ALTER Bridge's stock has never been so high, with their last release 'The Last Hero' solidifying an already high estimation. Yet, the live arena seems, on the evidence of the show in Belfast's Ulster Hall on June 21st this is where they excel.
But on the longest day of the year it felt like an eternity, rather than 30 minutes, listening to the openers Red Sun Rising.
There is nothing wrong with their music, it has melody and AOR hooks aplenty, but doesn't seem to fit well in a sweaty venue. At times it is almost insipid and seems almost aimed at American soft rock radio stations.
The evidence was clear by the amount of people populating the bar and smoking areas at the end of their set. Having said that the couple of dozens who did remain at the front were seeming to enjoy the set and the apparent congeniality of the band.
There was nothing insipid or middle of the road about Alter Bridge's arrival on stage - full of intent, striding tall but never appearing arrogant and musically kicking out the proverbial jams.
Shit - three of these guys were in Creed! How did they get so good? No need to wonder, because after the rampant opener 'Come To Life' the iconic hall's walls were reverberating with roars of approbation.
With 'Writing on the Wall' from last year's release the acclaim from the audience was a wave of energy reverberating from each corner and the packed front.
Feeding off that the band seemingly wanted to push the whole affair up to another lever. Kennedy was beaming, Tremonti was throwing all the shapes and the entire unit was gelled tight.
In lesser hands the lead work of Tremonti could seem extravagant to the extreme, but every lick and run is measured to match the tone and sentiment of the track, especially on 'Blackbird' and 'Open Your Eyes'.
Kennedy is commanding and the between song banter doesn't seem forced, even if like every major touring band it is largely the same spiel each night.
What is notable is that the relatively unsung heroes of Marshall and Phillips are such a mighty force. It is they that maintain the momentum throughout the muscle behind the melodies, the power for the axe trickery.
By the time the regular set ended with 'Metalingus' the audience were exhausted and ecstatic after witnessing a band that delivered a set worthy of arenas.
The trio of tracks for the encore was measured to maul avid fans with delight. 'Fortress' from the album of the same name, 'Show Me A Leader' from 'The Last Hero' and 'Rise' from 'Blackbird' encapsulated what this set was about - a band that know how to balance the new and old, treat the fans to what they want and more.
Review by Jonathan Traynor
Pictures by Darren McVeigh