In the words of rock god Myles Kennedy, “Alter Bridge is returning to the EU/UK this winter with our friends from Halestorm and Mammoth. It’s going to be a delicious sonic smorgasbord of Earth-shaking rock ‘n’ roll that goes to 11. Don’t miss it.” The man wasn’t lying. When it comes to dream lineups, this was indeed pretty up there.
Alter Bridge – O2 Arena – 12 December 2022
Words: Dany Jones
Photography: Steve Ritchie
Alter Bridge, Halestorm and Mammoth WVH embarked on a six-week-long tour and have been gracing audiences all over Europe and the UK. They will then continue in the USA for the second leg at the beginning of 2023.
The closing show of the Europe / UK tour was at the legendary London O2 Arena, where both Mammoth WVH and Halestorm delivered outstanding performances.
Earlier in the year, Alter Bridge released their seventh studio album, Pawns And Kings. Defined by MetalTalk as “a staggering new opus in an already glittering career,” this record is stunningly rhythm-heavy, dark and provocative. Yet, never to the detriment of that sultry musicality dictated by the substantial dynamics this outfit absolutely dominates.
Pawns and Kings marks a career-defining record certainly comparable to other heavyweights of the likes of Blackbird and Fortress. Having had to forcefully miss the previous album cycle due to the pandemic, this promotional tour has acquired a whole new meaning for the band.
In an earlier interview with MetalTalk, drummer Scott Phillips mentions how amazing it is to tour again and to finally be able to travel overseas to meet their very loyal European fanbase. Alter Bridge owe a lot of their success, especially to the UK fans, and they are ever so appreciative of that. As Mark Tremonti said in an earlier interview, “we owe our careers to the UK.” They class this as their second home.
Despite the adverse weather conditions, which see rare scenes of London covered in snow, subsequent travel chaos and some inevitable cancellations, the O2 Arena is alight with excitement for the Rock Show that is about to unfold.
As the intro reverberates in the room and the foursome takes to the stage, even my peer boasts, “I am so excited, I have been waiting months for this moment.”
If at all possible, the opening Silver Tongue sounds even heavier live. First extract from the new album, this goes down a treat with a beaming Tremonti ready in his killer leg-on-monitor position as if to say that he means business, while Marshall mirrors on the opposite side with the occasional signature ‘Steve Harris duck and point’ move.
However, all eyes inevitably fall on a leather-laden Myles Kennedy, who mimics every lyric as a statement as if to evoke the strong political connotations of this song. He then incites the crowd to clap along. Indeed, a strong start, followed by a great balance of old and new, touching upon all the eras of Alter Bridge and going as far back as some early noughties nostalgia.
Second on the list is Addicted To Pain. You can tell how much Mark Tremonti enjoys playing this song as another guitar-heavy remarkable blinder. Worthy of note is also the flawless work provided by drummer Scott Phillips on his chops.
The outro explodes with the trio at the forefront, merging as a wonderfully joint unit, while Phillips concludes by providing plenty of barrage. The crowd are in awe when surprised with the classic Ghost Of Days Gone By. They clap, cheer and sing along.
At this point, Kennedy takes a break to explain that this is a bittersweet moment because they have been on the road for six weeks, and the tour culminates into this show tonight. “It is a great way to punctuate the tour with y’all,” says he, in a rather uncharacteristic twangy Southern accent. He then makes one of his goofy jokes we all absolutely adore him for and gracefully invites the audience to applaud the supporting bands.
Before Tomorrow Comes sees a sea of waving arms lift in the air, while This Is War is a welcome addition to the set as another number from the new record.
While perhaps slightly picking the tempo up on the live rendition wouldn’t go amiss, it is an absolute pleasure to watch Mark Tremonti headbang on the steady chugs. Myles showcases pitch-perfect vocals while it is all beautifully rounded by an absolutely sizzling Tremonti solo.
Alter Bridge sure like to mix it up. Having the luxury of being able to draw from a vast repertoire, they have notoriously played a different set almost every night to keep things afresh. One does wish to have been to more than one show for that very reason, and many of their super-loyal fans do just that.
The same can be said about their roles. While it may seem odd not to hear Kennedy’s wonderfully sultry Buckley-esque vocals on this song, Tremonti’s rendition of Burn It Down is nothing short of magnificent. As if the two have literally swapped positions for this occasion, Mark’s vocal performance truly dazzles, while the song climaxes into a blistering solo played on the exit by his comrade. This makes for a truly mesmerizing and, indeed, very special moment.
Back in the centre, Kennedy teases on the intro of Cry Of Achilles by tickling the audience by plucking the first few initial notes. Another absolute staple of the band, this track requires no introduction. When the song finally starts, the riff lords take no prisoners while the crowd explodes on the choruses that rebound in the auditorium every which way.
We are also gifted with a true Marshall minute, where the bass runs add to the flow of the groove like a breeze. The bassist indeed earns his moment in the limelight when in the middle eight, the instrument is left totally exposed to loop the riff on the chugs in all its extra bottom-heavy glory.
It is time for the acoustic break, where the rhythm section takes a pause while Mark and Myles bring chairs in the middle and play the acoustic number. In Loving Memory is one of the most emotive songs the band have ever written and it is also incredibly popularly acclaimed. Suddenly, a sea of lights engulfs the London O2, and the atmosphere is simply magical.
Seems reasonable that Blackbird should follow suit not to lose the intensity of the momentum. Here the full band come back on stage to deliver plenty of distortion and probably one of the most epic solos they have ever written. This song is so awaited. Several ladies are seen to climb on their partner’s shoulders, the crowd sing along to every lyric and the chorus turns into one colossal unison.
“I really hope that you all heard the new record Pawns And Kings. We are gonna do the title track right now, and what is that even called?” jokes Myles.
It is exciting to hear this song performed live for the first time, and it does indeed go down a storm. Fists raise in the air, fog jets spit in every direction, and the breakdowns are aplenty.
The closing set is a succession of heavier numbers, including Wouldn’t You Rather, the iconic Isolation, followed by the equally anthemic Metalingus.
The singer ducks down as if to invite the crowd to follow the usual ritual of sitting down on the verses to then jump mid-air on the refrain. The crowd does take a minute to catch on, but eventually, the front executes by the word of the maestro and soon enough comes the big explosion on the ever-infectious chorus.
At this stage, one does have to wonder if there will be an encore, considering Mark Tremonti’s aversion to those. But indeed, this is an Alter Bridge show, and the foursome could not depart without saying an adequate goodbye.
The hopeful Rise Today makes way for radiant energy, while the closing on Open Your Eyes is simply glorious. As by tradition, the band engage with the audience in a call and response on the refrains with plenty of ad-libbing ‘oh-ohs’. The arena turns into a church, the audience into a choir and the chant elevates to the celestial. Alter Bridge indeed do magic.
It has been a long tour, and the band will probably be delighted to finally return home and spend some well-deserved family time, especially during the holidays. They will then embark on the second leg of the Pawns And Kings promo tour that will stretch all over the US. They will take their friends Mammoth WVH along with them, as well as RED and Pistols At Dawn.
Tonight has culminated into yet another stylish performance that absolutely reaffirms their rightful place as ultimate rock ‘n’ roll royalty.
Probably the busiest band on the planet, Alter Bridge close the European tour on a high and, once again, never cease to amaze.
MetalTalk’s Alter Bridge Pawns & Kings Tour coverage features interviews with Scott Phillips, Arejay Hale (Halestorm) and Wolfgang Van Halen (Mammoth WVH). Plus, full coverage of all three band’s performances.
To read all this, visit https://www.metaltalk.net/tag/pawns-and-kings-tour.
Myles Kennedy – Guitar & main vocals
Mark Tremonti – Guitar & back vox
Brian Marshall – Bass
Scott Phillips – Drums
Addicted To Pain
Ghost Of Days Gone By
Before Tomorrow Comes
This Is War
Shed My Skin
Burn It Down (Lead Vocals: Tremonti)
Cry Of Achilles
In Loving Memory (Acoustic: Kennedy and Tremonti)
Pawns & Kings
Wouldn’t You Rather
Open Your Eyes