Review: Alter Bridge at the First Direct Arena in Leeds

Posted on 4 December 2016
By Frank Ralph
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The Alter Bridge show at Leeds Arena on Friday night gave us rock and metal fans a lineup that offered something for everyone.

From New Zealand’s Like a Storm and their fresh, energetic set, a display of technical genius from French metallers Gojira through to a set with everything you’d want from a rock show from Volbeat and a straight up master class in arena sized rock from Alter Bridge. Plenty of bang for your buck.

This was the final show of the UK run and you could tell everybody was up for ending the tour on a high, at what is proving to be THE best venue in the north – the FD Arena. It is a room that has the feel of an arena but the layout means even if you are sat at the back you still get a great view of the stage – this translates into as intimate a setting as you’ll ever get in a large room. Like a Storm’s Chris Brooks took this one step further by climbing into the crowd as they played a frenetic version of Thunderstruck.

During Alter Bridge’s set Myles Kennedy described Gojira as one of the most important bands on the planet at the moment and he isn’t wrong. They have gone from being fairly obscure to being one of the scenes leading lights in recent times, with their technical heavy metal sounding exactly like the giant monster they are named after – Godzilla.

It may not be for everybody, especially for some of the more melody loving fans who have come for Volbeat and Alter Bridge, but they certainly had a strong fan base turn up as Gojira t shirts in the crowd seemed to outnumber any of the other 4 bands on the bill.

They promised they were coming back in March for a headline tour in support of their magnificent Magma album from which one of the sets highlights ‘The Cell’ was taken. Having been blown away by this band both in Leeds and earlier in the year at Bloodstock it will be great to witness a longer outpouring of brutality from them in a smaller venue.

Volbeat served up a massive dose of good time rock and roll. It was an absolute blast from start to finish, with doses of Johnny Cash and rockabilly throughout as well as a crowd surfing elf and a fantastically bizarre guest spot from Napalm Death’s Barney Greenway which included a cover of all 2 seconds of Napalm Death’s You Suffer. They sounded huge and had everyone singing from the get go.

Michael Poulson made use of every inch of the stage alternating between mic’s at either side as well as his own in the middle and Rob Caggiano looked like he was having the time of his life. As requested by Poulson many of the women climbed onto their boyfriend’s shoulders and as the set closes they invited everyone up on stage – those that made it enjoyed a special close up and personal sing-along with their heroes. It really was everything you’d want from a rock n’ roll show. Fun, loud raucous and energetic.

Alter Bridge got a hero’s welcome as they took the stage with undoubtedly their biggest production to date to support one of their best albums to date The Last Hero. The band sounded massive and heavier than might be expected. Mark Tremonti absolutely hammered the riffs out, ably assisted by Myles who has more guitar chops than you’d think, he’s definitely picked up some tips from Slash on his travels striking some of the same iconic poses as the Gn’R six stringer.

Their heavy rock really hit home and you could tell they were enjoying themselves. Whether it was last night of the tour excitement or cabin fever that gave Myles Kennedy the giggles wasn’t clear but made the set even more enjoyable – it may well have been the rubber duckie that someone had brought to the show though – that would put a smile on any self-respecting metallers face.

It was that relaxed slightly giddy feeling that encouraged an Elvis-tinged rendition of Jingle Bells from Myles as he took the stage with his acoustic guitar. A really enjoyable moment and as it was December 2 and he could be forgiven for breaking the Christmas tunes out. For those that weren’t feeling that festive he soon broke into an incredible, emotive version of Wonderful Life which will always be an Alter Bridge set highlight. As will Blackbird – a song that often brings grown men to tears as it no doubt did again.

Not many tours offer so much variety or pure entertainment as this one did and it was definitely one of the best tours of the year. It was the kind of show Friday night’s were made for – a chance for many to blow off the cobwebs of the week gone by with a few beers and a few friends.

If, somehow, you missed out you don’t have long to wait to capture some of this enjoyment. Alter Bridge are set to be main support to Aerosmith at Download next year and before that, in March, Gojira are coming back for a Magma headline tour.

If you like rock music at all it is essential you are at one of those.