Album Review: Alter Bridge – Live at the O2 Arena + Rarities

By Rosie Walker

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Creed was one of the most successful rock bands in the world. With selling millions of records and winning countless awards, everyone thought they’d last forever. But they didn’t. This rock sensation broke up and three out of the four members immediately formed a new band. Alter Bridge was birthed in 2004, when the former Creed members found the former singer of the band The Mayfield Four, Myles Kennedy. Alter Bridge (named after a real bridge in Detroit, Michigan), released their debut album, ‘One Day Remains’ that same year. Distancing themselves from the Creed name, these guys wanted something different, and after their first record was certified gold, the rest is history.

With five albums under their belt, each one more successful than the album before it, Alter Bridge was ready to spice things up. On September 8th, these guys are released a live album and rarities collection called, ‘Live At The 02 Arena + Rarities’, through Napalm Records. On November 26 2016, the band experienced one of the biggest moments of their career so far, when they got the chance to play one of London’s most legendary arenas. On this two-disc, 19 song collection, the magic of that night was remarkably captured. Alter Bridge is known for their immaculate performances and that night in London was no different. After enjoying the now timeless live perfection that is Alter Bridge, you can pop in a third disc that contains some rare gems that have only been released in Japan, plus a few numbers that have never even seen the light of day. This compilation from the band is a real gift to their fans and one that everyone should listen to immediately.

The first disc opens the London show with a quick, ambient, music intro that leads right into the roar of the crowd and the band’s number, ‘The Writing on the Wall’, which is the second track on their latest album, ‘The Last Hero’. Immediately the listener will notice the difference from the recorded track when they open up with the guitars taking on the melody instead of the vocals. Yet it works, and works well live. Mark Tremonti’s guitar tone is on point, his down-tuned sludges through the number with a brilliant heaviness that balances out Myles Kennedy’s rather high, and almost screech-like singing. His vocals take a few numbers to warm up and by the song, ‘Ghost of Days Gone By’, you hear the ease and warmth in his powerful, passionate voice. Down the set list they hit their heavy song, ‘Ties That Blind’, rich and fervent, you hear the honest talent from each member. Instant magic happens when Myles Kennedy and Mark Tremonti sing together. Bass player Brian Marshall delivers he fast fingering groove while Scott Phillips carries the heartbeat of the band on the drums. The production is thoughtful and the mix definitely keeps that natural, live sound intact. They found a good balance of tweaking things just enough so you can hear everything clearly, while keeping that live performance feel. The first disc ends with a solo acoustic rendition of ‘Watch Over You’. Off of their 2007 album, ‘Blackbird’, this moving piece has such a heartfelt story that Myles’ ability to sit there alone and perform this song with such profound emotion will stir any soul. When he invites the audience to sing the chorus, the roar of the words fills the senses and you feel the unity and pure communion between him and the fans. You feel the power and beauty of live music.

On the second disc, after everyone wipes away their tears, are thrown back into the heavier side of the band. This CD rips open with their track ’Isolation’ off of their third album, ‘AB III’. The band only plays a few songs from that album and their first album ‘One Day Remains’. Some favorites like ‘’Metalingus’ and ’Open Your Eyes’ add a nice variety and nostalgia to the set list. A feel-good favorite, ‘Rise Today’ begins while the crowd chanting Alter Bridge loudly in the background. The chanting turns to cheering when they hear the familiar opening to the beloved piece and you can feel the excitement as if you were actually there. The listener can hear the deliberate care and fire from the band as the guitars dominate and the uplifting lyrics are belted by one of the most skilled vocalists in modern rock. The perfect balance and combination of these five fellas from Orlando, Florida really leaves a lasting impression. The last two songs on the set are both from ‘The Last Hero’. Ending with, ‘My Champion’ is an interesting choice considering they have such other bigger, more potent pieces, but it does end everything on a fun, happy high-note.

The third and final CD holds some interesting B sides and other rarities, opening with a cool, calm piece called ‘Breathe’. The introspective song leads the listener to really think about and feel the lyrics. Myles pleads in his canter and delivery, his voice resonates and fills the song with emotion and thought provoking words. He wails while Mark holds down the fort with his deep, down-tuned guitar tones that reek with groove and weight. Mark is also an amazing vocalist and when they harmonize together, the potency of the piece is incredible.

‘Cruel Sun’ and ‘Solace’ are slower, more astute numbers with a proggy edge. As both songs were recorded during their first record ‘One Day Remains’, you can hear some of their earlier influences. ‘The Damage Done’ is the first really heavy number on this disc. Raw, gritty attitudes are felt to fit the rather mean and annoyed tone they captured. It has an entertaining, catchy ’90s vibe that spills over into the next track, ‘We Don’t Care at All’. A simple song structure, but still poignant and entertaining. Most of their more light hearted pieces are repetitive, easily digestible, and will have you humming them later. ‘Home’ and the last track ’Symphony Of Agony (The Last of Our Kind)’, are two interesting and sentimental numbers that end the album on a pretty heavy note. Intense and anthem-like, this band knows how to provoke deep, and deliberate emotions.

A band that can create such a variety of songs proves an rare, honest talent. This collection of songs shows a lot of different sides to Alter Bridge. And each side proves the same. This group is one of the most talented, hard working, and dynamic modern rock bands in the world today.

Rating: 9.5/10

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Record Label: Napalm
Release Date: September 8th 2017

Track Listing:

Disc 1 – Live at the O2 Arena
01. The Writing On The Wall (5:03)
02. Come To Life (3:40)
03. Addicted To Pain (4:24)
04. Ghost Of Days Gone By (5:10)
05. Cry Of Achilles (6:40)
06. The Other Side (5:30)
07. Farther Than The Sun (4:28)
08. Ties That Blind (3:42)
09. Water Rising (6:00)
10. Crows On A Wire (4:41)
11. Watch Over You (solo acoustic) (6:00)

Disc 2 – Live at the O2 Arena
12. Isolation (4:53)
13. Metalingus (5:19)
14. Blackbird (8:59)
15. Open Your Eyes (6:47)
16. Show Me A Leader (5:01)
17. Rise Today (6:43)
18. Poison In Your Veins (4:58)
19. My Champion (4:58)

Disc 3 – Rarities
20. Breathe (4:18)
21. Cruel Sun (4:21)
22. Solace (4:43)
23. New Way To Live (5:41)
24. The Damage Done (3:47)
25. We Don’t Care at All (3:47)
26. Zero (4:39)
27. Home (3:30)
28. Never Borne To Follow (4:07)
29. Never Say Die (Outright) (3:45)
30. Symphony Of Agony (The Last of Our Kind) (5:35)

Total Duration: 2:31:09

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