Gig Review: Alter Bridge / Shinedown / The Raven Age – SSE Hydro (17th December 2019)

Six years ago, Alter Bridge were the first rock band to play Glasgow’s then-newest and “state of the art” venue, in front of thousands of people. Those same people would also discover on the same night that said venue was shit. Since then, we’ve gone another couple of albums from the four-piece, another visit on the last album cycle and now, right before Christmas, they make their third assault on the Hydro.

Shinedown (c) Gavin Lowrey

Due to illness in the Sevendust camp (wishing a speedy recovery!), The Raven Age have been drafted in as a last-minute replacement to kick off the show. The doors have barely opened by the time they’re on stage and whilst a sizeable crowd is already there, it’s dwarfed by the crowd they finish with. And at no point, do they seem overwhelmed. Instead, they’re taking it in their stride, perfectly warming up the crowd – a mixture of fans and obviously new converts. It’s a receptive crowd and their brand of melodic metal goes down well, finding that point between Alter Bridge and Tremonti – rather apt given they’ve toured with the latter. They’re a ridiculously tight band, eager to make the most of their time on stage and they’re clearly relishing the chance to be on a bigger stage, making good use of it.

Alter Bridge (c) Gavin Lowrey

It’s very obvious there’s a lot of Shinedown fans in the house tonight when they grace the stage. Battering through ten songs, they bring so much energy to their performance, they make sure to engage the crowd at several points. With a more down-the-middle hard rock flavour for the evening, they blend much of their catalogue into one cohesive set to give a great introduction for newcomers. Meanwhile, one of the biggest issues I’ve seen on social media is vocalist Brent Smith spending too much time talking to the crowd and “preaching”, even when they’ve been openers for other bands. Here, it’s kept at a bare minimum and works to their advantage, letting the music do the talking and it’s highly likely they’ve made a lot of new fans on this run if they stick to that formula. On a technical level, they’re great – they work as one unit and there’s great chemistry between them but they simply didn’t click for me. They never have. And before anyone moans in the comments – I’m not saying they were bad, they just weren’t my cup of coffee.

Now, enter the men of the hour. Alter Bridge are back, motherfuckers. As the lumbering intro tape of “One Life”, it blends perfectly into “Wouldn’t You Rather” to mirror latest album, Walk the Sky. Then, it’s time for “Isolation”, much earlier in the set than usual. This is Alter Bridge bringing a fresh spin to their fare and even if they hit the usual marks at the usual points, it wouldn’t be stale – because it’s Alter Bridge.

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Second Opinion (Mosh) I was unexpectedly gifted a ticket close to last minute for the gig and ended up in the gods over the sound desk, arriving 2 songs into Shinedown’s set, courtesy of some road closures. For my money, they were the best band of the two I saw… but I’m a bigger Shinedown than Alter Bridge fan so that’s not unexpected. The sound for them wasn’t bad and as Ross mentions, Smith toned down the waffle and let the band belt out the songs. Brilliant light show as well. A staggeringly good set for a support slot.

Alter Bridge had the emptiest stage I think I’ve seen at a gig of this scale. A drumkit, a couple of amps and a ton of empty space that they filled with rock n’ roll. Sadly, the sound was definitely mushier with the vocals in particular being muffled and the drums sounding like they were coming from the bottom of a tin can. Thanks, Hydro. “Blackbird” has never sounded more epic, though, and was without a doubt the highlight of the entire evening.


Between all their albums, there’s great picks, deftly weaving new material in with those evergreen numbers which are several years old at this point. Typical encore song “Rise Today” nestles itself halfway into the set and despite its massive crescendo, sticking it there works, same with “Open Your Eyes” not used to close the set but instead opting for “Metalingus”, complete with those on the floor dropping to their knees for that moment. It all simply works and kudos has to be given to a band of their stature not wanting to simply re-hash the usual fare with some new songs. They’re at that point where they can do that and it won’t come as a disappointment.

As always, the band are at the top of their game, with each dominating their weapon of choice. Slick and playing the new material as well as their oldest songs, the newer numbers don’t quite get as warm a welcome due to the unfamiliarity, other than the singles released. But make no mistake, they’re not bad songs, each of them have room to breathe and fit in well with the other five albums. Obviously, the perfect Alter Bridge set is about five hours long so you’re not going to hear all your favourites with the obvious two from the debut the only ones to get a look-in, whilst The Last Hero is represented by the solitary “Crows on a Wire”.

Alter Bridge (c) Gavin Lowrey

Elsewhere, Myles Kennedy does a little call and respond but instead of using his voice, he makes good use of his guitar. And the crowd match it perfectly. There’s also “Watch Over You” given a more album-faithful rendition, rather than simply played by a lone Kennedy and acoustic guitar as is the norm. Again – a clear sign the band are intent to mix it up and keep it fresh. “Blackbird” is as haunting and epic as ever and Mark Tremonti has his opportunity to provide lead vocals on “Waters Rising”, his own frontman prowess simply eclipsing it from those early Tremonti days, more sure of his capabilities than ever before.

Indeed, by the time the encore of “Godspeed” and “Addicted to Pain” finish the night, it’s another conquering night for the band. In top form as always, there’s not a weak moment of their set. The re-jigging of the standards in the set has worked wonders, giving them a new lease of life, keeping the crowd on their toes and energising the band. Sadly, the Hydro put paid to it being a perfect night with all three bands sounding a mixture of tinny, underwater, buried vocals and every other aspect we’ve come to associate with it. However, on the other side of that coin, all three bands gave it their all, and from the reaction on the night – the crowd had a blast in spite of it. And that’s all we can really ask for.

Pics by Lowrey Photography

Alter Bridge: official | facebook | twitter | instagram | youtube

Shinedown: official | facebook | twitter | instagram | youtube

The Raven Age: official | facebook | twitter | youtube

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