Mondays have always been the source of a deep sigh, much like a biscuit that has collapsed into a cup of tea or a vending machine which has refused to part ways with its confectioneries. This particular start of the week was quite different for the metal fans of the Welsh capital however, as Cardiff’s Motorpoint arena was bustling with activity to play host to the four bands of incredible magnitude with The Last Hero UK tour.
The act ready to entertain those who could make the early 6pm set opening were none other than the didgeridoo metal New Zealand outfit, Like a Storm, making their support debut in Wales. Not often do you hear of three brothers successfully pulling together to create a band but to see them grow into such a successful band is another. Their charismatic stage persona kept heads bobbing from the offset as their frontman walked out and blew the deep bellows of a didgeridoo, honing thumping tracks like Never Surrender and Love the Way You Hate Me which sent echoes through the air like an early Breaking Benjamin. Coming to their close with a vicious AC/DC cover of TNT, Chris Brooks buried his face into the CO2 jets and raised his guitar in rock exhilaration.
It was not long after their finish that a razor-sharp glass haymaker in the shape of Gojira was delivered directly to the ears of the onlookers. A bombardment of rapid chugging, double pedal and ravaging screaming was in effect, with the French invaders bringing chorus-led favourite Silvera and the recognisable blast chug introduction of Stranded to the huge hall of the arena.
Intermittent six-string plucks blew away cobwebs and innocence in one flick of Joe Duplantier and Christian Andreu’s wrists as the topless brother Mario Duplantier hammered cymbal and snare with a controlled fury that rivalled Jean-Michel Labadie’s head rocking bass bombardment. A truly crushing addition to the line-up and “one of the most important metal bands at the moment” confidently comments Alter Bridge’s Myles Kennedy.
With each massive band backdrop to unclip from the rigging, it is interesting to hear the rise of excitement or murmur of banality. The Gojira backdrop was barely down before a scream of delight echoed through the open metal rafters, as a vibrant and detailed Volbeat sheet appeared for all to enjoy.
The Denmark quartet launched at the turn of the new millennia, but have always been described as a ‘marmite band’ due to controversy over their now dated but still popular style of rhythm structure and the association of their determination to be categorised under heavy metal.
Michael Poulsen has followed a powerful vibrato approach of frontman singing since the beginning and controlled each note, emphasising how well-practiced the set was (or purely the strength of the frontman’s voice). Interludes left the quirky musician to sarcastically offer out Slayer covers and enquire why the crowd surfers had not yet made an appearance. The atmosphere somewhat adjusted to these requests opening up a small circle pit and the occasional drifter passing over everyone’s heads, leaving the setting more active than your sea of lackadaisical observers.
Their set was appealing from start to finish with a number of unexpected minutes clocked from the support act of a different generation. A cover of Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire and an unforeseen appearance from the groups long-time companion Barney Greenway (Napalm Death) for Evelyn was welcomed whole heartedly and was fascinating to watch Mr Poulsen alternate stage microphones which has become fairly uncommon. Jon Larsen was difficult to make out behind his enormous Pearl drum kit, equipped with two bass drums and a multitude of crash and ride cymbals, but despite the lack of a visual aid, they likely heard his thick drum fills from the street across.
Signing off with Still Counting, they threw out what seemed to be a merchandise stand worth of sticks, drum skins, plectrums and wristbands before replacing amplifiers and instruments for the final act.
Discovering that the evening’s impending performance was ready to be recorded for a live CD, the many fans that had episodically joined the gigantic cluster needed little more encouragement to shout out in anticipation for Alter Bridge.
Wireless being the way forward for amp to instrument connection, the three steel-stringed specialists walked out with a firm confidence in their step, Myles and Mark Tremonti each shared a white beaming grin across their lips as they lifted one leg up on to the floor speakers to welcome their many admirers, bursting into the ever-climbing prologue of The Writings on the Wall.
The Last Hero album released early October of this year via Napalm Records, has its rolling stampede of rock songs such as Show Me A Leader and follows the fast-flowing and unstoppable tsunami of peak-reaching metal that they have always been accustomed to. Production-wise it was a standard arena setup which did not include CO2, flames or confetti.
The point being is that a band with such an impressive catalogue of music has no necessity for the theatricality of said stage toys. A massive screen had been assembled however behind the quartet, digitally projecting centurions, uncontrollable storms, intergalactic star races, digital doorways and of course the notorious blackbird, stalking the world of Alter Bridge since 2007 studio album release.
Lights began rolling over the black roof like water for Guitarist Mark Tremonti to take the vocal wheel and ride the tidal wave track Waters Rising from 2013’s Fortress LP. His sinister sneers were swift to insight devil horns to form in the masses hands while Brian Marshall simultaneously locked his powerful glare with a number of faces and plugged a number of deep bass riffs on his Music Man Stingray 5.
Treat after treat followed as Myles Kennedy adorned a gorgeous Taylor acoustic guitar as he and the gathering took turns serenading one another to 2007’s Watch over You with full band renditions of Isolation and Ghosts of Days Gone By chasing after. To finally conclude, the four men came to the front and embraced each other as a final thank you to their small pocket of devotees.
Alter BridgeCardiff Motorpoint Arena - November 28th 2016
Photographer: Nathan Roach - Coal Poet Photography