Avatar - O2 Institute, Birmingham 17.01.2019
Avatar have kicked off their 2019 with a massive world tour, starting off with a run of UK shows. Tonight is just the second show of the tour, stopping off at Birmingham's O2 Institute. In support they bring along Dylan Walshe and THE MAHONES.
First up, and getting the night underway is Irish singer song-writer Dylan Walshe. It has to be said, Dylan has a tough job on his hands before he's even played a single note, there's no denying that the crowd tonight are very much here for the Metal, and the first few songs don't really get much in the way of a reaction at all. Towards the end of the set though, things do start to pick up for Dylan, but it's mainly due to his likeable character when he is talking in between songs, rather than the music unfortunately.
Next up are THE MAHONES, and while things do pick up slightly, like Dylan they do seem somewhat out of place. It makes you wonder why they were chosen as the support acts in the first place, it could be intentional, to make the night more about Avatar or could just be a poor call from the promoters. Regardless of them playing in front of the wrong type of crowd, I actually think THE MAHONES put on a good set, they seem well aware that this a tough crowd and just give it their all anyway. By the time their penultimate song 'Punk Rock Saved My Life' comes around they've actually gained a bit of momentum and earn themselves a respectable reaction from the crowd once the set is finished.
After photographing Avatar the last time they were in the UK whilst supporting Halestorm, I couldn't resist but cover them again once they announced these headline shows. They put so much effort into the whole spectacle of their performance, and with being headliners this time you just know they're going to be bigger and better. This is confirmed before they even take to the stage as their stage setup is unreal, there is a large podium waiting front and centre and also a giant throne positioned at the back behind the drum kit, a bubble machine waiting either side of the stage and finally their striking back drop that luminates their logo in giant lettering also thrown into the mix, this is very much a setup that is fit for an arena show but in a medium sized venue.
Instead of the usual music blaring around the venue whilst fans wait for Avatar to take to stage, Avatar actually have their own recorded fictional radio talk show playing in the background whilst we wait for their arrival, something I've never seen before, and just another example of how much thought they put into the show as a whole. The talk show has everyone laughing along and it's nice to see something a little bit different.
The band take to stage to 'A Statue of the King', which see's frontman Johannes stood at his podium, almost narrating a story rather than singing down to his fans, or 'citizens' as Avatar prefer to call them. Meanwhile the King 'Jonas Kungen Jarlsby' is sat at the back upon his throne, happily shredding away. For the next song 'Legend of the King', Avatar ditch the podium and Kungens throne is now brought to the front of the stage, and the king is literally presented to the crowd before sitting upon his throne and killing it in front of the star struck citizens.
In between songs Johannes takes the time to address the crowd, talking in his creepy tone and theatrical wide eyed stare, you'd probably be pretty intimidated if it wasn't for all of the humour he throws in, he never breaks character though and really keeps things interesting.
A few songs into the set we are greeted with my personal highlight, 'Get In Line' and judging by the crowds reaction it might of been one of theirs too as one of the largest mosh pits of the night open up. Another stand out comes in the form of 'Let it Burn', which showcases some fantastic synchronized windmill headbanging, and seeing some of the long haired audience members trying to keep up with Avatars well choreographed windmill headbanging is good enough entertainment on it's own!
Seeing Avatar as support early last year certainly wasn't enough, but tonight's headline set definitely makes up for it with 17 songs in total, an absolute killer of a setlist. As the main set finishes Avatar come flying out now dressed in all white tunics into the encore with 'The King Welcomes You to Avatar Country' and finally closing with fan favourite 'Hail the Apocalypse' which also see's the earlier mentioned bubble machines put to good use.
A great night for the mighty Avatar, a band that are well and truly reaping the rewards after steadily building a deserved fanbase for all of their hard work. Avatar are not to be missed!
THE MAHONES - https://www.facebook.com/TheMahones/
Dylan Walshe - https://www.facebook.com/DylanWalshe/
Photos & Review - Sam Robinson Photography