Pop Break Live: Myles Kennedy at The Asbury Lanes
If there is one thing I truly believe in, those who possess once-in-a-lifetime capabilities as artists combined with an impeccable work ethic and the highest displays of character, they could truly change the lives of millions for the better and on-a-scale very few individuals might ever achieve in this world.
Look no further than Myles Kennedy who embodies the most commendable attributes one could ever find in a frontman; otherworldly vocal range packed with such transparency in every note; novel-esque lyrical content that resonates with the brightest and darkest depths of our emotions; and unreal diversity in his musical output where he thrives across a wide-spectrum of genres, including melodic metal, hard rock, folk rock, dark Americana, old-school R&B, and the rawest blues.
On a Saturday night at the Asbury Lanes, Myles Kennedy intuitively took this sold-out crowd on a retrospective journey across his entire career; a truly historic live-action documentation of his enduring excellence as a musical anomaly and beloved songwriter of the highest echelon.
Earlier in the spring, Kennedy performed at the nearby House of Independents, which I also attended, and truly gave fans an Olympian-esque performance decked with fantastic storytelling, virtuosic acoustic and steel guitar playing, and a primarily solo set.
As the holiday season officially began, Kennedy returned to Asbury Park with another “Unplugged” esque performance, the Alice In Chains and Nirvana style of breathtaking musicality and emotional honesty that one hopes will be documented for a live DVD and album. The main difference during the second leg of the Year of the Tiger tour, this was a full-fledged band effort as he was joined by bassist Tim Tournier and one of his best friends since junior high and former Mayfield Four bandmate, drummer Zia Uddin.
In the words of Kennedy, he accurately proclaimed, “We’re going to do some rocking and rolling and it’s going to be a lot of fun.” First and foremost, this show honed such a conversational charm as Kennedy made the entire Asbury Park crowd feel like we were hanging out and grabbing food together at the shore. Cool enough, this performance took place only a few days before his birthday and possessed a celebration type of aura, which was heightened by the most packed gathering that I’ve ever seen at the Lanes.
Case in point, Kennedy performed Alter Bridge’s classic “All Ends Well,” where he encouraged everyone to sing along and hit the highest and lowest notes of the chorus, “This much I know/ All Ends Well.” In terms of pure volume, there was such a deafening roar when the audience attempted to replicate his vocal register. Even when he introduced his bassist Tim Tournier, he hilariously said, “Timmy! Timmy! Timmy! Timmy!” a classic reference to South Park, and the crowd joined along for a truly memorable moment, which captured the absolute ease between the fans and entire band.
On a serious note, Myles Kennedy is currently touring behind his debut solo LP, the critically-acclaimed and award-winning Year of the Tiger, which conceptually focuses on the turbulence of his childhood, particularly the passing of his father. One look into Kennedy’s eyes and demeanor during the album track “Blind Faith,” he was completely consumed by the potent depths of his lyrics, “Like a whisper in the night / You slipped away,” and the physical exhilaration of his voice was complemented by the aggressive slides of his steel guitar.
Considering the acoustic based nature and bluesier tones of Year of the Tiger, songs like “The Great Beyond,” possess such an awe-inspiring metallic edge, which evokes a masterful balance of cathartic aggression and heart-wrenching instrumentation much like Alter Bridge’s masterpieces, “The Last Hero” and “Blackbird.” During the chorus, Kennedy unleashed the highest registers of his unlimited vocal range, which throttled the heart every single time his voice pierced across the venue. Combined with his Gibson ES-335 and haunting guitar tones brimmed in distortion, “The Great Beyond” tapped into Kennedy’s fearless ability to cut his heart wide-open and confront the most intense moments of his life in the confines of a live setting, which I define as true bravery.
The rhythm section truly put on a clinic throughout the night; Tim Tournier’s bass tone was so crisp alongside the multitude of different guitars (electric, acoustic, steel) and effortlessly rumbled alongside Zia Uddin’s hard-hitting rhythmic patterns on the drumkit.
Kennedy also shared a great story about the early stages of “Haunted By Design,” when he passed along his original demo to Uddin and was unsure of its potential. They both initially agreed, “This is too country,” but as the song came together, he was grateful it made the record. Considering the personability and lead-in nature of this story, this performance distinctly stood out as one of the most unique moments of the entire show, especially when Kennedy ripped into an unbelievable guitar solo brimmed in southern-rock charm and soulful bends.
This show also consisted of a few covers, Kennedy summoned the spirit of Johnny Cash and covered Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper,” which featured galloping acoustic guitar strums in the vein of “Ring of Fire.” Cool enough, “The Trooper” captured the baritone depths of his lower register and shifted to the sky’s when he embodied Bruce Dickinson’s operatic voice in the chorus. In terms of Kennedy’s vocal capabilities, he unleashed the most insane high-note of the night during his cover of Robert Johnson’s “Travelling Riverside Blues.” I actually couldn’t believe what I had witnessed; the term “pitch-perfect” doesn’t feel adequate enough to properly surmise the zenith of this bluesy performance, a goosebumps-worthy moment that ignited the loudest cheers.
Longtime fans of Myles Kennedy, whether they enjoy Alter Bridge, Slash, his solo work, and beyond (the great beyond), cannot miss this tour and must find a way to see a show on this current trek. This “evening with” setting is a true behind-the-scenes showcase of Kennedy as a person, the most authentic experience one could ever witness from an artist they admire. Never one to forget his roots, he shared great stories about growing up with Zia Uddin and how they performed together in the high-school jazz band and marching band, which brought their musical journey full-circle. This revelation caused unanimous applause all-around and this New Jersey crowd was now apart of their lifelong story.
It goes without saying, the genres of rock and metal are beyond fortunate to have someone at the forefront of both scenes who is so respectful, courteous, and driven. Kennedy devotes every single ounce of his energy and effort to his respective instruments, black-belt worthy discipline with his vocal and guitar preparation. To shift from exuding blues-ridden guitar solos in the vein of Stevie Ray Vaughan and to possess such melodic eloquence, dynamic range, and lyrical integrity in the vein of Chris Cornell, musicians of this caliber only come around once-in-a-generation.
As 2018 nears its conclusion, Kennedy accomplished one of his lifelong goals by releasing Year of the Tiger, which truly paid off in every possible facet. After a near three-year break with the Conspirators, he also reunited with Slash, coming off the insanely successful Guns N’ Roses reunion tour, and recorded Living the Dream, another monstrous LP of blissful rock n’ roll. If that weren’t enough, Alter Bridge released the definitive musical statement of their fourteen-year career, Live at the Royal Albert Hall, where they performed alongside a 52-piece orchestra; and what I consider to the best live record of the last fifteen-years. Truth be told, Kennedy’s album is titled Year of the Tiger for such incredibly noble reasons and as times goes by, history will reflect that 2018 was indeed, “The Year of Myles Kennedy.”