Feb. 14th, 2023
Photos & Review by John Swider
Alter Bridge comes with an aura of prestige within the rock world seldom experienced by most artists. The band’s name doesn’t elicit the same response as Metallica or Iron Maiden in certain circles, but in their nearly 20 years as a unit they have endeared themselves to a thriving fanbase with a mountain of hits and live performances that border on the word legendary. Is Alter Bridge underrated by rock pundits? Perhaps, but ask any fan and you’ll get an enthusiastic, almost vile, absolutely! The Florida based band has some of the most loyal followers on the planet and they showed up in droves Tuesday night, filling The Fillmore Detroit to capacity, extending the string of sold-out shows on this run of the Pawn and Kings Tour.
When the four-piece outfit of frontman Myles Kennedy, guitarist Mark Tremonti, bassist Brian Marshall and drummer Scott Phillips made their way on stage, they wasted no time in reminding us of what their fans have been missing. Tearing into the red-hot “Silver Tongue,” one of the recent singles off the latest album Pawns & Kings, it showcased the driving guitar work by Mark Tremonti and set the stage for one of the more exhilarating live performances at the Fillmore in quite some time. Without much ado between songs, Alter Bridge doubled down with “Addicted to Pain” and “Ghost of Days Gone By,” which feature the expansive riffs of Tremonti that push each track open before Myles Kennedy’s combination of ethereal vocals and range decimate the senses.
The pace was often fast, and shall we say, furious at times, most notably as the band tried, yes tried to lay down tracks for “Holiday,” which features Kennedy on lead. As the opening riffs permeated the venue, a look of bewilderment flashed across the premier frontman’s face. There was no sound from his guitar! After a few moments, the culprit was found and rectified, Kennedy had not turned up the volume! A little good-natured ribbing from the band notwithstanding, Kennedy put that snafu behind him and worked through the cut off the new LP without any further challenges. Just as fast as Kennedy stepped up, he was just as gracious handing things off to Tremonti as he would lead it into their soulful six opus “Burn it Down.” We all know how talented Mark Tremonti is with a guitar, but sometimes fans seem to overlook his impassioned abilities in front of a microphone.
The chemistry of the band members and the pure joy they seem to experience in performing together brings their performance to an even higher level. They deliver so much energy and charisma as performers, especially during one of nights best cuts, “Cry of Achilles,” that makes it as infectious as it is riveting. There is a feeling of being part of a special moment and the love and gratification that the band has for performing together. Kennedy’s voice, as always, was flawless and exhibited why he is among the best if not THE best rock vocalist in the world. He effortlessly floated through his massive vocal range all night, with a softness and detail that only he can claim.
When Kennedy started to strum the beginning of licks the band’s acoustic ballad, “Watch Over You,” the energy that has permeated the venue from the start instantly changes direction towards the stage, a new dynamic takes hold. A word for word sing-along culminating when the song’s last chorus hits, Kennedy gave the lead to the crowd by holding the microphone high above his head. The sellout crowd lit up the sold-out Fillmore Detroit with so much warmth and passion singing for the band, it is hard to describe but an incredible experience for anyone to take in.
Alter Bridge would stay unplugged one more time for another moving throwback performance. This time featuring Mark Tremonti on the six string, Kennedy and Tremonti take it back to their 2004 debut album One Day Remains with “In Loving Memory,” that had the capacity crowd spellbound and in totally awe of what they were hearing.
The performance would continue packed full of memorable gems old and new alike. Alter Bridge played a hauntingly beautiful version of “Blackbird” that had everyone once again singing word for word. “Pawns and Kings,” started with Kennedys soaring vocals before a percussion heavy lead takes hold and meanders along with searing riffs from Tremonti while Brian Marshalls heavy bass tracks keep everything in time. A riveting take on “Isolation,” from the AB III album was next followed by Kennedy introducing each member of the band beginning with drummer Scott Phillips, as each member started playing the introduction to “Metalingus,” which in itself was another highlight reel performance. They closed out the night with even more heavy weight classics, fan favorites “Rise Today” and “Open Your Eyes”.
In stark but contrasting appeal to Alter Bridges long standing foundation, one of the todays high powered “Young Guns” in the world of rock and roll were the special guests for the evening’s festivities, Mammoth WVH. With Drummer Garret Whitlock starting the short eight-cut set by pounding out some thunderous beats, guitarists Jon Jourdan, Frank Sidoris, bassist Ronnie Ficarro followed suit, soon after guitarist and lead singer Wolfgang Van Halen joined in on the extended intro. He walked up to the mic and yelled “Detroit!! Let’s have some fun!!”. The band immediately launched into “Mammoth,” which fired up the crowd and instantly had fans running trying to get one of the few remaining spots to see the prodigal son of the greatest guitar player who ever strapped up.
Like a well-travelled musician does, Van Halen lit up the fretboard of his guitar with ringing harmonics and two finger fret tapping that would make his dad proud as the band rifled through a thundering version of the upbeat “Mr. Ed.” Lead guitar on this favorite was handled by Jon Jourdan and provided some great follow up riffs throughout the song. The two-part harmony between Wolf and Jourdan really brings the vocals front and center throughout the song, and even had fans upfront singing so loud, that at times could be heard over the band just feet away. Van Halen took a quick second to thank everyone for showing up and that he now knows why Eddie Van Halen loved playing in the Motor City so much. “Epiphany” found Van Halen behind the keyboards where he was doing double duty playing them as well as his guitar.
The shortened set list was full of favorites and tugged at the fans heart strings a bit when Van Halen introduced the next song as his father’s favorite. The pride and emotion knowing his father felt that way radiated into his performance of “Think It Over,” which segued directly into the radio favorite, ”Distance” that found every fan illuminating the darkened venue by holding their cell phone lights up high. Mammoth WVH ended their short high octane evening on a high note with a rollicking high energy version of the radio stalwart “Don’t Back Down.”
This was a concert for all ages. Youthful exuberance, talent, and well-crafted songs that Mammoth WVH brings to the stage and serves as the perfect elixir with the incredible song catalog and immense talent that Alter Bridge possess. When you combine both bands on the same bill it’s no wonder that this tour is selling out everywhere it stops. Two powerhouse outfits that bring it every night and actually appear to enjoy what they are doing!. What a concept!
Alter Bridge Setlist: Silver Tongue – Addicted to Pain – Ghost of Days Gone By – Broken Wings – Holiday – Burn It Down – Cry of Achilles – Watch Over You – In Loving Memory – Blackbird – Pawns & Kings – Water Rising – Isolation – Metalingus – Rise Today – Open Your Eyes
Mammoth WVH Setlist: Mammoth – Mr. Ed – Epiphany – Stone – Think It’s Over – Distance – You’re o Blame – Don’t Back Down