If somebody were to design an imaginary line-up for the ultimate Rock Show, they would pick the new emerging artist everybody is talking about, the band that keeps making waves in either hemisphere and the ultimate rock titans. But in the words of Myles Kennedy himself, when he was impersonating the wannabe frontman of Steel Dragon in the Rockstar movie, “dreams do come true.”
London O2 Arena – 12 December 2022
Words: Dany Jones
Photography: Steve Ritchie
Following Alter Bridge’s latest release, the Pawns and Kings tour saw Mammoth WVH, aka Wolfgang Van Halen’s band, the hurricane that is Halestorm and the mighty AB, embarking on a six-week-long promotional string of dates across Europe and the UK. They will then continue on US soil in the new year after a well-deserved break for the holidays.
London marked the final stop of the tour’s first leg, and the bands indeed went out on a bang by setting the Greenwich O2 Arena alight with some incredibly fine performances.
It seems inevitable to acknowledge the immense talent of Wolfgang Van Halen, who has solely composed, played every instrument on it, and recorded the self-titled debut album. His voice is fresh, and his delivery is charged with emotion, while his guitar playing is intricately flawless.
While playing for the first time in a place of this capacity may seem somewhat daunting, neither the young Van Halen nor the rest of the band are novices to the big stage.
Mammoth WVH are effectively a supergroup of seasoned pros who have come together into this project as a seamless fit, perfectly complementing one another.
Wolf, as they call him, and drummer Garrett Whitlock made up the rhythm section in an earlier version of Tremonti, while bassist Ronnie Ficarro made a name for himself when playing in Falling In Reverse. Add to that a member of Slash’s band and top it all off with a support tour to Rock legends Guns N’ Roses after only a handful of smaller shows.
In the words of Van Halen himself in an earlier tweet when introducing the band, they are “phenomenal players and even better dudes.”
The set is inevitably compact due to the time constraints dictated by the opening slot. Nevertheless, it offers a fantastic preview of future days to come, with Mammoth WVH simply leaving you wanting more.
Following a ceremonial intro on Mammoth, Wolf screams, “London, let’s have some fun” before unleashing into the ever so singable tune. The groove just flows, and the harmonies simply feel like a breeze.
Mr Ed is equally exciting and uplifting, including Jon’s perfect high bv’s and a blistering Wolfgang solo, all rounded by the unequivocal Whitlock trademark musical chops.
Garrett then vamps on the intro of Epiphany while Wolf says, “Londooooooon, how are you fine folks doing this evening? It is an absolute pleasure to be here.”
Once again, guitars bounce off the drums with syncopated chops on the upbeats, and the vocals are off like a wave crashing on the shore during a warm summer day.
After a moment of appreciation directed at UK fans, Think It Over follows suit, and Wolf tells how this was his father’s favourite song. Though, we get an extra special moment with Distance, where the singer invites the audience to do the usual thing and “get the lights out and wave arms.”
The vulnerability in his voice inevitably transpires, and one does have to wonder how he may even get through singing the lyrics of this so very personal song, his very first single, every time. It is certain that it is extremely hard to keep a dry eye by this point.
You’re To Blame nicely picks up the pace and marks the first of the two robust closing numbers. Wolf unleashes into another blazing solo, the drums thump with prowess, and by this point, the room is in heat.
The singer gracefully introduces the band, and then it is time for final goodbyes with the absolute blinder that is Don’t Back Down, while you wish they would go on for a lot longer.
There is only one word to summarise this artist, and that is promising. Just like a breath of fresh air, Mammoth WVH mark that perfect marriage of stylish melodious guitar-driven music that brings a novel approach and rightful confirmation that rock music is very much here to stay.
The band are riding that very wave, and after completing the second leg of this tour, they have already been scheduled to embark on a ‘mammoth’ world tour as the elected opener for none other than the mighty Metallica.
The future is indeed bright for this wonderful outfit!
Wolfgang ‘Wolf’ Van Halen – Vocals & guitar
Jon Jourdan – Guitar & BV’s
Frank Sidoris – Guitar
Ron ‘Ronnie’ Ficarro – Bass
Garrett Whitlock – Drums
Think It Over
You’re to Blame
Don’t Back Down
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.