Concert Review: Avatar’s ‘Chimp Mosh Pit Tour’ @ Empire Live, 11/27/2023

Gothenburg, Sweden natives Avatar brought their “Chimp Mosh Pit Tour” to Empire Live in downtown Albany on Sunday night. Avatar is touring in support of their most recent release, 2023’s Dance Devil Dance. This was the band’s second appearance at Empire. They previously opened their “Hunter Gatherer Tour” at the venue in 2021. That show was the band’s first post-Covid concert.

Awash in red light the band walked onto the stage one by one and lined up in formation. A man wearing an executioner’s mask brought their instruments out and presented them to the drummer, John Alfredsson who then handed them to each individual band member. It was a dramatic start to a stellar set. Singer Johannes Eckerström made a grand entrance to the stage to rapturous applause from the Albany faithful. There were dozens of fans with their faces painted to match Eckerström. It is hard to describe an Avatar show.  Eckerström is equal parts vaudeville showman and circus ringleader. He isn’t just a singer, he is a frontman. He is an entertainer. His stage persona seems to draw inspiration from artists like Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson.

The band opened the show by ripping into the title track to Dance Devil Dance and they didn’t slow down. “The Eagle Has Landed” from 2016’s Feathers & Flesh followed. Guitarists Jonas “Kungen” Jarlsby and Tim Öhrström traded off precise, intricate and brutal riffs. Bassist Henrik Sandelin and drummer Alfredsson brought a thunderous rhythm section. During “Chimp Mosh Pit” he encouraged the crowd to form pits, calling the fans “animals.” He wasn’t wrong.

They played a nineteen song setlist that drew tracks from six of their nine studio albums. During the intro to “Puppet Show,” Eckerström disappeared from the stage only to emerge in the balcony of the venue. He proceeded to make a balloon animal and perform a trombone solo, not something you see every day at a metal show.  Halfway through the set Öhrström and Jarlsby had a guitar battle, it was hard to pick a winner. I would say the fans walked away with the “W” on that one.  The lighting and stage production were top notch for a tour of this size. The haze accentuated the lighting and did not drown out the performers. The lighting really added to the drama and feel of the show.

Later in the set, the executioner reappeared with a box in front of the drum riser. As the box opened, helium balloons popped out one by one before a grinning Eckerström popped his head out of the box. The balloons and the facepaint brought Stephen King’s “It” to mind. They closed out the main set with “A Statue of a King” from 2018’s Avatar Country.

The near capacity crowd wanted more and Avatar did not disappoint. They returned to the stage and offered a three song encore including new track “The Dirt I’m Buried In” and “Smells Like a Freakshow” from 2012’s Black Waltz. Avatar closed the night with the title track to 2014’s Hail the Apocalypse.

Long Island’s Moon Tooth opened the show. The quartet offered up a 45 minute set. Guitarist Nick Lee’s playing was fluid and incendiary. I hadn’t heard of this band prior to the show but I was thoroughly impressed. Singer John Carbone has a very melodic, dynamic vocal range, from guttural growls to soaring highs. The band is rounded out by the rhythm section of bassist Vincent Romanelli and drummer Ray Marte.  Marte was particularly good during the song “Grimothy.” The track is a foot stomping, fist pumping anthem. Marte’s double bass drum playing on this song really drives the track. This is definitely a band that is one to watch.

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