Hearing names like Theory Of A Deadman, Black Stone Cherry and Alter Bridge appearing on a bill like this, one can wonder that it will a night to remember. With distinctive styles and reputations under each band’s respective belts, it was a night of good old rock and roll and for all generally to have a great time.
As the intro of South Park’s “Blame Canada” sent Manchester into giggles, the first band to walk and perform to Manchester was Canadian quartet Theory of a Deadman. Leading the audience was Tyler Connolly [lead vocals/lead guitars], Dave Brenner [rhythm guitars], Dean Back [bass] and Joey Dandeneau [drums] with their traits of country, post-grunge and alternative sounds that has gained them a healthy fan base and a style that comprises of their funk and groove.
With the first song ‘Gentlemen’ [from their new “The Truth Is” record], they set the atmosphere off to a satisfying start. The grinding ‘So Happy’ and popular numbers ‘Lowlife’ and ‘Bitch Came Back’ reduced the crowd to singing and clapping. A song from the past was their cover of Eric Clapton‘s infamous track ‘Cocaine’. The penultimate track of the night was the anthem ‘Hate My Life’ that led into the set closer, via a brief cameo of the Guns N’ Roses classic ‘Paradise City’, the hard hitting ‘Bad Girlfriend’.
The second outfit to show what they’re made of was Kentucky mob, Black Stone Cherry. They were no strangers to the rock world. Consisting of members Chris Robertson [lead vocals/ guitar], Ben Wells [guitar/backing vocals], Jon Lawhon [bass guitar/backing vocals], and John Fred Young [drums/backing vocals], the opportunity to delight Manchester with their southern rock influences was clear on their faces. Beginning their set with tracks from their recent opus “Between The Devil & The Deep Blue Sea”, Black Stone Cherry wasted no time, unleashing their energetic presence with the crushing ‘Change’, groovy ‘Blind Man’ and instant crowd favourite ‘Yeah Man’. Wells & Lawhon literally appeared to have ants in their tight trousers because of the fire they both embodied as a team. Not to mention the vocals on Robertson, that were intense and powerful. It can’t be helped but to be amazed how Robertson sounds great, both on record and live!
Carrying on their grand performance were the massive rips of YEAH’s for ‘Soulcreek’, subtle but strong ‘In My Blood’ and the intense ‘Rain Wizard’, that got the crowd to headbang surprisingly heavily. All across the arena, the crowd was entranced by the smooth sounds and sultry vocals, which led Robertson to express: “something that means a lot.” Manchester got the chance to help the lads with the hearty ‘Things My Father Said’, letting them show what they’re made of by singing the chorus back. Smiles were all around, Black Stone Cherry and the audience.
The anthemic ‘White Trash Millionaire,’ along with a blues improvisation, kept the energy going as Black Stone Cherry then brought Manchester into unison with the meaningful ‘Peace is Free’. There was a sense of raw emotion from the crowd as Robertson kindly asked to split their voices to the chorus. Concluding their performance were the pumping ‘Maybe Someday’ and the ridiculously hip ‘Blame It On The Boom-Boom’ that was an instant fan favourite, a track to let all senses go and not care about it. And lastly, blasting their neat hit sound that first introduced us to Black Stone Cherry, ‘Lonely Train’ was the perfect result to end an entertaining performance.
Alter Bridge, named after an actual bridge in Michigan, guitarist Mark Tremonti brought together bassist Brain Marshall and drummer Scott Phillips. The names should give away where their previous status came from… Their former group, Creed. But, please, do not be mistaken by that. With Myles Kennedy as the leader of the pack, Alter Bridge, as a collective, has gained a huge and extremely loyal fanbase on it’s own merit, their greatest achievement in the form of their 2010 critically-acclaimed album “AB: III” and a spot in this year’s Download Festival. Will their night in the arena be the benchmark of their achievements in Manchester and to mark their start of their UK tour?
Smothered in red light with Myles Kennedy crooning the haunting words centre of the stage, blasts within the stunning ‘Slip to the Void,’ led to ‘Find The Real’ and had Manchester in a realm of its own with “Whoa” harmonies. ‘Ghost Of Days Gone By’ brought claps and singing in unison, from the crowd, that is sometimes louder than the music and Myles singing itself. Alter Bridge and Manchester shared smiles fro ear to ear that could not be wiped off. It was time to give the fists a good workout in the air with ‘I Know It Hurts’ and the heavy ‘Come To Life’, both immediate crowd-pleasers. With a “Good evening” to Manchester by the main man and a request to see arms waving from side to side, the emotionally loud ‘Brand New Start’ brought everyone together.
Myles’ “rockstar pose” signalled the equally heavy ‘White Knuckles’ and gave him the chance to toy with the crowd a little, before playfully exclaiming “Psyche!”. That got us thinking, this wasn’t a serious rock show but a night to let your hair down, have fun and enjoy. ‘Coeur D’Alene’ was the next track to be played and it was the surprise track that was gritty and deep in sound, but also very powerful and fluid through the power of Myles’ vocals.
Alter Bridge expressed their gratitude to the Manchester crowd, and being very appreciative of the effortless chants from their audience, as they kicked in with a thunderous drum intro by Phillips, the bass plucking by Marshall and guitars by Tremonti exploded into the thrilling ‘Metalingus’. This was already turning out to be heaviest yet unifying track of the night. From the straining chords from their spectators screaming “Come and set me free” tightening the close bond with everyone in the arena.
With the powerful ‘Broken Wings,’ and with help from their guitar tech, Alter Bridge blasted out another favourite track in the form of ‘One Day Remains.’ Before the next song came on, Myles teased the crowd with an intro similar to The Beatles before the overwhelming ‘Blackbird’ engulfed the arena. It was admittedly quite a touching moment for all to witness the band as a whole perform and show their passion to the songs played thus far of the night.
It was time for the electric guitars to be put down and for Myles to take stage with a stool and his acoustic guitar. This was a thrilling time to watch Myles show his stupendous vocal ability with the delicate ‘Wonderful Life’ and his swansong ‘Watch Over You.’ The lighting came from the audience’s lighters and mobile phones as they shined like stars. Hearing the crowd singing along with every line was a moment that sent chills down everyone’s spines. As Tremonti, Phillips and Marshall joined Kennedy, the place immediately ignited with the rock blaster ‘Ties That Bind,’ which may be another contender for the heaviest track of the night. It even spawned a ferocious pit! Myles teased the crowd with some impressive blues/jazz improvisation, before cheekily asking Manchester if they love rock n roll and metal, which ignited into ‘Isolation’.
After a brief break, the epic track that is ‘Open Your Eyes’ brought the crowd to harmonise so loud it was as if they were in a football ground. With a humbling dedication to the icon that is Freddie Mercury, Myles and Tremonti did, what appears to be, an outstanding guitar duel that was absolute note perfect and got the crowd to appreciate their musicianship very much.
Manchester stood up for the last time with open arms and loud voices to rupture the arena for the mighty ‘Rise Today’ and for Alter Bridge close their show. When Myles expressed that Manchester has “the true fans” and “being cut from the same cloth”, it is no wonder that all three acts did a wonderful job to make their mark in an arena an in a place where passion is within the music culture. Theory Of A Deadman did the job and it was a job well done. Black Stone Cherry entertained with a huge amount of success. For Alter Bridge, it was their night of sheer arena perfection…