It’s staggering how different gigs can be from one night to next. On Sunday, people were still queueing round the corner for The Darkness a full 30-45 minutes after doors opened. Fifteen minutes before entry here and there’s barely fifty in line. Interestingly, it’s much the same audience demographic; from the late teens and twenty-somethings right through to people fast approaching senior citizen status. Four bands for £20 in this day and age is also a price not to be sniffed at.
Wearing Scars (8) are tonight’s first course ahead of the main event and do well to pick up some new fans along the way. Growing in confidence the more the set carries on, their brand of hard rock infused with Killswitch-esque riffs also contains choruses built for far bigger places than the O2 Academy Bristol, belted out with gusto by vocalist Chris Clancy. Special mention as well to guitarist Daniel Woodyer who thrills with his solos and expert technique.
The Raven Age (8) are probably still best known for their connection to a certain Iron Maiden bassist, but they’re much, MUCH more than that. They’ve got a stunning stage prescence, from Michael Burrough’s soaring vocals to bassist Matt Cox’s gurns and drummer Jai Patel’s finger tricks and a great arsenal of songs already. Eye Among the Blind contains a great groove reminiscent of a certain Parkway Drive whilst set closer Angel in Disgrace is every bit as bombastic as it sounds. And guitarist George Harris? A very accomplished axeman. It’s a performance Man the Mighty (7) struggle to match, although they do impress after a slow start. It’s the Chicago quartet’s first UK tour, which explains the muted crowd reaction of much of the set, but songs like Beneath the Skin and Sick are definite highlights. They also are far more suited to the Alter Bridge and Creed faithful in the audience, being the heavier end of the US radio rock spectrum. Nevertheless, they play with passion and intent and I’m sure we will see them back on our shores in the not-too-distant future, but tonight they just couldn’t keep up with the two bands before them.
The word backstage is that the man of the hour isn’t 100% and suffering from a sore throat, but it’s not until two-thirds of the way through his set that this proves to be true; and even then he’s speaking normally when doing so. Put simply, Mark Tremonti (8) flips his illness the bird and nails every single song over the 80 minute set with ease. Looking ten feet tall, he commands the Academy faithful with total authority and gets a huge reception back. The band even have the guile to chuck a B-side into the set, the quite excellent All That I Got which stands up tall against the head crushing Flying Monkeys and pit-inducing Dark Trip. A couple of the solos are a little sloppy, but that’s nitpicking in the grand scheme of things, especially when Tremonti and Eric Friedman duel each other in Decay. There’s no encore tonight either with the band intent on giving ‘everything they’ve got for the final three songs’ and they do so with aplomb. This will always be Mark’s side-project away from Alter Bridge, but it’s certainly one of the best going.
You Waste Your Time
All I Was
So You’re Afraid
The Things I’ve Seen
All That I Got
Wish You Well
Photography by Becky O’Grady[flickrapi user=”planet mosh” get=”photoset” id=”72157661971108550″ size=”z” count=”100″]