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Mason Hill, Hollowstar, Empyre

Added by ant-rocks     October 13, 2021    
 
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Tonight's line-up of Mason Hill, Hollowstar and Empyre was a very attractive one, especially as Mason Hill's 'Against The Wall' was one of the strongest releases of 2021.

MASON HILL, HOLLOWSTAR, EMPYRE
Liverpool: Arts Club - 7th October 2021

Another gig and one more step along the road back to "normal". My only other visit to the Arts Club in Liverpool was to see Stone Broken, Those Damn Crows and Hollowstar. That was a few years ago now but I remember being impressed by the intimate nature of the set-up. I was also impressed hugely by the acoustics as so many venues these days fall short when it comes to a good sound. Tonight's line-up of Mason Hill, Hollowstar and Empyre was a very attractive one, especially as Mason Hill's 'Against The Wall' was one of the strongest releases of 2021.

Empyre's 'Self Aware', from 2019, was a bit of a hit and miss affair for me. The songs were OK, but the album was rather one-paced and lacking a bit of energy, so I was hoping they would take on more of an identity in the live arena. When Empyre took to the stage at around 7.30pm there were only thirty or so people in the room to see them. I was then very disappointed when they chose to concentrate on new material that no-one was familiar with. It was only when we got to the closing two songs, 'Only Way Out' and 'New Republic', that things started to get interesting. Lead-singer Henrik Steenholdt has a great voice but there is not really much stage presence. By not focusing on the songs from 'Self Aware' I thought Empyre missed a trick. This was my first time seeing them live so maybe I'll have to give them another chance.

 

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Things picked up noticeably when Hollowstar arrived on stage. The energy missing from the Empyre set was found and doubled by the Cambridgeshire based quartet. Having already honed their live skills supporting numerous bands throughout 2018 and 2019 they are now a well-oiled machine. Lead-singer/bassist Joe Bonson is a personable frontman with a great voice. The Hollowstar style borrows a lot from Free and Bad Company without becoming plagiaristic, and with a six-song EP and ten track full-length album in their arsenal there a plenty of quality songs to choose from. Phil Haines (lead guitar), Jack Bonson (drums) and Tom Collett (guitar) always look as though the stage is where they belong. That passion is passed to the audience who respond enthusiastically during the nine songs played. The cover of 'Wishing Well' fits in perfectly next to the established favourites 'Take It All', 'Let You Down', 'Money', 'Good Man Gone' and 'All I Gotta Say'. Whether headlining in their own right or playing the support role, Hollowstar never fail to impress.

When I saw Mason Hill for the first time at Hair Metal Heaven, back in 2017, they were playing early at a really poor venue. It meant that they did not impact as much as they did when supporting Dan Reed Network twelve months later. Though they only had an EP's worth of material to draw from at the time it was clear there was something about them. Having now released a debut album full of high-quality Modern Rock songs and great performances means there is enough in place to venture out as a headlining act. They had their work cut out following the fantastic Hollowstar set, but it was clear confidence levels were high. If there was any disappointment regarding the poor attendance it did not show and to be fair the noise levels from the crowd genuinely seemed to surprise the Scottish five-piece. Focusing on the 'Against The Wall' songs was a no-brainer and every single one was greeted like a long-lost relative by the excited throng. Scott Taylor leads from the front and has a great set of pipes. James Bird (lead guitar) may not let emotions show much but some of his soloing was sublime. Not to be outdone, Matthew Ward (bass), Craig McFetridge (drums) and Marc Montgomery (guitar) all play as if it's their last show and if the stage had been bigger I'm sure they would have covered every inch. Songs such as 'No Regret', 'Broken Son', 'D.N.A.' and 'We Pray' simply lend themselves to crowd involvement and the Foo Fighters 'Best Of You' cover is also a great choice. A rousing 'Against The Wall' and a passionate 'Where I Belong' bring things to a close and eighty minutes had passed in a heartbeat. I was drawn into proceedings so much that at times I forgot that I should have been taking photos and making mental notes for a review.

I don't know if it is because live music disappeared for eighteen months, but all the shows I have been to post-lockdown have been nothing short of phenomenal. Maybe certain things got taken for granted for so long? I now wish I'd got to another show on the tour... maybe next time.

Dave Bott

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