Tonight was set to be the conclusion of Alter Bridge’s Pawns & Kings stadium tour and the anticipation for this show emanated the air on the approach to the venue as well as the packed bars under the domes canopy. The fans had braved the weather and London’s currently unreliable transport network in the full knowledge that Myles Kennedy, Mark Tremonti, Brian Marshall and Scott Phillips would deliver an always exceptional performance and ensuring it would be a Christmas to remember. Of course the excitement was further quantified by the fact Alter Bridge were being supported by Mammoth WVH and the almighty Halestorm.
Inside the O2 the atmosphere was already electric as fans took their seats and found their spots on the main floor for when Mammoth WVH took to the stage. Immediately the energy surging from the crowd escalated as the band burst into “Mammoth” and Wolfgang Van Halen’s vocals were noted by all in attendance. Simply put, he and the band sounded incredible and for their first time playing London, let alone the O2, they played with the energy you’d expect from headliners and did not not let the daunting size of the venue affect their performance. “London thanks for having us” exclaimed Van Halen with glee as he introduced “Epiphany” encouraging the crowd to clap along to which they wilfully obliged.
As mentioned, the sound was incredible, but this hit its pinnacle when Van Halen broke out his acoustic guitar for “Distance”, an emotional tribute to his late, great father, the legendary Eddie Van Halen. The tune resinated with the audience as friends, partners and even parents and (adult) children embraced side by side soaking up every note and every lyric emanating from the stage.
Mammoth WVH’s short, but sweet 7 song set went out with a bang as Van Halen introduced the band before the the deep intro beet of “Don’t Back Down” echoed throughout the O2. By the end I had confirmation, Mammoth WVH were my personal best discovery of 2022!
Next to the stage was Halestorm a band that, let’s be honest, could probably have also headlined this evenings show themselves. As Lzzy Hale and her crew took to the stage, the O2 erupted with thunderous cheers as they plowed straight into “The Steeple” from their latest record. The arena became awash with flashing lights and dancing bodies as Halestorm upped the already dialled up eagerness of the crowd. “London! Are you ready for the last day of the tour”? shrieks Hale to the adoring audience as they took us back 10 years for “Love Bites (So Do I)”.
Following a kick ass selection of tunes including “Wicked Ways”, “Bombshell” and “Mine” Hale took the opportunity to confide in the audience how special it was to be back touring and being in London celebrating the return of live music. Her statement resinated and highlighted what could, very well, have been lost, reminding everyone that this time last year, live music was only just making a cautious return before encouraging the crowd to “light up” the O2. As the venue became lit with thousands of lights, Halestorm slowed things down somewhat for “Familiar Taste of Poison”. The conjoined affect of the music and manually created light effects from the crowd injected the arena with an atmosphere that was simply electric.
Halestorm’s set also included an impressive drum solo from AreJay Hale in which he took the opportunity to demonstrate his skills drumming with a pair of oversized, comedy sticks. As the rest of the band returned to the stage, Lzzy proudly declared “give it up for my brother on drums” to adoring cheers from the crowd. Halestorm saw out their set with 3 more brutal, rock filled tracks thanking both Mammoth WVH and Alter Bridge.
Now, for the main event! As the house lights went down, the massive stage was illuminated with intense strobe lights as a distorted beet played as the band entered the stage each receiving a louder clear then the last. Alter Bridge wasted no time erupting straight into “Silver Tongue” followed in quick succession by “Addicted to Pain” and “Ghost of Days Gone By”. As expected, the sound was big and the lyrics clear to a seamless level of perfection.
Sadly and to my extreme regret I had to leave at this point due to unforeseen and unavoidable circumstances. An unfortunate situation as reports heard indicated that this was just be beginning of an incredible set from Alter Bridge with saw them deliver a cornucopia of fan favourites from throughout their extensive back catalog. Two such memorable moments highlighted were the acoustic duet of “In Loving Memory” delivered by both Kennedy and Tremonti and the moment Tremonti demonstrated his ability to be the frontman taking on lead vocals for “Burn it Down”.
This marked the end of the UK Pawns & Kings tour, but we all know this will not be the last time Alter Bridge will grace our shores and when they return, I will not be missing it!