LIVE RECAP: Alter Bridge – 02/04/23 – The Fillmore Silver Spring – Silver Spring, Maryland

LIVE PHOTO GALLERIES: Alter Bridge, Mammoth WVH, Red

By Greg Maki

Is there a more complete, consistent band in modern hard rock than Alter Bridge? While that’s more of a rhetorical question, it’s getting harder and harder as the years go by to make an argument against this all-star quartet claiming that title.

It was a cold, cold Saturday night in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., but nevertheless, eager fans—who later would fill the venue to capacity—braved the elements in a line stretching around the block, waiting for entrance. Once inside, the energetic hard rock sounds of Red helped thaw out the frozen masses. A veteran act with seven studio albums under its belt—and number eight coming later this year—the band originally from Nashville, Tennessee, expertly paced its set, each song upping the ante from the one before with increased intensity and leaving the audience wanting more after a too-brief 25 minutes.

RED SET LIST: “Death of Me,” “Faceless,” “Let It Burn,” “Already Over,” “Feed the Machine,” “Breath Into Me”

Michael Barnes, left, and Randy Armstrong of Red (photo by Greg Maki)

Next up, the fast-rising Mammoth WVH, led by multi-instrumentalist/frontman Wolfgang Van Halen, cranked out a 45-minute set of some of the catchiest hard rock tunes released in recent years and all the guitar heroics one might expect from a musician bearing the aforementioned surname. A one-man-band in the studio has become a tight live act, so let’s give a lot of credit to guitarists Frank Sidoris and Jon Jourdan, bassist Ronnie Ficaro and drummer Garrett Whitlock while we sing the praises of one Mr. Van Halen. (It’s interesting to note that at one time Van Halen and Whitlock were the rhythm section of Mark Tremonti’s eponymous band, while Sidoris is a member of Slash’s solo band, the Conspirators, also featuring Alter Bridge frontman Myles Kennedy. The extended Alter Bridge family is alive and well.)

Name and legacy only get you so far. They don’t make a sold-out crowd roar with approval after each song, and they don’t write flat-out jams like “You’re to Blame” and “Don’t Back Down,” or a number so moving and sweet that you can almost taste it like “Distance.” Mammoth’s success is due to the overwhelming talent of the man at its center and the topnotch musicians he’s chosen to help bring it to life onstage. Just check out a show if you have doubts.

MAMMOTH WVH SET LIST: “Mammoth,” “Mr. Ed,” “Epiphany,” “Stone,” “Think It Over,” “Distance,” “You’re to Blame,” “Don’t Back Down”

Wolfgang Van Halen of Mammoth WVH (photo by Greg Maki)

For the main event, Alter Bridge—Kennedy, Tremonti, bassist Brian Marshall and drummer Scott Phillips—came out guns blazing with “Silver Tongue” from latest album “Pawns & Kings” (2022) and the blistering “Addicted to Pain,” instantly grabbing the crowd and not letting go throughout a set with a near perfect ebb and flow. The mood made its first shift with song three, the more relaxed “Ghost of Days Gone By,” leading into the first surprise of the night, the live debut of “Dead Among the Living,” also from the new record.

Current single “Holiday” was another highlight, and then Tremonti took over lead vocals for “Burn It Down,” a track from the 2004 debut, “One Day Remains,” that hasn’t been played live much since the band’s early days. For those who haven’t followed Mark’s other projects—his band Tremonti and last year’s album of Frank Sinatra covers—first of all, what is wrong with you? And second, you might be surprised to hear what a dynamite singer he’s become. He nailed this song even better than Myles did on the studio version, and hopefully it’s captured on tape at some point during the tour.

The complex, borderline progressive “Cry of Achilles,” from the excellent 2013 album “Fortress,” served as a sort of capper for the first part of the set, with the rest of the band exiting the stage at its conclusion to leave Kennedy alone with an acoustic guitar. He noted that this moment of the show always takes him back to his days as a struggling musician performing in coffeehouses, but those experiences have helped him fully appreciate the success he’s achieved since then. After a solo performance of “Watch Over You,” Tremonti returned for another early number, “In Loving Memory,” a tribute to his late mother.

Mark Tremonti of Alter Bridge (photo by Greg Maki)

With Marshall and Phillips back in place, the full band then launched into a double shot of “epics”—“Blackbird,” perhaps its signature song, and the “Pawns & Kings” title track. A pair of heavier selections, “Isolation” and “Metalingus,” raised the energy level to wrap up the set before an encore of “Broken Wings” and an extended version of the anthemic “Rise Today,” featuring a guest spot by Paul Reed Smith, legendary guitar guru and founder of the Maryland-based PRS Guitars. (Tremonti has been a PRS artist for many years.)

One hundred minutes seemingly flew by and felt much too short for a band that has assembled such an impressive body of work over the past two decades. (Two albums—“The Last Hero” and “Walk the Sky”—weren’t even touched in the set list.) Alter Bridge is at the very top of its game, and with support acts that more than hold their own, this tour is a must-see.

ALTER BRIDGE SET LIST: “Silver Tongue,” “Addicted to Pain,” “Ghost of Days Gone By,” “Dead Among the Living,” “Before Tomorrow Comes,” “Holiday,” “Burn It Down” (Mark Tremonti on lead vocals), “Cry of Achilles,” “Watch Over You” (acoustic/Myles Kennedy solo), “In Loving Memory” (acoustic/Myles Kennedy and Mark Tremonti), “Blackbird,” “Pawns & Kings,” “Isolation,” “Metalingus,” (encore) “Broken Wings,” “Rise Today” (with Paul Reed Smith)


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