Soon there will be a time where bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica and KISS will no longer be around to headline festivals and new bands will have to fill the void. One of those bands that are often mentioned as potential headliners are Orlando, Florida’s Alter Bridge and after selling out Wembley, they were making a good claim.
Opening up were the hard rock group Halestorm, who previously opened up Wembley for Disturbed back in December 2010, which was also my first standing gig. Halestorm were a fun opening, playing only tracks of their The Strange Case Of… album as well as a surprisingly good cover of Judas Priest’s Dissident Aggressor. The set was enjoyable and Lzzy Hale was a good ringleader to her ‘freaks,’ who seemed to dominate the entire front rows. The opening song ‘Love Bites So Do I’ got the show off to a flying start, but my issue with the set was with her brother, drummer Arejay Hale. He was clearly a skilled drummer but his antics such as jumping on the kit and throwing his sticks in the air and catching them (he missed three times) got irritating fast. He also played a pointless drum solo that’s only real purpose was to distract the audience while the band re-tuned their instruments. Some Halestorm fans I spoke to at the gig were quick to defend him saying “it was just showmanship” and a “bit of fun and nothing to take seriously.” The quartet finished with the sing-a-long of ‘Here’s to Us’, which was known to some younger fans due to its inclusion on Glee. Halestorm had won a lot of new fans but the memory of their set faded by the time the headliners were on.
But up next were the mighty Shinedown. Walking out to a whole arena clapping along to the intro to their hit single ‘Devour,’ the band had won the audiences attention as the music started playing. Devour was not just a fantastic opener, but also a brilliant display of singer Brent Smith’s vocal range. Straight after ‘Devour’ the band launched into ‘Sound of Madness,’ from the album of the same name. More clapping and fist pumping ensured as he confidently blasted out another recognisable song from the band’s discography. Then the wheels started to come off the train. Before the band went into ‘Enemies’ from latest album Amaryllis, their frontman made a passionate speech about how grateful he was to be here which finished with him getting the whole arena (including the seating section), to start jumping. This was fine, but there were two more over long speeches about the importance of rock and roll and family. There were also too many unnecessarily long intros, which if removed could have easily been replaced by another song or two. But the band were still better than Halestorm and the anthems in their disposal were simply phenomenal. ‘Enemies’ were a joy to listen to live, ‘Second Chance,’ delivered it’s powerful potential live and set closer ‘Bully’ was a fine conclusion. Even their cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Simple Man,’ managed to get the whole audience singing, but was ruined by another speech. However, Shinedown were the perfect bridge between Halestorm and the headline act who were to arrive shortly.
Armed with successful new album Fortress and the ever likeable and talented frontman Myles Kennedy, there was not much to fault. Opening with ‘Addicted to Pain’ from Fortress and ‘White Knuckles’ from Blackbird, the fans were lapping up every note sung from the beautiful mouth of Mr Kennedy. There was plenty new material on show, ‘Cry of Achilles,’ was a particular highlight of the newer songs. The older material was a success including the epic ‘Rise Today,’ which had the whole of Wembley singing with Myles, while the eight minute wonder of ‘Blackbird’ was simply mesmerising thanks to Mark Tremonti’s skill as a guitarist. Myles was also quick to reassure fans he cared for them: “we got told off on social media for not playing this song at Nottingham so I thought we’d play it for you,” joked Myles as the intro riff to fan favourite ‘Metalingus’, filled the air as the anguished screams of Nottingham’s fans were heard in the distance. Myles even had a solo moment of glory playing the touching ‘Watch Over You,’ after which he looked truly humbled by the response. The band finished their set with ‘Open Your Eyes’ from their debut album One Day Remains. The band appeared for their encore, opening with ‘Slip Into the Void,’ from Alter Bridge III. However Myles messed up the intro riff, proving even the best guitarists make mistakes from time to time. Luckily though everyone was too excited to care and Myles pulled it back joking “I’ve had nightmares about messing that up for ages so at least I’m over it for now.” Finally, the band concluded with fan favourite and my personal favourite, ‘Isolation.’. It caused the entire foundations to shake as well as many fans in the seating area to leap up and down with approval. Alter Bridge came, saw and conquered and had finally deserved their place in the big leagues.
A few days after the UK tour had finished it was announced that Alter Bridge would be sub-headlining Download behind Aerosmith on the Sunday. Many fans expressed anger stating that Alter Bridge should be headlining instead. After a performance that outstanding, it was understandable why.