In the end, the trek could wind up being the band’s biggest moment
After starting their album cycle with a European run, Alter Bridge kicked off the North American leg of their Pawns & Kings Tour last night with a sold out show at the Seminole Hard Rock in Tampa, Florida. The rock juggernauts are touring in support of their latest LP of the same name. With Mammoth WVH and Red serving as special guests, the massive tour is off to a powerful start.
Rock mainstays Red kicked off the evening’s festivities. The band has been in the studio as of late working on a brand new full-length LP. The album – titled Rated R – is due out this spring. The follow-up to 2020’s Declaration, Rated R is the band’s eight album and first release with new drummer Brian Medeiros.
They opened up with “Death of Me,” and ripped through a quick set that included the sweeping “Let It Burn” and the banger “Feed the Machine.” The finished with perhaps their biggest hit – “Breathe Into Me” from their GRAMMY®-nominated album End of Silence. Although they only had time to churn out six songs, it was enough to get the capacity crowd going.
Mammoth WVH had a mammoth year in 2022. The Wolfgang Van Halen outfit released its debut album, and the lead single “Distance” received a GRAMMY® nod for Best Rock Performance. Wolfgang, along with his live band, have toured relentlessly in support of the project. Now, they’re back out on the road with Alter Bridge after the initial European run late last year.
Wolfgang and Company kicked things off with their moniker song “Mammoth.” Highlights included “Epiphany” and “You’re to Blame,” as well as the signature song “Distance” which always serves as an emotional experience for both the band and the audience. The Deftones-eque track “Stone” has become an excellent staple in the band’s live shows. After introducing his band, WVH fired up the crowd for Alter Bridge with his fist-pumping anthem “Don’t Back Down.” The group is doing an excellent job of keeping rock ‘n’ roll alive and thriving.
The energy in the room was palpable as the capacity crowd awaited Alter Bridge to take the stage. Finally, the lights went down and the crowed quickly went from a low rumble to a loud roar. Guitarist Mark Tremonti ripped into the opening riff of “Silver Tongue” from the band’s latest LP, and off they went. The wasted no time launching right into “Addicted to Pain.” After back-to-back heavy hitters, they took their foot off the gas slightly for their power ballad “Ghosts of Days Gone By.” Songs like that truly show the band’s dynamic range.
The Tampa crowd was treated to the live debuts of two Pawns & Kings tracks “Holiday” and “Stay,” the latter featuring Tremonti on lead vocals. “Holiday” was released as a single just a few days ago, and both tracks garnered a favorable reaction from the audience. One fan even had a sign that read: “Thank you Alter Bridge for making me stay.”
Midway through the set, the band slowed things down with a pair of acoustic offerings. Myles Kennedy stayed on stage alone for a rendition of “Watch Over You.” Then, he was joined by Tremonti for “In Loving Memory.”
Then, as the rhythm section of Brian Marshall and Scott Phillips made its way back to the stage, the notes of Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird” gently began to float from Kennedy’s fingertips. The entire building knew that it was time for Alter Bridge’s song of the same name. Perhaps the keystone of their catalog, it’s this generation’s “Stairway to Heaven.” Simply one of the greatest songs ever written.
Watching Kennedy and Tremonti trade solos reminded us how much of an underrated guitar player Myles is. With Mark contributing more and more on vocals, one can’t help but wonder how long it may be – if ever – until we see another tandem like this. Until then, let’s enjoy watching this excellence.
The title track from Pawns & Kings followed, and later “Isolation” hit the crowd over the head like a sledgehammer. The band wrapped up the set with “Metalingus.” With the crowd still wanting more, Alter Bridge came back with their seminal hit “Rise Today” followed by “Open Your Eyes” to end the night.
Sadly, there were several staple songs from Pawns & Kings that didn’t make it onto the setlist. The bone-crushing “This Is War,” the slow burner “Sin After Sin,” and the record’s crown jewel “Last Man Standing” were not played. The absence of the latter two tracks could be attributed to length. The band’s new 10-song outing is an absolute behemoth, clocking in at just under an hour. Alter Bridge are getting close to Tool territory here, with three songs on the album longer than six minutes each. Two of those just happen to be “Sin” and “Last Man.” The third,“Fable of the Silent Son,” is a staggering 8:29 and the longest recorded song in the band’s catalog – a distinction previously held by “Blackbird.”
Alter Bridge are seven albums into their 18-year career. At this point, as Tremonti confirmed on our Talk This Way Podcast, it’s getting tougher and tougher to choose a setlist. The absence of some of the aforementioned new songs, as well as previous gems like “Find the Real,” “Make It Right,” “White Knuckles,” and others, does leave something to be desired, however. If the fans keep showing up to potentially hear their favorite AB song, the band will keep touring (as their schedule permits, of course).
A lot of bands have trouble capturing on tape what the are capable of live. In Alter Bridge’s case, one could argue that they haven’t fully unleashed a stage spectacle that brings the epic music they’ve recorded to life. To be clear, the musicianship is some of the best there is; one of the tightest live acts around. Which is why fans need to sell out every single date of this tour, and stream the shit out of Pawns & Kings, so the band can book another leg that sees them moving around the stage on a giant chessboard, playing for their lives as the show goes on amidst all the hellish flames like in this scene from the hit film Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Don’t laugh or roll your eyes, just watch the damn clip and tell me this wouldn’t be wild.
While it would be cool to see, perhaps that’s just not who Alter Bridge are. The pure talent of the band is almost unrivaled, and that’s all they really need to rely on. After almost two decades, the material they’ve cranked out has turned them into an absolute powerhouse.
By the the time their days on stage are done, they’ll have taken their rightful place among rock’s immortal acts.