One of the first acts to take the stage at The Tree was my fellow Swedes in House of Shakira. There had been a lot of trouble with doors being moved forward 3 hours and the rumor said these gentlemen from Stockholm had been forced to cut their set in half. In the end, they ended up playing past the time limit and an almost full set. There was a duet planned with Martina Edoff but that was cut out. It can’t be fun to travel that far and play for half an hour…
Anyway, House of Shakira are no rookies, more of a band of scarred veterans. The band has been around since the mid-1990’s and the debut album Lint came out in 1997. The first steps were taken so far back as the mid-1980’s when fellow companions Hallstensson and Lundström moved to Stockholm from the northern part of the country. Next step was in 1991 when the guys formed The Station. This band got a record deal and recorded a debut album, due for release in 1993. Unfortunately, before the album could be released the record company went belly up but the deal prevented the band from recording another album for a different company for several years! It eventually led to the band having to find a new lead vocalist just before recording the debut album in 1997. Shouter Mikael Eriksson could not take part due to contractual issues and they found Andreas Eklund in just a couple of weeks. With almost no time to rehearse, he had to learn the songs and nail them in the studio.
This was not all the trouble however and in the mid-1990’s the band ended up in a lawsuit with the record company Record Station that thought the band name was too similar. So the band changed name to House of Shakira in the mid-1990’s which was a brothel in London and the guys thought it was a great name at that time. House of Shakira finally got that elusive record deal and the songs on Lint were chosen from hundreds of songs written during the last ten years. The follow up album called On The Verge was on the contrary written in just a couple of weeks and released in 1998. Both these albums set the style for the band with a melodic hard rock that lies in the more melodic section and sometimes bordering on AOR. The band released another three albums and played highprofile festivals such as the Sweden Rock Festival and the Firefest Festival in Nottingham, UK releasing a DVD of the Firefest gig.
Then major changes were made within the band when they parted ways with singer Anders Eklund, bassplayer Per Schelander and drummer Tony Andersson. Only the founding members and guitarists Hallstensson and Lundström remained. In came new lead vocalist Andreas Novak (ex-Minds Eye/Novak), Sebastian ”Basse” Blyberg on bass and behind the drumkit was now Martin Larsson residing. The reformation took a while and the ”new” House of Shakira put out the first album in 2012 which was a self-titled effort. With a new record deal pocketed they released the critically acclaimed Pay to Play in 2013 on Aussie label Melodic Rock Records. The album was a kick in the butt of the music business where bands find themselves in a situation where they have to pay to play, to get on a tour etc.
House of Shakira also played their first ever US gig in 2014 at the Melodic Rock Festival. With a new album under their belt called Sour Grapes they now enter a US stage for the second time. The guys take to the stage and blast into the debut album classic ”Morning over Marocco”. It’s a little bit early and the crowd seems shocked about the changed times and the sort of chaos that is so representative of this Friday in Joliet. The sound quality is great behind the mixer board where I stand. Later I talk to both Hallstensson and Lundström and they tell me it sounded awful on stage. Luckily it sounds much better in the audience part. They take a giant leap forward in time to the Pay To Play album and more specifically ”Bending the Law”. It seems that the band is getting more and more into it and this song has Novak on his knees shouting the chorus. ”Basse” Blyberg backs him up with some great backing vocals. They go on with, in my opinion, the best song off that same album which is the title track. Andreas Novak does his best to wake the audience up urging them to clap their hands. I shout along to the catchy chorus from my place behind the soundboard and the feeling that this is going to be a great night starts to take hold of me.
Time to visit the third album with ”In Your Head” that really sounds good in a live setting. Taking no time off to do too much talking they blast into ”Elephant Gun” from the debut album Lint and Andreas picks up the pace clapping his hands. This time the crowd seems less sleepy and claps along with him. This is a heavy, groovy song and Novak takes the opportunity to introduce the whole band. The debut album seems to be a sort of favorite album by the band and the major bulk of songs are taken from that. ”Love Is Good” is up next. This is a catchy midtempo rocker with a great chorus and Andreas stretches his vocal chords to the limit on this one. It also features a short guitar duel between Hallstensson and Lundström with Hallstensson serving a couple of nice melodic solos and Lundström is always there to provide some grooving rhythm guitars.
We are then introduced to a song off the freshly released Sour Grapes called ”Trial By Fire” and Andreas invites the crowd for some ”whooaaa” singing. I haven’t had the time yet to listen through the new album but this new song sounds infectious and melodic – like a House of Shakira song should be. We head on straight onto ”Midnight Hunger” off the self-titled album which is one of the band’s hard rocking tracks and a great fit in this live set. I start moving my head back and forth to the beat and I really dig this song. House of Shakira always deliver melodic hard rock songs with a punch and commercial potential. The vocal melodies really shine on this song and make it memorable. We are moving towards the end of the set with the riff monster that is ”Method to the Madness”. This is one of the strongest songs in the House of Shakira deck and a great pick. It has Hallstensson and Lundström blasting out the heaviest riffs of the day.
Now the funny part of the show erupts where it is clear that the crew want the band to cut it and go off stage. The band refuses to do so and plunge into ”Pellucid” from III. In a rather short set, that was cut down due to time restraints House of Shakira deliver a steady performance. Although the crowd is sleepy and it is early in the day, they press on and deliver a professional set of high octane melodic rock. This is the second time I caught the band live (Väsby Rock Festival 2015 being the first). The sound quality may not have been 100% but it sounded good from where I stood and the performance was flawless. The crowd was a bit hesitating but loosened up a bit towards the end. House of Shakira was the second band on the bill and there were some latecomers that missed out on a great gig. The band might not be so well known over in the US as well which may have contributed to the hesitation of the crowd.
A well-executed gig with a varied pick from their long career I am sure the band made a lot of new fans on this evening.