By “Tampa Earl” Burton, Rock At Night
Live Review: Halestorm at Florida Strawberry Festival, Plant City, Florida – March 3, 2023
If you’ve gone to state fairs or local festivals, you’ve gotten used to the parade of “legacy” acts that normally make up the schedule. These bands, who normally are long removed from their period of relevance, are still entertaining, but it is always nice to see when a still active and popular musical entity can step to one of these stages. That happened on Friday night as the hard rock band Halestorm scorched the 2023 Florida Strawberry Festival Stage with a scintillating show for an appreciative audience.
You do have to know something if you’re planning to attend one of the Festival’s performances (and they do run the gamut this year, from Ludacris to for King and Country to the remnants of Lynyrd Skynyrd)…you had better be in your seat at the 7:30 PM start time. The shows start promptly because there is a curfew of 9 PM that the shows have to conclude (the festival grounds are in a residential area). Thus, have all your business (concessions, merch, etc.) taken care of well before the show starts, because they WILL be starting on time!
Thus, Halestorm attacked the stage right at the prescribed time and came out firing on all cylinders. The title track from their latest album Back From the Dead served as an appropriate opening and, from there, singer/guitarist Lzzy Hale did not lift her foot from the gas. Because the show was probably crammed into only ninety minutes, the band efficiently moved between songs but NEVER lacked quality on any of the tunes they played.
This isn’t to say that there weren’t some surprises. Halestorm delved into the deluxe edition tracks from Back From the Dead, especially “Psycho Crazy” and the heavily Eighties-influenced “Mine” (complete with bassist Josh Smith laying down some nice synth sounds). The band definitely brought it on one of their anthems “Amen” as both Lzzy Hale and lead guitarist Joe Hottinger hammered our searing solo work in trading that duty back and forth.
The star of the show was Hale (and I don’t think any of her bandmates would disagree), as she took to the Festival stage with only a piano to give the boys a break. Hale’s voice was in its usually thunderous and beautiful form as she gave piano-only renditions of “Break In” (with an interlude of Lzzy doing Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” tossed in for good measure) and “Raise Your Horns” to the crowd’s delight. Hale would get her only break of the night after doing “Familiar Taste of Poison” with Hottinger and turning the stage over to her younger brother Arejay, who was a whirling dervish behind the drum kit.
The band would hit a few more “must play” tracks from the catalog (“Freak Like Me,” “I Get Off,” and a stirring rendition of “Here’s To Us”) before wrapping up the show with the powerhouse “I Miss the Misery.” Through it all, Hale and Company kept the power going on stage and the entire crowd was entranced with the performance. While they did leave a few songs on the sidelines for the concert (I personally have “I Like it Heavy” and “Uncomfortable” as two of my faves), overall they presented an outstanding show that, because of the curfew, left the crowd wanting more.
Halestorm is going on a little break before attacking the European continent for a host of shows in June, starting in Nuremberg, Germany on June 2. It was an excellent treat, however, to see a current band of the quality of Halestorm on the Florida Strawberry Festival stage. I hope that becomes more of a trend than just a one-off situation that arose.