2023-08-02 Asbury Park, NJ & 2023-08-05 Grantville, PA

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abw1987
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2023-08-02 Asbury Park, NJ & 2023-08-05 Grantville, PA

Post by abw1987 »

I had the pleasure of seeing last night's show at the Stone Pony Summer Stage in Asbury Park, NJ. Kind of a bucket list destination given its storied history, although I'm not sure it counts since I still haven't been inside :lol.

This may have been my first time seeing AB play an open air show, not counting any covered amphitheater appearances. Fortunately it was a gorgeous night – no sign of rain, and a consistent 70–75℉ with a light breeze the whole time. I also appreciated that the open air nature of the venue came with a 10pm curfew. Mammoth went on shortly after 6pm, and despite being 90+ minutes away I was home in bed by midnight, making my usual 5:30am wakeup only a little painful.

I was especially excited for this lineup since I love Wolfie's debut album, and I'd somehow never seen Sevendust (despite listening to and enjoying plenty of their material over the years). My anticipation was not unwarranted – I think this might be one of the best pairings (triads?) since the Silvertide/Submersed days. They could tour this lineup until they retire and I'd be happy.

This was either my third or fourth time seeing Mammoth and they killed it as usual. Wolfie has surrounded himself with excellent, professional musicians, and they sound very tight as a band. He himself is of course a remarkably gifted musician, and I find myself underestimating and being surprised by his live vocal strength every time. I was going to pick a few of my favorite songs they played, but frankly I liked all of their choices from their debut album. "Mammoth" is a solid opener and "Epiphany" really set an upbeat tone for the night.

They also played three from their forthcoming sophomore effort, including their first performance of "I'm Alright" which only dropped on YouTube yesterday, and "Take a Bow" which I hadn't heard before. (I've been holding off on spoiling too much of the record before I have the whole thing in my hands.) The sound was OK. They certainly played tight as a band, but I think the upper frequencies might have been mixed out of Woflie's mic to prevent feedback, giving him a VHIII-esque lisp, and there was a lot of equipment noise between songs and during quiet moments during songs. Overall it was a great set, especially in the late afternoon sun with the ocean breeze blowing through.

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About as close as I got since I arrived at the end of their first song; but what a gorgeous evening

Next up: Sevendust. How I have gone this long without seeing them I'm not sure, but regret no more – I've finally gotten to witness what all the hype is about. I knew Lajon was regarded as a great frontman but that guy has some serious stage presence and charisma. And as promised, he can really belt it out. They were down a bandmate but given my unfamiliarity with their live act I would have no way of knowing what was missing. They sounded tight so they must have figured out how to temporarily fill in the gaps.

Their style is a different kind of heavy than WVH and AB, giving a unique sort of drama to how the night flowed between acts. With that percussive heaviness comes a certain crowd, and I was let's just say "relocated" by some overly aggressive pit antagonists trying to form a mosh circle shortly into the set. I don't usually mind moshers as they tend to take care not to endanger anyone, but these guys were a little over the top trying to goad people around the perimeter with antagonizing shoving. Lajon made a point to encourage responsible moshing a couple different times, which I could tell many appreciated. That aside, the set was a lot of fun, highlighted by a fading sky as the New Jersey coast turned away from the sun.

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Sevendust crushing it as a four-piece

Alter Bridge took the stage as darkness fell, and man do they never disappoint. The music just feels like home. I had gotten much closer to the stage by this point, so I had a great view but the sound suffered. The bass dominated the mix and at times I could barely hear Mark. Fortunately I know the songs like the back of my hand so I had no trouble following along. It may have just been where I was standing but Mark's tone sounded like shit – LOL. Surprising since I assume he's playing the MT100 nowadays. The leads sounded like a Boss DS-1 trying to emulate Clapton's "White Room" tone, and his intro to "Come to Life" was comically thin. It didn't detract from the experience though... the fact that I'm picking things apart like this proves how much respect I have for them.

No major surprises in the setlist, though I was glad to finally hear "Sin After Sin" live. "Silver Tongue" is a great opener – uptempo with such a cool groove. New songs side, they've mostly opted for the comfort and nostalgia of the first half of their career. I'm glad Mark's rendition of "Burn it Down" has become a staple, as I love his vocal delivery. We also got to hear the title track from P&K, which I hope does not end up fading into their discography over time since it really is a standout composition. Naturally, we got to hear "Blackbird" as well, and I distinctly remember thinking to myself about halfway through, "man, there's just no better song than this." It seemed like the crowd agreed with my assessment of the setlist above – people enjoyed the new material and responded warmly to the classics.

Myles seems to have entered a new phase of his career when it comes to his stage persona, eschewing raw passion for a relaxed mastery that almost appears effortless. He even alluded to this in some of his onstage commentary – not wanting to get "too comfortable" only to forget his parts. Rest assured he continues to play and sing with seasoned excellence. He had his new signature guitars with him and I was especially struck by the green one. The rest of the guys nailed their parts as well, demonstrating a cohesiveness that only ~20 years of experience can afford. Overall it was another great night in an undefeated string of wins for these guys. Glad I made the drive.

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abw1987
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Re: 2023-08-02 Asbury Park, NJ & 2023-08-05 Grantville, PA

Post by abw1987 »

On Saturday I was fortunate to catch a second date on this tour as the planets aligned on the day-of, allowing me to buy a ticket just a few hours beforehand. Given I already offered my thoughts above about the show three days prior, this review will server as more of a comparison between the two.

I ended up springing for pit since this appeared to be a mostly seated venue, and most of the decent seats were sold out, leaving half-decent seats going for ~$60, whereas pit tickets were only $100 – a negligible difference for an infinitely better placement. I actually wasn't sure whether the "pit" would be first-come-first-serve seating since the ticket said something like "GA Seated", but fortunately for me it was standing only. And somehow, despite being a fairly shallow GA section (perhaps just 5 or 6 rows of people could fit standing), it was not terribly busy so I had no trouble getting a decent spot without having to arrive early. For most of the show, I was just one row back from the rail.

This was another outdoor show, and the weather once again looked fabulous – high 80s(℉) in the afternoon going down to the low 70s(℉) with no sign of rain. Unlike the Stone Pony show, this was in a very rural area so there was no noise curfew, meaning the show would end at a more typical time. Unfortunate for me, given I had a 1h45m drive home and toddlers who wake up around 6am, but at least it was a weekend so I didn't need to worry about getting everyone ready for school & work. On the plus side, with the start time being an hour later, it was also darker out during most of the show, creating a much more dramatic atmosphere than in Asbury Park.

The venue was basically in a wide open field with a semi-finished packed gravel surface, so all that extra space meant the stage was an order of magnitude bigger than in NJ. Rows of seats were set up in all sections except the pit – a bit surprising for a rock show, but perhaps this venue is intended to host more diverse acts or is just tailored for a more relaxed crowd. (That said, there are plenty of hard rock & metal acts on the schedule for this summer.) There were food trucks around the back perimeter, and I treated myself to an ice cream cone in spirit of summertime revelry.

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Mammoth did another great set, playing through the same list of songs as in Asbury Park. They all seemed to be having a great time playing for the Saturday evening crowd and enjoying the summer air. They were plagued by the same between-song feedback noise issues as in NJ, but that didn't manifest during the songs themselves, and I do think the sound was better overall than at the Stone Pony – a good sign for the next two acts. Having now heard the entirety of Mammoth's new album—which finally came out just the day before—allowed me to more fully appreciate the new songs they played. "Like a Pastime" in particular fired me up especially with Wolfie's passionate vocal delivery in the chorus, plus the metal bit at the end which is a lot of fun as it takes everyone by surprise and really gets the crowd going.

This time it was almost dark by the time Sevendust started, which feels much more appropriate given the band's aggressive angle. They too played the same setlist as at the Stone Pony, with the addition of "Thank You" at the very end. I didn't mind this symmetry given it was only my second time seeing them, so I actually liked getting more familiar with these songs' live renditions. The main difference was that John was back from his COVID scare, so the band was once again operating at full force. Even with the additional instrumentalist the band still sounded tight as a machine gun. They did sound fuller this time around, and I did notice a few spots where a certain guitar lick wouldn't have been possible with a single axeman.

The moshers did come out once again as well, although not nearly to the same extent as on Wednesday, perhaps in part due to the shallowness of the pit section. I believe someone got into a fight or was overly aggressive with another audience member, leading Lajon to flag down security and even talk directly to the victim to make sure s/he was OK. It's unfortunate how the aggression of their music can bring out this ugly side in a tiny minority of people. It's funny: Lajon is certainly not up there instigating violence; in fact quite the opposite – he is all smiles, and conversely at one point he even teared up while introducing one of their more emotional cuts – so this behavior must come from the music itself. Although if you look at John and Morgan they almost always look like they're fixing to take your head off :lol.

Finally, Alter Bridge took the stage under the cover of night to a warm reception from the audience. The guys seemed happy to be there, and Myles commented at how beautiful the landscape was when driving in – a sentiment I shared as well on my drive out. Opting again for a mix of their newest songs with the nostalgia of mostly older tracks seemed to work as the crowd reacted fondly towards many of their early hits. They too played the same set as on Wednesday with one major exception: they traded "Pawns & Kings" for "Fable of the Silent Son". I was also hoping to finally hear "This is War", as that's the only other track they've played off of Pawns & Kings that I haven't seen in person yet, but no such luck this time. But back to "Fable" – only its second time on the setlist. Despite some trepidation in Myles's remarks, I have to say they really pulled it off. I'm not sure the audience was overly familiar with it, but I did my best to rock out in representation of die-hard Alter Bridge deep cut aficionados. I have a new appreciation for the song now after having heard it performed live. The guy in front of me recorded the whole show from the rail and was gracious enough to send it to me; with his permission I've uploaded it to YouTube here for those interested:


The sound was also better than at the Stone Pony, maybe because I was further over to the right and thus not so overpowered by Brian's bass amps. This also allowed me to hear Mark's guitars a bit better, which I am pleased to say did not sound like "shit" as I mentioned in my prior review. In fact, I remember thinking to myself how his cleans during the intro of "Blackbird" were nearly distortion-free, almost like the old days of his Fender Twins. His leads, however, are really quite excessively crunchy. Maybe that helps his tone break through the mix better, but it stands in stark contrast to his recorded leads which are so buttery smooth. That didn't detract from the experience in any way, though. I still had a fabulous time and enjoyed every minute of the privilege to hear these songs performed in person.

After seeing essentially the same show twice in a row, that repeat reinforcement has left me cycling between a handful of songs in my head for the last few days. Notably, most of these are from the first two sets: "Mammoth", "Epiphany", and "It's Alright" from WVH's set, and "Face to Face", "Denial", "Fence", and "Angel's Son" from Sevendust's. As for Alter Bridge, the deep, lethargic riff from "Fable" and the main riff of "Silver Tongue" are both rotating in my head as well. I was already sold on Mammoth, I've obviously been sold on Alter Bridge for the better part of 20 years, and while I was sold in theory on Sevendust I can now say it's official after seeing them live and being won over by their live energy. Great tour.

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Schulzy
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Re: 2023-08-02 Asbury Park, NJ & 2023-08-05 Grantville, PA

Post by Schulzy »

Great reviews, Alex! Thanks for all of the photos and videos. I'm not going to be able to make it to the Council Bluffs show so will have to live on YouTube vids of Fable.
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_^:Tangled in your trance and I'm certain:^_

abw1987
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Re: 2023-08-02 Asbury Park, NJ & 2023-08-05 Grantville, PA

Post by abw1987 »

Thanks! That's a shame – YouTube is a godsend for moments like these. 🙂
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