The outside of the Hydro arena is illuminated in blood red whilst on the inside; one of this year’s hottest arena tours finally hits Glasgow: modern titans Alter Bridge backed by Volbeat, Gojira and Like a Storm.
Like a Storm kick things off and unperturbed by the lukewarm welcome they receive, they throw themselves into their short opening slot. Quickly the front of the crowd take to them and it’s a hive of activity. The New Zealanders bring their self-styled voodoo metal or didgeridoo metal (complete with real didgeridoo) and whilst they put everything into their performance, it’s not to my taste, opting for a shiny, hairsprayed radio-friendly sound, almost out of place on tonight’s bill.
By the time Gojira hit the stage, the standing area of the Hydro is already fit to burst. Working with a short timeslot, they waste no time in making their assault and the crowd are more than willing to be victims. Frontman and guitaritst, Joe Duplantier is far more chatty than their Bloodstock appearance, excited to be on such an amazing tour. It’s a tight performance from the Frenchmen, the groove-laden metal is captivating to the point you’re forced to ask yourself “How can a band be that good?”
A band a lot of people were specifically here to see, Volbeat arrive to a momentous reception, their unique sound making an excellent bridge between Gojira and tonight’s headliners. And it’s here where the Hydro really fails. Ever since it opened, it’s never had good acoustics and I’ve never heard a kind word said about them – I even heard a couple of tonight’s bands remark on it as they handed over to their next touring mate. If you’re unaware of Volbeat’s sound, imagine Elvis and Johnny Cash’s voices had a baby and you set it to metal. Awesome, right?
Except here, due to the Hydro’s sub-par acoustics, Michael Poulsen’s voice came across thin and almost like a strangled cat. That aside, they delivered a slick performance, newcomer Kaspar Boye Larsen on bass has fitted in well, handling the material with ease. Focusing on new material with Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie, the title track with Rob Caggiano’s intro comes across much thrashier than it does on album. With the rest of the material hitting the usual touchstones of a live show from the Danes (and New Yorker), the energetic performance has the crowd in a frenzy. The band and crowd are feeding off each other’s energy, the four-piece visibly enjoying themselves; relishing in the moment of playing in such a sizeable venue. With each band constantly upping the quality of their performance, Volbeat had laid down the gauntlet at the headliner’s feet.
And within one song, Alter Bridge had not only accepted the challenge but beaten it to a bloody pulp with “The Writing on the Wall”. Alter Bridge are back and better than ever. Balancing crowd favourites featuring material from this year’s The Last Hero with songs like “Crows on a Wire”, “The Other side” and “You Will Be Remembered”. There’s less reliance on Blackbird’s material than previous tours, dropping songs to fit in AB III (“Isolation” and “Ghost of Days Gone By”) and Fortress (“Farther Than the Sun”, “Cry of Achilles” and “Addicted to Pain”) material, and of course, “Metalingus” from the debut.
Always an incredibly tight live band, the duelling guitars of Mark Tremonti and Myles Kennedy deliver some of the most recognisable riffs and solos of modern times. “Blackbird” receives some of the loudest cheers of the night and at points, Kennedy taps into his blues and jazz roots as way of introducing songs. However, his vocals fall victim for a third time to the Hydro’s acoustics, almost as if he was singing from the end of a long, empty tunnel.
With the traditional extended drum intro for “Metalingus”, Scott Phillips shows off his prowess, hidden for most of the night behind his kit but puts in the most effortless performance across all bands. He meshes well with Brian Marshall and like the band as a whole; they’ve consistently upped their game every album cycle.
Bringing an impressive light show in tow with them, as the band hit the encore of “Show Me a Leader” and “Rise Today”, what was already an incredible live band, they’ve transformed into a behemoth. A band I’ve always credited for not using any gimmicks, just going onstage and playing, they’ve delicately crafted themselves into a spectacle as they eye bigger venues, hugely appreciative of their European support.
All photos by Gavin Lowrey.