Fresh off the back of those Royal Albert Hall gigs, modern day titans Alter Bridge are embarking on one last jaunt around Europe in support of The Last Hero. With that in mind, the band promised to play a different set from their Summer European run and in the far more intimate confines of a place like the Usher Hall; it was set to be a great night.
Recently announced As Lions open proceedings to a room which is already filling rapidly – you can’t fault one of the most passionate fan bases. It’s clear the crowd are here for the headliners and As Lions make the most of their captive audience backed by their youthful energy. Suitably heavy, it feels like the bass has enough force to kick you in the face. You can’t fault the passion from Austin Dickinson as he bounces around the stage as he and the rest of the band are clearly excited to be given this opportunity.
They’re a well put-together band, each of the five-piece nailing their part and some songs are recognisable, having reviewed Selfish Age earlier this year. However, it’s not quite to my taste, more akin to what you’d hear on the likes of Kerrang Radio. However, that being said, the audience around me get on board from the start and by the end, the band have them eating out the palm of their hands.
After watching the changeover, the lights dim, a roar fills the room and Scott Phillips, Brian Marshall and Mark Tremonti hit the stage. They waste no time on delivering the promise of a different setlist as “The End is Here” begins with Myles Kennedy following his bandmates, arms behind his back and acting as master of ceremonies. It’s quickly followed by “White Knuckles”, which has been dropped in recent years; it’s great to see it back in the set alongside Kennedy’s determining which side of the crowd can scream louder before commanding everyone to scream at once. After “Crows on a Wire”, “One Day Remains” keeps the energy going and once it’s passed, the band settle into a regular set, hitting the staples like “Ghosts of Days Gone By”, “Isolation” and “Ties That Bind”.
The passionate crowd are feeding off the energy emanating from the band which only further bolsters the performers and for the two hours they’re on stage; they own the night and for once, Edinburgh actually plays host to a lively crowd. Kennedy and Tremonti trade guitar licks whilst Brian Marshall effortlessly batters his bass, making full use of the five strings and Scott Phillips continues to prove why he’s one of the best drummers around at the moment. Watching the four of them in perfect synchronicity for the night shows why they’re one of the best hard rock bands of the modern era and why they’ve grown to the size they have. The intimate setting of the Usher Hall adds to the atmosphere of the night, a welcome change from the soulless and shit acoustics of the Hydro.
However, the highlight comes with “My Champion”. As an excellent song on The Last Hero, it’s been disappointing they didn’t play it at Glasgow last year or as part of this year’s crushing set at Download. Just as the intro finishes and the song is due to kick in, the band stop. For a second, it feels like a tease but Kennedy’s facial expression tells another story. A mixture of horror and disgust at whatever altercation was unfolding, Kennedy takes a moment to declare this isn’t a place for people to be assholes, they get back to business.
Acoustic renditions of “Wonderful Life” and “Watch Over You” are played before the band dig deep into the standards with “Come to Life”, “Addicted to Pain” and “Metalingus” where Kennedy indulges in some call and response before the mighty “Blackbird”. “Open Your Eyes” shows the night is drawing to a close before they call time with “Show Me a Leader”. Brian Marshall’s infant son makes a cameo appearance before the band return with “Cry of Achilles” and segue into “In Loving Memory”. Mark Tremonti and Myles Kennedy engage in a quick guitar duel with Tremonti’s hands a blur while Kennedy taps into his jazz and blues roots for a more deft approach.
“Rise Today” draws a line under the night and indeed, Alter Bridge’s time in mainland UK for the time being before they head over to Belfast, Dublin and the rest of Europe. By tweaking the setlist to include some older numbers but still bringing the heat with the songs everyone wants to hear along with the intimate surroundings, Alter Bridge managed to turn up the spectacle and provide a performance which eclipses their Download set.