Review by Alan Steenson for MPM
So this evening I had a choice, the ‘big venue’ with Biffy Clyro at the SE Arena in Belfast or Fozzy at the Ulster Hall…. Having heard Biffy on record it was a huge ‘meh’ for me and decided to pop along to hear a new band (well to me), I crammed in a few tunes the week before and to my pleasant surprise I was hooked with Fozzy from the start, making the choice that much more satisfying.
I was informed that Fozzy’s front man Chris Jericho was a wrestler from the 90’s … and being of a certain vintage my knowledge of wrestling consisted of Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks so this information meant very little to me. I also subsequently found out it was the big man’s birthday so I was hoping for a really good crowd.
After the support acts lights went down and the 5 piece band, consisting of Chris Jericho on vocals,Rich on lead Guitar and backing vocals, Billy Rhythm Guitar and backing vocals, PJ on Bass and Grant on drums.
The crown was slightly disappointing in size but what they lacked in numbers they made up with the volume when the band entered the fray.
The set consisted of a decent lighting rig with two TV displays that looked somewhat lost on the large Ulster Hall stage but in hindsight it didn’t matter as the performance of this band made these largely redundant.
First up was ‘Sane’; which; from the off set the crowd cheering in a way that I haven’t heard at a gig in years … this band and front man is totally worshipped… Jericho strolled and commanded the stage like the huge rock stars of the 70’s and 80’s and dressed in a sparkly purple jacket and scarf he looked as retro as they come, the sound was excellent and vocally for me this was a killer introduction to my first live ‘Fozzy Experience’ After ‘Sane’ Jericho said his his ‘hello’s’ with a huge amount of affection and warmth for Belfast, something that sounds cliche to some but for me I really love artists that big up any city or town they play in…. And the crowd lapped up every second of that warmth.
One Crazed Anarchist’ was next with Jericho pumping HEY HEY HEY out to the crowd and afterwards saying about he loved Belfast so much he was here twice this year… and damn, I wish I had been in the Limelight for that one.
He then announced it was his birthday and the crowd shouted back birthday wishes, (more on that later) and screamed out ‘Do you wanna start a war?’ And instantly the band battered out the song with the dry ice shooting up either side of the drum kit and Grant showing off with some tasty drumming and stick throwing/ twirling … I’m a sucker for that.
Jericho made use of the much larger stage compared to the Limelight by running back and forth along the back steps singing out Do you wanna start a war? Nah mate, but we will all wave our hands in unison because thats what you are showing us to do… and we duly obliged.
The crowd still hadn’t enough of singing happy birthday and Jericho stood on the box at the centre of the stage shouting ‘Are you ready for a big party tonight ?’ The band struck the opening chords to ‘Nowhere to Run’ an absolute belter of a song on record and it didn’t disappoint live. At the end Jericho used a portable dry ice machine shooting it across the heads of the adoring fans who were shouting ‘Fozzy Fozzy Fozzy!’
‘Lights go out’ was belted out and then ‘Relax’ was up next, never a favourite song of mine by Frankie Goes to Hollywood when I was 13, but hey I’m 53 now so it sounds great, and with the heavier edge the song actually needed, the finish of Relax cumulated in Grant tossing his stick in the air as Jericho sang ‘Come’
While the crowd cheered ….enter stage left a roadie wheeling out a case with a black birthday cake with Fozzy written on it… Jericho then stopped and introduced to the crowd his whole crew and the band paying special to Rich Ward saying he was his ‘heterosexual life partner.’
He announced that it was never easy being away from home on his birthday but he said that he wanted to be with the band and crew and pointing to the crowd said ‘I wanna be with all of you!” Which the crown lapped up with him also saying ‘Belfast was always a F**ing great Fozzy town’
He wheeled the cake over the front and the band started singing ‘Happy Birthday’ and he soaked up the adoration with hugs from the band.
The crowd then chanted ‘eat it’ ‘eat it’ and of course no knife….so he resorted to using a plastic cup to rapturous applause, he held out the cup out with a whooooaaaaaa and as they wiggled their hands expecting touchdown to the mouth he teased them by pulling back for another Whoaaaaaaaa … eventually he had a bite and the crowd then mocked by chanting ‘you fat bastard’ can’t beat Belfast humour.
Back to the music ‘I still Burn’ was dedicated to all of us chasing the dream and was written whilst he was living his dream travelling all over the world… after this the lights went completely out with only the monitors graphics lighting up the room then suddenly Lights up and Fozzy were back, with Jericho now sporting a black waistcoat and the band struck up ‘Spider in My Mouth’ the vocals didn’t hit as clear for me but this song Grant on drums got a serious work out.
‘Martyr No More’ was next and immediately this transported me back to 80’s glam rock with obligatory guitarists gathering around the drum kit and dry ice for extra effect.
The monitors then projected lots of horror movie clips along to ‘Purifier’ with Freddie Kruger, Peter Cushing and Chucky providing backing vocals.
The crowd started singing Happy Birthday again and Jericho then asked if was anyone else shared the same birthday… a few hands went up (and most like I were thinking ‘aye right’) and Jericho pointed out to one lad who convinced him enough to bring him on the stage… but he called ‘Kevin’s’ bluff by asking him his star sign… to which he said ‘I don’t know’ oh dear fella you are busted!
The crowd suitably jeered him with laughter, but was all in great jest and Jericho gave him a birthday hug with some cake… and some rubbed on his face for good measure.
Back to the closing songs of the evening, ‘Enemy’ and ‘The Vulture’ with what is clearly a fans favourite ‘Judas’ an absolutely wonderful tune and to end the evening a cover version of ACDC’s Dirty Deeds with lots of Fozzy interaction from the Belfast crowd.
Jericho kept mentioning the ‘Fozzy Family’ through the night and now I know why, it takes a special kind of front man to engage a crowd this much, and Chris Jericho has it in spades … Fozzy Family has a new member in me and by the sound of the crowd I am not the only new convert to this live experience.
Catch them the next time they are in a town near you.
Photography by MPM