First Tremonti, now Myles Kennedy. For the second weekend running I find myself at a gig from a member of Alter Bridge, although this was going to be a radically different experience to the one I had last week. It was actually the second of three gigs I saw in a day; first of all I saw folk funsters The Lancashire Hotpots play in St Helens town centre as part of a food and drink festival held that day; then there was this gig and straight after that it was across town to see the SoapGirls at North Shore Troubadour.
However this post is all about the guy from Spokane, the in-demand singer of Alter Bridge who, until now, has had to put his plans for a solo record on hold. Dovetailing between Alter Bridge and Slash (who was so keen to recruit Kennedy that he bills his own band as ‘Slash featuring Myles Kennedy And The Conspirators’), he has found a gap in his schedule at last after Guns ‘n’ Roses (partially) reunited; Slash, Axl and Duff are still on their seemingly never-ending reunion tour. He released the album ‘Year Of The Tiger’ earlier this year to acclaim, and an initial batch of UK and European dates sold out so quickly that a second run was announced hastily. This time, it meant that to the best of my knowledge, this gig would be the first in Liverpool by any member of Alter Bridge. The show had been bumped up to the main hall at Liverpool o2 Academy, such was the demand for tickets, and the enormous queue snaking around the venue suggested that this was going to be a packed hall, on a baking hot summer evening!
Before that, a small figure sporting frizzy hair and a beard appeared on the stage, to no reaction whatsoever. Most of us thought he was a guitar tech (!) until he ambled up to the microphone and started singing. He performed solo and acoustic, and it wasn’t until he spoke to identify himself that the penny dropped: this was Dorian Sorriaux, better known as the guitarist from retro-rockers Blues Pills. His short set was warmly (word used advisedly, the place was already filling up and getting hot) received, though his own singing voice wasn’t really to my taste. He is a tremendously talented guitarist though, and showed as deft a touch on the acoustic as he does on the electric in his day job.
By the time the mainman came on stage most of us were already feeling the effects of the heat in this packed room – it was a sauna in there! That didn’t stop the crowd cheering Kennedy to the rafters as he emerged, acoustic guitar in hand and opened with ‘Devil On The Wall’ from that recent solo album. This crowd were certainly up for this show, but early on Myles sparked a chant of ‘Football’s Coming Home’ when making reference to the earlier result in the World Cup (for the record, England beat Sweden 2-0 to reach a first semi-final in 28 years). Joining in with his stomp box, following that he then told us he’d avoided watching it so as not to be a ‘jinx’! From there the set was a mixed bag, having only one solo album he’s adding songs from his other projects to the set. Naturally that includes some Alter Bridge material, but also his previous band The Mayfield Four, and of course some of the songs he recorded with Slash.
Midway through a rendition of ‘Mars Hotel’ he broke off into a fit of laughter, trying to replicate an echoed vocal as heard on the record. It caused him to stop the song, compose himself (or try to); the crowd were also enjoying the flub and laughing along. A delivery of Alter Bridge’s ‘Addicted To Pain’ soon got them singing again, and he followed that with a rendition of Slash’s ‘Starlight’. For that he reached for (and got) the high notes in the final chorus, he was obviously in great vocal form for this show.
He played the majority of the set all by himself, but for ‘Haunted By Design’ he introduced Tim Tournier (getting the crowd to chant ‘Timmy, Timmy’) on second acoustic guitar. This allowed Kennedy to show his prowess on the acoustic with a neat solo. A real surprise came after that, when he delivered a cover of Iron Maiden’s ‘The Trooper’ – suitably arranged for this format, but still with the ‘whoa, whoa’ bit present and correct, eagerly seized upon by the Liverpool audience.
Towards the end, a splendid rendition of ‘Watch Over You’ had the crowd singing in unison in a way reminiscent of the old Whitesnake Choir before he signed off the main set with ‘World On Fire’. Unlike his AB bandmate, he did do an encore and came back for two more off his own album: the gentle ‘Love Can Only Heal’ and finishing with ‘Year Of The Tiger’ itself, once more accompanied by Tim Tournier.
With this album and tour becoming a success right out of the gate, he has given himself yet another ball to juggle – he’s scheduled to tour with Slash again in the latter part of 2018 and of course Alter Bridge will reconvene next year. How he’s going to fit all of this in is anyone’s guess, but he’s proven here that his own name is a big enough draw to establish him as a solo artist in his own right. The thing I took from this over all else was how good his vocal was this night; whenever I’ve seen him with Alter Bridge in recent tours he’s struggled with some of the songs but here, he sounded better than he has on at least the last three occasions I’ve seen him with Messrs Tremonti, Marshall and Philips. Perhaps it’s the stripped-back format which suits him better, or it’s the fact he isn’t touring in the autumn like he normally does, but this was a superb performance which reaffirmed his status as one of the great voices of the current rock scene. The place was immensely hot all evening, even though the venue management did use the huge cooling units on the edge of the balcony, so I reckon I must have lost at least 4lb there and then!
Finally, the fact we got at least one member of that band here to Liverpool at last was a big enough thing, but in case Myles is reading this (!) next time Alter Bridge come around, there’s an arena across town more than suitable for that band’s show. (Blatant Hint number 34 in a series, collect ’em all!) 😉