Live Review: Alter Bridge, Halestorm & Mammoth WVH @ O2 Arena, London


Alter Bridge & Halestorm & Mammoth WVH

@ O2 Arena, London

You would think a country as used to miserable weather as Britain would be better prepared to endure a little light dusting of snow, yet it brings the whole place to a screeching halt. Trains stop working, the postal service is in disarray, and the health service groans with more workload – coincidentally, all these services have had strikes recently, giving the impression that nothing in the UK is working right now. So it is testament to the tenacity of the bands and their crew, alongside the organisers at The O2 that the final night of the Pawns & Kings Tour goes ahead at all. Kudos to everyone.

One thing Britain does well when it comes to weather – aside from rain – is being bloody cold and it was proper brass monkeys on the walk up to London’s premier music venue. Handy then that everyone could spend an evening sardined into The O2 with their fellow music lovers and penguin their way to warmth. Couple this with the fact that gigs are a celebration of music and togetherness (how dreadfully twee…), and it all felt rather like the best way of beating the weather.


Up first were MAMMOTH WVH, with frontman Wolfgang Van Halen wasting no time in ripping into the band’s self-titled track with aplomb. With an industry such as this apparently rife with nepotism, it is testament to the man’s song writing and playing that he and his band can comfortably and deservedly stand outside of the shadow of his father. Wolfgang himself is a terrific guitar player, whether on the subtle lead parts of “Epiphany”, or the solo of his father-approved “Think It Over”, yet his nous for song writing ensures it never ventures into guitar gymnastics.


While calling it a “surprise” is to do the band a major disservice, their stand-out feature is very much in the vocal department and, boy, was it on display throughout. The big chorus on “Epiphany” is rousing, whilst the harmonies between WVH and fellow six-stringer Jon Jordan – who provides the main backing vocals – were utterly stunning. Yet there is a beautiful earnestness and down-to-earth feel about the band, one which makes them all the more endearing to listen to. Van Halen’s continued thanks to the crowd demonstrated a modesty that belies the extreme talent he and his mob possess. It all made for a stellar opening performance, and one that more than whetted the appetite for more.


Fortunately, then, that HALESTORM were on-hand to provide the “more”. It seems almost a waste of a word count to mention Lzzy Hale’s vocals given the band’s success, but good grief, Hale’s got a voice on her, hasn’t she? The sheer power she possesses can level a building and damn near did so from the moment she and her merry bunch took to the stage. Opening with the storming “The Steeple” this set the tone for the night, with a raucous rendition that brought that aforementioned sense of togetherness to the fore right from the off.


Yet it was the follow-up, “Love Bites (So Do I)” that kicked things into high gear and really brought the party atmosphere to the tour’s wrap party. The chorus brought so much energy that it was surprising mosh pits didn’t kick up in the posh seats. Similarly, the utter groove on display with the fantastic “Bombshell” made for one helluva belter, whilst the flirty “I Get Off” certainly raised the temperature a degree or two. Prior to this, and at the expense of another song (or two), the band stepped aside for drummer Arejay Hale to take centre stage with a drum solo that ended in novelty with oversized drum sticks – an entertaining excursion, although a touch momentum-squandering if we are being picky.


If the drum solo could be considered a slight mis-step, then closing their set list with the thunderous “I Miss The Misery” was a calculated step back in line. Despite contending with bass issues – necessitating a mid-song change – it was the perfect curtain call to the band’s set. A big, sing-along chorus and gang vocals? Wonderful work, and a terrific way to segue into the evening’s headliners.

Speaking of headliners, ALTER BRIDGE have rather made The O2 their home in recent years. In many ways, it is a tough venue to perform in, given its size and non-music performance origins, yet with concerted effort, the band have grafted to make it work for them. The larger capacity venue does seem to have benefited them, as the light show and background projectors added an extra dimension to the band’s performance – certainly not something that could be done as easily in one of the capital’s smaller arenas. While The O2 has a greater capacity, those furthest from the stage and higher up in the gods feel closer, making for a slightly more intimate feel – a boon for sing-alongs.


And sing-alongs there are. In Myles Kennedy, the band has one of modern rock’s greatest singers, and he is almost matched for volume with every line from a fervent crowd that cannot get enough. Whether it is from grandiose opener “Silver Tongue” from the band’s latest album, ‘Pawns & Kings’, or the sweet “Ghost Of Days Gone By”, or the Mark Tremonti-led “Burn It Down”, the band are never without a chorus of accompanying singing. The only exception is the stirring and poignant rendition of “In Loving Memory”, performed acoustically by Kennedy and Tremonti – complete with phone lights aplenty.

Signature tune “Blackbird” followed, raising the rock levels up a notch, before rounding out the set with the one-two metallic punch of “Isolation” and “Metalingus” in a prime example of careful set planning. It is something of a skill to craft a set list that hits every beat required of a gig, as well as rising and falling appropriately to ensure variety, but ALTER BRIDGE struck a terrific balance that ebbed and flowed delightfully. Speaking of, there was even time to play an ode to roadie Dave, who instantly became a fan-favourite, with the band improvising a jam along to the crowd’s football chant-esque song. The man must have been made-up with that!


Closing out the night with “Rise Today” – complete with a SLIPKNOT-like “jump the eff up” moment – and the pleasing “Open Your Eyes” from the band’s debut album, this was a band at the top of their game and delivering the goods in spades to a willing and waiting crowd. The adulation at the end of their two-song encore was well-deserved, and a fabulous farewell to what Kennedy detailed as an at-times gruelling tour. Rest-up, lads – we hope to do this again sometime.


There is no such thing as a perfect gig despite what many will attempt to say, but shows like this one will prove difficult to argue against. From the moment MAMMOTH WVH raise the curtain, through HALESTORM’s unbridled energy, to ALTER BRIDGE’s majesty, those huddling in the warmth of the arena would attest to an excellent night’s hard rocking. As the curtain call for the tour, the trio left nothing behind and can head off to their respective rituals knowing they delivered the goods. Job well done.


Review By Lee Carter

Photographs By Rebecca Bush