Alter Bridge Live At O2 Arena – Saturday 21 December 2019

Word by Phil Ashdown. Photos taken by Phil Ashdown & Jean-Paul Cartwright.

I’ve been following the progress of US rock band Alter Bridge since seeing them at the old Astoria on London’s Charing Cross Road back in 2008. It was clearly evident that those small venues could not contain them and they soon moved up to Hammersmith and Brixton before eventually selling out Wembley Arena and the O2 Arena in 2016. The sheer scale of their ambitions became clear when it was announced in 2017 that they would play two nights at the Royal Albert Hall, performing with a full orchestra. I was fortunate enough to get a ticket for the second night and it remains one of the best shows I have witnessed in over forty years.

On Saturday night Alter Bridge played their final gig of the decade as this leg of the Walk The Sky Tour drew to a close. They certainly upped their game visually with fifteen computer controlled video screens and a huge amount of lights that were capable of illuminating to the farthest corners of the cavernous room.

After intro number One Life finishes the band kick off with one from the new album, the rousing Wouldn’t You Rather with guitarist Mark Tremonti churning out its thunderous riff, head bobbing, leg on the monitor and clearly enjoying himself. Singer Myles Kennedy is surely one of the best rock singers currently working and his vocals were pitch perfect and filled the room with such clarity even above the guitars, Brian Marshall’s rumbling bass and Scott Phillips’ superb drumming. Tracks Isolation and Come To Life quickly followed before Myles spoke and told us ‘Santa Tremonti’ would give away one of his signature guitars to one lucky person at the front. Some of the hardcore fans had been queueing since 1pm to attend the meet and greet and Mark’s guitar clinic. Crowd favourites continued with Ghosts Of Days Gone By, White Knuckles and another one from the latest album, Native Son keeping the pace going.

The new songs sounded fantastic, bringing more depth to their sound with the addition of keyboards. I thought the setlist was a perfect mix of new with some of their growing back catalogue classics such as Rise Today and Cry Of Achilles. Myles introduces his good friend Mark as the guitarist takes the lead vocals with great aplomb. He has clearly learned a lot while working with Kennedy, with his richly toned voice sounding excellent during Waters Rising. Then they slow things down with their traditional acoustic part of the show with Myles putting aside his guitar while accompanying Mark, sitting on  stools as they perform a beautiful rendition of In Loving Memory, as mobile phones light up the arena, a true goosebump moment. Kennedy then picks up his acoustic for the first part of Watch Over You before the full band join in a rousing version of this track from their first album.

Their signature number follows, in the shape of the magnificent Blackbird, an eight minute tour-de-force with its haunting guitar intro, uplifting chorus and a dual shredding guitar solo, once voted the greatest of all time. After tonights performance it would be hard to argue against that accolade.

Open You Eyes and Metalingus bring the main part to a close. On the latter song the band are joined by John Connolly from Sevendust, who were meant to be the support band tonight but had to pull out due to a band member being hospitalised. Of course they were soon back on stage to beat the strict 11pm curfew and ripped through new song Godspeed and set closer Addicted To Pain, culminating in steam cannons erupting from the front of the stage.

Who knows where Alter Bridge can go from here, perhaps a headline slot at a major festival is not out of the question. They certainly seem ready for it.

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