The days of the iconic live album are firmly in the past and whilst bands still produce live releases on a regular basis, we’re not getting anything which will stand proudly with Live and Dangerous or No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith. A lot of the modern ones are good but they’re never going to be the pinnacle.
If one band could lay claim to rubbing shoulders with the greats, Alter Bridge are likely to be at the top of that list. Fuelled by The Last Hero and as the tour comes to its end with one last run of dates in October (including two nights at the Royal Albert Hall with an orchestra), the modern titans are setting an example of how to make a live album in 2017. And for good measure, they’re throwing in a disc full of songs from previous albums which were on special editions in various regions.
With the career-spanning setlist, all five albums get a look-in with the focus on the latest album at the biggest headline show to date: London’s O2 Arena. Lifting a full recording from the show, it’s a perfect portrait of the four-piece at the top of their game. Between songs like “Addicted to Pain”, “Metalingus”, “Come to Life” and “Isolation”, the new material such as “The Writing’s on the Wall”, “The Other Side” and “Crows on a Wire” fit in seamlessly.
Then there’s the acoustic rendition of “Watch Over You”, complete with the spine-tingling sound of thousands of people singing the words back to Myles Kennedy. And once he’s done with that, his familiar intro to the behemoth that is “Blackbird”. The back half of the second disc (as the show comes to its end) is by the book with “Open Your Eyes” closing out the main set before the encore of “Show Me a Leader” and typical final song “Rise Today”. Any fan would expect this. However, stuck onto the end is “Poison in Your Veins” and “My Champion” which are both excellent songs (the latter of which I’ve still to hear live) but it detracts from the idea that they were played on the night. A far better compromise would have been to slot them in where appropriate rather than tacked on at the end.
That gripe aside, because it’s one full show, you’re made to feel as if you’re in the room with the band and thousands of others (take note, Dead Daisies). The energy emanating from the band is blindingly obvious and the natural charisma of Myles Kennedy is such that when he commands the crowd to join in at specific parts, you’ll be singing or clapping your hands in your own living room to whatever device is playing the album.
The duelling axe-men of Kennedy and Mark Tremonti are at their pinnacle here as they trade solos and riffs with each other. Tremonti’s own vocals on “Waters Rising” are superb and from leading his self-titled band in this department, he’s clearly unfazed singing to much larger crowds. Meanwhile, drummer Scott Philips provides his deft skills to the kit, once again proving he’s one of the best drummers rock has right now. Brian Marshall’s thick grooves are ever-present and loom heavy , locking in with Philips and the pair create a powerhouse of a rhythm section.
As live albums go, it’s brilliant and one of the best in recent years. Although not a visual representation of them, fans are going to love this as it does them justice as a live act. It’s a great way to introduce new fans into the fold. Nothing’s missing in terms of songs and it proves what a captivating live band they are. It’s been mixed to perfection and whilst previous studio efforts have solidified them as the standard-bearers of modern rock, this underlines that a good live performance isn’t a fluke, it’s an everyday occurrence.
The third disc is really for the hardcore fans. Although, if you’re anything like me, you’ll have already found most of these songs on YouTube. However, I’ve never thought Alter Bridge albums were missing these songs. The band have made the right choices in the past with what songs made the final cut, giving the extra songs to special editions. Or in a case of a couple of the One Day Remains songs, never seeing the light of day. Whilst there’s nothing on here which would make One Day Remains or Fortress a better album, at the end of the day, it’s more Alter Bridge which is never a bad thing.
Even with this, the band have taken care on the track order, grouping them in chronological order and even the most casual of fans are going to notice the shift through albums. I’ve been living with “Last of Our Kind” with some time as it came with my copy of The Last Hero and it’s fantastic. The strongest part of the disc comes in form of the AB III material with “Home”, “Zero” and “Never Born to Follow” and especially in the case of the last two songs, would have made what was already an incredible album, pulled it out of the shadow of its predecessor Blackbird with its venomous yet soul-searching lyrics.
This part of the package isn’t a wonderful place for new fans to start off as whilst the tracks are good, they’re far weaker compared to what you’d find on a full studio album. It gives everyone access to a physical copy of these songs, however and if you love the band, you’ll appreciate what’s on offer here while we wait for the next album.
Live at the O2 Arena and Rarities is released on 8th September on [amazon text=CD&asin=B071GB78KF], [amazon text=digital download&asin=B073V7BY7L] and [amazon text=vinyl&asin=B071GB9F3M].