Home Gigs Gig Review : GIG Review: Avatar w/Veil of Maya & Orbit Culture at The House of Blues in Chicago, IL

Gig Review : GIG Review: Avatar w/Veil of Maya & Orbit Culture at The House of Blues in Chicago, IL

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Review & Photography by Greg Hamil for MPM

You never know what to expect with Chicago traffic on a Monday night. Especially if you have to drive downtown, which is where I am heading tonight.

Tonight I am accompanied by my son who is a huge Avatar fan. To be sure we don’t get stuck in traffic, we are heading in early to grab a pizza at Piece Pizza, made famous by Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielson.

As we finish dinner, it is only a few miles to the House of Blues. With a capacity of approximately 2,000, it is a very intimate setting for tonight’s show. The headliner tonight is Avatar with support from Veil of Maya and Orbit Culture.

I understand that the show is very close to a sell out and is expected to be so by the time the show starts. With about 45 minutes to show time, it feels like the majority of the crowd has already arrived and there is already a “buzz” in the air in anticipation of the show!

First up tonight is Orbit Culture. Formed in 2013, they are a melodic death metal band from Sweden. On vocals & guitar is Niklas Karlsson, Richard Hansson on guitar, Fredrik Lennartsson on bass, and Christopher Wallerstedt on drums.

They are the perfect opener for the night with an “in your face” vibe that has the mosh pits going before they are even into the second song. We get a mix of older songs with a couple of new ones from their forthcoming album “Dissent”.

Orbit Culture Set List: Open Eye – Strangler – North Star of Nija – The Shadowing – Alienated – Vutlures of North – Saw

Tonight is a homecoming for Veil of Maya. The band was formed in Chicago in 2004 by former members of the band Insurrection. They are listed as a metalcore band, that to me sounds like a Gojira meets Disturbed meets Sleeping With Sirens.

The current lineup consists of Marc Okubo on guitar, Sam Applebaum on drums, Danny Houser on bass, and Lukas Magyar on vocals.

By the time Veil of Maya hits the stage, it appears the entire crowd has arrived. I don’t see how they can pack anymore in! As the theater goes black, the stage lights slowly begin to glow red. The bass and drums begin pounding out the open beats of “Viscera”. Okubo and Hauser take up spots on opposite sides of the stage as Magyar floats back and forth growling out the opening verse, but with a huge smile on his face they get a huge pop from crowd. Everyone has their fists in the air pounding them to hardcore beat.

As the set progressed, we are treated to songs like “Doublespeak”, “Leeloo”, “Godhead”, and “Outsider”. Definitely a rowdy set with a lot of mosh pits, crowd surfing, (I probably have a shoe print on the back of my head to confirm that….haha), and even a “wall of death”.

Having never seen Veil of Maya before tonight, I can’t be 100% sure, but it seemed like the band was giving just a little extra for the home town crowd, which was obviously reciprocated by everyone in attendance.

Veil of Maya Set List: Viscera – Whistleblower – Doublespeak – Leeloo – Overthrow – Lisbeth – Red Fur – Godhead – Synthwave Vegan – Outsider – Outrun – Mikasa

Despite the rather young age of the band members, Avatar has been around for 22 years. Formed in 2001, the band currently consists of founding members Jonas Jarlsby on guitar and John Alfredsson on drums. They are joined now by Johannes Eckerstrom on vocals, Henrik Sandelin on bass, and Tim Ohrstrom on guitars.

I was introduced to Avatar in 2016 and was hooked from the very first song. Not only is their musical prowess amazing, but they are some of the best showmen in the business. From the first song of a set, you don’t want to leave for any reason for fear of missing something amazing. Whether it is the antics of Eckerstrom or Alfredsson, to the amazing musicianship of the band in general.

The lights go out in the theater as the stage begins to glow with yellow and red light. Smoke rises around the drum kit as Alfredsson appears and in robotic movements starts pounding on the drums receiving a huge pop from the crowd! The rest of the bands come through cages on the stage onto risers from either side of the drum kit.

After standing completely still for a brief moment, the band explodes into the title track from their most recent album “Dance Devil Dance”. Jarlsby, , Ohrstrom, and Sandelin are lined up with hair spinning while Eckerstrom marches to the microphone and takes command of the crowd. He marches in place, scanning the crowd and makes crazy faces. Using his cane like a conductor directing both the band and the crowd.

As the awestruck moment diminishes, the band jumps immediately into “The Eagle Has Landed” and all hell breaks loose! This song is a fan favorite! One of many! The crowd surfing begins and there are so many coming over the barricade that security can hardly keep up.

The next two songs are both from the Dance Devil Dance album. “Valley of Disease” & “Chimp Mosh Pit”. With a name like that, it isn’t hard to guess that this got multiple mosh pits going, which seemed to please Eckerstrom.

As we progress into the set, Jarlsby comes to the front of the stage and plays the opening riff for “Bloody Angel”. The crowd absolutely loses it mind as he is joined by Ohrstrom. Eckerstrom marches to the middle of the stage commanding everyone to “SING!” as he begins a back and forth with the crowd.

As the night progresses, Alfredsson begins a beat while waving one stick in the air getting the crowd to chant “Hey, hey, hey”. A spotlight hits on a riser in the back of the theater to show Eckerstrom on a riser back at the sound board. As the band begins to play the “Pink Panther” theme, he makes a balloon animal and tosses that out to the crowd. Then, of all things he picks up a trombone and plays perfectly. It would make any high school music teacher proud! As he finishes, security escorts him back to the stage as the band has already begun playing “Puppet Show” from the Hail The Apocalypse album.

As we work towards the end of the set, a piano appears on stage and Eckerstrom begins to play like he is in a piano bar. The whole time talking about how much they appreciate the fans and how if not for them, the band wouldn’t be able to do what they do. After his chat with the crowd, he sings “Tower”, also from the Hail the Apocalypse album. The crowd lights up their phones and waves them back and forth in appreciation.

During the encore, Eckerstrom introduces the band to a large roar from the crowd. As he begins another back-and-forth with the crowd, he sees someone fall. He stops the back and forth and makes sure that someone is checking on the fallen patron and refuses to restart until we get a “thumbs up” that the person is ok. Once all is well, get the opening riff to “Smells Like a Freakshow”. All band members are headbanging and twirling their hair to the beat. The crowd has absolutely lost its mind in response.

The final song of the night is “Hail the Apocalypse”. Band spinning their hair and Eckerstrom marching back and forth; the crowd is no longer separated into several small mosh pits. It has become one massive mosh pit, and the band feeds off of that spending any bit of energy they have left before bidding goodnight to the appreciative crowd.

Having covered Avatar multiple times before, I can honestly the only disappointing point of the night was that it had to end. If you haven’t had the chance to catch them live, I strongly suggest you attend if at all possible. The U.S. tour will continue after a brief break where Avatar will be performing a many festival shows across the country!

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