March 23, 2012
House of Blues - Houston
Houston, TX USA
Review by Lisa Sullivan
Photos by Lisa Sullivan
Hyro Da Hero
Let me begin this review with a caveat. I first listened to a Hyro da Hero tune almost two years ago when a good friend introduced me to "Dirty South Rock." I was immediately taken in by relentless metal power chords overlaid with Hyro's crafty hip hop vocals. When I received an advance copy of Birth, School, Work, Death, I hid it away under lock and key after being told I could not leak it to anyone. I was literally blown out of the water and couldn't wait for it to hit the streets, so I wrote an extensive review to coincide with its release.
Even with a brilliant debut release to give him credibility, I was shocked by Hyro's quick ascension into the metal hierarchy overseas, winning critical acclaim from magazines like Kerrang!, sharing stages and playing at major festivals with bands like Korn, Limp Bizkit, GWAR, Rob Zombie, and other monsters of the metal world. Europe caught on really quickly; America has been considerably slower.
That being said I have waited anxiously for him to bring his act home to Houston, after a two-year absence. When I got the call to write the review I was stoked, but also a bit skeptical. Could he pull off a live show that was as powerful as his CD? It wasn't going to be easy.
The first thing I noticed when I entered House of Blues on Friday night was that while this may be his homecoming, it was not his audience. The crowd was there to see Mindless Self Indulgence. Pink spiked hair, lots of piercings and tattoos, plaid skirts and a few costumes - most notably Spiderman and a big bear - were in the house. The openers, Ventana, were just closing their set - it was an early show - and they were in full combat / doomsday regalia, gas masks and all. They were loud and ominous, and I probably would have liked them - as least politically - if I had gotten to see more. But alas, I did not.
After a brief intermission, Hyro and his band took the stage blasting into the first release from the new CD, "Ghetto Ambiance." The thrashy riffs, heavy beats, and Hyro's rapid fire lyrics immediately caught the attention of the crowd. They tuned in, heads started bobbing and it was on. By the time he spit out the words to the chorus, he had their full attention. Hyro's second number, "Beam Me Up Scotty", though not a favorite of mine, has a great hook and clever lyrics about his dissatisfaction with modern society - a common thread in many of his songs - and managed to draw in the crowd a little closer and dissipate some of the wariness. By the time he rolled into the metal-drenched, guitar driven Houston anthem, "Dirty South Rock," one of two old songs in the set, he had them right where he wanted them.
Hyro followed up with "We Still Popular", a boastful, catchy tune, and then launched into an unapologetic "Fuck You (Say It to Your Face)." The crowd ate it up. Both parties - the audience and Hyro - tried to out-scream each other in a shouting match that was instigated by the rapper himself when he introduced the song. "Section 8", a maniacal rant about the evils of public housing, whipped the crowd into a frenzy-like state. A huge mosh pit consumed the floor, the likes of which I haven't seen since I first started covering the thrash and underground scene in the last 1980s. While a few souls sank back into safer quarters by the soundboard, the majority of the floor turned into a relentless pit circling frantically, like the eye of a storm.
This continued into the next two numbers, "The World's Stage", and "Attack of the Average Man", the only other tune he played that was not from the current release. Somewhere in the midst of all this, Hyro came out into the pit and joined in the mayhem, never missing a beat. Alongside him in the pit were Spiderman and the big bear I previously mentioned. It was wildly entertaining, and frankly amazing, to witness a frothing mosh pit after so many years, and to see the artist onstage come down and get right in the middle of it all.
Hyro wrapped the set up with what is probably his strongest song off the CD, "Sleeping Giants". His performance was hard-hitting and relentless. By the end of the evening he had won over the entire crowd, evidenced by the number of people at the merchandise table purchasing shirts and CDs, then asking for pictures and autographs after his performance.
As I said at the onset of this review, this was a tough audience, and Hyro had his work cut out for him. He showed up and put on one hell of a show. A new legion of Hyro fans left the House of Blues Friday night, and I am guessing the next time he comes to town, he will be playing on a much larger stage - and headlining!