Alter Bridge – Live At The O2 Arena + Rarities26th August 2017
Disc’s 1 and 2- Alter Bridge‘s 3rd live album was recorded at the O2 Arena in London on the 24th of November 2016. A risky strategy, to take from only one show, but it’s been pulled off well, their confidence in their playing matching the grandeur of the O2 show- one of their biggest ever. The 3rd disc contains rare tracks, previously heard as bonus tracks, and 2 ‘new’ tracks (‘Solace‘ and ‘Cruel Sun‘) recorded during the sessions of their debut album.
I had the pleasure of seeing Myles Kennedy 6 years ago, singing with Slash. It bodes well for Alter Bridge that Slash (who, given his stature, could have probably got anyone to sing for him) chose Kennedy’s intense, emotional vocal to replicate the Guns N Roses classics, and give his own material a distinctive (and quite brilliant) sound. His impressive CV also includes still unreleased work with half of Led Zeppelin, an invitation to front Velvet Revolver and work on Fozzy‘s 3rd album. It’s no surprise, then, that Kennedy’s voice is the stunning centerpiece of this live album.
After the overwhelming cheers from the crowd, the dark riffing begins. Kennedy’s voice is able to perfectly pierce the rhythm section, while Mark Tremonti’s lead lines provide the perfect yang to the vocal yang. It’s a faithful rendition of the new-ish ‘Writings On The Wall‘ which, as you can tell from the enamored cheering to finish, gets the crowd immediately involved. Another early standout is the cheerily titled ‘Addicted To Pain’. Thanks to the every-other-beat snare drum pattern in the verses and the half time chorus, means you can pretty much feel the jumps of the lucky crowd.
‘Cry Of Achilles‘ is as intense as ever, while ‘Farther Then The Sun‘ brings the catchy chorus to the arena, with the audience screaming along to every word before gearing up to jump along to the, I’d go so far as to say, impossible -not-to-headbang-to instrumental section. The first disc ends with a melancholic, reflective acoustic version of ‘Watch Over You‘. It’s yet another chance for Kennedy to prove his incredible talent, taking both the guitar and vocal duties. His soaring high vocals in the chorus contrast perfectly to his lower, bluesy tone in the verses, before he lets the audience take over in a genuinely goosebump-inducing sing-along. For me to get goose-bumps sitting at home listening, it’s quite spectacular to try to fathom being the single person on stage, to see a 20,000 strong audience in front of you, lovingly sing your own composition back at you. It’s laughably good.
Alter Bridge start to draw the set to a close with the back to back festival of hits, bringing out ‘Isolation‘, ‘Blackbird‘ and ‘Metalingus‘ all in a row. ‘Isolation’ is a heavy, groove based metal track, the perfect way to counter the acoustic beauty that came before it. It’s catchy chorus keeps what makes Alter Bridge so special. This leads the way to ‘Blackbird’, the defining tune, that which even non-fans respect. A short teaser of The Beatles ‘Blackbird‘, akin to telling the crowd what they’re about to play, works perfectly as it encourages excited roars from the crowd. The long track builds dramatically until it culminates in the solos of Tremonti and Kennedy, often viewed as one of the greatest in all of music. And it’s no different live, the chemistry and ability is incredibly impressive, and the crowds roars show their appreciation. ‘Metalingus‘ continues to rally the crowd, who seem delighted to have the classics poured onto them all in one go.
‘Rise Today‘ opens with the deafening audience chant of ‘Alter Bridge, Alter Bridge’- a crowd who clearly feel the show was money well spent. The huge sing-along chorus keeps the crowd from giving in to fatigue, making sure they keep jumping and screaming right until the very end. Two tracks from the latest album close the live portion of the album, and their impact on record is beautifully replicated in a live setting, much to the delight of their rabid fans, as their cheers and screams ring out as ‘My Champion‘ fades away.
As we move directly on to the ‘Rarities’ portion, the shift in atmosphere is overwhelming. The pulsating cheers are stripped away and are replaced by the clear, dark, melancholy opening to ‘Breathe‘ (previously a bonus track). Kennedy’s voice is no longer having to fight the sheer volume of the o2, and the guitars have space to bring out intricate detail in their melody lines. It carries on in the two previously unheard tracks- ‘Cruel Sun‘ and ‘Solace‘, from their debut album recording sessions in 2004. They aren’t bad tracks, the surprisingly proggy opening of ‘Cruel Sun‘ is particularly interesting, but they lack a certain… something. Maybe it’s to do with the awful vocal mixing in the chorus of ‘Cruel Sun‘, or the samey nature of ‘Solace‘, but it’s probably a good thing they didn’t end up on the debut.
From then on the pattern is set and most of the tracks are pretty good, but you can sort of understand why they didn’t make it to albums. There’s just something not there. Highlights from this collection include the bass solo opening of ‘Damage Done‘, the drum solo opening of ‘We Don’t Care At All‘ (sensing a theme?) and the whole of ‘Home‘- a catchy track that really highlights Kennedy’s quite incredible vocal range and tone. This 30 track album is wrapped up by ‘Symphony Of Agony‘, which opens with a great riff, but unfortunately ends up as another fairly average track that didn’t make the cut before now.
The live portion of the album is pretty stunning, really. The trueness to the studio tracks is impeccable, Kennedy’s voice is incredible and the rest of the band is as tight as you can get. The audience is clearly enamored, and the set list can convert even the most skeptical of listeners into fans. The rarities disc is harder to get into, but I suppose it’s designed for the type of people who were actually at that show, who have sunk their teeth into everything Alter Bridge have already offered, and I’m sure they loved it. Unlike the live portion, though, it’s not going to pull in a casual listener.
Having said that, this album has converted me into a fan, and I wish that was something I could have said on the 24th of November 2016 so I could have been there.
Score 9/10 (live Portion) 7/10 ( Rarities)
Live At The O2 Arena + Rarities Information
CD 1+2- Live At The O2 Arena
- The Writing On The Wall
- Come To Life
- Addicted To Pain
- Ghost Of Days Gone By
- Cry Of Achilles
- The Other Side
- Farther Than The Sun
- Ties That Bind
- Waters Rising
- Crows On A Wire
- Watch Over You (Acoustic)
- Open Your Eyes
- Show Me A Leader
- Rise Today
- Poison In Your Veins
- My Champion
CD 3- Rarities
- Cruel Sun
- New Way To Live
- The Damage Done
- We Don’t Care At All
- Never Born To Follow
- Never Say Die
- Symphony Of Agony
8th September 2017