If I told you Chris Jericho and Hardcore Superstar were co-headlining tonight’s show, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were attending a Pro Wrestling event. But that isn’t the case, and tonight those of us packed into the Club Academy in Manchester are treated to two headline sets from two great live bands.
Gigs of all sizes are great, I love the big production stadium shows, but venues like the Club Academy sometimes give you the more authentic Rock experience. It’s buried in the underground of the University, it’s dark, and it’s compact – you can almost touch the ceiling and the floor vibrates with every pounding beat of the drums.
Sincere apologies to The Last Band, who despite their name were actually tonight’s opening act, but a mixture of their very early stage time and traffic delays meant we missed them opening the show. We did arrive in time for New York singer Madame Mayhem and her band. Unfortunately, the sound was just far too loud, like when you try and turn your budget speaker up to 11 – totally distorted for most of the set. Promoting songs mainly from their latest album “Ready For Me”, Madame Mayhem was able to demonstrate her great stage presence and interacted with the crowd well, frequently encouraging them to meet her and the band over at the Merchandise stall, where they did hang out for the rest of the night. New single “All Around the World” was a highlight, and the band received a good reception at the end of their set.
I’m not sure what was louder, the buzz in my ears or the buzz that was awaiting the arrival of Swedish rockers Hardcore Superstar. Bursting on to the stage with their opening track Beg For It, lead singer Joakim Berg was immediately pacing the tiny stage – in fact the banner the band had brought with them was barely visible in the background, it was far too big for the set up of the stage and their performance tonight emphasised the fact they should be playing on bigger stages.
Berg and his band really know how to get the crowd going, getting them to jump through Liberation, it’s crashing guitar solo prefixed with Berg telling the crowd “We love you Manchester!’. And Manchester was returning the love, lapping up My Good Reputation. Pausing towards the end to ask the crowd if they are tired, the crowd gave a resounding “No” and the band blasted through another chorus, this was now a crowd in the palm of their hands. Teasing the crowd by asking if they were in a library got the crowd going even more before Dreamin’ In a Casket.
The band were pleasing fans old and new as they tore through the middle of the set, which included Touch the Sky, Sensitive to the Light, and Dear Old Flame. The band had engaged the ever-swelling crowd, and commands to raise fists, clap and cheer were followed with great enthusiasm.
Have Mercy on Me was only released last week and is due to be included on a new album that will be out in 2018. This went down well with the crowd, but business really picked up in the final part of the set.
The swirling blue and red stage lights took more prominence for Above the Law, with the crowd encouraged to put their middle fingers up – this song went down very well with the crowd, and by now a real party atmosphere was starting to take over. “You guys love alcohol?” asks Berg, and despite it being a Wednesday night the answer was definitely yes as the band launched into Last Call for Alcohol, an absolute anthem that they somehow ended up turning into 2 Unlimited’s No Limit towards the end, which outed a few metalheads as secret fans of 1990’s euro tech! Moonshine saw a Mosh pit develop down at the front before We Don’t Celebrate Sundays brought the set to its triumphant end. Hardcore Superstar are a band who should be headlining on their own, and hopefully, the band will return to do just that in 2018.
Now there’s no getting away from the fact that Fozzy were probably the main draw tonight. And that is largely down to lead singer Chris Jericho. Carrying a huge following over from his Pro Wrestling career, I was somewhat surprised that I only spotted one or two Wrestling t-shirts in the crowd. But as the band set drew closer, and as the lights went out and the PA pumped out War Pigs by Black Sabbath, the wrestling fans made themselves known by chanting Jericho’s “Y2J” moniker.
The crowd go wild as they catch their first glimpse of Jericho, and the band open up with the tracks Judas and Drinkin’ With Jesus. Jericho is wearing a sparkling, almost disco ball like jacket that he could have easily pinched from his wrestling attire. That isn’t the only thing distracting from the other band members – Jericho’s stage presence is as you would expect fantastic, to the point where it’s almost a little overbearing. Despite the fact the other band members are all great musicians, it’s very much a case of “Fozzy is Jericho”.
Sin and Bones proceeded Painless, another track from Fozzy’s latest album Judas. “Have you guys got the latest album? If not you can lie, I won’t know the difference!” remarks Jericho. To be fair, most of the crowd did know the new stuff as well as the older tracks.
Spider in My Mouth saw Jericho don an incredible light-up jacket. Do you wanna start a war? was played, along with its fellow album tracks Lights Go Out and Bad Tattoo. After Hardcore Superstar had outed the crowd as dance music fans, Fozzy had everyone singing and dancing along to their cover of ABBA’s S.O.S in one of the highlights of the set.
Enemy managed to showcase the band’s talents, with Jericho finally taking a back seat and introducing his somewhat overshadowed bandmates. Bringing the set to a close with Sandpaper, the band embrace and are met with a huge chant of “ONE MORE SONG!”. Jericho says they’d love to but are not allowed. It did seem genuine, and you get the feeling Jericho would love to stay in the spotlight for as long as possible. Despite the set having to end, Fozzy’s great live performance meant the crowd went home happy.
Check-out FOZZY’s new album “JUDAS”. OUT NOW!
Photography by: Joe Jones