Gigs staged in the shadow of a festival often can be hit and miss affairs. And with a lot of the Northern Ireland metallians returning from D(r)ownload turning left virtually as soon as they docked and heading straight down the motorway to Dublin for Slayer and Anthrax, you could have been forgiven for initially thinking that this debut visit to Erin’s shores by Mark Tremonti – one of two headline shows in the wake of his own appearance at Donington – might have been a hard sell for the promoter. However, thankfully, nothing proved to be further from the truth, as, almost immediately after it was announced, this obviously much anticipated gig was upgraded from the much smaller neighbouring venue to the Limelight complex’s largest room.
The doors have only been opened a few minutes and fans are still filtering into the venue – most heading straight to the merch stand set up in the secondary bar area – when Chicago quartet Man The Mighty climb the steps to the stage. Frontman Derek Smith does his best to get an energetic response from the earlycomers, with largely positive results, it has to be admitted, as hands clap, feet tap and the occasion punch is thrown in the air, and each song is greeted with a growing ripple of polite applause.
The sound mix is a bit rough, though, with lots of bottom end, especially on Tim Tournian’s otherwise highly impressive guitar work, and too much treble on the lead vocals: however, the bottom heavy sound does suit the thick crunchiness of their riffs, which have heavy nu-metal leanings infused with classic rock melodic sensibilities. The delivery is taut and tight, especially from rhythm section Tyler Nelson and Matt Hamrening, and the lads definitely win a few more fans – as well as earn a slight extension to their allotted set time.
During the 25 minute turnaround, the anticipation builds along with the crowd numbers, and the room is almost at capacity by the time Tremonti saunters on stage, straps on his guitar, casually puts his foot on the monitor, poses for the photographers and then rips into the opening chords of ‘Another Heart’. Right from the off, it is extremely obvious that the guitarist is very much enjoying being the focus of attention in his own right – as well as playing the heavier material from his solo arsenal, as he crunches out his riffs and shreds his solos. His enjoyment is also reflected in his easy banter with the crowd.
It’s also clear that he’s a generous performer, happy to let his band share the spotlight as and when, such as Eric Friedman’s suitably caustic performance on ‘Cauterize’ and later on the titanic (sic) ‘Things I’ve Seen’ – his only reference to his other projects – by which stage the atmosphere in the room is absolutely broiling. Obviously, as Tremonti points out, these handful of headline dates are to support the release of his new album, ‘Dust’, and said album does get a generous profile. ‘Betray Me’, the new single, is even more acidic live, while ‘Once Dead’ bumps and grooves with dense ferocity and the title track is menacing yet joyous in its extended workout.
By breaking the set down into three song segments – in between which he changes guitars while drummer Garrett Whitlock keeps the adrenaline pumping – Tremonti ensures that it blends well, moving between light and shade, faster and slower songs with the ease of the nearby River Lagan flowing into Belfast Lough. The band are in great form, working seamlessly together while paying respect to their frontman, with Whitlock and touring bassist Tanner Keegan blending particularly well to keep the bottom end of the material tight and laconic, to counterpoint the guitarist’s occasional loquacious fretwork – although it is more about what he leaves out rather than needlessly inserts which makes his style work so well.
‘Decay’ rounds off what would most likely have been the main set in the sort of riotous fashion that us music journos always claim threatens to bring the house down, before Tremonti declares “we’re just gonna do this” and launches into a triumphant triptych of a finale, with ‘My Last Mistake’ proving another storming crowd favourite while closer ‘Wish You Well’ actually sees the frontman manage to open up a brief moshpit in front of him.
A triumphant performance from a well-oiled musical machine. Let’s hope he lives up to his promise to return to this part of the planet we call Mosh much sooner than the 20-plus years he took to make his first visit… And, you never know: maybe he might bring his “other band” along for the ride as well!
Another Heart / Cauterize / You Waste Your Time / Flying Monkeys / Catching Fire / Radical Change / Things I’ve Seen / Betray Me / Once Dead / Dust /Brains / Arm Yourself / Decay / Sympathy / My Last Mistake / Wish You Well