Alter Bridge’s performance at Riviera Theatre in Chicago was one of the first few dates of The Last Hero Tour, named after the band’s fifth studio album, released in October 2016. Just as Alter Bridge are no strangers to playing a headlining show in Chicago, a cold and rainy night during the middle of the week was not going to stop fans from seeing a rock show in The Windy City.
Once the opening bands, Weapons Of Anew and Nonpoint, had warmed up the crowd, Alter Bridge took to the stage and proceeded to give their fans an almost two hour set made up of a variety of songs spanning their thirteen year career. The night started off with new song, The Writing On The Wall and with singer/guitarist Myles Kennedy singing lead from stage right mic instead of center stage. The hard driving beats of this song lead perfectly into the same tempo of Come To Life from their Blackbird (2007) album, which also included backing vocals from guitarist Mark Tremonti.
By the time they were finished with Addicted To Pain from their 2013 release, Fortress, they had more than set the tone of the evening. For anyone new to seeing Alter Bridge live, I’m pretty sure, by this point, the band had solidified what many dedicated fans in attendance already knew. Plain and simple, Alter Bridge are a powerhouse rock band. They’re also a band who thoroughly enjoys what they do, not only expressed through their playing, but also seen on their faces and how they interact with each other on stage.
It wasn’t until after Ghosts of Days Gone By that Myles first spoke to the crowd. He mentioned how it had been too long and thanked everyone for coming. After a funny comment from Mark about a fan holding a Myles Hug Me sign and bassist Brian Marshall actually hugging Myles, they started the opening notes of Cry of Achilles and almost immediately the crowd started clapping along to the beat. While I have seen Alter Bridge more than a few times live, it was my first time since the release of The Last Hero. Hearing the new songs in this setting gave them a life that cannot be compared to listening to the studio version, especially My Champion. I can’t quite describe it, but there is something very captivating about this song.
When the band launched into Ties That Bind from Blackbird, I noticed a considerable amount of people erupt in cheers. This song, like many of Alter Bridge’s songs, is an excellent example of why a two-guitar band can be such a joyous aural experience in a live setting. Watching Mark and Myles play and paying attention to not only how they interact within a song but how they play off each other’s strengths is a great lesson in that powerful thing known as music.
For fans that follow Mark Tremonti’s career, his solo band, Tremonti, showcased his new venture into lead vocals. It was nice to see that he is continuing to lend a hand with backing vocals on more of the Alter Bridge catalog including songs from The Last Hero. After playing this title track, which had a pretty heavy breakdown full of sludge sounding guitar and bass and machine gun like drumming from Scott Phillips, Myles introduced Mark for the next song. Once again, the crowd was receptive to Waters Rising, which Mark sings the majority of lead on with Myles contributing to lead towards the end. This song is the most like those on Mark’s solo album and I for one enjoy it every time it’s played live.
At this point, everyone but Myles left the stage. With just an acoustic guitar in hand, he jokingly announced it was the dinner portion of the set. He then started to tell the audience how after college his first gig was in a lounge. He mentioned the set started off with Jazz standards and then they played R&B dance numbers that included Boyz II Men, Color Me Badd and others. He joked he had officially lost all of his rock credit by talking about this and that all of his skeletons were now out of the closet. As he started strumming the opening notes of Wonderful Life, the mood of the crowd changed. As he sang, you couldn’t help but be entranced. He sang the first few verses before singing all of Watch Over You, which included crowd participation towards the end when they loudly sang alone, “Who is gonna save you when I’m gone, and who’ll watch over you.” After Myles sang the closing lyrics the crowd clapped showing much appreciation. The band came back out and they picked up the pace again with another new song, Crows On A Wire. This lead into Isolation and another clear crowd favorite, Slip To The Void.
If there was one song that could be considered Alter Bridge’s magnum opus, it would probably have to be the song Blackbird. The magnitude of the song, between the music, the lyrics and the vocals, conveys such a powerful statement. It is also a clear example of an artist putting all of his emotion into sharing the feelings of something he himself has dealt with. And, just as they have on previous occasions, it was also dedicated to someone that had passed away.
Myles, who now was without his guitar, took time to introduce Scott Phillips, who started off the next song and Brian Marshall, who slipped right into that groove at the beginning of Metalingus from their debut release, One Day Remains (2004). The album that started it all. As the band played and Myles sang, he walked along the front of the stage giving fist bumps to those down front. When the song was over, Myles thanked everyone for being so good to them over the past thirteen years and they ended with one more from the same album, Open Your Eyes. The band briefly left the stage before coming back out for the encore, which included the first single from their new album, Show Me A Leader.
After thanking both opening bands, Myles and Mark started a good-spirited guitar dual. They took turns playing, going back and forth a few times, with each time a little longer than the previous. They are both talented guitar players, and it was fun to watch them duke it out with their six strings. All in good fun, right? Right.
They ended the night with another popular song, Rise Today, with its catchy, great to sing along with chorus and one more song that adds a gigantic exclamation point on their catalog, which more than shows what they are capable of accomplishing as a band. Not only are they a shining example of each member bringing his best skills to the table, the history and amount of time they have all been playing together (more than thirteen years when you factor in the Creed days for three of the band members) just strengthens the quality of the music they make. It’s not hard to see why Alter Bridge are considered by many around the world, to be one of the greatest rock bands to come along in the past fifteen years.
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