The Alter Bridge story so far has been one of great success; two critically acclaimed albums and a touring schedule that has seen them win fans the world over, as well as turn them into one of the finest live rock bands you could ever wish to see. Even better, they love it here in the UK and as such keep on coming back, and tonight’s show to a packed-out Civic Hall is one of their biggest headline shows yet.
Due to illness, Justin Hawkins’ new band, Hot Leg, was unable to play, which meant a longer slot for Scottish five-piece Logan, who have almost become the traditional support band for Alter Bridge when they play here in the UK. Amazingly, Logan remain unsigned despite having released three excellent albums, and being one hell of a live band to watch. The band is incredibly tight, playing the kind of melodic hard rock that is guaranteed to sit easy with the Alter Bridge crowd, and their quality comes through despite the slightly ropey sound tonight.
But the real star of the show is frontman Kenny Collins, whose gravel-throated, grunge-inspired voice is superb. Logan put in a great performance that makes their unsigned status baffling, and if anyone was still doubting their potential then set finale “When I Get Down” should have convinced them otherwise; what other unsigned band can have a room as big as the Civic Hall singing every word? Logan do, and it is one hell of a sight.
The excitement in the Wolverhampton air before Alter Bridge take the stage is palpable, with the crowd exploding into life from the opening, pounding bars of “Come to Life”, followed swiftly by “Find the Real” and “Before Tomorrow Comes” before the band really take time to say hello. With vocalist Myles Kennedy also taking on rhythm guitar duties for the majority of the set, Alter Bridge now has an extra dimension to them on stage, making their performance more powerful, and giving more beef for Mark Tremonti to shred like crazy on top of.
As the set goes on you realise how this is a band that can cut it both as creators of pounding riffs, and of heartfelt melodies; songs like “White Knuckles”, “One Day Remains” and “The End Is Here” are riffolicious, stomach-pounding numbers, while Myles’ acoustic rendition of “Watch Over You” is beautifully done. The band’s most daring number, the progressive “Blackbird”, gets an outing and is followed by an unprecedented round of applause that doesn’t ever seem like stopping, forcing the band to just stand still and smile at their achievements. “In Loving Memory” is touchingly dedicated to Lauren Wiltshire, a fan of the band who was tragically killed in a car crash while Alter Bridge’s CD was playing in her vehicle, before the stupendously heavy “Metalingus” and overwhelming crowd favourite “Open Your Eyes” lift the mood to something much more positive and celebratory.
Coming back for an encore, the band belt out the huge sounding “Broken Wings” before finishing for the evening, after Myles’ solo Blues number “Mudbone”, with another mega hit for the band, “Rise Today” followed once again by a mass of applause. Alter Bridge has always been an excellent, but tonight there was something extra special in their performance. Their sound was excellent, they took command of the stage like they were the biggest band in the world, and yet they have no ego, and no problems connecting with their fans. Quite simply, this was a stunning show from a wonderful band, and easily a contender for live performance of the year. Don’t be surprised if, next time they visit the UK, Alter Bridge are playing arenas because that is where they deserve to be. With performances like tonight’s, and albums as good as they have already written, the sky is the limit for Messers Kennedy, Tremonti, Marshall and Phillips.
Review and photographs — Dave Musson