Alter Bridge / Shinedown / The Raven Age (Nottingham) Hot

Written by Central Electronic Brain     December 28, 2019    
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Alter Bridge / Shinedown / The Raven Age - Motorpoint Arena, Nottingham (UK) - 14 December 2019

Criticically Alter Bridge seem to divide opinion. What is unquestionable is the impact they have made on the European music scene during the course of fifteen years and six studio albums. I have seen the band a dozen times, at various venues throughout the UK, and have never failed to be impressed by the performance levels. Having said that, I did think the last couple of occasions lacked the spark of shows on earlier tours. The arena in Nottingham was packed and I think the added attraction of Shinedown helped to move those few extra tickets that pushed the capacity towards the "sold out" level.

The Raven Age were very last-minute replacements for Sevendust, who had to drop out due to drummer Morgan Rose becoming ill just days before the UK leg of Alter Bridge's European Tour began. I was pleased for the band, when looking back from the photo pit, to see very few spaces in both the seating and standing areas. They had been part of the bill in mainland Europe so there were no first night nerves or rustiness. Though they had good energy and the musicianship could not be faulted, I was slightly underwhelmed by the songs. They tended to have a "samey" quality. The intense barrage of riffs and thundering rhythm section was the foundation for the Technical Metal musical style and left little room for the hooks to resonate. It was only during 'Face That Launched A Thousand Ships' when things relented somewhat that the music was given breathing space and was all the better for it. Having said that they did receive a healthy reception when their hirty-five minute set came to an end and probably attracted a few more to their cause.

Shinedown are a headlining act in their own right so it was only fitting that they were given longer than most support acts to warm up the crowd before the main event. There is no denying the likeable persona of front-man Brent Smith, even though his between song preaching can become a bit wearisome. It meant that even though they had an hour it was only time for ten songs. I would have preferred two or three more, rather than the continuous crowd instructions. I'm probably in a minority I know, because whenever Brent said "jump" everyone did, and when he asked everyone to get to know the person they were stood next to they did exactly that. 2018's 'Attention Attention' album may be slightly left of Hard Rock centre, yet the infectious nature of the material factors highly in its appeal. With so many quality songs to choose from four or five top drawer albums it must have been difficult to choose just a handful to perform live, so it was good that the set had a nice balance. The edgier 'Devil', 'Enemies' and 'Cut The Cord' were complimented by the more reflective "lighters in the air" 'Get Up' and 'Second Chance', and the acoustic rendition of Lynyrd Skynyrd's 'Simple Man' is still effective and an opportunity to involve several thousand backing singers. It was difficult not to become affected by the atmosphere and when 'Brilliant' brought things to a close after a rapturous 'Sound Of Madness' it was as though the headliners had just been on stage.

When I first saw Alter Bridge the crowd was only several hundred and there was only one album's worth of material to choose from. Consequently they played all the album's tracks and filled the set with a couple of covers. In those days Myles Kennedy concentrated solely on his lead-singer role and left all the guitar work to Mark Tremonti. Having two guitars certainly gives the sound greater intensity and makes for a more interesting live dynamic. The recent 'Walk The Sky' album features a few tweaks to the existing AB sound, with the addition of programmed elements to give one or two songs a greater commercial slant. On the whole it is a hard-hitting affair and they have been including a large number of its fourteen tracks in shows on the tour. It is new song 'Wouldn't You Rather' that got things under way and Myles and Mark's ferocious guitar assault was "in-your-face" from the start. There can't be many tighter rhythm sections than bass player Brian Marshall and drummer Scott Phillips and it was clear that everyone seemed relaxed. The guitar riffs and solos were executed with ease by Tremonti and Kennedy and even if the music has something of a slight Progressive edge its Hard Rock core is the main attraction. The more established 'Come To Life', 'Isolation' and 'Ghosts Of Days Gone By' sat nicely next to the newer 'Pay No Mind', 'Native Son' and 'Take The Crown', with Kennedy's excellent vocals front and centre in the crystal clear mix. Mark Tremonti's vocal skills have come to the fore in recent years yet it was still something of a surprise when he took the lead for 'Burn It Down' from the 2004 'All That Remains' debut, a song that hasn't featured live for many years and was usually sung by Kennedy. 'Watch Over You' generally acts as a solo acoustic spot for Kennedy, but half way through the rest of the band joined in to add to its emotional demands and when the epic 'Blackbird' came to an end even some in the crowd seemed drained. With 'Metalingus', 'Open Your Eyes' and 'Addicted To Pain' bringing the show to a conclusion there was, in the end, no doubt about the headline act.

Dave Bott

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