It’s somewhat of a mystery how ALTER BRIDGE are yet to headline a major festival. A band that everyone loves far more than they realise, they have been consistently enthralling throughout their career and have gone from strength to strength with every record that passes, highlighted last year when fifth album The Last Hero reached #3 in the main UK charts; not too shabby for a band that formed out of the utter tripe that was CREED. To add further weight behind them, they’re playing two sold-out nights at the Royal Albert Hall this October backed by a full orchestra, which is preceded by Live at the O2 Arena + Rarities, proof that they can handle the biggest arenas in the country with ease.
Recorded last year during their critically acclaimed tour in November at London’s biggest venue and released today (Friday September 8th), the record also comes with a third disc of songs that were previously available as bonus tracks from various special editions or regional releases of the band’s studio albums.
Let’s start with the live recording though, which is the entire 17-song set from ALTER BRIDGE‘s show at the O2 Arena last year along with a couple of bonus cuts from Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena on the same tour. And…well, it’s just masterful; there really is no other word for it. The only downside is the slight pauses in between each track which stop it from flowing seamlessly; if they’d been absent, we’d have been looking at a live album seriously threatening to reach the legacy of records like Live After Death and If You Want Blood, You Got It. Firstly, all the songs played from The Last Hero stand up to the likes of Father Than the Sun and Ties That Bind with consummate ease. The thunder of opening track Writing On the Wall sets the benchmark so high you’d need a stepladder or six to reach it, with Poison In Your Veins and Show Me a Leader also roaring out of the speakers with enough force to take your ears off.
Myles Kennedy continues to stamp his authority on being one of the greatest vocalists of all time, the double salvo of a beautiful, acoustic rendition of Watch Over You and the ever-fantastic Blackbird taking no time at all to pull on heartstrings and probably turn on a few waterworks but he faces competition from bandmate Mark Tremonti who takes over on Waters Rising and doesn’t miss a note. There’s so much that could be talked about here – the fury of Addicted to Pain, the excellence of Cry of Achilles, the anthemic Metalingus, but in reality it’s best for you, the listener, to purchase this album and disappear into it; it won’t take long for you to be standing with everyone else inside.
The third disc, the ‘Rarities’ part of this collection, was definitely going to be geared more towards the collectors than the casuals and it’s clear why the eleven tracks were not chosen to be part of any main release. There are some highlights, of course – the soaring We Don’t Care At All is an uplifting anthem of defiance, Solace (previously unreleased from the One Day Remains sessions) wastes no times in stirring emotions with its epic ballad quality that ALTER BRIDGE do so well, Never Say Die (Outright) harks back to a certain GUNS N’ ROSES in their Use Your Illusions pomp and Damage Done, probably the stand out here, contains a truly dirty bassline and is heavy enough to shake anything from its foundations. Elsewhere though, particularly with the ploddy mid-pace of Cruel Sun and the formulaic New Way to Live, the rest doesn’t come close to matching the quality of what we’re used to ALTER BRIDGE producing.
Nevertheless, it does enough to present itself as a lovely bonus to what is a truly brilliant live album and one that showcases everything that is adored about ALTER BRIDGE’s shows and prowess on the live circuit. Give them a bill-topping slot now, they’ve more than earned it.
Live at the O2 Arena + Rarities is out now via Napalm Records.
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