ALL PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED SEBASTIAN MARINO
ALL PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED SEBASTIAN MARINO
An extremely eager crowd line the paths behind Festival Hall in anticipation of tonight’s Alter Bridge performance. Some vying for stage front barrier rights but most early to enjoy the veritable myriad of concert enhancement and VIP opportunities, but all in apparent good humor. In fact, excited delight might better describe the mood amongst those assembled. And who could possibly question such enthusiasm when such a range of opportunities for close encounters are on offer. Some were ready for meet and greet with both bands, some equipped with guitars ready to be schooled in the finer points re “art of axe” by Mark Tremonti himself, and a few lucky folk who secured a rare opportunity to sit side stage and be part of the Like A Storm action.
All smiles and offering the warmest of greetings to Alter Bridge, sprinkled with messages of gratitude and a few pressies for Myles, meet and greet was a successful, fun affair.
Before proceeding, I must reflect on one point and hope it is of interest, rather than self-indulgent hogwash, namely the nature of these musicians. I trust that it is of interest to fans that the objects of their deep admiration are such genuine, warm and sincerely appreciative people. The urgency and flow of a meet and greet procession and accompanying photo parade is an unfortunate, but a necessary evil. As much as we would all like more time with these people, most understand the requirement to stay on a schedule, but this same urgency does remind of the pre-tour interviews we have the privilege of enjoying and the same hustle that is inherent to that activity. There is simply no time for fluff and an overabundance of pleasantry but to be met in person with such genuine appreciation from these international stars is truly humbling and worth of note. To be known, noted, remembered and offered such gratitude is personally moving but moreover a vindication for admirers all. The members of both Alter Bridge and Like A Storm are just as genuine, friendly and appreciative as you could possibly imagine. If you did happen to make their acquaintance, shake their hand or receive a smile and a thank you, take heart that nothing is feigned for public appearances. Which provides me with a point of progression to the opening act.
Like A Storm are a thoroughly superb, exciting and truly remarkable band with a back story that is nothing short of inspirational. The very concept of didgeridoo metal is in itself, one element of their music, commonly causing a WTF among people the world over, but is a well-known quantity in the US particularly. Continuing to build on their ever-increasing popularity, the lads of LAS had to make a move to the career of music that would shrivel the goodies of most and leave us challenged of testicles, metaphorically speaking. Three brothers, joined now by long-time friend, nay family, in Zach Wood, decided to pack their hopes, dreams, and creativity into a vast suitcase of determination, relocate to the United States and make it work. A story of raw inspiration along with proof that working relentlessly with self-belief is the key to success. The story is somehow enhanced by the fact that their journey began in New Zealand and must have more than occasionally, seemed a task bigger than a Sunday stroll to Mordor, with creatures just as frightening as Orc’s littering their path. With a mere overview of their remarkable journey understood, their appearance on stage here in Australia is vastly exciting at very least. Emerging just across the ditch in NZ and now calling the US home, this tour in the very first time Like A Storm have played live in Oz. All assembled, these facts made for lofty expectations that LAS exceeded like a race car passing a lap board.
From the first notes of Chaos, Like A Storm demonstrated their considerable experience and revealed the fact that their sound was worth uprooting and relocating to build a fanbase. After Never Surrender and by Nothing Remains that fan base increased significantly here in Melbourne. Mouths were agape, hands were in the air and cheering seemed lined with delighted surprise. Many assembled know this band well and remain bewildered that their music was not met with greater appreciation here in Australia. That appreciation grew significantly here tonight and long-time followers seemed pleased with that result. After playing Enemy, Break Free and unveiling a killer new track in WYH (Wish You Hell) a Festival Hall crowd were well beyond pleased that they arrived in time to catch the support act. Now, if a rendition of an AC/DC classic like TNT doesn’t get an Aussie crowd going… well, let’s not entertain that ridiculous suggestion any further, suffice it to say that a classic cover was just not required. This audience were enjoying every ounce of Like A Storm to the point of Chris being ‘eaten’ by the crowd mid surf with only a mic held aloft like a snorkel and at the finale, the resounding comment was “I want more Like A Storm”. Brilliant, brilliant work. Superbly executed, fantastic crowd engagement and recordings just don’t do their live show justice. What a way to take Australia by storm. Pardon the pun lads, but you are so aptly named. Bravura.
With stage alterations completed and all inside the august chamber, we proceed to the main event. Many a murmuring audibly highlights reminiscence of Myles Kennedy on this very stage in 2015 with Slash and The Conspirators and so a huge roar from the assembled as he steps forth yet again.
As the mighty four erupt into The Writing On The Wall I stand astonished that we are not in a stadium with thousands enjoying the marvelous creations of Alter Bridge. To see the magnificent guitar magician Mark Tremonti demonstrate the unbelievable with the greatest of ease, should be a bucket list staple for all mankind. No, really. That’s not going too far, right Tremonti faithful?
As we explore early tracks like Come To Life, Father Than The Sun, Addicted and Ghosts an appreciation for the set list and sequence become more apparent. The concert is to be a true celebration of the Alter Bridge catalog which, in my humble opinion has culminated together and blended into their contemporary crescendo collection, The Last Hero. I cannot help but be blissfully content just absorbing the musical journey laid forth for us to enjoy.
The dexterous digits of Brian Marshall are a wonder to behold and without seeking to be unnecessarily crass, I don’t believe I could muster such pace of pinkie if it were my final fiddle. The rhythmic dynamic Brian brings to the Alter Bridge sound is best appreciated during a live show. Just amazing.
Cry Of Achilles is met with great favor before The Last Hero takes the appreciation to a new level. Ties holds its own and is performed superbly but, quite naturally My Champion takes the show from an epic concert, into a massive celebration of musical magnificence.
Perched aloft Scott Phillips keeps our maestros governed in time brilliantly, skilfully and enthusiastically. Scott is certainly not the drummer who sits unengaged at the rear just doing his thing. He is a critical contributor to the Alter Bridge sound sensation and to watch him in action is thrilling at very least.
And as for the brilliant master Myles Kennedy, what words could possibly muster an adequate description of his skill as a writer and performer? I exhaust my vocabulary in a vain attempt adequately describe his sheer excellence. In a single word, breathtaking. To take the description any further would be a perfect demonstration of guiding a lily. There is simply no need of further adornment.
I believe there was a certain satisfaction for Myles when the crowd took over the vocals for Watch Over You, both loud and perfectly clear.
A huge cheer for Blackbird fills the venue with an air of adoration for Alter Bridge and Open Your Eyes is sung back to the band with an equal measure of appreciation.
A sensational lead into Metalingus from Scott is truly thrilling, and upon completion, the band leaves the stage as a traditional formality before returning to an already pleased crowd. What could contemporary Alter bridge show possibly be sans Show Me A Leader? Any future Alter Bridge shows without this instant classic is quite difficult to envisage, but anyone with a knowledge of this band’s remarkable protagonists will be sure that subsequent brilliant additions to their already thrilling catalog will not be far away. This track is met with a welcome that you would reasonably expect.
Superb soaring solos, almost dueling from Myles and met with Mark’s magnificence in retort, as we head into Rise Today in the encore and set finale. Then it’s over. I don’t know how the mighty Alter Bridge feel but we, their admiring mass are thoroughly spent. What a sensational we have witnessed here tonight and it is my sincere hope that we will see both bands back again soon because nights this incredible do not come around very often in life.
Thank you Alter Bridge. Thank you Like A Storm. Just, wow. Thank you.
PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED BY JOHN RAPTIS PHOTOGRAPHY
BLACK STONE CHERRY
As Melbourne connoisseurs of rock will attest to, a visit from Steel Panther is always a welcome highlight of every year they cum come down under to share their seed semen sound, yes that’s it, with willing recipients.
As always, the colourful crowd is out in force including several lovely young ladies sporting their attributes in little more than fishnet drapery. No prizes for guessing how cold it actually was in Melbourne due to the breasts bearing sufficiently accurate temperature indicator devices for all to admire. I sincerely hope nobody lost an eye. But nipple measures and areola atmospheric indicators aside, we know Steel Panther will give us one hell of a ride. A brief catch up with the lads in the afternoon certainly set my mind at ease that Steep Panther were ready to fire on all cylinders, but tonight’s performance carries a significance beyond the might of our globally revered pussy pounding protagonists. Steel panther has brought along to our fair shores a most exciting addition indeed. None other than the mighty Black Stone Cherry.
The news months ago of Black Stone Cherry coming to Australia after 15 years had a significant effect on me personally, to the extent that I had my reservations. To clarify this remark, I would simply ask readers to consider that my excitement had reached such heights that I actually was fearful of disappointment. Having enjoyed their heavy rock prowess for a significant time and simply loving their quite unique bluegrass edge, my exhilaration in anticipation of tonight was beyond reasonable. I reflected on a pre-tour interview with John Fred Young and considered yet again at the marvelous Kentucky nature of he and his kin folk in the band, wondering how such truly genuine and kind natured people could possibly be of a stage presence and ilk to enhance the might of their music.
Having the early opportunity to review their most recent offering in Kentucky, the album and, quite forthrightly the soul of the state too, I was of the firm belief that this benchmark achievement had released their souls from the confines of commercialism, and their performance tonight was to be in that same vein.
But I remained in doubt as to what I would see. It was always going to be sensational to see this band live for the first time, but events and circumstances culminating in the astonishing Kentucky weighed heavy on my anticipation.
I check in with my pal Dennis Huff from KOMP radio Las Vegas, connoisseur, of all things rock, who puts my mind at ease that I would be in for something very special indeed. That simply added to the excitement. Fuck, what’s wrong with me?
The time arrives to meet the guys and sit down to some interview time, despite the days pressing schedule. So much to do and so little time, yet Black Stone Cherry were determined to make everything work in accommodating neighborly Kentucky style. Yeah, I know right? Yet more hard rockers with hearts of gold. And as you will glean from the interview below with Chris Robertson and Ben Wells, we are talking some genuine, forthright and damn fine folk. Please rest assured that John Fred Young and Jon Lawhon are equally exceptional gentlemen that make meeting them a genuine privilege. I am quite certain that these fantastic people would not realise it, however, we are tremendously grateful for their kindness and generosity toward our children. The tremendous effect they have had on our sons will travel with them the rest of their lives.
So with some further background information covered regarding the group and their works, it’s on to the show. The guys appear, still making time to stop greet us first, before taking to the stage. Now I’m worried.
How can these modest, and movingly exceptional people possibly turn the hearts and minds of the waiting Steel Panther faithful? Then, Black Stone Cherry open the proceedings with such furious rock force and vigorous stage presence that I’ll wager none present will ever forget. My breath quite literally taken away. A sensational set list representative of their commitment to musical superiority over fifteen years, but their stage performance was so far beyond anything I could have possibly conceived, I remain blissfully dumfounded. John Fred pounded the piss out of a tormented drum kit with such raw ferocity and skill that I remain astounded it survived. Ben jumped, moshed, kicked, bounded, bounced and threw the crowd into a thrilled frenzy of excitement, all while playing the guitar with such astounding precision that my gob was on the floor for the first three tracks. Blistering bass lines and stage celebration from Jon was thunderously sensational, providing the perfect rhythmic groove throughout each and every track. And out front leading the way vocally was Chris. I have only one thing to say about his performance vocally and musically. That is simply that I only now understand what John Fred’s description of Chris as a ‘beast’ actually means. It was my foolish presumption that in had an understanding of this brilliant groups sound when spinning Kentucky with the volume on eleven. I have never been more pleased to say that I was wrong and will be forever declaring in blissful reminiscence that ‘you haven’t heard Black Stone Cherry until you have been to a live show’. Thank you guys because you have redefined the term ‘blown away’ for me forever. The live show, right down to an homage to the mighty Motorhead, was so far beyond all that I could have hoped to see and hear, that it is my fervent intention to make clear to all who love a genuinely energetic and overwhelming rock performance, you MUST see Black Stone Cherry live. And as for the crowd? I have never before witnessed a group of people turned from crossed armed skeptics to shrieking, hooting, howling, horn throwing, admirers in one support set. There was a good number of Black Stone Cherry fans to begin with, but an entire crowd of Black Stone Cherry fans left the building at show finale. I am certain all now can’t wait to see their return to Melbourne very, very soon.
Thankfully there was sufficient break from Black Stone Cherry to recover sufficient energy to honor Steel Panther. After bearing witness to many Steel Panther concerts, the undeniable truth is that I cannot get the grin off my face the entire time. From Asian Hookers played and displayed, to our shredding metal guitar specialist Satchel being beaten close to death with a massive inflatable cock. From inflatable ladies to the real thing paraded willingly for our amusement to the bare-breasted offerings of crowd members aloft shoulders, Steel Panther and their show never, ever disappoint. Their musical might be only equalled by their unique approach to celebration of the magical glam metal years, made manifest for our enjoyment in the present. Stix chats with me pre-tour should you wish to enjoy a cackle.
Their show is nothing short of sensational musically but the entire ‘package’ always delights. Seriously, who wouldn’t want a Steel Panther show every week. I was a little disheartened to see that Festival Hall did not reach full capacity to welcome our beloved Steel Panther, and I’m quite certain many will be sorry they missed this show. Outstanding as always and so much fun. Lexxi, your hair is as fine as ever. Thank you for bringing it along. And thank you Steel Panther for coming down-under to us again. I’m sincerely sorry we didn’t turn out in the numbers you deserve.