Saturday, May 31, 2014

Alter Bridge slap Atlanta's Tabernacle with slab of grueling hard rock

Everybody, on a certain level, enjoys a good melodic hard rock song with a strong hook, unless you're one of those hipsters who only appreciates music if it's an 18 minute post rock song that sounds like the world's ending. And let's be honest -- if that's the case, no one likes you.

Whenever I need to get my fix for this, Alter Bridge are always one of my sure bets. They're not fancy but they do deliver powerful, hook filled sing alongs, with a level of instrumentation that puts them head and shoulders above your run of the mill 102.9 The Buzz radio rock band. The band's April 18 performance at Atlanta's Tabernacle was a showcase for their high, sweeping, fist pumping choruses.

Frontman Myles Kennedy's voice pierced through the during "Isolation" turning the massive, four story theatre into a gigantic sing along. In the same breath, they are also the type of band capable of blowing you away with technical prowess demonstrated best on cuts like "Ties That Bind." "Blackbird," meanwhile, delivered nearly 8 minutes the most inspired singing and guitar soloing in their catalog.

Other significant moments included the crowd singing Happy Birthday for guitarist Mark Tremonti, who celebrated his 40th birthday the night before. He capped it off by stepping behind the microphone for "Waters Rising," a cut from their newest album Fortress, and gave us a rare opportunity to hear his vox. What was curious was the fact that very little material was played from Fortress, despite this being the support tour for the album. Instead, the band stuck heavily to their well known hits and focused mostly on their critically acclaimed Blackbird album.

Mark Tremonti of Alter Bridge delivers passion on the mic and on guitar.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Arcade Fire brings hard rocking dance party to Bridgestone Arena

The biggest indie band of their day just keeps growing. The best way to summarize what Arcade Fire aims to do live is to discuss their sense of unpredictability. No doubt, the band's first arena tour is a momentous occasion in their history. It is wholly unexpected in itself considering few would have predicted a band from the mid-2000s indie circuit would have ever reached the level of stadium headliner. But throughout their numerous performances and television appearances since the release of their latest album Reflektor in October, Arcade Fire have showcased a penchant for outside the box stage configurations and a strong sense of creative direction.

Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler puts on a spectacle for his fans.

A boisterous world music dance party from opening act Tune Yards segued flawlessly into a DJ set from Deltron 3030's Kid Koala, who, as he put it, was invited by Arcade Fire to "play records incorrectly for you guys." It's clear a great deal of thought has been put into this tour. Oftentimes it's little touches, such as Arcade Fire leading lady Régine Chassagne dancing around with streamers during the closing coda of "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)," or holding up mirrors to reflect rays of light during "Reflektor." It's small details that showcase personality and elevate the performance from just being a band on stage playing songs to something more special. Throw in some elaborate costuming, Mexican wrestler masks, and blasts of confetti everywhere and you have a legitimate spectacle of a show. But it is so much more.

From the get-go it became clear the band's intent was to craft ringing stadium anthems, and that's just what they did. Their debut, Funeral, brought a left of center vibe with imagery bringing to mind a snowy French Canadian neighborhood.  If Scott Pilgrim grew up passing by the frosty front doors of Montreal, it's not hard to imagine him making something like this. "Neighborhood #3" pulls off this vibe exceptionally well with its frigid, yet still hopeful demeanor, while cuts like the heartfelt "Crown of Love," "Rebellion (Lies)" and "Wake Up" delivered enough vigor to warm the entire arena.. Elsewhere, "Month of May" and "Normal Person" provided the perfect moments to rock out, the latter being preceded by a parody of Miley Cyrus's "We Can't Stop."

Régine Chassagne gets hands on with shiny mirrors during Reflektor.

The Reflektor material is every bit as brilliant. As the main curtain fell, frontman Win Butler climbed onto stage at just in time to kick off "Here Comes the Night Time," complete with thundering calypso drums. The Greek mythology inspired "It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus)" dazzlingly showcased a duet between Butler and Chassagne while facing one another on opposite stages. Also fabulous was the heavy handed dance beat of "We Exist," a song that Win Butler described as a young man having a conversation with his father about being gay. "Every generation they try to pick on somebody," he spat. He also poked fun at those who criticized the band for their dress up request. "We're so pretentious," he declared sarcastically. But he showed a solid sense of humor as well. Near the end of the set he got distracted by a guy dressed up as Jesus in the crowd and everybody got a good chuckle out of it, Butler included.

 Merrill Garbus of Tune Yards is a queen of propulsive rhythms.
Throughout the tour, they've also made a habit of doing location specific covers dedicated to the city they perform in. Following the night's sole Neon Bible cut, "Intervention," Butler declared that that was "enough Devil music for one night," before launching  into a cover of the Louvin Brothers' "Broadminded." The vocal twang of the old timey harmonies, delivered by Arcade Fire axemen Richard Reed Parry and Tim Kingsbury, sounded right at home amidst the honky tonks of Broadway. It proved to be a great night due to incredible energy flowing throughout the crowd, powered by well beloved songs played by one of today's most daring and stimulating bands. They may not be radio staples, but are becoming well ingrained in our musical culture regardless.

Related posts:

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs review 
Arcade Fire - Reflektor review