Alter Bridge + Shinedown + The Raven Age
@ The O2 Arena, London
21st of December 2019
Review by Johnny Wolf
Photography by Rebecca Bush
The O2 Arena is the world’s busiest arena and the largest indoor venue in London if not the UK, a very well organised venue, highly prepared with the best tech in the world. I always enjoy coming to the arena and always get overwhelmed by how big it is.
For a band to headline such a venue it means something, massive names like Black Sabbath have played in this venue, but that’s not new for our headliner, and it’s not their first O2 Arena concert. Actually they have played here before and last time they even played in a fancier venue, The Royal Albert Hall.
I decided to drive to the venue tonight and find parking nearby, after all, it’s Saturday night after a busy week and I’m too tired to take public transport. I found out there is parking available at the venue which was very handy, although, a bit of advice: pre-book your parking. Pre-booked parking full event is £15, if you show up unannounced at the door you pay £35! I hadn’t pre-booked and that was a mistake but you live and learn.
I met my friends for a quick pint before the gig but it was short one because we needed to get to the box office and get our tickets.
I must thank the promoters who provided us with tickets, usually reviewers and photographers are somehow considered a burden and we’re giving the worst seats in the house. Even in sold out gigs they tend to kick out the photographers after their shooting session ends which is so unfair because we all do it for free, but if we were to charge for it then we’ll be charging way more than any ticket face value.
Today the photographer and I got normal standing tickets, that was awesome as I expected to be seated in the far corner and struggle to see much to review; respect and gratitude to the promoters for understanding.
I searched for the queue to enter the venue, excitement rising up. I’ve been a fan of Alter Bridge as far as I can remember, I admire Mark Tremonti a lot since he was in Creed back in the day. I recall Creed’s first album when I was 13 years old, “My Own Prison”, and since then I’ve been fascinated with his musical talent.
Myles Kennedy I have come to know through Alter Bridge but I admired his voice so much and I later learnt that he’s been part of many bands and he has a long musical career behind him, which is obvious in his singing style, he’s simply a master.
Sadly, Sevendust had to pull out from the performance due to illness; a shame, as I was interested in seeing them perform since I haven’t seen them before. But I wish them speedy recovery and hopefully next time we’ll be able to catch them.
London boys and alternative metallers The Raven Age stepped in quickly to fill up the spot, on such a short notice I didn’t even find out there was a replacement till the day, and that’s really cool of them, to agree to perform on such a short notice.
The arena was surprisingly busy. I’ve been here before many times and I think this is probably one of the busiest I’ve seen it for an opener, but again they aren’t only an opener, they played with many great names before like Iron Maiden and many others.
They have earned their place and they do have a good fanbase indeed for a relatively new band. They played a song for Sevendust and asked the crowd to turn their phone flashes on – everyone obliged and the entire venue looked beautiful.
Then on the next song which was a heavier one where they asked the crowd to sing, clap and jump.
They finished their set with heavy cheers and shouts from the crowd, thanked everyone and took a picture with the elves which came out from backstage (the stage crew was in customs) and the crowd.
Quick setups and packing happen on stage in preparation for the American rockers Shinedown from Jacksonville. I’ve had many friends tell me they’re very excited about Shinedown, almost as much as they were for Alter Bridge.
They’re on stage in 20 mins, which is a very short time in my opinion but respect goes to stage crew, they were running, packing, unpacking, testing and doing many things as quick as possible to get things up and running.
Exclamation marks lit up on stage with different colours!!! Exciting setup, done on time, with 5 mins to spare, good job backstage soldiers.
Shinedown began with an intro and dancing lights, then a guitar solo kicked in the middle of the intro which then faded out with crowd cheers coming up, then a circus-like announcement accompanied with the band walking on stage… They took their time to get on stage but I’m sure it’s going to be worth it.
The singer had a military suit with yellow side stripes, which matched the trousers of the rest of the band, but they all looked dashing in ties and suits. I like the show, they kept pointing out it is a show and they play it well with the “attention” back flags and exclamation marks all over the stage.
Alright, this is new: the front-man asked everyone to have a look to the left, then look to right, then asked everyone to shake their neighbours’ hands or high five each other, then he started throwing t-shirts to the crowd, even brought out a gun!! A motherfucking t-shirt launcher gun and shot t-shirts to the seated crowd.
He then asked everyone to take 5 steps to the side and split the crowd in half to walk down and meet people and whatnot. Then he asked everyone seated to stand up and the crowd obliged, then he asked everyone in the crowd to jump, and everyone (but me because I was writing this) did jump as high as they could, pretty cool stuff really.
Again, he asked everyone to stand up promising a gift then he asked all to get their phone flash lights up. The place lit up completely; I wasn’t told that this is a full immersive show but hey, the crowd loved it, the band enjoyed it, why not.
The magnificent set finished with crazy crowd cheers and a bow by the band, now elves back on the shelf….. I mean stage, setting up quickly, the excitement is high at the same time the venue is over-packed and we can barely move.
Setlist: Devil / Diamond Eyes (Boom-Lay Boom-Lay Boom) / Enemies / Monsters / Get Up / Cut the Cord / Second Chance / Simple Man (Lynyrd Skynyrd cover) / Sound of Madness / Brilliant
The lights went off and the crowd gave a very loud shout of excitement as the stage lit up with split screens all around playing an intro video, then Tremonti’s riff kicked in bringing the legend on stage followed by the rest of the band. Kennedy could not look any cooler with glasses and his guitar! Man, such a rush! 1 minute into the performance and my blood is already boiling.
After playing “Isolation” and “Come to Life” they took a break and announced Tremonti was going to play some riffs on his signature guitar and the craziest crowd member will get the guitar by the end of the song! That is amazing honestly, and a great way to start a mosh-pit, I know everyone here would love that guitar.
He asked Kennedy to give away the guitar and he went down to front row and gave the guitar to one of their best fans.
Kennedy speaks again, mentioning their new record, ‘Walk the Sky’, and they perform “Made of Sun” from it, which is probably one of the heaviest ones they have on that record, not to mention it’s one of the fans favourites.
Something about Tremonti’s riffs sounds so heavy although they still seem catchy and accessible to the average listener, I’ve known him to have thrash and heavy metal influences which is obvious in his music writing. Nonetheless, listening to him play live makes your head explode with how heavy the riffs are.
Kennedy plays the crowd cheers using his guitar, making everyone cheer after his notes, then asking “Are you ready to Rise Today?”. Yes! We are indeed, play that good tune sir!
“Cry of Achilles” was fantastically performed! Ending with loud cheers and screams from the crowd, Kennedy introduces Tremonti by his full name this time, and Mark Tremonti takes over to sing the next song, “Waters Rising”, accompanied by fantastic cinematic videos of storms and oceans’ and high waves in the background. The stage looked absolutely stunning.
A couple of stalls gets brought up on stage for Kennedy and Termonti to play a couple of acoustic songs. They start with In Loving Memory and the entire crowd puts up their phone torches, lighting up the entire venue while singing the lyrics in one voice.
Kennedy plays the next number by himself on acoustic while mid-song the rest of the bands kicks in, to move afterwards to one of my all time favourite songs, “Blackbird”. Everyone let their wind carry them home and we all flew, flew away, that we may never be broken again…
Back on a happy note, they played one of their old tunes from 2004, “Open Your Eyes” to lighten up the mood a bit, asking the crowd to clap one minute then sing the chorus another, picking up with a signature Tremonti solo and lifting our emotions up slowly in a fantastic emotional progression.
Kennedy took a few minutes to thank the crowd, the bands who opened for them one by one and the rest of his band members. He left it to Scott Phillips to perform a small drum solo, then Brain Marshall to kick in with his bass, introducing a surprise appearance of Sevendust’s guitarist to perform on the next piece “Metalingus”, which they closed up with in the midst of very loud cheers by a crowd who didn’t want it to end.
The band left the stage but the crowd refused to leave so they were generous enough to come back for a quick encore to play a new number, “Godspeed”, and another all time favourite of mine, “Addicted to Pain”, closing off my final concert of this year with a massive boom. A perfect year closure and a fantastic Christmas present!
Setlist: One Life / Wouldn’t You Rather / Isolation / Come to Life / Pay No Mind / Ghost of Days Gone By / White Knuckles / Native Son / Rise Today / Cry of Achilles / Waters Rising / In Loving Memory (Myles and Mark) / Watch Over You (with full band from halfway through) / Blackbird / Open Your Eyes / Metalingus (featuring John Connolly from Sevendust) / Encore: Godspeed / Addicted to Pain