@ Middlesbrough Empire, October 12 2010

In the minds of many, his name will trigger overbearing connotations of professional wrestling. But it’s not only the ring which showcases the vivacious showmanship of Chris Jericho.

Fozzy was founded when Rich Ward and Chris Irvine (Jericho) started the project for ‘fun’ more than a decade ago.  With all the signs of enjoyment still there, the US band showed a Middlesbrough crowd that they have developed into something a little more serious.

You’d be hard pushed to find a more crushing sound to begin the night, with Death Valley Piledriver opening things up.  Their unrelenting thrash and merciless vocal bellowing gave a comprehensible sound but only in places.  The garbled sound of arbitrary shredding felt unnaturally separate from the other instruments, giving the Peterborough-based band an unsteady and inconsistent performance.

In contrast to the previous vocal brutality, female fronted Symphony Cult roused a lulling of lush harmonies over a core of metal solid riffs.  This Devastation was a good example of how effective a mixture it is when brash riffing is broken down professionally, only to settle into a dreamy interlude.

A few stiff breaks in song followed by well-timed and powerful resurgences provided a weighty layer of noise underneath Charlotte Lubbock’s beautiful voice.  She remained pitch perfect throughout, alongside John Lovell who complemented with backing sections.

For Fozzy there will always be those who attend simply to see Jericho, because of his other career.  Instead of opting to play on this fact, the band instead get down to the grittiness of why they’re actually here – to play some music.

Martyr No More may have offered fans a hectic slice of hard rock, but Grail stood out with some tremendous harmonies at the epicentre of its heartfelt chorus.

When playing live there’s so many bands that fall into the trap of drivelling incoherently onstage. And while Jericho did speak out to fans on many an occasion, his likeable persona gave him passport to do so.  His enthusiastic speeches were seconded by an ecstatically charged performance.

Rich Ward’s flavoursome solo work made sure that every shred-hungry hooligan had more than their fill, especially in Crucify Yourself – a standout track.

As a frontman, Jericho is a power source for his fellow band members and for his fans, engulfed in a seemingly endless wave of energy.  Separating his vocals from his studio efforts, he revealed his true capacity – the result sounding more like a sonically screeching Michael Kiske.

Fozzy are at their peak.  2005’s All That Remains was a relative success and recent album Chasing The Grail dared to risk venturing to new territories.  With this performance, you just wonder where a bit of ‘fun’ could go.

Calum Robson