Monday, 28 November 2016

Alter Bridge - Nottingham Review

As far as modern hard rock goes, there is no bigger band out there at the moment it seems than Alter Bridge. They are a band that has well and truly put the effort in, with lots of touring throughout their career, and have released a solid discography to back this up. The band's fifth album, The Last Hero, which was released last month seems to be a culmination of everything the band have done up until this point. The more upbeat rock anthems of their early days and the darker modern material have been fused together well, to create a complete and interesting hard rock album. I first saw the band back in 2010 at the Hammersmith Apollo when they were out supporting AB III. Since then, the band have become an arena-filling act, and this current UK run is their third arena tour of the UK. I saw the band in 2013, also in Nottingham, supporting the Fortress album. The Motorpoint Arena, or Capital FM Arena as it was then, was pretty full then with a good few thousand people in attendance. I would say that the crowd was even bigger this time, with very few of the sections of seating curtained off, and the crowd on the floor was plentiful. It is great that a band like Alter Bridge can become an arena-filling these days, and goes against the commonly-held view in the mainstream that rock is dead. As with the vast majority of arena tours these days, Alter Bridge topped a rather extensive bill. The variety of acts on display was good, and it is the diversity of bills like this that help get people through the door.

Opening up the show was New Zealand's Like a Storm, a band who's music mostly fitted into the tried and tested post-grunge formula. They were only on stage for about half an hour, but they managed to impress me with an energetic show, despite their music being fairly generic. The songwriting was tight however, with plenty of strong vocal melodies throughout for frontman Chris Brooks to belt out for the growing crowd to enjoy. While most of the set was guitar-based, some sections of the songs used a didgeridoo which helped to showcase the band's cultural heritage and add a different sound to the well-established sound. The tribal instrument added a certain dark, rumbling atmosphere to some of the songs and helped the band to stand out from the crowd. A weak and unnecessary cover of AC/DC's TNT was the low-point of the set, with their own original material sounding much more inspired and energetic. Overall, Like a Storm went down well and I imagine we will be hearing more from them in the future.

French progressive death metal ban Gojira have been on my radar for nearly ten years now, having first seen the band supporting Trivium back in 2007. They are a band I have never really got though, as I struggle with the whole 'tech metal' scene and have always failed to find much melody in their music. I own a couple of their albums, and caught a few songs of their set at Bloodstock earlier in the year, but for various reasons the band just never stuck. This might be about to change however, as this short support set in Nottingham was fantastic! It helped that the sound for their set was pretty much perfect, with the instruments all standing out perfectly, and Joe Duplantier's (vocals/guitar) voice was well-mixed too. This time the band's immense riffs really stood out, as did Mario Duplantier's drumming. Bands like this need to have a great live sound, and I think that really helped me to enjoy their set. There seemed to be lots of Gojira fans in the crowd too, with lots of t-shirts around and plenty of people around seemed to know their songs. This is clearly another band that is o the rise, and are here to stay in a big way. They really stuck out like a sore thumb on this bill however, and I wonder how Alter Bridge's more conservative fans found them? I shall have to dig out the album's of theirs that I own and listen to them again, as I might be finally starting to 'get' Gojira.

Volbeat on the other hand were fairly dull. They seem to be quite a big band these days, but I have to say that I really do not get the hype. Bills like this are a good opportunity to see bands that you would not go and see otherwise, and I went into Volbeat's set with an open mind and hoped to be impressed. While I think some of the band's riffing is excellent, I find Michael Poulsen's (vocals/guitar) voice to be quite weak and his vocal melodies very unmemorable. Their songs never seem to really amount to anything, with choruses that just do not pack a punch and very little true energy despite quite a few faster songs. They were on stage for about an hour too, so by the end of their set it was starting to rag quite a lot. I must be in a minority however, as there were plenty of people around me enjoying their set and singing along with passion. Volbeat are just not for me it would appear.

When the lights went down for Alter Bridge's set, the venue erupted. Arena shows are always great for big crowd reactions, and there was plenty of that throughout Alter Bridge's 90 minute plus show. Opening with The Writing on the Wall from the new album worked well, as it has a great sing-a-long chorus that was the first of many throughout the evening. Despite this being the The Last Hero tour, all of the band's five albums were well-represented throughout, although I am surprised that not more from the new album were played. It is hard to to argue with the choice of songs played however, as chorus after chorus and riff after riff filled the large Nottingham venue. The only song that I felt failed to excite was the clunky Farther Than the Sun that has never been a favourite of mine. Addicted to Pain and Ghosts of Days Gone By soon erased all memories of that song away however, before the heavy Island of Fools from the new album saw quite a lot of headbanging. Alter Bridge are a very professional band, with little time in their set for crowd interaction. Myles Kennedy (vocals/guitar) took few opportunities to talk, instead letting the quality of the songs fuel their performance. Guitarist Mark Tremonti stepped up to the microphone to sing the excellent Waters Rising, which also features a great guitar solo from him. I felt a bit sorry for Tremonti throughout the set however, as many of the songs chosen were ones that Kennedy takes the solo in. It did feel strange seeing one of the best modern rock guitarists relegated to a glorified rhythm player for large chunks of the set, but when he did solo he really let rip! Crows on a Wire, one of the best songs from the new album, went down really well; before Kennedy's acoustic rendition of the ballad Watch Over You saw the biggest crowd sing-a-long of the night. This generation's Freebird, Blackbird, really impressed with the two guitarists both with ample chance to solo. This is probably the band's defining song, and it is always a joy to hear it live. A couple of old-school songs from the band's debut album finished things off, with Open Your Eyes proving to be a strong closing statement. There was time for more of course, and the anthemic Show me a Leader from the new album went down a storm. Predictably, Rise Today was the closing number and gave everyone a last opportunity to sing and jump along with Alter Bridge. The set ended on a high, and the large crowd sounded their appreciation as the band left the stage. The setlist was:

The Writing on the Wall
Come to Life
Farther Than the Sun
Addicted to Pain
Ghosts of Days Gone By
Cry of Achilles
Island of Fools
Ties That Bind
Waters Rising
Crows on a Wire
Watch Over You
Open Your Eyes
Show me a Leader
Rise Today

Overall, this was a masterful display of stadium rock from one of the modern masters of the genre. Alter Bridge continue to go from strength to strength and have the potential to become real legends of the genre. They are the classic rock band of the future, and performances like this will only help to cement this status.

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