Tremonti – O2 Academy Bristol
Mark Tremonti is best known as the guitarist with Alter Bridge and before that God rockers Creed. He’s released two solid if unspectacular solo albums, All I Was in 2012 and 2015’s heavier Cauterise. This is the man who was named “Guitarist of the Year" for three consecutive years by Guitar World magazine, and in 2011 he was listed as the fourth greatest heavy metal guitarist of all time by Total Guitar. The guitar solo in the Alter Bridge song Blackbird, was named the greatest guitar solo of all time by Guitarist magazine. I don’t agree with any of those accolades although he is a damn fine guitarist, no question about that. Anyway, his solo tour was sufficiently close (yes, Bristol, where else?) to warrant a trip across the bridge with Matt and a very excitable Dan (on only his second ever outing to the big city).
A four band bill meant an early start and we missed Andy James and Wearing Scars. We were in time for The Raven Age (6), a five piece UK outfit most notable for the presence of one George Harris on guitar, son of the Iron Maiden legend. A reasonably full crowd, which consisted mainly very excitable young male fans lapped up their melodic metal with vocalist Michael Burrough (a ringer for a younger Eddie Izzard) energised and demonstrating a huge level of confidence, including concluding the final song from the balcony (Ty Taylor did it first VT fans). However, despite the enthusiasm, The Raven Age’s music was pretty generic with anonymous tracks that blended into each other. Lots of strafing chord action but little else to inspire. This is apparently the new generation of metal.
Next up was Chicago’s Man the Mighty (5) whose amalgamation of Alter Bridge, Creed, BSC, Theory of a Deadman etc. was lapped up by the crowd. You can work out from these influences what they sounded like. The difference between Man the Mighty and The Raven Age was their approach. Americans are always full of confidence and lead singer Derek Smith was immediately in the face of the crowd, demanding participation and encouraging responses at very regular intervals. Lead guitarist Tim Tournier cut some tasty shapes, a couple of their tunes, namely Sick, and set closer I Am Icarus were decent enough.
The Bristol crowd was in full cry when Tremonti (7) hit the stage at 9:40pm. Opening with the blistering assault of Cauterise, the band quickly demonstrated that they are a heavier proposition in the live arena, with the main man cutting an imposing figure at the front of the stage. A decent sound and a good mix allowed Mark Tremonti’s vocals to come through clearly, with the band galloping through the choicest cuts from the two albums. All I Was and Flying Monkeys were both stacked at the front of the set and kept the momentum going. To Mark Tremonti’s left, Eric Friedman cut loose on a number of the tracks, proving that despite the main man status, it is not all ego. Indeed, there were a number of pleasant surprises during the evening. Firstly, although there was a substantial amount of excellent guitar work on display, there was no extended twiddling or virtuoso displays of ego. Secondly, there was no tedious encore, just an announcement that “we have three songs left”. I am a big fan of this approach.
Unfortunately, much like a number of bands who ply their trade in this genre, the songs began to blend into one and although the playing was high quality, it all became a little generic. Bassist Tanner Keegan guarded his part of the stage impressively; throwing obligatory shapes whilst Garrett Whitlock on the drums mirrored Animal from The Muppets at times, such was the craziness of his tub-thumping. Radical Change at least managed to incite some pit action, which was all a little handbags at five paces but got people moving. As the band moved towards the end of the set, I was struck with the enthusiasm of the majority of the crowd, many matching the lyrics word for word. He certainly attracts a loyal following. Penultimate track Sympathy segued into the storming Wish You Well and a robust finish, complete with one of the worst walls of death I have ever witnessed (more a hedge of mild peril). Inviting anyone who had purchased merchandise to a meet and greet afterwards was a nice touch and Mark Tremonti certainly appears to be a solid, genuine person. He is an immensely talented guitarist; fact. Disappointingly, for me the show was too static with the formulaic structure of his songs just a little dull. I will not be seeking out his set at Download next year, but it will be a pleasant enough way to kill 40 minutes if there is nothing else to whet my whistle.