Saturday, 23 October 2010

Alter Bridge @ the Hammersmith Apollo

For the life of me I can't remember if I've ever been to the Apollo but as I arrived outside Hammersmith tube, the place had a very familiar look about it. There was already a queue outside but it was far too early to join then so I went for a stroll round Hammersmith which was very busy indeed, stopping off at this Charcoal Grill place where Chicken Shish and Chips was definitely the order of the day! Before long I was heading back to the venue at 7pm or so with belly full and ready for a night's pounding heavy rock. The excitement was starting to build slow and there was a huge, though moving queue building up as I joined the back of it. I was looking forward to seeing Alter Bridge immensely as I have all three of their albums and each of them is spectacular in it's own way. The band can do very little wrong as far as I'm concerned.

Luckily I had managed to nab a ticket on ebay although it was in the "Gods" I wasn't that worried as I had a decent view of the stage and a fairly comfortable seat. The Apollo was pretty much packed to the rafters I would say with probably around 6000 or so people attending the show at a guess. It's interesting to see what kind of people attend an Alter Bridge show. It's not the usual type of metalhead or hard rocker crowd that I am used to. You get people from all walks of life attending. Old people in their 60s who are nostalgic rockers to emo teenagers in My Chemical Romance shirts and all types in between. The band really does attract a wide variety and I guess it just boils down to the fact that their song writing has such wide ranging appeal.

First band on at 8pm were Slaves to Gravity. I listened to them on myspace and they weren't that bad or anything but their tunes didn't excite live. They were like an Alter Bridge-lite band without the melodic tunes or the really amazing vocals. They got an OK response but people were just waiting impatiently for Alter Bridge now.

Finally at 9.15 sharp the lights went down and AB took to the stage although the spotlight was solely on Myles Kennedy as the opening strains of the opening cut off the new album AB III started things off nicely with Myles crooning and then the full band launching earnestly into the song. The sound was immediately much better than it was for the support band being heavy sharp and crystal clear with a rumbling cutting bass sound. This can sometimes overpower the other instruments but it was not the case this time as Tremonti's guitar was sharp as a razor.

After the opener, we were straight into one of the best and catchiest tunes off of Blackbird, namely Buried Alive with it's mighty riffs and hugely infectious chorus which the whole of the Hammy Apollo was belting out with Myles. What a song! The set continued with beefed up heavy guitars and the amazing vocals of Myles shining out like a beacon although on many occasions the crowd was drowning him out such was the sing-along and adulation levels. Metalingus from the debut album was just awesomely played and sung by the band with trademark Tremonti licks burning the house down. Personally I prefer the two latest albums to the debut but all the tunes played fitted in with each other seamlessly.

It sometimes amazes me how good bands effortlessly play their songs and deliver it with as much passion as Alter Bridge does. Myles was very thankful of the crowd throughout the gig and said that it was a dream come true to play to such a crowd and it was an evening he would cherish for a long time and the feeling was mutual within the crowd. Finally we arrived at one of the most mesmeric and epic tunes in their repertoire, the monumental title track of their second album Blackbird, which was played and sung like it's the last time it's ever going to be sung. A spine tingling moment that one! Once again the whole crowd joined in on the chorus and were struggling to hear the band over the crowd which was an epic feat in itself.

At the end of the set they took their bows and left the stage though of course the show was not over the "Alter Bridge! Alter Bridge!" cries and slowly ascending hand claps soon started and before long we saw Myles sitting on a stool in the spotlight with acoustic guitar in hand. The next two songs were sung acoustically. the first of which was Myles on his own singing Watch Over You with amazing passion. It was at this point that you realise what a great voice the guy really has as you could hear it more clearly when not backed by heavy distorted guitars. The second song saw Mark Tremonti join Myles for an acoustic version of the amazing new ballad Wonderful Life off the new record which was once again mesmerisingly beautiful and I'm sure a few tears were shed around the crowd at that one.

After that Myles donned his electric once again and announced that your normal programming is now resumed as the band launched into a monstrously heavy version of Isolation the massive hit single from AB III which was for me perhaps the best sing along moment of the night with all and sundry once again belting out that chorus like there's no tomorrow. Classic!

Finally we arrived at the last song of the night, the totally anthemic Rise Today from Blackbird with it's stirring challenging chorus which was once again boomed out by the crowd right along with Myles and co. Looking at the set list I would have loved to have heard Life Must Go On personally speaking as it's just an immense tune but maybe next time eh. Unfortunately I was just sitting too far away to get any sort of decent pictures as a memento of the show but the music will live long in the memory in any case. All in all a great night of melodic modern hard rock was had by all. If you get the chance to see Alter Bridge at all then don't miss it as I nearly did cause you will be in for a right treat!

Set list:

Slip to the Void
Buried Alive
Before Tomorrow Comes
Still Remains
Brand New Start
White Knuckles
All Hope Is Gone
Broken Wings
Ghost of Days Gone By
Ties That Bind
One Day Remains
I Know It Hurts
Open Your Eyes
Come To Life

Watch Over You (Acoustic)
Wonderful Life (Acoustic)
Rise Today

Friday, 15 October 2010

Sabaton Live Report

I had been looking forward to this gig for months and months and finally after an eternity of waiting, it's finally come and gone, but boy was it worth the wait and leaves me with great memories. This is the 4th time I am seeing the Saba war machine in action and probably their best gig yet. On this occasion they were playing the Electric Ballroom which is a huge upgrade for them from their previous jaunts across the UK as a headline act. The place was jam packed and ready for a night of power metal magic and believe they weren't going to be leaving the hall disappointed one iota!

First band of the night was newcomers Thaurorod who themselves have a very nifty power metal debut under their belts. They played well but their material suffered from lack of memorability for most of the crowd whose response overall was not as enthusiastic as it might have been had they been more familiar with the material. The best song they played was Shadows and Rain which was a beautifully melodic mid paced song with more accessibility and easily got the best response compared to the other songs. This was not Thaurorod's night but their time will come. The singer also needs to work a little bit on his live vocals.

Next up were the True Scottish Pirate Metal troop, Alestorm. I had been looking forward to see the Scots for the first time and they didn't fail me. What I didn't quite expect was the response from the crowd. The place went absolutely apeshit for these guys and then some. I was near the front and to the side but the pit was non stop mental for these guys. I didn't actually realise that the front man plays keytar until he ran out with one. You don't see too many of those at metal gigs.

Their set list consisted of songs from both their album which I am very familiar with. At some points the crowd was going completely doolally! There was even a huge wall of death which saw bodies getting totally mauled and battered. The fancy dress pirates were there in force and there was even a dude dressed as a ninja believe it or not. I was trying to take his picture but I couldn't get a clear shot so you'll have to imagine the dude was cloaked in black and you could only see his eyes! After 45 minutes of pure unadulterated fun it was time for them to leave. They did play one new song for us called Rum which was absolutely hilarious and a rollicking great tune. These guys may not be everyone's cuppa but live they are unstoppable!

And finally for the main event and one of the best power metal shows I have ever witnessed ever and I've seen a few. Sabaton is one of those bands that speaks to my heart now and I adore everything they do. Tonight I was looking forward to hearing many new songs as well as the killer hits of earlier albums. Any song that they played was played to perfection and enthusiasm. The crowd treats them with complete adulation all night and it's impossible not to be taken in by this band. Joakim is one hell of a front man and whips the crowd into a riot soon enough although it must be said this crowd didn't need any help when it came to causing absolute mayhem - they could do that without geeing up all night.

After the intro of The Final Countdown which everyone sang along with and enjoyed the gig proper started with a storming version of Ghost Division which is always a great and ultra energetic start before diving headlong into the first new track, Uprising with it's fist pumping, anthemic feel. The sound was immediately much tighter and crisper than for the other bands and you new who the headliners were alright. The crowd was jam packed at the front but the gig was completely sold out.

Next up was one of my favourite new songs Aces in Exile with it's wonderful fast free flowing tempo and glorious sing along chorus. Great stuff and played to perfection. Next two songs were Cliffs of Gallipoli which is nothing less than one of the most emotional songs ever followed by 40:1 which is one of the catchiest. The following song was the mesmeric The Final Solution with it's awesome keyboard parts. The song was dedicated by Joakim to those that died. He also said that they didn't play the song before this tour as the subject matter was too morose but since the UK fans had specifically asked for it the band had to play it. the rendition was again very emotional and perfect in every way.

Next up was the upbeat and more jolly Attero Dominatus which the whole crowd sang along with drowning out Joakim at times. Next came Wolfpack, which is not a fave song of mine but it's ok. It was notable for a rendition of happy birthday for drummer Daniel. Next came another newie, Saboteurs which Joakim dedicated to the Norwegians which aided the allies in the war and which are the subject of this song. A brilliant song make no mistake.

Next up was The Price of a Mile which was also very emotional and brilliant sung and played with it's thudding almost desperate melody. The final song of the main set followed which as Back in Control about the Brits regaining the Falkland's again. Another of their great rapid fire catchy tunes that everyone just has to sing along with. They took their bows and left after however the Sabaton chants soon started from the packed crowd and grew louder and ever louder meaning their return was not long in coming.

The first song in the encore was the the title track of the new album, Coat of Arms which was with a near enough riot of a moshpit at the front. Next up was huge fan fave, Primo Victoria which got the whole place bouncing to it's military beat and not a single voice was not raised for the chorus. And finally we arrived at their ode to metal, namely Metal Machine which is just a great way to end any gig with it's happy feel to counter some of the more emotional songs played earlier.

So yes the gig was immense and will live long in the memory of everyone who witnessed it. Sabaton are a well oiled power metal machine these days with enough musical ammo to last for countless wars ahead. This battle was one they could not lose and so it proved to be a massacre on all levels. Hail Sabaton!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Jorn Live

A dull and barren Monday night was wonderfully lit up when I finally got to see one of my favourite singers in the world today, Jorn Lande. I have 3 favourite singers of which Jorn is one with the other two being Nils Patrik Johansson and Johnny Gioeli. When I found out that Jorn was playing a gig at the Underworld it was a complete no-brainer to nab a ticket to see this legend of the mic. I looked forward to last night immensely and now that it has come and gone I realise that Jorn is just an amazing singer with great power and emotion.

However before Jorn took to the stage, the support band Crimes of Passion played an energetic if one dimensional melodic rock set with guitar shredding aplenty. I have come across these Brit melodic rock merchants before and have quite enjoyed their material whilst not loving it. In a live setting they played pretty well but didn't really get the juices flowing so to speak. Their front man is an energetic dude and has a few nifty one liners for the gathered crowd which draws a few laughs. The sound didn't help them being rather loud and muddy but Crimes of Passion did their best and had one or two cool headbanging tunes to enjoy.

Finally at around 9.15 or so it was time for the main event. I was wondering what sort of setlist Jorn had prepared for us and was hoping for a couple of older songs from Worldchanger and possibly a couple of non Jorn solo songs from Masterplan or his Dio tribute album but the whole setlist was plundered from his more recent albums. I would have loved to have heard Sunset Station or World Changer but alas it wasn't to be so I didn't let it worry me too much as song after heavy song was played to the half full Underworld. Actually the turn out was probably around 250, not too bad considering there was a tube strike and it was a shitty Monday night.

Anyway let me tell you Jorn's band is shit hot tight. His two guitarists never missed a note all night. The sound in the Underworld was incendiary too. I had my usual home made ear protectors in and the sound was super clear but bludgeoningly loud but very crisp like I said. In fact Jorn's vocals were at times a little difficult to hear over the crunching guitars and super clear bass but that was remedied after a song or two.

Now what about the man's live vocals. The guy is just a monster powerhouse of a singer. His live voice is much more raspier and angrier than what you hear on record. He used to be more of a Coverdale type of singer, smooth yet rough, but now he uses his angrier waspish voice much were he sounds very mean and angry like some one spilled his pint or something. I must admit I absolutely loved this slightly more aggressive live approach. It made the songs sound meatier and darker, not that they aren't mean and moody to begin with. The setlist was in the main culled from his latest albums with a few older songs thrown in. I cannot remember the setlist exactly but I have it listed below though not in this order. I think I am missing 2-3 songs as well which I cannot recall.

The best songs were the monstrous Road of the Cross, the catchy Lonely Are the Brave and the most evil pounding and heavy version of Tungur Knivur which wrecked ears badly! Blacksong was also amazing and Jorn took the roof off with his vocals on that song. Throughout the show the band was getting an amazing reaction from crowd and Jorn had them eating out of his hand. He's actually a much smaller guy than he looks in photos and I thought he would be more imposing but in fact he's more like a modern day Dio. In time the guy could go on to as many great things as the great little man himself but there's a long way to go yet as we all know. During the encore Jorn gave a very empassioned speech about the great little man before introducing Song For Ronnie James which was just savagely heavy and sung with more vigour and power by Jorn than he does on record.

After the final song and a 90 minute set finally the band took their ovations and I think everyone in the whole crowd got to high five Jorn even yours truly. I hope to see Mr. Lande again one day maybe with Masterplan this time but I ain't holding my breath for that one, No sirree! Any how next time Jorn plays local, I'll be there again like a shot. The man is a vocal GOD!

Spirit Black
Road of the Cross
Rock and Roll Angel
Are you ready (thin lizzy cover)
Lonely are the brave
Man of the Dark
Shadow People
Tungur Knivur

Song for Ronnie James
War of the World

I took my camera to a gig for the first time in a long time and managed to get a few decent photos for a change.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Alter Bridge - AB III - Review

I've been waiting very impatiently for this record and finally it's here and what can I say this band just amazes me every single time. Just when you think they can't surely get any better they go on to deliver magic song after soaring, magic song on their new platter. I'm fast running out of superlatives for this band and they deserve even more praise than I can heap on them. I am not certain yet as to my ranking for the album in comparison with Blackbird because I completely adore that album, but the new one is just fresh and I'm still absorbing whilst still being blown away. I didn't think it would be possible to top the last album but they might have just gone and bloody done it! Here is my song by song review.

Slip of the Void - A brooding start before the song proper starts with slow and grinding melodic riffs that let Myles do his thing over the top with his epic soaring melodies. The song is not that immediate but grows quickly to a huge riff and vocal fest. 8.5/10

Isolation - The lead and superbly catchy lead single off the album. It's not for reason that it was chosen as the single as the song is just wondrously catchy. Blessed by thumping mid tempo riffs and lead embellishments from Tremonti before the song breaks into a hugely catchy and goose bump inducing. The solo in the second part is just brilliant although a little too short for my taste. Just a brilliant and flawless melodic tune from start to finish. 10/10

Ghost of Days Gone By - Just when you thought things couldn't get any better they do! This is a less heavy and more melodic tune with wonderful mid tempo before the chorus bridge goes into typical AB style melodic epic song writing. The lyrics in this song are very melancholic as well reminiscing about better days. The song is just beautifully paced and emotional with great instrumental and vocals which build to quite a heavy tune. The "I don't wanna die" line from Myles sends shivers up the spine as does the following solos and vocal melodies. Can one give more that 10/10?

All Hope is Gone - A fairly slow and brooding start before the awesome Myles Kennedy melodies soon start to surface paced alongside the heavy Tremonti atmospherics. The chorus in this song is not so immediate but as a whole the song is a typically enjoyable AB song. The song goes into a heavy groove riff section in the second part which sounds very cool before another one of those great Tremonti solos kicks in this time with greater length which makes the song sound much more epic and better. 9/10

Still Remains - The song starts with a heavy and grooving riff which sounds very cool indeed before Myles' vocals kick in with awesome melodies and so we reach the chorus which is just killer it has to be said. You would thing there would a lull of some kind somewhere along the line but no just when you think they can't top or even equal the previous tuneage, they go and prove you wrong. This song has great rolling intricate riffs for guitar enthusiasts with big thundering riffs whilst never losing the melody which is truly phenomenal from Myles. 10/10

Make it Right - Starts off acoustically with steady pace and Myles singing his usual wonderful melody before the main guitars kick in once again with a crisp and beautiful melody. Less heavy and sitting nicely after the bludgeoning of the previous track to give you a little respite from heavy riffing but not from killer melodies which are still there in abundance. The song soars vocally and gradually gets a little heavier with Myles providing "wooooahhs" behind his own vocals in the chorus which sound very catchy indeed. The solo once again is spine tingling and I'm slowly running out if words to say without sounding completely gushing in praise. 9.5/10

Wonderful Life - A soaring ballad with an amazing vocal from Myles once again. The music is very atmospheric and wonderfully lush and semi orchestrated sounding. This song is all about huge vocal melody and not so much in the way of guitar acrobatics. Nevertheless it is just a gorgeous and uplifting song and very heart rending. Incredible song after incredible song. 10/10.

I Know it Hurts - After the previous ballad you would expect a heavier tune and this song starts in that vein with the opening thumping riff but the main verses are backed without the heaviness which of course returns in time for the chorus again. The vocal performance is again without flaw from Myles. The melody is one big giant sized hook guaranteed to pull the hardest hearted listener. the mid section of the song has a monstrously heavy riff which grinds away before Myles' soaring vocals again pierce the air with shattering precision and glorious melody. One of the catchiest songs on the album. 10/10

Show Me a Sign - The song starts off with a typical Tremonti heavy lick before slowing down to the opening verse and allowing Myles to once again delve into his box of vocal tricks. The melody in this song is more morose and not so upbeat but no less enticing in any way. The song is heavy and rocks pretty hard with big crunching grooves in the back and Myles wowing the listener in the front. The first solo in the song is a bit different being quite minimal but musically the song is one of the best and most intriguing with lots to devour for the ear. A brooding and moody song with a dark atmosphere. 9.5/10

Fallout - Starts off in typical AB fashion with a thoughtful and non-heavy beginning with jingly, acoustic guitars before the pre chorus whilst the main heavy guitars join Myles in one of his regular great melodies. Once again the song is a vehicle for Myles to spin his web of magic round your ears with a huge melody. The chorus is truly spine-tinglingly awesome. The mood of the song is a bit desperate and downbeat before the midsection goes into one of the best riffs on the whole album with it's great big hulking groove and stomp feel. The solo is once again earth shattering perfect for the song. Could be my fave song on the whole album but how can I say that after so many 10/10's already! 10/10 hehe

Breathe Again - The usual AB formula. Slow acoustic opening before heavy guitars join the chorus. Ok you can say the band is very formulaic but the formula in question is unbeatable so why change it eh. The vocal melody is very memorable and soaring from Myles in this song and hits the skies. Mid song the song improves even further when it goes into a heavier section before once again Myles' vocals reach the stratosphere one one particular note. I'm thinking he might have trouble replicating that live if they play this song. The song is just beautiful. 9.5/10

Coeur D'Alene - A moody opening and sinister start before a great big crunching thunders into view but is soon enough stripped back as Myles enters the fray with his usual bombast. The main crunching riff returns once again to give the song it's heavy backbone during the pleasing and catchy chorus before reigning back again during the second verses. The song is once again flawless in every possible way. At the heavier end of the AB spectrum but nevertheless with melodies that will stick like super glue. 10/10 How many is it now?

Life Must Go On - A soaring ballad after the heavy previous song. What else can I say about Myles Kennedy. The guy is just something else. Once again he's floored me with his vocal melodies in this emotional ballad. It is acoustic in feel but they are backed by electric guitars during certain parts and of course the chorus which is just brilliant once again. Do they ever run out of epic emotional melodies? It seems not. 9.5/10

Words Darker Than Their Words - The second song that was released early from the album and perhaps the only song that really didn't catch me yet. I was hoping for an epic of Blackbird proportions to end the album with but whilst it's a great stab at it, it cannot match Blackbird for greatness. However the song in itself is very emotional and deep lyrically and builds well acoustically allowing the song to breathe before setting down to the usual guitar groove that Tremonti is the master at. The vocal melody in the chorus is merely great rather than the amazing things we've heard in the previous songs. A slightly disappointing end but for anyone else this is a work of genius but AB have already performed miracles earlier in the album so all is forgiven. 8.5/10

So there you have it. A band unparalleled in modern rock circles. An almost flawless album.