The world has been missing out on quite a few things of late. Though perhaps not at the top of everyone’s list, for some people the loss of live music has been a real kick in the teeth. Whether it’s the social factor, the catharsis of loud music or just being in the proximity of like-minded people, live shows really have been sorely missed by the music community.
Whilst not rectifying all of these problems, Swedish metallers Avatar are certainly having a good go at bringing the things we miss back to us in one way or another. With their Avatar Ages show, they’re doing a show on four consecutive Saturdays in January, playing either an album in full or songs from specific chosen albums for each show. The setlists are chosen by fans, and the shows are streamed for ticket holders; so Avatar really are doing everything they can to introduce us back into some normality. This week’s show is entitled ‘Age of Madness’ and takes songs from their albums Hail The Apocalypse and Black Waltz.
The show starts out very theatrical, with frontman Johannes Eckerström creeping on to the main stage in his long, red circus master coat, before descending on to a side stage and cranking an old fashioned music box. As the Hail The Apocalypse video plays out across the screens, the rest of the band appear on the main stage and Johannes is running around like some manic clown, it’s almost like things are (sort of) halfway normal. Torn Apart is just as dramatic, but while everything is sonically and visually incredible, there is an empty feeling when the cheers and applause never come. Avatar don’t seem to let it affect them though and absolutely burn through tracks like Blod and Let It Burn. A few songs in, the band exit the stage and Johannes appears silhouetted against a black and white carnival scene, floating in a dazed manner around the space carrying a bunch of balloons. It’s not long before he disappears though, and re-materialises alongside the band for Black Waltz, which is performed in a rehearsal-type room filled with doors leading in all different directions. Paint Me Red sounds perfect, and is followed by a chaotic skit where drummer John Alfredsson is chased in an almost slapstick way and out of the various doors by a crazed Johannes.
Avatar are on top form tonight and don’t seem phased by the change in environment; in fact they seem to be lapping up the knowledge that they are being watched by people all over the world simultaneously. During Puppet Show, Johannes performs the trombone solo himself, which is not only wonderful, but adds another welcome dynamic layer. The same goes for Tower; he performs the song alone on piano, and it’s just the right amounts of creepy and beautiful all at the same time. A siren and red flashing lights create striking silhouettes whilst the band prepare for Vultures Fly, which is brought to life by Avatar’s tight-as-ever uniformed hair-whipping. Following this, Murderer is a particular highlight as strobe lights flash through all the open doors surrounding the band in the rehearsal room, creating a trippy vibe to compliment a thematically dark song.
Ending with Bloody Angel and Smells Like A Freakshow, they band really do seem like they’ve had a great time; they seem a little tired now but this doesn’t affect the quality of the show’s close at all- it’s just more of a feeling that they are missing the human interaction that is usually so naturally involved with their art. “You watching this has given us the opportunity to lose our minds in a very special way”, comments Johannes as they bask in the glory of their third successful virtual show.
Of course, Avatar are presumably having a great time being able to do what they love again, as well as keeping their career alive, but they truly have created something special here for their fans. Not only are viewers able to see shows again in this difficult time, but being able to choose which event they want to see to enjoy which album is something that would be completely unfeasible in the real world without extensive touring and several nights in each location. Avatar have set a very high bar for all future virtual shows.
The last installment of Avatar Ages is on Saturday January 30th, and will be entitled ‘Age of Memories’. You can buy tickets here!