We thought we would never get here. Most artists have been truly tested by the uncertainty of these last two years. Is it worth putting a record out which you cannot follow up with a promotional tour? Will people forget by the time you are finally able to get on the road? Will the tour suddenly get cancelled?
Myles Kennedy Trio, Cardinal Black.
Shepherds Bush Empire, 11 December 2021.
Words: Dany Jones
Photography: Steve Ritchie
With the everchanging musical landscape and all the travel restrictions as of late, seeing an amphitheatre full of people watching a concert, let alone of an international artist, seems a dream out of some parallel dimension. Myles Kennedy is the lead singer of global heavyweights Alter Bridge and Slash, Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators. However, tonight is about something different and indeed very special. The house is full, and we could not be more ecstatic.
When the world declared a state of emergency in 2020, Myles Kennedy decided that the best possible thing to do was to put the enforced isolation to good fruition, and so started penning events as they unfolded. Fast forward to 2021, and a new baby was born: the artist’s second solo album, The Ides Of March, was recorded and produced by long term friend and Producer Michael Elvis Baskette and released on 14 May 2021 via Alter Bridge and Kennedy’s label Napalm Records.
Following the initial US leg, which last September saw Kennedy on the road with Tyler Bryant, it was time to find a suitable local supporting act for the UK dates with the full band, the trio of Kennedy, Tournier and Uddin.
And who better than Brit born Slash himself to point Kennedy in the direction of Welsh star YouTuber and Blues-Rock guitar extraordinaire Chris Buck? Cardinal Black are Buck’s newest star-studded outfit. They are ordinarily a four-piece; however, the live show sees the addition of a keyboard player. The quintet plays a compound set of dreamy soundscapes, executed with the utmost precision and stunningly rounded by Tom Hollister’s soulful vocals.
While not exactly ground-breaking, the material poses a great emphasis on the intricate guitar work delivered by Buck with the utmost sobriety and, of course, culminating into their acclaimed single Tell Me How It Feels, the song that managed to topple Noel Gallagher off the no 1 spot of the iTunes charts. Indeed a promising act to watch out for, Cardinal Black are visibly delighted to have been chosen for this particular task. “You guys are gonna have your socks blown off by Myles,” Hollister beams. “It’s been like this for the whole of the tour, and it’s not gonna be any different tonight.”
A change of set-up in preparation for the main act is accompanied by a Jazz interlude, one of Kennedy’s guilty pleasures. But the time is nigh and the singer, along with bassist Tim Tournier and drummer Zia Uddin, finally take to the stage, opening with the bouncy Wake Me When It’s Over, from the most recent record.
Myles Kennedy is visibly emotional. He does not lose momentum throughout when engaging with the audience, inviting them to participate, clap, sing along and celebrate this ever so special moment. “We have missed you,” Kennedy says. “We have missed you so much, and it is so good to see you all again. I really hope you guys are gonna have a good time.”
The set is a good blend of old classics and a showcase of the new album, juxtaposed to a lot of improvisation, impromptu jams and rather special moments. Pity about the technical issues, which leave the singer’s incredible voice as dry as a pancake mid set, but these things can happen. The mark of a true artist is to know how to navigate such adverse conditions gracefully and to make it work regardless, and Kennedy does just that. In exchange, the rhythm section sounds fierce. Tournier’s bass work is simply flawless, thumping all the way through with an incredible mix. Playing through the rig of choice has certainly paid off.
The songs are extremely well received, where the loyal fans recite the lyrics word per word. Worth of particular note is the album self-titled The Ides Of March, never performed before on this run. Kennedy candidly admits to not playing it live because it simply is “a bitch to reproduce without all the fairy dust sprinkled in the studio with the added layering.” Yet, the band managed a stunningly stripped-down live version adapted to the three-piece.
Love Can Only Heal sees Kennedy on his own for the whole of the first half, with the vocal sound finally rectified. Uddin introduces a build-up marked by the bass drum mimicking a heartbeat until the full band explodes into the chorus, the ‘la las’ lift in the air, and the moment is truly magical.
The artist throws a couple of curveballs when suddenly breaking into a double-time ad-libbing moment over SMKC’s classic World Of Fire, performed with his now trademark resonator. He then jokingly mocks like a bouncer open to bribes, saying that he has an in with the band when introducing the Alter Bridge classic All Ends Well. “I know them,” he says, “they are really good guys.”
Despite catching the band off-guard by asking them to sit this one out, Kennedy elects to play another Alter Bridge classic Watch Over You on a whim, yet, once again, he has us eating out of the palm of his hand. When you have a group of seasoned and extremely talented artists, you already know that you are in for a treat. Yet, the reverse of that is that knowing that the expectation stands at such a high bar, the pressure for the artist to excel and constantly compete with one’s previous self is truly palpable.
The Myles Kennedy trio delivered a truly classy, entertaining and fresh performance. It has been a long time coming, and it was indeed worth all the difficulties that they have had to face to make this happen. They have been generous with their time, playing a blinding 16 song set, including Worried Mind as an encore as the perfect unwinding outro.
We find ourselves left with a reflective note that will stay for a while.
But it is time to say goodbye. The curtains are down, the lights are up, and it is until next time.
Myles Kennedy (Lead vocals and guitar)
Tim Tournier (Bass)
Zia Uddin (Drums)
Wake Me When It’s Over
A Thousand Words
Devil On The Wall
Haunted By Design
The Ides Of March
All Ends Well (Alter Bridge)
Year Of The Tiger
Tell It Like It Is
Watch Over You (Alter Bridge)
Love Can Only Heal
World On Fire (Slash, Myles Kennedy And The Conspirators)
It was my 7th time of seeing the maestro in various guisesAlter Bridge December 2019 was my last gig before lockdown ,but I truly believe this was the best his voice has ever been. You could just see he was having as much fun as we were. The mam in a genius. See you soon 😊
That December 2019 gig is now such a fantastic memory, given all that followed – there is a review of the O2 gig at MetalTalk.
Was a great night in London, last week. We hope we did it justice!