Alter Bridge Brings Brilliant Vocals, Intense Riffs to Starland Ballroom

Words by Anthony Toto | Photos by Aaron Kudler

The writing is on the wall; Alter Bridge continues to cement their status as one of the most immensely gifted and enjoyable live acts in the world. On a warm Tuesday night at the concert haven known as the Starland Ballroom, Alter Bridge took the crowd into the palm of their hands and put forth an orchestral display of melodic metal decorated with virtuosic songwriting and emotionally riveting guitar solos.

Take this into consideration, Alter Bridge could thrash away at Metallica ridden speeds, bounce in the groovy vein of Sevendust, summon olympian-like vocal melodies worthy of Iron Maiden, and compose material with the heartfelt authenticity of Soundgarden. This diverse palette of styles and influences forms a titanic barrage of sonic intensity that is best described as Alter Bridge. It was truly a pleasure to witness four musicians of this caliber come together and produce such a gargantuan sound that left the entire audience gleaming in admiration during performances such as “Ties That Bind,” “Waters Rising,” and “Addicted To Pain.”

Alter Bridge is currently touring behind their fifth full-length LP The Last Hero, which was released last October. The band has developed quite the following in the tri-state area; as I have witnessed them pack this venue and the Playstation Theater in New York City multiple times over the years. In the words of frontman Myles Kennedy, “This is the best fucking place to play.”

One of the most noteworthy aspects of their performance was the inclusion of new songs such as “Crows on a Wire” and “Island of Fools.” Both tracks showcase the intense fortitude and grandiose compositions that highlight The Last Hero from top to bottom. “Crows on a Wire” was performed immediately after “Cry of Achilles,” one of the band’s pivotal masterpieces, and “Crows on a Wire” suffered no drop off in terms of crowd energy and continued to raise the bar as Kennedy’s voice soared when he sang, “The glory and power they gave to you!”

Case in point about The Last Hero, Alter Bridge opened with “The Writing on the Wall,” and the pure sense of enjoyment in Mark Tremonti’s demeanor showcased his love for performing such intricate and immaculate guitar leads over downtuned bouncy riffs. Rightfully so, the album’s first single “Show Me A Leader” is one of the most prestigious gems in Alter Bridge’s catalog and has already found its rightful place in the band’s encore. The devastatingly heavy seven-string riffs and drummer Scott Phillips and bassist Brian Marshall’s galloping rhythms provided Kennedy with the perfect landscape to unleash new heights of vocal and lyrical excellence.

Believe it or not, we are vastly approaching the ten-year anniversary of Alter Bridge’s classic sophomore LP Blackbird. For any serious or young guitar player, one must experience the titletrack – “Blackbird” – in a live setting since no words could properly describe the feeling of witnessing this guitar driven masterpiece in person. The bends in Kennedy and Tremonti’s main riff summon Black Sabbath worthy levels of artistic innovation while the chorus unleashes this cathartic aggression and emotional innocence that strikes the heart as Kennedy’s voice pierces across the venue.

Without question, Myles Kennedy is the most talented, humble, and gifted frontman in heavy metal for this generation. He takes such excellent care of his voice and his expert knowledge in music theory allows him to push the threshold in Alter Bridge’s sound with each release. He shared one hilarious story about “Open Your Eyes” and joked about how uncomfortable he felt when they filmed their first music video. He referred to himself as “uncool,” which goes to show his humility and the audience could definitely attest to his unique coolness and charisma both musically and personality wise.

Towards the end of the show, Kennedy subconsciously lost himself on stage and summoned blues-infused guitar solos in the vein of Gov’t Mule and The Allman Brothers. For a few minutes, Kennedy and Tremonti traded off solos that musically ranged from jazz to neoclassical. Speaking of Tremonti, he has mastered the perfect balance of melodic songwriting and technical wizardry. I have played guitar for fourteen-years and seen most of the noteworthy virtuosos and Tremonti is right there alongside Joe Satriani, John Petrucci, and Paul Gilbert. His guitar tone is equally vicious and soothing: look no further than the climatic essence of his solo in “Come To Life.” His picking patterns are quite complex yet Alter Bridge’s progressive tonalities can still attract the casual hard rock listener. That accomplishment itself deserves to be highly commended.

Whenever one sees Alter Bridge perform live, they will hopefully grasp the profound magnitude of their catalog. In today’s digital age of singles dominating the music industry, this band continues to thrive in the album format. Their setlist is delicately balanced and features multiple songs from all five of their records, each album itself stacked with tremendous songwriting. Deep cuts, heavy hitters, acoustic interludes, extended solos, and hit songs – fans will most certainly walk away having seen a level of artistic eloquence that is one of a kind. These four musicians intuitively raise the bar and bring out the best in each other’s individual performance.

Alter Bridge has most certainly found a second home in New Jersey and their ability to create an extremely fun crowd atmosphere while unleashing academic worthy levels of musical excellence is quite remarkable. Whether they perform at the Starland Ballroom or co-headline the Download Festival, Alter Bridge gives 110 percent of their energy to the audience and that combination of work ethic, musical talent, and songwriting ability provides them with the opportunity to “rise today and change this world.”

Setlist:

The Writing on the Wall
Come to Life
Farther Than the Sun
Addicted to Pain
Ghost of Days Gone By
Cry of Achilles
Crows on a Wire
Ties That Bind
Island of Fools
Waters Rising
Wonderful Life (Acoustic)
Watch Over You (Acoustic)
Isolation
Blackbird
Open Your Eyes
Metalingus

Encore:
Show Me a Leader
Dueling Guitar Solos – Mark and Myles
Rise Today