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Monday, 1 February 2021

A View From The Screen: Avatar - Ages - An Impossible Concert Experience (Live Stream By Simon Black)

Avatar: Ages - An Impossible Concert Experience, Age Of Madness, January 23 2021

If you weren’t aware of this, the band have been streaming out a series of weekly shows featuring one or more albums from the catalogue and this is week three of four. “When you can’t come to us, we come to you” are the words blazoned over the screen as this week’s performance kicks off with its cheesy horror movie styled nightmarish opening sequence, as Avatar for the this week take us further back into their discography with a set comprised of material from the Black Waltz and Hail The Apocalypse albums. This is, after all, the Age of Madness and we are only three week’s into the year…

Opening with Hail The Apocalypse itself, the theatricality is laid on thick and fast and more so than last week’s stream, which definitely feels more like a gig and less like a TV studio. And boy does this track (always a live favourite) fly. The camera vision-mixing is punchier, there are more angles and rapid cuts and generally bags more energy than last week’s Illusions, although for me they have set themselves a harder mountain to claim given that previous weeks’ have comprised what have been their later, most successful and arguably better albums. Maybe this nags at them too, as the band really throw their all at their performance this week. Add to this you have Johannes Eckerström owning the stage like the born frontman that he is.

That more ‘genuine’ live show feel is accentuated by the fact that this week they clearly aren’t stopping to move the props around every two or three songs, so this one feels much more like a real live event, so much so that by the fourth song Eckerstrom is clearly dripping in sweat and they keep this up for the first half hour, before returning to the more clearly edited format. Again the more authentic staging tonight is definitely helped by a more liberal usage of an extensive set of LED screens behind the band and the consequence is much more expansive feel to the show in marked contrast to the claustrophobic Illusions set from the week before.

Once again the sound quality is impressive and CD quality. Sometimes the picture quality struggles this week as even at the highest resolution setting the frenetic light show and prolific usage of the strobe means that even the fastest broadband may struggle to keep up a refresh rate and we get the odd moment when things turn a bit Minecraft-like (although to be honest I share a house with my teenage kids and Saturday night is the night that the consoles hammer the broadband).

Despite the act that these aren’t the strongest albums in their discography, overall this doesn’t make the slightest difference to the quality of the show. Personally I have a stronger preference for their more varied style of later albums than this more openly Metalcore sound, but the tone and pace change frequently enough to keep the attention up. Unlike last week’s show (where both concept albums were played almost in their entirety as a two act set complete with intermission), this week is we get sixteen of the possible twenty-two tracks and in no particular order. But with a run time just short of ninety minutes it still feels like you are getting your money’s worth, as the choice and pace of the songs works far better than playing them both back to back would have done.

The show has it’s bizarre moments too, notably the circus-styled slapstick madness of Paint Me Red, which sees the band chasing each other through the numerous set doors like an early Hollywood short. Johannes playing the trombone live on this track was definitely a surprise for me, as although he has proven his skill on the lovely grand piano it would appear that he’s much more of a multi-instrumentalist than I had realised. Shame on me. On the subject of that piano, an absolute high point of the show comes as the front man takes the tempo with an absolutely soulful rendition of Tower on the solo on the piano, giving it all the cleaner side of his vocal range can give and proving once again how totally captivating his performances can be.

“Have Your neighbours heard of Avatar yet?” Eckerström challenges as the show closes? Well if they hadn’t before, they do now. Three down, one to go and a once again a banging 9/10 from me it is once more.

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