Alter Bridge's triumphant return to the Wembley Arena, with great support from Shinedown and Halestorm
Just about two years ago, Alter Bridge brought their extensive tour for "ABIII" to an end at London’s Wembley Arena, with a show that was immortalized on DVD. Selling out that arena was no small task, achievement that silenced all naysayers that doubted the band’s ability to pull it off. Two years later, with tickets going fast, it is time for act two, and it is clear that Alter Bridge have reached their next level as a band.
The first, relatively limited, leg of their European tour only had Halestorm as the supporting act, whilst Shinedown were added for the UK run, constituting a line-up of modern rock’s probably three finest specimens, according to this author at least.
Just after seven, and for about half an hour, it was Halestorm’s duty to warm up the crowd and get things going. Backed by a great sound and Lzzy’s great on-stage performance, the band kicked in with their main hit track (which, let us remind you, also won them an Emmy) "Love Bits (So Do I)", followed by "The Strange Case Of..."'s second track, "Mz. Hyde". Apart from Lzzy, who is without a doubt the main protagonist in Halestorm’s act, a main portion of the show is attributed to her younger brother, Arejay, who is quite the beast behind the drums, and despite their relatively short set, he had time to show-off his skills with a nice little drum solo. Rhythmic "Freak Like Me" and sing-a-long extravaganza "I Miss The Misery" are setlist musts, whilst tucked neatly in between them was a risky cover of Judas Priest’s "Dissident Aggressor", which can be found in their new EP full of cover songs. Even though I thought that the studio version of the cover didn’t have much to offer, Lzzy’s live performance was great! You can’t say much more when she effortlessly sounds both like Rob Halford and Stevie Nicks. Halestorm’s performance ended with "Here's To Us", as sung by a full arena. This was the third time seeing the band live, and I have to say Lzzy was impressive as always, whereas the band seems tighter and tighter each time.
Setlist: Love Bites (So Do I) / Mz. Hyde / Freak Like Me / Dissident Aggressor (Judas Priest cover) / I Miss The Misery / Here's To Us
Shinedown is one of the bands that I am particularly fond of. I love almost every single track they have released and I try to see them live as much as I can. That’s why I was at their show at Brixton last year. The cluttered, distorted and overall non-flattering sound that was the main characteristic of that performance left me wondering, but their show tonight was a completely different story. The way the bass and drum hit you right in the chest -without however cluttering the PA or overshadowing the vocals- was amazing. Shinedown’s sound was fit for seminars on how modern rock live shows should be.
"Devour"'s pre-recorded drum beat started off their set, with the band rushing the stage. Appropriately attired (in suits) and with Eric Bass and Barry Kerch in corpse paint (Halloween?), they grabbed the crowd’s attention right from the very start. The show went on with great, energetic performances from everyone and impressive backing vocals, both from Bass and Myers alike. Brent Smith, being the extroverted type of frontman that he is - constantly addressed the audience, engaging into conversation and rising up the heat of the night. That’s how he managed to get everyone jumping up and down for "Enemies", whereas in quieter moments he astounded the arena with his vocal abilities, especially in "I'll Follow You". Whilst talking to the crowd, he referred to how rock music is not just another type of music for its fans and that the best music will always be composed with guitars, drums and basses. He even urged everyone to greet the person next to them, in an attempt to bring the arena together. Finally, as expected, he did not fail to break into a acoustic rendition of fan-favorite "Simple Man" of Lynyrd Skynyrd fame, before closing the set with "Bully".
During their one hour set, Shinedown were impeccable and the only thing that might need improvement were the gaps in between songs, as if they were trimmed just a bit, an extra song could fit in the setlist (i.e. "The Crow And The Butterfly"). Regardless, Shinedown is steadily building a massive sound and it won’t be long until they will be filling up arenas by themselves.
Setlist: Devour / Sound Of Madness / Enemies / Unity / I'll Follow You / Diamond Eyes (Boom-Lay Boom-Lay Boom) / If You Only Knew / Second Chance / Simple Man (Lynyrd Skynyrd cover) / Bully
Just before the time had come for Alter Bridge to take the stage, you could see the anticipation in the crowd’s faces. Rock fans of all ages (we spotted a few 60+) waded to the front of arena, chanting, singing along and cheering for the band, as enthusiastically as they could. It is possible that this enthusiasm urged the band to perform better than what I witnessed two years ago. Who would’ve guessed...
As "It's A Long Way To The Top If You Want To Rock N' Roll" faded off the PA, the four members of Alter Bridge arrived on stage and "Addicted To Pain"'s riff filled the arena. The sound was good -not great- and at times you could feel the bass hitting you a bit too hard. By the time song number two had started ("White Knuckles"), the levels were great, continuing the "Blackbird" special (an album already considered a classic by some), with "Come To Life" and "Before Tomorrow Comes".
Myles Kennedy’s choice of playing mostly towards the left of the stage (rather than the center) and the way he addressed the crowd, clearly demonstrates the extent of how disenfranchised he his from the whole 'rock star' mentality. That being said, it is the fourth time I’ve seen him live, and he somehow manages to get better and better each time, with his voice being ridiculously good. Similarly, Mark Tremonti has certainly set himself firmly as one of the best guitarists of his generation, which no one can deny. However, what really set AB’s performance apart from previous times were Brian Marshall and Scott Phillips. Marshall’s sound is simply massive, whereas Phillip’s skillset is much more obvious with newer songs, such as "Cry Of Achilles". In general terms, all four of them seem to be as tight as ever.
It is true that not many songs were selected from "Fortress", however they were performed amazingly and the crowd seemed to have already familiarized themselves with them. "Farther Than The Sun" was performed greatly, whereas "Cry Of Achilles" and "The Uninvited" were definitely some of the night’s highlights. On the other hand, during the regular duration of the show, "ABIII" was somewhat neglected, as only "The Ghost Of Days Gone By" was featured in the setlist, whilst songs from their debut album were more than well received, such as "Metalingus", which invoked a frenzy, and the astonishing sing-a-long of "Open Your Eyes" which ended the set.
Mid-set highlights included Myles’ vocal delivery on "Broken Wings", the always riveting "Blackbird" and the acoustic rendition of "Watch Over You". The encore incorporated "Slip To The Void" with Myles forgetting the opening lyrics and confessing that he 'had nightmares that that would happen one day' and that it 'obviously had to happen in front of 12000 people'. The full set ended with "Isolation" which I am sure secured yet another sold out show, the next one.
With this performance Alter Bridge demonstrated that they are now ready for even bigger heights and definitely surpassed my own expectations. They are currently touring with one of the year’s best releases and I know that after this tour is over they will be much bigger in more countries. The crowd at the Wembley Arena witnessed a rare occasion for modern hard rock, as three of its finest specimens gave it all.
Addicted To Pain
Come To Life
Before Tomorrow Comes
Farther Than The Sun
Brand New Start
Cry Of Achilles
Ghost Of Days Gone By
Ties That Bind
Watch Over You (Acoustic)
Open Your Eyes
Slip To The Void