Feeling a little under the weather had no effect on how pumped I was about tonight’s show. Alter Bridge had just kicked off their Pawns & Kings Tour 2 days ago, and now the Hard Rock Live at Universal Studios in Orlando Florida was hosting their homecoming show. Also on the bill was the ultra-talented Mammoth WVH and Nashville rockers RED. I arrived unusually early as I knew the park would be packed. Not only was this a sold-out show, but it was also Friday night and the Rock The Universe festival was taking place on the outside stage.
The 1/2 mile walk to the venue seemed a little more daunting than usual and I was exhilarated when I finally grabbed my credentials and settled in. 1st up on the night was RED, who hail from Nashville Tennessee. I honestly wasn’t familiar with the band until about a week or so ago, but in the time leading up to the show I had been streaming their music non-stop, so much so that I swear I heard my wife singing “Let It Burn” throughout the house.
The always punctual Hard Rock Live dimmed the lights right at 7:30 p.m. and the party was started. RED opened up their set with “Death Of Me” from their 2009 album Innocence & Instinct. The band played as though they had something to prove, and the crowd responded emphatically. Twins Randy (bass) and Anthony Armstrong (guitar) were formidable bookends for the energetic Michael Barnes, who was jumping and kicking all over the place. A high point in the set was 2011’s “Let It Burn” which was followed by “Already Over” and the hard-hitting “Feed The Machine.” Drummer Brian Medeiros put on a pulverizing performance on drums, and I couldn’t believe it when the 6th and final song had arrived. The band closed out their set with 2006’s “Breathe Into Me.” RED nailed their performance and I really wished they had more time allotted for their set. RED’s new album, Rated R, comes out this spring, so be sure to keep an eye out for it.
Michael Barnes: Lead Vocals
Anthony Armstrong: Guitars, Backing Vocals
Randy Armstrong: Bass, Backing Vocals, Piano
Brian Medeiros: Drums
1.Death Of Me
3.Let It Burn
5.Feed The Machine
6.Breathe Into Me
Next up was Mammoth WVH. I had covered the band back in 2021, so I knew this set was going to be hot. At 8:20 p.m. the band came out and were immersed in dark blue while scintillating spotlights showered the stage. Drummer Garrett Whitlock, a native of Saint Cloud Florida, led the band in a slow, melodic intro. Wolfgang Van Haled approached the mic, with guitar in hand, and screamed “Orlando let’s have some fun,” and then went straight into “Mammoth.” Wolfgang took time to thank the fans for having them and said that Orlando feels like a 2nd home because he comes here so much. He then took up a position behind the keyboard and during “Epiphany” he alternated between his trusty guitar and hitting the keys.
Before playing “Think It Over,” Wolfgang announced that this song was his dad’s (Eddie Van Halen) favorite. The very next song was “Distance,” the band’s 1st solo from their debut album. The significance of this song is monumental. Wolfgang wrote the song while his father was embroiled in a heroic battle with cancer. The fact that Eddie was able to hear the song before he passed is a blessing and the ensuing video is a prodigious tribute to his dad.
Although Wolfgang played every instrument, and performed vocals, on the debut album, he has surrounded himself with a stellar supporting lineup, including the aforementioned Whitlock (drums), Frank Sidoris (guitar), Jon Jourdan (guitar), and Ronnie Ficarro (bass). The final song of the set was the addictive “Don’t Back Down” and the crowd ate it up. The sound and vibe that Mammoth WVH emanates during their live performance is exactly what you’d expect after hearing the debut album and is not something to be missed.
Wolfgang Van Halen: Lead Vocals, Lead & Rhythm Guitar, Bass, Drums, Keyboards/Piano
Frank Sidoris: Guitar
Jon Jourdan: Guitars
Ronnie Ficarro: Bass
Garrett Whitlock: Drums
5.Think It Over
7.You’re To Blame
8.Don’t Back Down
9:20 p.m. meant that it was time for Alter Bridge. I’ve covered Myles Kennedy on his solo tour and with Slash & The Conspirators, so I already knew what a musical genius he is, but believe it or not, I have never seen Alter Bridge. Tonight, that was going to change. Alter Bridge was formed right here in O-Town back in 2004. With the exception of Kennedy, Mark Tremonti (guitar), Brian Marshall (bass) and Scott Phillips (drums) were all former members of the band Creed. With the addition of Kennedy, Alter Bridge was ready to take their talents to the highest level.
As the stage lit up, the artwork from the band’s 2022 album Pawns & Kings could be seen serving as the backdrop. It made perfect sense to ignite the set with something from the new record and that’s exactly what they did with “Silver Tongue.” This is what the capacity crowd had been waiting for and it was clear that the band was ecstatic to be back in Orlando. Tremonti could be seen smiling and gesturing toward the VIP area that more than likely held a large number of family and friends. One of my favorite songs, “Ghost Of Days Gone By,” was played early on and sounded great! The iconic “Broken Wings” had the 7,000 people in attendance singing their hearts out. Awe-inspiring doesn’t quite do it justice.
This is point of the performance where things took a bit of an impromptu, yet creative, turn. An equipment failure resulted in a pretty cool jam session with Tremonti, Marshall and Phillips. Myles jokingly asked the crowd “have you ever seen Spinal Tap?” He said, “sometimes the real thing is even more embarrassing than fiction, but that’s ok, that’s part of the joy of live rock n’ roll.” He then whipped out the acoustic guitar and played 2007’s “Watch Over You.” With the gear still not fixed, Tremonti grabbed his acoustic and together they played “In Loving Memory.” Kennedy and Tremonti’s dual vocals on “Stay” were spectacular and the performance of “Metalingus” was nothing short of incendiary.
The band closed out their homecoming gig with 2 classics, “Rise Against” and “Open Your Eyes” and once again, the fans were more than happy to help sing the choruses. As the band said their goodbyes, Phillips threw out around a dozen sticks to the appreciative crowd. Orlando will always be home to Alter Bridge and they will always receive the welcome they deserve. Make sure to pick up the new album and catch the show when it comes near your town.
Myles Kennedy: Lead and Backing Vocals, Rhythm/Lead Guitar
Mark Tremonti: Lead/Rhythm Guitar, Backing and Lead Vocals
Brian Marshall: Bass
Scott Phillips: Drums, Percussion
2.Addicted To Pain
3.Ghost Of Days Gone By
4.Before Tomorrow Comes
8.Watch Over You (Myles Acoustic Solo)
9.In Loving Memory (Myles/Mark Acoustic Duo)
10.Cry Of Achilles
13.Pawns & Kings
14.Wouldn’t You Rather
18.Open Your Eyes
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I’ve had a love for photography since I was young. Whether it was a Polaroid or a Kodak 110, I was always the kid with the camera. My love of music goes back even further. Nothing beats being at a show when those lights go down and the crowd goes nuts.