LIKE A STORM – LIVE @ ALTITUDE BAR, HAMILTON 2020
She was a rowdy night in the Tron this Friday – apparently, some sports team did something impressive that night so everyone was in good spirits and the old town was pumping. The loudest noise by far was coming from Like A Storm @ Altitude Bar, things were defiantly looking up.
WORDS AND PHOTOS BY JACKO ANDREWS
The Altitude Bar’s odd mix of bogan-chic always makes it feel like a place to dress up and wear your cleanest Metallica black t-shirt and no.1 ripped jeans, tonight was no exception as I arrive slightly late and completely overdressed in non-black, Kiwi support act Black Smoke Trigger were well into their set already.
The high-energy outfit was doing their very best to motivate the rather small crowd, they were hamstrung by a lacklustre PA system with possibly the worst sound I’ve heard in some time. Vocalist Josh Rasmussen was either putting on a damn brave face or was unaware all the audience could hear pretty much was drums.
Getting closer to the stage offset most of the shit PA system issues as the band’s amps provided a decent amount of infill to the enthusiastic headbanging front-row devotees. But even with this far-from-stellar sound, this band was putting out a huge sound.
Lead guitarist Charlie Wallace had a killer tone that carried the band’s infectious 80s glam-rock element well. A solid backline led by Josh Coyle-Te Maro on drums with a heavily distorted bass from Dan Fulton probably needed a much bigger PA system to have the intended impact but balanced perfectly with the higher register wall of guitar. Dan’s tasty bass solo early on in the night granted respect from the mostly wallflower audience at the time, and was probably the turning point for the patrons to finally get up close and start enjoying this band.
The band’s latest single, ‘Undertow’, was the clear highlight, with the energy levels noticeably increasing from the crowd who clearly know a good rock track when they hear it.
Clean and well-honed, the lads delivered a professional, high-energy set. Rasmussen certainly has the vocal chops and talent to rark up the crowd by the end of their bracket, though it was a hard-fought victory. While certainly deserving of a larger stage, the guys did well to inject a pulse into the somewhat reserved crowd.
Having seen Storm some 5 years ago I was interested to discover how the huge stage show would translate to the smaller intimate setting that is Altitude Bar.
The three brothers Chris, Kent and Matt Brooks along with drummer Zach Woods first made waves and too much noise for the neighbours on Auckland’s North Shore before moving Stateside and largely focusing on the market there. Arguably better known now overseas, it’s great to see the guys keen to keep in touch and introduce a few Kiwis to their sound, even though the audiences aren’t anywhere near what they are used to.
Though most of the sound issues had been ironed out by the time they kicked off, there was still an air of cheesiness about the band that doesn’t work so well without all the large-scale pomp and production they usually tour with. Rather like Marylin Manson insisting on all the makeup and black suspenders for an acoustic jam at the local cafe, it was all a little overcooked.
Sonically, this band is right on point. Absolute precision musicality and a well-tuned performance that was delivered with no hint of rinse and repeats you might expect from a consistently touring group like this. With great stage antics and engaging banter with the crowd, the band seemed truly happy to be playing in the city, even though they are well used to considerably larger headcounts.
The shared role of lead vocals between the brothers was cleverly done, with no hint of foot-stepping or upstaging at all. Chris’ dark vocal rock tones contrast well with Matt’s more melodic, almost theatrical style.
Bassist and keyboardist Kent Brooks possibly had one or two more cans of Red Bull than the rest and did a great job at rallying the energy levels up on stage. Zach came across as more laid back and grounded, a very good trait for a drummer, but with zero shortage of punch and power, with some mighty storm drum tom work where appropriate.
The entire performance felt too elaborate for my tastes in such a grassroots venue. While not pretentious, you could see the crowd were slightly confused by the dub-looped digeridoo solos and weird sample voice-overs, Hamiltonians usually just want to raise their horns and nod their heads to some decent rock. The lighter-waving piano ballads might work in a capacity stadium arena, here I just wanted them to hurry up with the fluffing around and get back to the guitar solos.
There are some great songs on the setlist, Bitterness, in particular, stood out for me as a highlight, though the crowd reacted best to the big tunes Love The Way You Hate Me and Become The Enemy.
A neat improvement moment saw Devilskin’s ‘Nail’ and Black Smoke Trigger vocalist Josh Rasmussen join the band to get their AC/DC on with a cover of TNT, and while defiantly not the definitive rendition of the track you’ll ever hear, it was a fun moment and awesome to see two of New Zealand’s premier rock exports on the same stage.
Overall, Like A Storm is a class act that might have slightly over delivered on the theatrics for the venue. To be fair, the music is perhaps too ambiguous for a low-brow rock headbanger like me, but those who like a little cinematic flair mixed in for flavour will appreciate the extra mile this band goes to deliver an experience.