While 2013 has undoubtedly been a damn good year for music, few line-ups have been as fine as tonight. Floridian hard-rockers Alter Bridge return for another sold-out headlining slot (their previous venture to the UK, in 2011, also took them to Wembley) – this time bringing Shinedown and Halestorm along for the ride.
Blessed with a decent sized crowd, and one of the finest frontwomen of our generation, Halestorm (7) don’t let arenas daunt them. In fact, it’s easy to envision the quartet headlining similar venues of their own, in the not-so-distant future. Opening with Love Bites (So Do I), Lzzy Hale and co. set off as they mean to go on, playing fast, loud and with a huge amount of swagger. While Lzzy provides the striking vocals, it’s her little brother, Arejay Hale, who steals the limelight. The drummer’s unrelenting enthusiasm and outrageous talent behind the kit makes Halestorm’s set memorable, and for all the right reasons. No – his extended (albeit jaw-droppingly fantastic) drum solo isn’t exactly necessary. But it’s bloody brilliant, all the same.
Shinedown (8) don’t quite have that “wow”-factor about them tonight, but they’re a polished unit; used to playing to thousands of people. And it really shows, as the crowd eat out of singer Brent Smith’s hands, while the rest of the band leave not a single square inch of the stage untouched. With an hour allocated, Shinedown treat the audience to old favourites such as Devour, and new hits such as Bullies and Unity. It has to be said, though, the highlights of the set are a stunning sing-along to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Simple Man, and a gorgeous rendition of The Sound Of Madness’s hit single, Second Chance. The only real complaint, however, is the fact that the band take too long of a pause between songs. They could have easily fitted one – if not two – more songs into the setlist.
Still, all is forgotten when Alter Bridge (9) hit the stage. They’re a band who have proven time and again that they’re not to be missed in a live environment, and they justify themselves tonight, yet again. Opening with new single Addicted To Pain, it becomes immediately evident how well the material from latest album, Fortress, is going to fit into the setlist. There are far less gimmicks than the last time Alter Bridge played Wembley Arena – the pyro and streamers are nowhere to be seen tonight. But it means that the music does all the talking, and the focus is on what it should be: what truly incredible musicians the band all are. From guitarist Mark Tremonti’s intro to Ghost Of Days Gone By, to frontman Myles Kennedy’s flawless vocal performance, to drummer Scott Phillips’ phenomenal pounding on Metalingus, and bassist Brian Marshall’s stunning bassline on Ties That Bind, the band are completely untouchable. Even a minor mishap at the start of Slip To The Void (as Myles charmingly forgets the lyrics) goes unnoticed in a night of phenomenal rock’n’roll.
To find a particular highlight in the set, however, is tricky. Fortress opening track Cry of Achilles sounds positively beastly, while Myles Kennedy proves himself as one of rock’s best vocalists during the emotional one-two of Blackbird and Watch Over You. What was already clear when Alter Bridge headlined Wembley Arena in 2011, was how capable they were of handling large crowds. What’s even more evident this time, though, is that they have the music to back it all up, too. Alter Bridge looked more than ready to make the step-up as festival headliners two years ago, but there’s no doubt that they’re 100% contenders now. Another dazzling show, from one of rock’s best bands.