CD Reviews

Alter Bridge - 'Live At The O2 Arena + Rarities' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     March 02, 2018    
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The live show is taken from the 2016 UK tour and is split over two discs.

I know people who have no interest in live albums (including DVD or Blu Ray content) or even seeing a band/artist play live. These days there seem to be more and more studio-based projects, created by artists who will possibly/probably never even meet in person, and consequently never get the chance to perform the songs in a live environment. I love to watch a band play live; songs tend to evolve and impact differently without any kind of studio enhancement, and Alter Bridge's 'Live At The O2' is a great example.

This is the band's third live release following 'Live From Amsterdam' (2010) and 'Live At Wembley' (2012), both of which were complimented by DVD/Blu-ray accompaniment. This 'O2' set does not contain a visual documentation of the show, but it's augmented by an extra disc of studio material ('Rarities') to bolster the appeal. The live show is taken from the 2016 UK tour and is split over two discs. I attended one of the shows on that tour and was somewhat disappointed by the band's performance. They seemed to be going through the motions to some extent, and I couldn't help feeling that Mark Tremonti and Myles Kennedy had more enthusiasm for the projects they were involved in outside of the band (Tremonti and Slash & The Conspirators). I don't know whether it's because they knew the show was being recorded, or whether I had just caught them on an "off" night during the tour, but in London, they sound rejuvenated and enthusiastic.

The sound is very raw and not as polished as some live albums I've heard in recent times, although the quality is almost like a very good bootleg, this merely emphasises how true it is. 'The Last Hero' studio album had only been available for a short time, but the inclusion of six tracks showed how confident the guys were with its material. There are no theatrical introductions, meaning opener 'The Writing On The Wall' is a clear indication of how things are going to proceed. Newer songs such as 'Farther Than The Sun', 'The Other Side' and 'Crows On A Wire' sit nicely next to the more established 'Cry Of Achilles', 'Come To Life', 'Ghosts Of Days Gone By' and 'Ties That Bind'.

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The riffs come thick and fast, while Kennedy's delivery is both impassioned and incendiary. There is no lengthy between song banter and, to be honest, none is needed. Tremonti gets to sing lead vocals on 'Waters Rising', combining well with Kennedy during the harmonies. As usual, Kennedy's solo spot – an acoustic rendition of 'Watch Over You' – is mesmerising (hair on the back of the neck present and correct), and the note he holds at its conclusion is impressive to say the least. The strong nineteen song set is littered with classics and includes a spellbinding 'Blackbird' alongside powerful renditions of 'Isolation', 'Open Your Eyes' and 'Metalingus'. The show comes to a close with two more new songs, 'Poison In Your Veins' and 'My Champion', and it's hard to believe, based on the reception they receive, that they have only been made available just weeks before the show.

The 'Rarities' disc is a nice addition, although some of the material has been available on versions of previous albums. The first few songs are genuinely reflective in tone. The opening three tracks, 'Breathe', 'Cruel Sun' and 'Solace', would normally be found mid-album, yet they still have a great impact and are top-drawer songs. The pace picks up a little with the likes of 'Zero', 'Home' and 'Never Born To Follow' (all included on the 'III.5' re-issue), and finishes with the two songs I like best, 'Never Say Die' and 'Symphony Of Agony (Last Of Our Kind)'. It's not a complete set of 'Rarities' as there are other songs that could've been included ('Save Me' from the 'Elektra' soundtrack, for instance), but it complements the live material and makes for a better value package.

'Live At The O2' is available in several formats, and though a DVD is included as part of one, it contains only interview and backstage footage. I'd be surprised if a re-issue didn't appear in the near future featuring a visual documentation of the show, and that is the only negative thing I can say about Alter Bridge's latest live release.

Dave Bott

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