Tuesday night’s show at the Olympia Theatre was the very first show Alter Bridge have ever played in Ireland. The fact this show sold out and the band announced a return in October proves how long awaited their arrival to these shores has been, and just how popular they’ve become.
The show was opened by Akron, Ohio natives Red Sun Rising. Signed to the up and coming Razor and Tie label the alt rockers clearly had some fans in the crowd, evidenced by a great deal of bouncing and singing along. Their set list was taken largely from their 2015 debut album Polyester Zeal. Standout tracks for me included Unnatural, closer Emotionless and Imitation, which was a huge crowd-pleaser with the line, “be yourself or you kill yourself.” The band are clearly used to such a big stage, using the space well and seeming at ease with the occasion, not something that’s always true of support acts. My favourite moment of the set was when singer Mike Protich swapped his guitar with Ricky Miller’s bass and the two proceeded to play each other’s instruments seamlessly without missing a beat. There’s a lot of talent in Red Sun Rising and they could easily make a headline return to Dublin judging by the reaction they got from the crowd.
So there I was, sitting in a box looking down on the stage and crowd, doing a bit of people-watching. It’s interesting what you see from that bird’s eye view. Fans had made their way from as far afield as the USA and Brazil, mingling with members of local Irish bands. Both Elevation Falls and The Devil Wants Her Swagger Back were spotted, as well as fellow PlanetMosher Paul in the pit. Almost as if it was timed he caught my eye and stuck his tongue out just as the lights went down.
I saw Alter Bridge once before in Glasgow a few years ago, Myles Kennedy with Slash a couple of times and Mark Tremonti on tour with his band as well, so I was well aware how good they are and was waiting to be seriously impressed. What I underestimated was just how impressed I was going to be. Had I not fulfilled a lifetime’s ambition just a couple of weeks ago by finally seeing Guns n’ Roses I’d have had to call this gig of the year.
Opening with Writing on the Wall the band seemed genuinely pleased and excited to finally be playing Dublin and the beautiful Olympia Theatre. Scott Phillips was hitting his drums so hard his riser was actually moving. The rest of the band, Myles Kennedy, Mark Tremonti and Brian Marshall, moved around the stage sharing microphones, meaning things never got boring as they were never static. I can’t quite figure out how they managed to fit so much music into a couple of hours, as Myles stopped for a chat with the crowd quite often, but in the end we were treated to twenty songs across a set-list from what’s turning into a really classic back catalogue. My Champion, from new album The Last Hero, went down an absolute storm, but so did older songs like Isolation and Ghost of Days Gone By. Every time the band paused between tracks the crowd would take up the same chant, Al-ter-Bridge, Al-ter-Bridge. The energy was really through the roof.
Alter Bridge isn’t a band where anyone has an ego, everyone has their part to play and the others are happy for each man to take his time in the limelight. Tremonti took lead on Waters Rising, with Myles Kennedy standing back out of the lights and giving his bandmate his time to shine. Shine he does, with enthusiasm to match his talent, and to my ears anyway, the new Alter Bridge music starting to sound a lot more like Tremonti’s solo releases. Next up Tremonti returned the favour, leaving the stage completely while Myles performed a beautiful acoustic version of Watch Over You that was absolutely spine tingling. I thought a few times throughout the show that Myles has the ability to get so lost in his music that he seems to be there in body while his mind is off somewhere completely different. A look of blissful serenity takes over his face, a small, almost subconscious smile lighting up his features while he plays, oblivious to the fact thousands of people have their attention directed towards him. Playing in a band with Tremonti and having his part time job with Slash it can easily be overlooked, but it’s important to note that Myles is actually one of the best guitarists out there. Slip to the Void was immense, then followed by a bit of noodling on the Beatles Blackbird before launching into their own Blackbird, probably their best known track and certainly one of their most popular. It led into a double shot of Open Your Eyes and Metalingus to close the main part of the show. The crowd clearly had no intention of going anywhere until the band had returned for an encore, chanting ole, ole, ole until they came back. There was delight when Myles announced a bit of business, specifically that the band will return to the Olympia for another show on October 7th.
This Side of Fate and Show me a Leader whipped the crowd into even more of a frenzy, the seated sections now on their feet and threatening to collapse the balconies with all the bouncing they were doing. Myles and Mark then went off script a little for an extended guitar solo battle that showed just exactly how good they are before finale Rise Today brought the curtain down on Alter Bridge’s first ever Irish show. The band came together to take a bow, hugging and seemingly over the moon with the reaction from the crowd. They spent a good few minutes ripping up set-lists to pass into the crowd, throwing picks and drumsticks and thanking almost every member of the crowd individually with a wave or a smile. We went off into the warm Dublin night with an even warmer feeling in our hearts, having just seen (almost) the gig of the year. Thanks lads. Looking forward to October.
Thanks to Olympia Theatre house photographer Down The Barrel Photography for supplying the photo gallery.