Concert review: Avatar w/ Orbit Culture and the Native Howl | 09.23.23, Delmar Hall (with photo gallery)

The many faces of Johannes Eckerström of Avatar. Photos by Jen Ruff.

St. Louis is now Avatar Country…

The two neighboring events on the same evening at the Pageant and Delmar Hall looked very much like they should’ve swapped. Even two hours prior to doors opening, the line for Avatar’s headlining set at Delmar Hall snaked well down the block, even though it was nowhere near single file. Inside, it was absolutely packed, seemingly beyond capacity.

First up was the Native Howl from Detroit with their uniquely branded “Thrash Grass”—a blend of thrash metal and bluegrass. It shouldn’t work but it did and does in such a beautiful way. Placing high on Billboard charts for New Artists upon their debut and continuing to place themselves high atop Bluegrass charts since, there was a buzz in the crowd to embrace this truly unique combination. The highlight for me and the crowd at large was “Harvester of Constant Sorrow,” which was a mashup interpretation of Metallica’s “Harvester of Sorrow” with the bluegrass classic “Man of Constant Sorrow” complete with a banjo player. I was and remain in awe of their set. It perfectly shaped the evening.

Following them were the headliners’ fellow countrymen in Orbit Culture. They brought from across the world that melodic death metal with unapologetic shredding. The influence of Metallica, Gojira, and Behemoth were in the underbelly of every song, much to the delight of attendees. Not only did they rock our faces off but they also bonded with the locals with a Blues jersey amongst their clothing.

There is no show quite like an Avatar show. It’s like an opera meets a circus and collides with a heavy metal tour bus. They’re at times statuesque and other times in full-on rock and roll chaos, complete with headbanging in a circular motion. It is always fine art. Mid-set “Colossus” will always give me pause. The song is performed without reference to anything I’ve seen live. The drums are brought to the front of the stage and drummer John Alfredsson joins the bassist, guitarists and vocalist, only on this song he performs the whole song whilst standing. It’s epic. It leads to a softer part of the show where vocalist Johannes Eckerström plays unaccompanied piano on “Tower,” chasing vocal ranges high and low. Later, he will touch on why he still does what he does. He enjoys being a source of pride for being different, for being a “freak” to the common observer, reminding us all to enjoy what makes us unique and noting the importance to celebrate that.

Supporting their ninth studio release Dance Devil Dance (their first since the pandemic), they should be showing signs of aging or slowing, but none could be found. Maybe it’s something in the Swedish water? Maybe it’s their longtime commitment to veganism? Whatever the formula, thousands of us will continue to sell out their shows whenever they come to town or anywhere near and they’ll no doubt continue giving their all each and every time. | Diane Ruff

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *