Openers Liberty Lies’ short & punchy set saw all five members honoured to be gracing the Rock City stage. Front man Shaun seems to have learned a few tricks from his tour mates over the last week or two, prowling the stage with venom. They’ve obviously been impressing tour mates, with Halestorm drummer Arejay joining them on guest vocals for set closer ‘The Wire’. An excellent performance and if they keep their momentum, we’ll see them again very soon.

It’s been just over a year since main support Halestorm last graced a Nottingham stage, following the Taste of Chaos tour in December 2010. The venue then was the Capital FM Arena but they seem equally comfortable on Rock City’s tight stage. The lucky people here saw a band at the top of their game with stunning vocal performances from front woman Lzzy Hale reminiscent of Joan Jett. Running through material from debut album ‘Halestorm’ and their upcoming second release, it’s only when the band break into their truly brilliant cover of Skid Row’s ‘Slave to the Grind’ that the crowd finally realise what has hit it. Brilliant stuff, a hard act to follow…

But when the house lights dim for the final time this evening, it’s clear just from the buzz within Rock City who the majority are here to see and with the opening notes of ‘Sound of Madness’ ringing out, no one’s in any doubt why they’re headlining. A punchy 80 minute set followed, taking in all the highlights of their first three albums and considering it was two years ago they last took to Rock City, the Americans seemed genuinely humbled by the response.

Upcoming album ‘Amaryllis’ has most people scratching their heads at simply the spelling, but new songs ‘Enemies’, ‘Adrenaline’ and single ‘Bully’ are frankly barnstorming. A particular mention has to go to ‘Diamond Eyes’, their song written for The Expendables at the personal request of Sylvester Stallone… according to singer Brent Smith “when Rocky and Rambo call you and ask you for a song, you can’t really say no” and in all honesty, I’m so glad they didn’t.

A touching acoustic rendition of breakthrough single ‘Simple Man’ (of Lynyrd Skynyrd fame) gave the crowd another chance to lose their voices during the encore and when the opening chords to first album opener ‘Fly from the Inside’ rang out, it was clear we had witnessed something special. Singer Smith also let slip they’d be playing Download Festival this summer. By all accounts, it’d be rude not to go and see them again.

David Straw

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