SAN FRANCISCO — The idea that a band mellows with age doesn’t apply to Alter Bridge. The Orlando hard rockers have managed to push the envelope a little further with each passing album and have continued raise the bar on the capabilities of modern rock. The band has delved in progressive rock, thrash and classic rock, continually honing its skills instead of remaining idle. It was this attention to craft that Myles Kennedy and co. put on display Sunday night at the Regency Ballroom.
Bay Area appearances are somewhat of a rarity for the quartet, with the band only making San Francisco stops a handful of times during its 16-year run. The night’s entire bill was a celebration of no-frills rock that combined rich vocal melodies with hard-driving riffs and rhythms. It included Sevendust guitarist Clint Lowery’s solo project and Grand Rapids up-and-comers Deepfield.
Alter Bridge walked onto the stage as spotlights swirled around like searchlights over the dark opening chords of the new track “Wouldn’t You Rather.” As the band kicked into the song, a bright wall of flashing strobes illuminated the entire room in a near-blinding fashion. Kennedy and guitarist Mark Tremonti traded riffs and solo passages back and forth as the song evolved.
The band wasted little time getting down to business, putting some of its most distinctly heavy songs together at the front of the set, following up the opening with the dynamic “Isolation” and the down-tuned thump of “Come to Life.”
It was impressive how well Kennedy and Tremonti could do each other’s jobs. While Tremonti is generally considered a hero of modern rock guitar, Kennedy’s chops were not to be ignored. Kennedy winced with each bend of the string, seemingly feeling the emotion of the note flowing through him. Alternatively, Tremonti has developed into a serviceable vocalist, providing ample backing vocals and occasionally taking center stage himself.
The band kept up the pace with the upbeat clap-along rhythms of “Pay No Mind” and “Ghost of Day Gone By.” Kennedy then led the crowd in singing along on the anthemic “Broken Wings.”
The entirety of the sound was coming from the band members. There were no loops, samples or synths—simply the drums, bass and guitars leading the aural assault. That came across as a throwback.
Alter Bridge selected a fairly even cross-section of material from its catalog to fill up Sunday night’s set. New tracks, like “Native Son,” were paired with memorable deeper cuts like “Rise Today.” A Spanish-guitar-influenced introduction led into the nearly seven-minute rocker “Cry of Achilles.”
Tremonti sang lead on hard rocker “Waters Rising” before he and Kennedy had the stage to themselves on an acoustic version of “In Loving Memory,” which had the room sining along. The ballad was the perfect counterweight for what came next: the eight-minute surgical precision of “Blackbird” (not by the Beatles), which was majestic, soaring and daring—and easily one of the highlights of the show.
Alter Bridge closed out the main portion of its set with an extended crowd singalong of its 2004 debut single, “Open Your Eyes,” and the raucous “Metalingus.” The latter song was fitting for the band to showcase as it served as the key to the band’s future. Released in an era when mainstream rock ruled the day, it showed how a melodic band could also be punishing and heavy.
After an encore break, the band returned to play a new track, the ’80s-esque and classic-rock-inspired “Godspeed.” The show concluded with the punishing hard rock of “Addicted to Pain.”
Sevendust guitarist Clint Lowery and his highly capable backing band opened the show. While Lowery had previously written and recorded some songs on the side, his latest release is his most fully formed project Lowery has ever attempted.
“I’m still getting used to this frontman thing, I’m feeling pretty vulnerable about it,” Lowery said early on in his set. While his Sevendust origins shined through only occasionally, his material was much more straight-ahead rock with a slight pinch of Southern influences. Most, if not all, of Lowery’s songs were from this year’s God Bless the Renegades. He opened with the title track and “Here,” also the first two songs from the album.
Lowery kept a very low-key stage presence, talking with concertgoers between songs before continuing with “Silver Lining” and “She’s Free,” an anthem he wrote about his daughter.
Grand Rapids rock band Deepfall provided some of the biggest surprises of the evening, turning in a dynamic set covering a lot of ground, from heavy to melodic. The band ripped through its own material and threw in a hard rock cover of Journey’s “Separate Ways” for good measure.