We’ve been waiting for ALTER BRIDGE to play in Finland, and it’s finally happened! Catching our eye first back in the “Blackbird” (2007) era, they seemed like one of those North American bands that might never tour in Finland. As such, we were excited to go see them, especially since they were paired up with SHINEDOWN. The second show of the Walk the Sky Tour took place at the Helsinki Ice Hall Black Box on November 14th, 2019. Check out the full gallery here.
We arrived at the Jäähalli in good time to find a fresh pair of earplugs and get up comfortably close to the stage. We saw SHINEDOWN about a year ago headlining their own tour at The Circus. They left a very strong impression then so we eagerly returned to see them at the bigger venue. They were also a perfect touring partner for ALTER BRIDGE, if we’re picking from genres. The venue music cut out, replaced by “Good as Hell” by Lizzo as an intro. As soon as it ended, the venue lights went out.
SHINEDOWN opened heavy and hard with “DEVIL,” the first song off their latest album, “Attention, Attention,” and the bigger stage production this time was clear. The band had upgraded to really nice, not-too-cheesy black and yellow outfits to match the theme of the new album, and the backdrop had backlit exclamation marks alongside the otherwise rather basic stage light arrangement.
They then moved right into “Cut the Cord” as Brent Smith tore up the stage, getting the crowd to scream out the title lyric in the chorus. He then greeted the crowd and worked some frontman magic to get the shy Finnish crowd to try and greet one another. The band played rhythms throughout this until Smith got the crowd chanting “boom-lay” to get everyone hyped up for “Diamond Eyes.” With the crowd thoroughly pumped, they then moved onto something slightly more mellow but still powerful via “MONSTERS.”
Smith then gave an arguably cheesy speech about bringing a gift to the audience, and had them put up their cell phones to create magic and mimic the stars in the sky. This set up “GET UP,” which is one of those songs that gets people misty-eyed and slow dancing. The crowd kept up the flashlight back-and-forth for the full song, getting a very loud cheer after it ended.
A funky bass intro preceded another fast and groovy rhythm for another speech as Smith got the crowd hyped up to jump. This was a strange moment because the people on the edges of the crowd really had no idea what was going on, but it seemed that he may have parted the crowd down the center and run down the middle, but we’re not certain. What we do know is that this was to get everyone excited for “Enemies.”
They slowed it down a bit again for another American-style tear-jerker, the very popular hit, “Second Chance,” which also had a few people in the crowd dancing or shedding a tear. The band left the stage but came quickly back so they could give shout-outs to THE RAVEN AGE and ALTER BRIDGE while Zach Meyers jammed along, which sort of made it hard to hear Smith talking. Smith said it was a chance of a lifetime as they had tried to put a tour together with ALTER BRIDGE for years and now it was finally happening. Meyers then played while Smith sang “Simple Man” by LYNYRD SKYNYRD. The band joined in partway and they gave it their all, as though it was their own song. Smith then had everyone out their fist in the air and pump it to “The Sound of Madness,” which appeared to have Meyers singing at least part of the time.
Their set was about 50 minutes long and felt tragically short, with full force performances from start to finish. Once again, these guys kept up their reputation of being a powerful, passionate, and energetic live band and we’d be glad to see them again if and when they come back.
“Good as Hell” – Lizzo [intro]
2. Cut the Cord
3. Diamond Eyes (Boom-Lay Boom-Lay Boom)
5. GET UP
7. Second Chance
8. Simple Man (Lynyrd Skynyrd cover)
9. Sound of Madness
ALTER BRIDGE was set to take the stage at 21:30 and the techs set up a selection of thin screens for a backdrop and tested out some lighting effects. The lights went out a few minutes early as the “One Life” intro played. The band was already on stage when the lights came on, starting the show with the really strong new track, “Wouldn’t You Rather,” followed immediately by “Isolation.”
The band managed to be mildly energetic but not too over-the-top, which felt fine for their music, which is not exactly crazy rock-out material. It was nice to note that, while they looked pretty “hard rock cool,” there were plenty of smiles on stage as well to remind the crowd that they’re having fun too. A heavy thumping bass brought things up for “Come to Life,” with some electric blue soundwaves playing on the backdrops, which had swiveling lighting rigs between each panel. The panels showed a variety of things throughout the night, from equalizers to videos of mountains, silhouetted crows, and more. “Pay No Mind” was a familiar new single and a welcome addition to their live set, and then they did the tour debut of “Crows on a Wire.”
Myles Kennedy greeted the crowd a handful of times, giving a shout-out to the openers before handing the vocals over to Mark Tremonti (guitars) for “Waters Rising.” Kennedy then introduced “Dying Light” as an internet-proclaimed favorite (for good reason) and there were several excited cheers from around us when they began. Kennedy and Tremonti did an acoustic version of “In Loving Memory” from their debut back in 2004, accompanied by slow-motion rainfall on the screens.
“Cry of Achilles” had an impressively heavy rhythm and was a nice jolt to wake up anyone who wasn’t paying attention. Kennedy then played a bit of THE BEATLES song “Blackbird” as an intro to their song of the same name. This was a clear fan favorite as there were genuine screams when the melody began. It’s understandable, as this was one I personally wanted to hear. Tremonti gave a heartfelt thanks to everyone afterwards, introduced the band – who did some soloing – and then continued on to “Metalingus.” After this they left the stage, but did come back for two more songs, “Godspeed” and “Open Your Eyes.”
ALTER BRIDGE did a great job of exploring the new album as well as evenly dipping back into their classics. Kennedy confirmed that this was their first time in Finland and they weren’t sure if anyone was going to show up, so it was good to see that the Black Box had been quite full. While the whole band seemed happy to be there and were on point and professional, admittedly their stage show wasn’t really very interesting. However, if pure entertainment isn’t your thing and you just wanted to hear them play some good music with excellent technical skill… well, they certainly took care of that.
Overall, we had a pretty solid night. SHINEDOWN did a great job setting the stage, but admittedly they stole the spotlight with their vibrant and thorough performance. ALTER BRIDGE, by comparison, was quite lackluster on stage, with Kennedy fairly static throughout the set (also heavily favoring stage-right) and not talking too much to the crowd. As already stated, both bands were technically fantastic and everything sounded pretty good from start to finish, but we would’ve liked a bit more life from the headliner. Ultimately, it was really great to have checked ALTER BRIDGE off the bucket list after so many years, but I’m not sure I’d go a second time.
Alter Bridge Setlist
One Life [intro]
1. Wouldn’t You Rather
3. Come to Life
4. Pay No Mind
5. Crows on a Wire
6. Ghost of Days Gone By
7. Native Son
8. Addicted to Pain
9. Rise Today
10. Waters Rising
11. Dying Light
12. In Loving Memory (acoustic)
13. Cry of Achilles
16. Godspeed (encore)
17. Open Your Eyes (encore)
Written by Bear Wiseman
Photos by Miia Collander