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Artist: Halestorm, Black Veil Brides, Mothica

Venue: London, Wembley Arena

Date: 9 December 2023

"They made it clear throughout the show that, as the first time at Wembley, this is a special night for them and the confetti released out of cannons after the first song underlined how they feel."

Photo: Jason Stoltzfus
Photo: Jason Stoltzfus

Mothica is new to me. I am not alone. She cheerfully asked the crowd to make some noise if they had no idea who she is, and about two thirds of the crowd raised their hands and cheered, something she seemed to expect and took in apparent good humour. In some ways she is quite traditionally goth, she wears a red corset and Victorian style satin long layered skirt with fishnets and chunky knee high boots and her material is Pop Rock, but in other ways she is firmly Gen Z. It’s the first time I have been to a gig where someone has introduced a song by telling a stadium of people it is about being personally sexually abused in quite the same declaratory way. We are then told she almost committed suicide when she was fifteen as she invited everyone to celebrate because she survived and has now been able to play Wembley. She explains how she came to call herself Mothica due to self-destructive behaviour following being abused, after identifying with a moth she witnessed throwing itself against a lamp again and again. Seemingly captivated, the crowd then lit up the arena unprompted like glow worms right around the arena during the relevant song ‘Forever Fifteen’. Once these issues were dealt with, throwing beach balls into the audience, she encouraged a party atmosphere with a cover of ‘All Star’ by Smashmouth and ‘Another High’. The audience ride with it and don’t miss a beat. She performed well and her voice sounded great, if perhaps layered with effects. There is a danger of the backstory becoming bigger than the music perhaps? If it gives her a platform it may do her career no harm.

Black Veil Brides bring the drama with a Bach style church organ, strings, brass, flute and piano intro ‘The Theme From Sweeney Todd’ (like the Disney music when you can tell you’re about to go into the haunted forest). Dramatic lighting gives a hellish appearance and vocalist Andy Biersack is the very embodiment of Mephistopheles if he ever walked the earth as they kick off with ‘Crimson Skies’. And, of course, they are very loud with tons of pyro, death growls and Metal guitar solos. A large number of their diehards seem to have made it down to the front, there’s a very visible pyramid of pogoing people right through their set, honoured as old school fans before ‘Legacy’. Very much in a Marilyn Manson vein they keep the energy and intensity up throughout, till the dying strains of ‘Fallen Angels’. I don’t know if it’s my imagination, but the billowing fabric backdrop of their logo seems to be very close to their flamethrowers. Fortunately nothing catches alight and they leave the stage proposing to be back again soon.

Lzzy Hale took the stage singing ‘Raise Your Horns’ a cappella, showing off her impressive voice like an accomplished Gospel singer letting rip. She greeted the crowd before the whole band unleashed their firepower with the awesome ‘I Miss The Misery’. Not only do they have great songs, but they deliver them in an explosive manner. She has a voice literally like a Siren – air raid, rather than mermaid. Not just loud, but massively bad ass.

They made it clear throughout the show that, as the first time at Wembley, this is a special night for them and the confetti released out of cannons after the first song underlined how they feel. She told the crowd that she is proud to have been in the same band since she was thirteen, proud to be a Rock ‘n’ Roller and proud to be a woman. She noted a lot of girls in the audience “I’m surrounded by my bitches. Hell Yeah!” before dedicating the sexually liberated ‘I Get Off’ to them all. When she got going, kneeling back on her knees it was easy to see how Tom Keifer of Cinderella has influenced her, she brings the same passion and fire and gives everything physically to her singing and performance in the same way, underlining this with an a capella snippet of ‘Crazy On You’.

She made a huge effort to involve the audience, thanking them, pointing at people who have been to every show on the tour and explaining how important such diehard fans are to a band. Her voice was strong and clear on ‘Terrible Things’. She was so into it she looked a little touched at times, leaning back to far on her knees that her hair touched the floor with her guitar, like a sacrament held high.

In the drum solo her brother threw his sticks and caught them like an old school drummer. If that wasn’t party trick enough, he got out giant drum sticks, at least as thick as baseball bats each, and played the drums with them just as fast as before, twirling and catching them like they were at scale. This gives his sister a chance to get changed and come back with ‘Back From The Dead’ and ‘Bombshell’. She tells the crowd that she understands the importance of Wembley Arena in musical history and is delighted that the show is sold out. She got the crowd to light up their cell phones like candles on a Christmas tree, before completely killing ‘I Am The Fire’ to finish the main set.

For an encore Lzzy came back alone and sat at a grand piano, telling the story about how at their first gig at a County Fair in Pennsylvania her brother and she came off stage shaking, dying to be able to find other places to play so they could be on stage every day. Visibly amused, she said that later, when they became aware that Alice Cooper and other bands were coming over the ocean to play England, they wondered if they would ever be able to do the same. Under a glitter ball sending swirling lights to everyone, right to the back of the arena, she sang ‘Break In/Shatter Me’ with such passion she looks like she is actually mounting the microphone. Ending with a Gospel-like a cappella version of ‘Raise Your Horns’ for the second time, she appeared to complete a perfect circle.

After having shots delivered on stage she brought back the “boys”, complete with a Union Jack guitar, for a full electric version of ‘Here’s To Us’. Lzzy’s legs vaulting in and out in a skip like Paul Stanley of KISS, the band let loose both musically and physically in ‘The Steeple’. Enormously long streamers shot from the stage so far and high into the arena that they were left hanging in a line from the rafters of the roof, hundreds of feet in the air.

It really was a special gig tonight. Not only were Halestorm on fire musically, talent-wise and technically, they were on fire spiritually too. They really, really cared and they transferred that to the audience. Rarely do you see an artist so engaged with what they do.


Review: Dawn Osborne. Photo: Jason Stoltzfus




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