Reviewed on Tuesday April 4 (photo by Ashley Mar)
Few crowds feel as trapped in time as the hard rock clique that filled the Enmore, a mesh of 20-somethings in One Day Remains tees and glam-era tragics with Mötley Crüe hair. I say this with love, of course, as beneath the sea of raised devil horns, a warm and welcoming audience thronged, less eager to mosh and stir a ruckus than to gather as witnesses to an event.
Openers Like A Storm were the clearest mirror of the crowd they played to; their crunchy baritone riffage and simple, unobtuse lyrics about hating people fitted closely to a time-capsule early 2000s aesthetic. It’s really odd, even uncomfortable, to see a white New Zealander (frontman Chris Brooks) playing a didgeridoo on an Australian stage, but you can’t fault the band for giving their all. By the end of their near-hour-long set, Brooks’ voice was clearly faltering, but he roared his way through a crowd-warming exercise regardless.
When Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge pulled a similar trick, the difference was palpable. Not a word was spoken – he raised his left hand, and the left side of the Enmore screamed. He raised his right, and the right side edge of the ceiling lifted off. Then Mark Tremonti’s guitar wailed across the room, and the rock began.
Alter Bridge have settled comfortably into their niche of Southern hard rock/metal now, and Kennedy has clearly been dipping into Slash and Tremonti’s ‘secret stuff’. His guitar chops are remarkable, complementing his soaring vocal styles and the thundering riffs of Tremonti and bassist Brian Marshall. That said, the night’s setlist – taking heavily from 2007’s Blackbird and new cut The Last Hero – revealed something of a sameness across their discography, broken by the more rock-oriented One Day Remains.
Though it seems an odd thing to say about a hard rock gig, it was also far too goddamn loud. Every intricacy of Kennedy and Tremonti’s duelling rigs, the patterning of Scott Phillips’ drum lines and the iconic vocals were lost in a sea of distortion better suited to My Bloody Valentine’s holocaust section than Alter Bridge’s sound. Throw in some disappointing ‘no homo’ banter from Kennedy, and you have a recipe for a fairly exhausting affair.
Nevertheless, the polish to their stagecraft is absolute, with Kennedy, Tremonti and Marshall lining up in unison, their fingers in complete sync as Phillips tore up the backstage floor. Main set closer ‘Metalingus’ finally kicked off the pit in earnest, and proved a far better ending than the underwhelming ‘Rise Today’ of the encore.
Powerful and aspirational as their work can be, Alter Bridge didn’t completely deliver on the promise of their intent. They want us to show them a leader, but they still seem reticent to be that leader.