Review by Greg Maki
We haven’t finished the fourth month, but I have a surefire candidate for the best show of 2014. And the band pulled it off with its singer fighting a cold or some other malady affecting his voice.
The last time I saw Alter Bridge in concert, they were co-headlining the 2011 Carnival of Madness tour with Theory of a Deadman, also here at Baltimore’s Rams Head Live. It was a midweek show, with Black Stone Cherry and two other bands also on the bill. If I recall correctly, it was a good bit short of a sellout. This time, they came to town on the most un-rock ‘n’ roll night of the week, Monday, with support only from Monster Truck, a Canadian band with which few in the audience were familiar. And they sold it out well in advance.
The difference? It has to be Alter Bridge’s spectacular fourth album, “Fortress,” released last September. The band—vocalist/guitarist Myles Kennedy, guitarist Mark Tremonti, bassist Brian Marshall and drummer Scott Phillips—gave the audience what it came for right from the start, opening with the blistering “Addicted to Pain,” the lead single from “Fortress,” and just a few songs later, tearing into that album’s epic opener, “Cry of Achilles.”
Alter Bridge has established itself in the hard rock realm during the past decade, but most of this show was pure metal. Most of that came from Tremonti’s muscular playing, which frequently incorporated the tight, fast downstrokes popularized by James Hetfield and other stars of 1980s thrash. (With a little extra oomph from Phillips’ double-bass drumming, “Isolation,” from 2010’s “ABIII,” was particularly ferocious.) Tremonti also showed off his stellar pipes, providing backing vocals throughout the night and taking lead on “Waters Rising,” also from “Fortress.”
Kennedy, one of the most dynamic vocalists in rock music today, clearly was not 100 percent, yet he still gave an exemplary performance. He told the crowd early on that he was not at his best and invited the eager fans to help him out a lot more than he would have otherwise. He still sang more often than not—he didn’t pull a Vince Neil here—and the occasional breaks the crowd participation gave him helped his voice hold up throughout the show. It was a great job of working through adverse conditions, aided by nearly 2,000 fans who brought their singing voices.
Monster Truck, hailing from Hamilton, Ontario, sounded like they just came out of a timewarp straight from the 1970s—when’s the last time you saw a rock band with an organ player?—and quickly won over a good portion of the crowd with a groovy, blues-laden sound. Keep your eyes on these guys.
ALTER BRIDGE SET LIST: “Addicted to Pain,” “White Knuckles,” “Come to Life,” “Cry of Achilles,” “Brand New Start,” “Ghosts of Days Gone By,” “Ties That Bind,” “Waters Rising,” “Isolation,” “Broken Wings,” “Farther Than the Sun,” “Metalingus,” “One Day Remains,” “Blackbird,” “Open Your Eyes,” (encore) “Rise Today”