As the new year kicked off, the list of incredible tours began to set sail across the country. But few were as highly anticipated as Alter Bridge’s Pawns & Kings tour. The lineup is stacked with amazing talent with bands like RED and of course, the rock juggernaut of MAMMOTH WVH. Collectively the three power houses are going to pack as much in your face hard hitting rock and roll as any other lineup you could possibly assemble. And as the tour chalks up one victory after another, the fans at the Franklin Music Hall in Philadelphia will finally get their turn to witness one of the best shows of the year.
The length of the line is staggering as it wraps clear around the block. As fans stormed the doors, the usual half-filled space that frequents opening slots was non-existent, with the room almost filled. The crowd’s energy was electric, and they wouldn’t have to wait long before RED made their way out and kicked off the night’s festivities. The Nashville four piece exploded out of the gate with heavy and symphonic sounds of Death of Me off of the band’s 2009 release Innocence & Instinct. Immediately, fans are leaving their feet as the chaos ensues behind them in the pit. That energy that filled up the room begins to spill over across the crowd and only fuels the intensity with more crushing tracks like Faceless & Let It Burn.
RED’s perfect blend of melodic string arrangements paired with crushing riffs, really paints the canvas for singer Michael Barnes as he paints incredible images with his brilliant vocal abilities. The fans’ reactions throughout their set were nothing but excitement and admiration for the amazing performance that they received. As their high octane set burned on, it felt as if we blinked and before we knew it, Barnes announced the last song with Breath Into Me. The fan favorite really brought it all home for the fans and even though it may have been a short set, RED packed it with as much TNT as they could as they lit the fuse and watched the crowd explode song after song.
As the ominous intro track echoes through the dark room, the fan’s cheers could probably be heard down at the Liberty Bell. Those cheers would get turned to eleven as the members of MAMMOTH WVH begin to walk out on stage. Drummer Garrett Whitlock’s thunderous hits on the drums trigger the stage lights to come alive, revealing the rest of the band and Wolfgang himself at center stage. The band nosedived right into the uplifting and soaring sounds of Mammoth. While Wolf and fellow guitarists Jon Jourdan and Frank Sidoris pick away at the song’s opening riff, bassist Ronnie Ficarro steps up to the edge of the stage engaging the fans to clap along. Wolf greets the music hungry fans with “What’s up Philly?”. And as the fans’ screams are still loud and proud, he follows up the excitement with “GO EAGLES!” which caused the fans’ reaction to almost blow the roof off.
The two-part harmony between Wolf and Jourdan really brings the vocals front and center throughout the song, and even had fans upfront singing so loud, I could hear them over the band just feet away. Following Mr. Ed, MAMMOTH served up one of their biggest anthems and another in the line of chart smashing singles with Epiphany. With it only being the third song in to the set, the crowd’s voices take over the room as they belt out every word. The song itself is just packed with fire and emotion. But whenever the band pulls the leash off of it on stage, it’s like having dynamite strapped to your chest.
Wolf takes a minute to check in on the fans to make sure they’re still having a good time, which was met by a crashing wave of cheers. As they line up the next song of the night, Wolf lets the fans know “This next one, was actually my dad’s favorite song. It’s called Think It Over.”. While the band plays on, the lighting behind the stage bursts through the darkness transforming the band into musical silhouettes as they belt out this amazing uplifting tune. Next is the song that introduced MAMMOTH WVH to the world, with their emotionally charged tribute to King Edward himself with Distance. Jon Jourdan would kick everything off with that iconic opening acoustic riff as Wolf and 2,500 backup singers deliver an incredibly impassioned vocal performance. There wasn’t a finer example of a more touching and heartfelt song played the entire night.
When the song ends, the venue swells up with chants of “EDDIE” and Wolf looks out to the crowd and says “Something that I’ve learned coming here over the course of twelve years with my dad. Is that this is the most rockin’ fucking town the in USA.”. And to be perfectly honest, that comment is dead on. MAMMOTH switched gears and exploded into their hardest hitting track of the night with You’re to Blame that had fans jumping off of their feet and headbanging away. The band would slap a giant exclamation point on their incredible set by absolutely ripping into their most recent radio giant Don’t Back Down. There is no doubt in my mind that MAMMOTH WVH is the future of rock music. And with what they’ve accomplished so early in their career, the sky truly is the limit.
Following a few minutes of breakdown, the main event is about to enter the ring. While the stage sits in darkness, blinding beams of light start to shoot out from across the stage. Soon, fans catch a glimpse of Alter Bridge making their way from backstage and their overwhelming excitement is undeniable. As frontman Myles Kennedy waves to the screaming fans, drummer Scott Phillips leads into the band’s set with a four count ques Myles’s hypnotic wah intro to the first song of the night and first off their newest record Pawns & Kings with Silver Tongue. Kennedy’s almost operatic vocal range soars high above the room as it looks down on the heavy rhythms laid down by Tremonti and Brian Marshall.
The pace picks up to an all out rhythmic sprint as the band rolls right into Addicted to Pain, which no doubt raised the pulses of everyone in the room. Later, Myles Kennedy would hand things off to Tremonti as he would lead it off into their soulful six opus Burn it Down. We all know how talented Mark is with a guitar, but I think sometimes we can forget or underestimate his impassioned abilities in front of the mic.
Mid-way through the set, Myles Kennedy tells the crowd a funny story about signing a fan’s Mark Tremonti signature guitar at the Meet & Greet before the show. “We’re doing a signing and a guy hands me this beautiful Tremonti guitar, and all three signatures were there. So I sign it and he asks if I can’t put the name of the band by the bridge. I go Absolutely brother. And at the end, I realized I spelled it wrong and forgot the G and it spelled out Alter Bride.”. As the crowd bursts into laughter, he continues with “The guy was so crestfallen, he was so upset. So dude, wherever you are, I still feel like shit and I am so sorry.”.
The humorous atmosphere was a great way to transition the show to the softer side if you will. Soon, Kennedy starts to strum the beginning of the band’s acoustic ballad Watch Over You. When the song’s last chorus hits, Myles hands it off to the crowd as they light up the room with so much warmth, it was incredible to bear witness to. Alter Bridge would stay unplugged for another moving performance. This time Mark Termonti grabs the six string as Kennedy and himself take it back to their 2004 debut One Day Remains with In Loving Memory.
Towards the tail-end of the set, Alter Bridge would lock and load with some of the biggest fan favorites like Stay, Isolation and Metalingus. But the highlights for me were without a doubt, the crushing guitars and drumming of title track Pawns & Kings. Scott Phillips was the conductor of the percussive freight train that was the raw power behind the track. And of course, what would any Alter Bridge setlist be without their iconic grand display of guitar dexterity in Blackbird.
The band would take a quick break before returning to the stage to deliver an amazing encore set that would include the last single off their 2004 debut with Broken Wings. And Alter Bridge would close out their set as well as the incredible night of music with none other than Rise Today, and the fans would not pass on the opportunity to give it all they had one last time. This show and ultimately the tour itself, truly is the full embodiment of what Rock & Roll looks and sounds like. This is without a doubt one of, if not, the best rock tour you are going to see this year. There are plenty of chances to get out and experience a hell of a show! Don’t forget to check out Alter Bridge’s newest album Pawns & Kings as well as tickets for all of their upcoming dates on the Pawns & Kings Tour!