The fact that the venues on this current UK run are packed to the rafters is proof in itself as to how much the popularity of Swedish rockers Avatar has risen dramatically in the last few years. Well, that's exactly the situation the band find themselves in as they work their way around the UK and the O2 Ritz in Manchester is no different.
Sat on a stool armed with just an acoustic guitar, songwriter Dylan Walshe is an interesting choice for opening act and, while not exactly "fitting in", nor is it likely his music will ever pop up on the Spotify playlists of this metal-hungry crowd, it's hard not to like the singer.
Come and do the "Death Dance" with Dylan Walshe:
To be honest though the same thing could be said about punk rockers The Mahones who, as with Walshe before them, are playing to a crowd who are neither aware nor, if we're being brutally honest, care that much about their brand of Pogues tinged punk rock. The band, to their credit, give it their all though, again, as did Walshe, while the likes of "Punk Rock Saved My Life" earn a polite reaction from this packed room, most people are already thinking about the headliners.
Join The Mahones as they "Paint The Town Red":
This is Avatar's night though and the band make sure they put on the biggest circus show they can given the confines of the O2 Ritz. Despite arriving in the UK armed with a stage show that is more suited to venues much bigger than this, the Swedish melodic metallers put on a real experience for their loyal fanbase who go nuts from the moment wide-eyed ringmaster Johannes Eckerström and his circus sidekicks take over the stage.
Tonight, Avatar are rock theatre at its finest and, putting the circus stage show to one side for a minute, listening to tracks like opener "Glory to Our King", "Paint Me Red", "The Eagle Has Landed" and "Let It Burn", even musically, these are songs that, in their own rights, are big, colourful and suitably loud. As for Eckerström, well, you couldn't want for a better host. He plays his role perfectly, 50% frontman, 50% demented ringmaster, he struts about the stage with a crazed look in his eyes holding the unflinching attention of his fans for the duration. The night ends with their anthem "Hail The Apocalypse" and, as the lights go up and the Avatar circus prepares to roll into another city, you know full well that this could be the last time you see the band in a venue of this size.
Check out Avatar's video for the superb "The King Wants You":