Alter Bridge @ AO Arena review – Rock heavyweights bring the sledgehammer riffs

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Featured image and gallery: Rianna Ram

On a cold, wintery Friday night, thousands beat the snow and ice to fill out the AO Arena in anticipation of one of the most exciting tour packages this year: Alter Bridge, Halestorm and Mammoth WVH. 

Mammoth WVH opens the show and arrives with the weight of the world on their shoulders for those in the know. Wolfgang Van Halen, singer and guitarist who recorded and released their entire debut album by himself last year, has a lot to prove in the eyes of many. That’s only natural when your dad was one of the greatest innovators of electrical guitar-playing ever, Eddie Van Halen.

All expectations are disregarded as the powerhouse five-piece fire their way through ‘Mammoth’ and ‘Mr. Red’ like a runaway freight train. Wolfgang’s vocals soar over what is a great mix of Foo Fighters, Tool and even a little bit of Alter Bridge too. A talented band surrounds him with serious credit in Garrett Whitlock (ex-Tremonti), whose powerful backbone drives ‘You’re To Blame’ and ‘Don’t Back Down’ while Frank Sidoris (Slash) provides dual-lead duties. 

‘Think It Over’ and ‘Distance’ bring variety to the proceedings, and while it’s a mostly-restrained performance, one cannot help but grin when Wolfgang lets rip and shreds the fretboard. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. 

To be a great vocalist you must have balls, and Lzzy Hale starting the show acapella certainly does. Lzzy makes everything look easy, and that power is only amplified to 10 when you have Joe Hottinger providing fretboard fireworks on ‘Back From The Dead’ and ‘The Steeple’. Arejay Hale is like Animal from The Muppets, and you will probably never see drumsticks as the ones he whips out during his drum solo.

This all slots in with the classics with songs like ‘Love Bites (So Do I)’ and ‘I Get Off’, giving the band room to stretch their legs with improvised fun. ‘Familiar Taste Of Poison’ builds and explodes into sorrow as the crowds sway to Lzzy’s almost-operatic vocals. 

When ‘I Miss The Misery’ rolls around, you could’ve left then and sworn they were the headline act. Halestorm has always been an awesome live band, but this new material brings them to another level.

Alter Bridge arrives, and the excitement when the lights go out is infectious. ‘Silver Tongue’ and ‘Addicted To Pain’ hit you over the head with sledgehammer riffs while ‘Ghost of Days Gone By’ pulls you back to rest before chaos is let loose with a bridge with the musical equivalent of a train falling off the tracks.

Scott Philips (drums) and Brian Marshall (bass) are the consummate rock Rhythm section. Constantly in the pocket yet given their moments in the sun, these two provide the most solid of foundations for arguably the most exciting guitar duo in rock, Myles Kennedy and Mark Tremonti, to weave their magic over. 

Both of them get their moments in the sun with ‘Cry Of Achilles’ and ‘Pawns & Kings’ giving equal chance to gorgeous guitar solos.

The juxtaposition of sound is what fascinates so many, and songs like ‘Before Tomorrow Comes’ and ‘The Other Side’ played one after the other is the best example I can give of this. Melodic, spirit-raising classic rock anthems exist in the former, while the latter brings a snarling, sludgy, metal stomp that doesn’t sound too out of place on a Gojira record.

The Microphone is passed over to Mark Tremonti in ‘Burn It Down’, whose vocal abilities only grow with each tour. Recording a Frank Sinatra covers album has clearly sent Mark back to school with another inspired performance to leave you in awe of their talent.

The tempo is slowed down, and the chairs pulled up with Myles and Mark bringing it down for an acoustic rendition of ‘In Loving Memory’ before building back up into ‘Blackbird’. Alter Bridge excel at capturing emotion through song, and there isn’t a dry eye left in the room after this 1-2 punch.

Myles Kennedy is the man with the golden voice and saves the biggest vocal acrobatics of the night for the latter.  ‘Blackbird’ was also voted the greatest guitar solo ever at one point, beating many big names and is a sight to behold and an easy highlight for many.

‘Rise Today’ and ‘Open Your Eyes’ provide the encore for the evening, and the crowd is sent home to something more akin to heartwarming classic rock than the metal they have heard all night. ‘Rise Today’ recalls a very John Lennon-like attitude in its lyrics. With its messages of Revolution and change, it’s the best message to go home with in many ways. 

Three bands in fine form and the festive pick-me-up that everyone needs.

About the author / 

James Swindell

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