brains, the long wait for Avatar began. Keeping the audience engaged as they waited, a large curtain featuring a poem about the king hung over the stage while a wild mix of odd tunes played over the PA. Bringing the anticipation to a peak, the blaring tunes dissipated and Avatar slowly made a grand theatrical entrance onto the stage. Featuring a double staircase set up with a platform on top and a drum platform in the middle, the throne all of a sudden appeared and rose up to the highest platform with the king and his guitar ready for battle. Needless to say, the night was about to get a lot more interesting.
They played a marvelous eighteen song set with six featured king songs from Avatar Country. The irony is that there is nothing country about Avatar and The King played the entire first song, “Glory To Our King,” sitting down in his throne. This proudly showed the audience just how important his character would be in the numbers to come. In enough words, the set played out like a royal court with Kungen playing The King, of course, and the rest of the team, minus Eckerström, as the soldiers.
Eckerström, who carried a slight jester card, over the years his created his unique style of clown-face makeup. Now a signature of the frontman, Eckerström is full of life, energy, and a really amazing, dynamic vocal range. He changed outfits a couple times and sported a historically inspired tailcoat fitting the theme of the night well. In theatrics only, it can be said Avatar takes on similar traits to that of King Diamond and Carach Angren. That in mind, they are definitely one-of-a-kind freaks of nature when it comes to concept and performance. Speaking of being their own, the guitar was definitely a highlight of the performance and parts seem to be heavily influenced by the NWOBHM classic sound.
Moving on, “Legend Of The King,” yet another new tune, helped the audience to crave more. Satisfying that craving, the band ended up playing 6 songs off Avatar Country and it was highlight after highlight. Other magical moments were performances of “Paint Me Red” and “Puppet Show” where the miming of pulling strings of the band members was a nice touch, adding to visual appeal.
Also, “War Song” served as a fan-favorite as did “Tower,” which is a beautifully written interlude. While all members played a key role in their stage presence, the facial expressions of Eckerström, along with his impressive vocal range and witty commentary, warmed the audience to whatever lies ahead. Ending with “A Statue of a King” and “The King Welcomes You To Avatar Country,” they got the crowd riled up for the finale of “Hail the Apocalypse,” when the stage became immersed in bubbles. A comical yet wonderful combination of theatricals and Metal captured the charming heart of Avatar. In the end, The King was of course crowned and given a red and black velvet cape as the entire band bowed in unison toward the audience. There is nothing that shows more respect than a unified gesture of gratitude towards a room full of people, and Avatar certainly garnered a great deal of praise for their efforts.
It is a breath of fresh air to see Avatar live and to know they thrive to create fun themed Metal for their fans to enjoy. The King is a commanding leader as he should be and his Zakk Wylde dominating styled presence is a great enhancement to the show. While Avatar has a ton of mainstream appeal in the U.S. and packed Regent Theater, they are also wildly underrated, since a majority of American Metal fans are not quite familiar with their existence. Although, once viewing them in a live setting, especially on a headlining tour such as this, there is no denying the sheer excitement and glory one feels after watching them.Photo credit : Karina Diane Concert Photography
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