Review By Megan Milner
The enigmatic carnival of chaos known as Avatar has finally graced Australian shores, for the very first time. With a string of three exhilarating performances down the east coast, Melbourne had the privilege of being the inaugural stop on this wild journey. However, tonight, it's Sydney's turn to step into the mesmerizing circus. My introduction to Avatar was back in 2016 when I embarked on a heavy metal cruise called Shiprocked, a five-day odyssey from Miami to Mexico. It was within those tempestuous waves of music that I first encountered and fell head over heels for Avatar. Since then, I've been fortunate enough to witness their captivating stage presence on four separate occasions, spanning across international stages, including this year's Download Festival UK. The culmination of this journey finds me here tonight, as I stand on the brink of experiencing the band's full headline set on home soil—a dream I've wished since that initial encounter seven years ago. Thanks to the incredible team at Phoenix, my long-awaited wish has been granted.
The night kicked off with anticipation and excitement, as fans eagerly awaited the spectacle that was about to unfold. After a late change in the lineup due to an unfortunate injury, Pyrefly took the stage, setting the tone for the night with their energetic and powerful performance. In the brief span of their 30-minute time slot, this group managed to forge a passionate fanbase among those who might not have previously encountered their music. Lead vocalist and charismatic frontman KJ even fearlessly ventured into the midst of the audience midway through their set, seamlessly becoming one with the crowd. Despite the absence of Our Last Enemy, the crowd's spirits remained high, ready to embrace the main act.
Avatar's reputation preceded them as a band that's crisscrossed the globe, appearing on the largest international music festival stages, leaving a trail of mesmerized fans in their wake. As the lights dimmed, a deafening roar erupted from the crowd, signalling the beginning of an unforgettable night. The two guitarists Jonas "Kungen" Jarlsby, Tim Öhrström and bass player Henrik Sandelin strode onto the stage, commanding attention standing completely still with their hands behind their backs facing the crowd, soon joined by drummer John Alfredsson who distributed their instruments via a masked roadie.
The concert took off with explosive energy as Avatar launched into Dance Devil Dance and The Eagle Has Landed. A standout of the set for me personally was Bloody Angel from their 2104 masterpiece Hail The Apocalypse. During each song, the four members in front of the drum rise were windmilling with their luscious locks, my neck already in agony after a few songs. I really need to find out the Avatar trick, to doing this night after night! Johannes, the mesmerizing vocalist and ringmaster extraordinaire initiated the evening by establishing an unusual but alluring connection with the audience—consent. It was an unexpectedly enthralling way to kick off the night, a precursor to the eccentric yet electrifying journey that awaited us.
Johannes left the stage during Puppet Show, only to reappear on the balcony to the left of the mosh pit, entertaining the crowd with balloon animals and a larger-than-life gold trombone performance. The band's showmanship was nothing short of extraordinary, seamlessly blending music and theatrics. Even with the humorous interludes, Avatar's musical prowess remained undeniable. The guitarists, Tim and Kungen, engaged in a riveting riff battle that left the audience in awe. Their performance showcased their talents as much as their camaraderie.
Most metal drummers are hidden with cymbals and dark lighting from beyond. Although this is not the case for Alfredsson as from the very beginning of the night, when he handed out the instruments, he was as much a part of the carnival of madness as those up front. He towers above his kit, eyes wide and staring down the members of the crowd. His still body contrasted magnificently with the frenetic movement of his arms as they navigated the drum kit.
Colossus turned the tables, with the band freezing in place while the crowd watched in anticipation. The interplay between the performers and the audience created a dynamic and immersive experience, making everyone an integral part of the show. Moments of respite arrived as Johannes took to the piano for Tower, connecting with the audience on a more intimate level and offering a temporary reprieve from the electrifying chaos. He called us family and thanked each one of us from his soul, and we all felt the sincerity.
Avatar's latest single, The Dirt in Buried In, already a fan favourite, was met with thunderous cheers. It was later announced Avatar have gained their very first Billboard number 1 with the song in America, congratulations! The setlist skillfully balanced heavy, melodic tunes, showcasing the band's versatility and dynamic range.
The concert culminated in a breathtaking crescendo with Hail the Apocalypse and Smells Like a Freak Show. These final two songs encapsulated the essence of Avatar's music—powerful, heavy, melodic, and anthemic. The synergy between the band and the audience reached its zenith as everyone sang along, forming a harmonious union of sound and emotion.
As the final notes reverberated through the venue, a palpable sense of fulfillment hung in the air. Avatar had delivered a flawless performance, leaving the audience happy yet yearning for more. The setlist was meticulously curated, a whopping 17 songs, the interaction with the crowd was unparalleled, and the band's musical prowess and theatrics were on full display.
Leaving the concert venue, I couldn't help but feel that something special had transpired. Avatar had not only brought their music to Sydney but had also forged a profound connection with the Australian audience. The hope for a lasting and beautiful relationship between Avatar and Australia seemed not only plausible but inevitable. Avatar's enchanting performance defied genre stereotypes, inviting everyone to join their captivating circus. It was more than a concert; it was an unforgettable experience that left a lasting imprint, beckoning us to return to the madness, again and again.