Review and photography by Melany Barrington
Since the release of their debut album ‘The Mortal Coil’ Polaris has been dominating the Australian metal scene and New Zealand was finally able to indulge in the music in a live setting as they embarked on their first ever NZ tour. With three destinations and some of our finest bands, Polaris kicked off the tour in Auckland’s Whammy Bar with support from Seas of Conflict before taking on Wellington’s Valhalla on Friday night with local band Claemus and concluding in Christchurch with Arcadian at Club Tavern. Supporting the whole tour was Auckland’s Crooked Royals, cementing a near perfect lineup.
It is always exciting to find out which of our many local bands will open for the headliners, and this time, we’re lucky enough to have Wellington’s very own Claemus kick off the night. You could spot their committed fans but everyone who came inside to watch Claemus seemed to have either paid attention and watched the band or start warming up the floor for those dedicated moshers.
By the time Crooked Royals took over the stage, you would’ve wished you secured a place in the pit as the venue was rapidly filling up. The liveliness each band member set the vibe perfectly for their set and with vocalists Lee and Christian getting rowdy with the crowd in every song, it’s impossible to not pick up on their energy and get into the music. Following the release of their debut EP ‘Rumination’, their live performance sounds much like their recorded sound.
From the second Polaris started right to the end they gave an electric performance that was much needed inWellington’s music community. The sold out house saw a dedicated crowd from the first song, but by the time they got to the third song on their setlist ‘Sonder’, the venue was completely packed, sweaty, smokey and the pit was full of those who come to these shows for the atmosphere.
Between songs vocalist Jamie Hails shared a few personal words but it felt like the music never stopped as there was non-stop movement in the mosh pit. Filled with the excitement that comes with having international acts visit New Zealand for the first time, Wellington was not a disappointing crowd. Though I’ve seen our beloved Valhalla in many states, I haven’t ever seen so many circle pits and walls of death in a single set. With the words Jamie shared, he acknowledge that New Zealand doesn’t get as many international bands but he hopes this will encourage more artists to perform in our country, explaining that it’s worth it no matter the cost as it’s just a business expense to him.
Though smaller venues make these shows more interactive, it’s a shame that we miss out on what is usually a much more energetic show, limited this time by the size of the venue. As a result, guitarist Ryan Siew and Jake Steinhauser looked quite confined but as a member of the crowd, it was exciting and intimate – particularly for those in the front row who were able to properly experience their instruments and feel a real connection with the band members.
The band’s energy never seemed to wane and even when it reached a point where you could tell they were tired, they kept going. As explained by Jamie, the stage at Valhalla isn’t necessarily an easy stage to leave, but the Wellington crowd was lucky to get an encore of a couple more songs before Polaris wrapped up the night and headed down south. With shared excitement from hearing an unreleased song, many crowd surfers and Jamie getting in with the crowd, it felt like a successful night as people left the venue in painful grin on their face.