LIVE REVIEW: Icon For Hire at 89th Street – OKC on April 22, 2023
Photos and Review by Allyssa Arens
Lineup: Hooked Like Helen, Icon For Hire
Venue: 89th Street – OKC
Date: April 22, 2023
Alternative rockers Icon For Hire are currently in the midst of The Reckoning Tour throughout the US in support of their 2022 album of the same name, and I had the pleasure of being able to catch them when they passed through my hometown of Oklahoma City this past weekend. I’ve been a fan of Icon’s for close to half of my 23 years of life, but previously my only experience with seeing them live was a brief set at Warped Tour back in 2015, so I had been excitedly awaiting their return to Oklahoma after so long, and this headlining set exceeded my already high expectations.
Opening the show was fellow alt-rockers Hooked Like Helen, from Sandusky, Ohio. The band, led by the wife/husband duo of Nikki and Jon Stipp, brought a chill yet enthralling energy to the stage to kick things off, blending bouncy riffs and pounding drums with Nikki’s melodic and powerful vocals. Their set was made up of about 90% unreleased material, according to Nikki, and included tracks such as “Dopamine”, the Stranger Things-inspired “The Upside Down”, and a slower track called “Quote Unquote Life”. They closed their set with their upcoming single “Sleepwalker”, due out on May 12 (pre-save it here), a track about seeing someone close to you struggling with addiction. Accompanying Nikki and Jon are Conor Spellane on guitar and Heather Thomas on drums. If you plan on attending The Reckoning tour, be sure to show up early to catch Hooked Like Helen as well!
Finally, a little after 9 p.m, Icon For Hire took the stage, and they were just as energetic as I remembered as they launched into “Ready For Combat”, the lead single from The Reckoning, a punchy anthem of empowerment that inspired the crowd to immediately start a small moshpit right behind me. This high level of energy continued throughout the set as they then threw it back to their early records with “Cynics and Critics”, “Iodine”, and “Get Well”.
Vocalist Ariel Bloomer is one of the most enigmatic singers I’ve had the pleasure of seeing perform, with her gorgeous vocals and captivating lyrics about mental health struggles, something many of us can relate to, and she and guitarist Shawn Jump are truly a dynamic duo in blending heart with power, being able to seamlessly go from hard and heavy rock anthems to stripped ballads and back.
While most of the set was their more rock-oriented material, they did strip things back about halfway through, with Ariel’s rap skills shining on “Emo Dreams” before they brought out an acoustic setup. Their nightly acoustic track has varied throughout the tour based on what they’re feeling that day; tonight it was “Happy Hurts” from 2015’s You Can’t Kill Us. This was followed by “Hollow”, another slower track, before the energy picked back up for the remainder of the set.
Overall, the setlist was a great mixture of older and newer tracks, with all five of the band’s records represented at least once, and is sure to please old and new fans alike. Multiple times throughout the performance, Ariel and Shawn expressed their gratitude for their fans, the Icon Army, who have been supportive throughout the band’s career including their pivot to becoming independent artists in 2015 following struggles with their past record label.
When you go to an Icon For Hire show, it doesn’t just feel like any other concert; rather, it feels like a family reunion, even if it’s family you’ve yet to meet. As someone who has a tendency toward shyness, I was able to come out of my shell for a night and bond over Icon’s music with others, and for that, I’m truly grateful.
The Reckoning tour continues through May 21, finishing in the band’s current home base of Nashville, TN. Dates and tickets are available here.