Review by Gary Spiller for MPM
On their largest UK tour to date the Fozzy bandwagon rolls right on into Bristol. Seven dates in, with three nights remaining, the Stateside rockers are in town to kick some serious derriere.
On the back of the release of ‘Boombox’, their eighth studio album and first for Dutch label Mascot Records, Fozzy have elected to take a step up regarding the size of venues played. Judging from the buzz created on social media and positivity within reviews it’s a decision that has seemingly paid rich dividends. This evening we get to check it out first-hand.
Originally a cinema the O2 Academy is the sole surviving component of a once extensive entertainment hub known as The New Bristol Centre. Converted into a nightclub upon closure in 1996 the remainder of the site has been redeveloped as student accommodation.
Unseasonably warm a vibrancy abounds. Opposite The Hatchet, Bristol’s oldest pub, is buzzing. The beer garden, once host to bear-baiting and bare-knuckle fighting, is a noisy but far more sedate affair this evening.
Inside the O2 there’s a raucous, good-natured crowd building up. No doubt some are here via the wrestling link of Fozzy’s frontman-mountain Chris Jericho and via the draw of a quality bill of three quite different rock outfits. This evening is the interesting intersection on a pretty unique Venn diagram.
There’s a febrile atmosphere coursing through the veins by the time the opening act Welsh rockers Scarlet Rebels take to the O2 stage. Dry ice swirls, as half a dozen blue spots pierce the gloom whilst the Llanelli quadrumvirate ready themselves in the Cimmerian shadows
Affable frontman, and rhythm guitarist, Wayne Doyle greets the ensemble rallying “How ya doing? It’s Saturday night and we’re expecting you to be on it. Let’s go!” Six-stringer extravagant Chris Jones strikes the opening notes of the rock n’ roller ‘I’m Alive’ and, simultaneously, the lighting rig bursts spectacularly into full life. Full-throttle action from the very off dunking the glam of LA into the southern deltas. A ferocious beat is dispatched by powerhouse drummer Gary Doyle; matched beat for beat by his cohort in matters of the low-end Wayne ‘Pricey’ Esmonde.
It’s just under five years since this line-up, under the name of V0id, came together; with so much warranted progression since. Wayne and Chris, together raising their right hands, roll right into a frenetically paced ‘Take You Home.’ At the appropriate moment so the hands of Rebel fans, duly noted by Wayne, amongst the Bristol crowd are raised; it’s not long before those uninitiated just moments before are onside and the numbers grow.
Band mascot Lamb Chop, atop the backline is in prime position to note an expanding of ranks as the set progresses. There’s been a seemingly steady stream of PMs spinning through the revolving door of No. 10 since ‘These Days’ was released.
By the time ‘Save Me’ applies the accelerator even harder the O2 crowd are nigh on completely alongside. The three rules of Rebel Camp are conveyed by Wayne and judging by the sheer number of hands and drinks raised there isn’t a dissenting soul in the venue. Now comfortably full the Academy responds rambunctiously as The Rebels dispatch AC/DC’s ‘It’s A Long Way To The Top’ into the mix.
Anthemic Welsh rock at its very best ‘Let Me In’ is arena-ready without a doubt. The tempo is dropped slightly with the emotive set-ending ‘Heal’ scorching out of the PA. Ascending upwards as a bird takes to flight, so a hugely successful 30 minutes is over in barely the blink of an eye.
2022 has been one heck of a year with notable highlights being ‘See Through Blue’ crashing into the top 10 of the UK Album Charts along with a truly memorable Steelhouse performance. “We’re The Rebels on our way.”
Like the tide so the crowd ebbs and flows between bands but as the Academy re-fills, as Escape The Fate’s stage time approaches, so the atmosphere is cranked up. Credit to whoever was responsible for the selection of tracks, they nailed it in the most bizarre manner possible. To see a sizeable crowd of metalheads singing and dancing to Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ and the Spice Girls’ ‘Wannabe’ will go down as one of the oddest, yet pleasing, things witnessed this year.
Circles of light, from four pairs of crossed lights, illuminate the stage from upon high. ‘Choose Your Fate’ – the opening track from ETF’s 2010 self-titled album (the band’s highest charting album to date at 25 on the Billboard 200) – is the harbinger of choice for the Nevada hard rock, metalcore crossover outfit. The fervour grows tangibly before the opening salvo of ‘Gorgeous Nightmare’ and ‘Issues’ are dispatched with an unbridled industrial ferocity. Both singles from the aforementioned 2010 long-player see the Academy crowd bounce along as one; enlivened by the former’s Emo undercurrent and the latter’s downright filthy riffage.
Seven albums and a similar number of line-ups, since their 2004 formation, Escape The Fate find themselves with a stabilised line-up with sole surviving original member Robert Ortiz (drums) and long-term vocalist Craig Mabbitt being joined by the guitar pairing of Kevin ‘Thrasher’ Gruft and Thomas ‘TJ’ Bell.
With crashing cymbals Ortiz brings in the strongarm delivery of ‘The Flood.’ Evidently stoked by the crowd’s response the band, collectively, raise their horns in a salute between brethren. Following three singles ETF bring in the first album track of their evening. Charging off their most recent release ‘Chemical Warfare’ emit high voltage with gothic thrasher ‘Lightning Strike.’
Pumped up by the loud cheers dynamic, and charismatic, vocalist Mabbitt exudes “You guys are fucking amazing tonight!” Bulldozing into the rasping riffage of the stomping ‘10 Miles Wide.’ The full-on onslaught of ‘Ungrateful’ alternates between dark shades and those even darker. At times it’s shades of Bullet For My Valentine but it’s transparent that this band are far from a one-trick pony. The skate punk-fringed ‘Something’ slows things down a touch as the likes of Blink-182 and Sum 41 are invited to the frenetic shindig. Seismic forces are engaged.
Introduced as the crazy concept of naming a song after a girl the Emo / punk conglomerate of ‘Ashley’ is well received leaving Mabbitt to conclude “We gotta come back here more often!” The Academy roars back in agreement.
An ocean of phone cameras is held aloft to capture the punk thrash delights of ‘Broken Heart’, guitars whirl in a blur. The hardcore ‘This War Is Ours (The Guillotine II)’ is the fifth track to be unleashed from 2008 top 40 Billboard 200 album ‘This War Is Ours.’ A sure-fire entry point into ETF for this previously unenlightened scribe.
A sizeable mosh pit opens, prompted by Bell, and the maelstrom erupts. Fists pump upwards and the frenzy continues unabated into set closer ‘One for the Money’ that pogoes along with aplomb. Bell heads out on top of the crowd raising his six-string high to pay his respects to the enthusiastic Academy crowd. It’s been that sort of a night for ETF, a controlled riotous 45 minutes. Ortiz plays to the crowd as he and his band, most aptly, exit to Queen’s triumphant ‘We Are The Champions.’
It’s a track that Fozzy frontman Chris Jericho has, no doubt, heard on many occasions throughout his illustrious wrestling career. A six-time World champion with a further nine Intercontinental titles to his name in his WWF/WWE tenure Jericho remains, judging on this evening’s performance, in tip-top condition. If there is any question as to whether Fozzy is some wrestling dude jumping upon the rock n’ roll gravy-train then these are expeditiously dispelled. My conclusion, at the end of an enthralling 14 tracks, is that Jericho is a pure rock n’ roll showman who can wrestle a wee bit!
A gleaming white drumkit bearing the Fozzy logo stands proud bathed in patriotic red, blue and white lighting. The arena is filling steadily as stage time draws ever closer. It’s a cacophonous yet good-natured throng who enjoy a good sing-along to the Dr. Hook-inspired ‘Living Next Door To Alice’; ever so politely enquiring, Bristol fashion, as to whom Alice is.
Heavily tattooed drummer Grant Brooks, bare-chested, leads the way stageward with the rest of the band filing behind. Jericho roars “Are you ready Bristol?” A frenzied intensity proliferates with ‘Sane’ sending out the first sharpened hooks. Punked up and chockful of metallic twists it’s one of a trio of singles chiselled from the solid rock that is Fozzy’s latest recorded beneficence ‘Boombox.’ All three having crashed into the top 10 of US Mainstream Rock charts.
Fists, clenched tight, punch along with Jericho as he surveys his domain. The running man paces as the sun pierces the eruptive cloud. Rocks descend from ochrous skies as the marauding ‘One Crazed Anarchist’ is lapped up by the horde.
A lusty, repeated chant of “Fozzy, Fozzy” extravasates from the Academy; I’ve heard much less noise in much larger crowds. Fozzy savour the unbridled adoration. There’s ‘Nowhere To Run’ with Jericho welcoming all “It’s Saturday night, are you ready for a rock n’ roll party?” The Mad Max imagery upon the stage screens is the perfect accompaniment for this forceful ‘Boombox’ single.
Spraying the crowd with CO2 Jericho investigates “Do You Wanna Start A War?” Duelling revolvers ready themselves for this pugilistic heavyweight. Jericho and his rocking kin are in complete control. A rebel-rousing kaleidoscope ‘Lights Go Out’ precedes an unlikely cover. Fozzy says “Relax!” Jericho belts out “Hit me with those laserbeams!” Raising horns exuberant axeman Rich ‘The Duke’ Ward, replete in leopard patterned jacket, takes his turn to acknowledge the crowd during this barnstorming version of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s 80s smash. The Academy is going nuts, bouncing like the veritable feline upon a red-hot tin roof.
The temperature soars and threatens the scale; viscous molten lava flows from the fissures. “You guys a fucking crazy!” enthuses Jericho, adding “We like crazy, and we like Bristol!” The wrestling showmanship translates well and has the venue in a tight headlock for ‘I Still Burn.’ The demonic speedster ‘Spider In My Mouth’ is an indubitable hive of industry with Jericho declaring “The future is all we have.”
‘Martyr No More’ weaves Motley Crue and W.A.S.P. together in a stalking predatory broth with Billy Grey stepping into the spotlight for a particularly searing solo. The faux horror of ‘Purifer’ is bolstered by iconic images of Cushing, Kruger and Chucky; a metalliferous exorcism, the sin-eater consumes.
With anarchic intent the stampeding herd thunders, fire rains down from the heavens. ‘The Vulture Club’ reviews the scene; a mosh pit is whipped up. Leathery demons swarm with renewed lunar kinetic; guitars howl with Ward and Grey facing-off in ‘Enemy.’ Stepping back the latter collides with a mic stand. Chuckling he high-fives Jericho before The Duke’s lifting vocals satiate the hungry crowd. In trademark style Jericho roars his appreciation as the main set comes to a finale.
There is, of course, time for an encore and Bristol is treated to 2017 gold-certified single ‘Judas’ – Fozzy’s biggest hit to date, rising to 5 on the US Mainstream Rock chart – and a sterling rendition of AC/DC classic ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’ that lifts the roof right off the beams. Job done, mission accomplished, the Fozzy freight-train heads north to Glasgow with a glorious send-off.
Photography by Kelly Spiller for MPM