All right, I put this off long enough. With the new album out, and me being horribly unfocused in terms of keeping a schedule, this delay was bound to happen.
Part IV: The First Official Show of the Walk the Sky tour in Raleigh, NC.
Day Three in Raleigh as I reach the second half of my trip in the East Coast. Once again, got a great night’s rest. However, at around 6:30 AM, the hotel lobby did state that there are complementary hot chocolate and oatmeal and I haven’t had hot chocolate in years, so I took advantage of that. Took a few more hours of sleep and got up to get ready to go to the Ritz. I ate the remaining half of my chicken parmesan lasagna which I did heat up, since the Extended Stay hotel room I was in came with a microwave. Other than that, I did the usual browsing of the usual sites I go to. Here, Twitter, other music forums, etc. I thought to myself that I wanted to switch shirts for the show. After wearing my Royal Albert Hall skull T-shirt for like 20 straight concerts in a row, I thought I might as well break the streak and wear my Victorious Sky Tour t-shirt with the album cover. Bad news though, even though I asked the guy at the merch stand at the Listening Party for a Large, the guy gave me an XXL………. I thought there’s no way I can wear that to the show and not look weird in it, so I’m back to sporting the Royal Albert Hall Skull T-shirt, and thought I’ll do a nice thing and give my XXL shirt to anyone in line at the show for free and buy a large t-shirt version after the show.
So at around 1:00 PM, I left to walk the mile to the Ritz and funny thing. I was walking across the street and one guy waiting at the light asked me if I was going to the show at the Ritz and I said “Yeah, I am.” Turned out, I don’t think he was someone that was going to the show, but rather a guy that works with the venue to set things up. Anywho, I went to a Tropical Smoothie Café on the way there. I got a Jerk Chicken Salad and a fruit smoothie that set me back $12.00. The smoothie alone would have been $7.00, but I save $3.00 if I order it with something else. Fine with me, that Jerk Chicken Salad was spicy, but good, and luckily, there is a Tropical Smoothie Café about three miles near me at home, so I can go there often in the future.
I got to the Ritz at around 2:00 PM and there was a line out, mainly for the VIP Meet and Greets and those that are also there for Mark’s guitar clinics. Turns out that I was the first guy with regular GA there. Cool beans for me. That dream to get a rail spot can be true. All I got to do is hope after the VIP meet and greet people goes in, I just dash my way to the front. Anyway, while I was waiting I was talking to a few people mainly about the shows we’ve been to, the bands we’ve saw, etc. I also saw someone wearing a Carolina Hurricanes shirt and decided to break the ice and told him, "they did not deserve to go out getting swept by the Boston Bruins. They played really well getting to that point." Informed me that they gave it a solid run at the playoffs and there's always next time. I also talked with various people about bands that ranged from Dream Theater to A7X to Breaking Benjamin and everything in between. At some point, I brought up the fact that I was at the Listening Party on Tuesday and that I got a t-shirt that’s just way too large for me and I was looking to give it away. One guy that was doing the guitar clinic said that he wouldn’t mind taking it off my hands and giving it to his dad whose coming to the show later. Excellent, managed to give someone a free $25.00 shirt and why would I feel bad about that?
Anyway, after the people doing the guitar clinic went in, I actually found myself alone for a brief while and, by then, I actually needed a restroom break. Now bear in mind the fact that The Ritz is not like The Beacham or The Wiltern in the fact that the venue is in busy downtown cities where there’s loads of bars and restaurants and coffee houses that has restrooms. The Ritz was really in the middle of nowhere with just loads of trees and industrial businesses and the likes. The nearest potential restroom was at a Costco across the venue, but I didn’t have a membership card and I rather wouldn’t want to embarrass myself more than I need to over this. So I walked like 10-15 minutes to the nearest restaurant which was a Subway and went to the restroom. Thankfully, I didn’t need to purchase anything, which is good since I had Subway a few days ago (see Part II of my trip report).
So I got back to the Ritz at around 3:00 PM and saw that the people are ready for their meet and greet and soundcheck. The person organizing the Meet and Greet actually offered the few people in line for GA if we wanted to purchase a Meet and Greet pass, but I opted to decline. I’ve already spent $250.00 on a Meet and Greet with the band on this trip, and I would rather let someone else indulge in the brief moment. Anyway, when the line cleared, it was down to me and two other guys and we chat about all kinds of stuff to kill time. One guy actually had one of those lounge tickets that lets him go upstairs of the Ritz to indulge in all kinds of fancy drinks and stuff. He said he got it for free from a raffle at a local festival. Must be nice. The other dude actually was from Scotland that came to the states in the mid-2000s and have seen kinds of crazy rock and metal shows in The Ritz. We heard the soundcheck from the outside and they were going over the Walk the Sky songs, bits of Blackbird and Cry of Achilles, Come to Life, Waters Rising, and I think I heard bits of Broken Wings and In Loving Memory. The band sounded ready to tackle their first full show in about two years.
At around 5:00 PM, the venue has set up their line to divide the regular GA people from the VIP group and oddly enough, the venue decided to lump the VIP meet and greet and the Fastlane people in one single line. I don’t know how this worked, but there was me and two other guys that’s been in front for most of the afternoon and then the VIP people were directed to get into our line. Therefore, if the venue doesn’t do another line to let the VIP meet and greet people first, that rail spot is as sure as mine. The women from Australia that I saw at the airport then joined us in line and we talked about various things, especially meeting Myles at the airport. At that point, AB then announced on their Social Media pages that they were going to do custom shirts for the first 50 people that bought it and it has the Walk the Sky album cover in the shape of the state the show was in. I thought that’s a nice little twist of a shirt design. Sadly, as we saw one person that bought the shirt and we wanted to see the back, we all groan as there was nothing on the back, not even tour dates, which is a bit disappointing.
6:50 PM finally came and the venue was ready to let the VIP meet and greet in, however, the venue still rolled with putting the Fastlane people in the same line with the VIP line. People, rightfully, made their cases that they spent their $175.00 so they should get in first over the people that spend $10.00 and I have no arguments against that. The only reaction that the venue security had was how shocked people are willing to spend $175.00 for a VIP early entry pass. On another note, the venue security was also surprised on how ready we are to empty our pockets and bags so that we can clear security and get in. Like I say before, never understate people’s will to want a rail spot for an AB show. Anyway, me, and the two other guys with Fastlane passes in front, opted to let the first five people with the Meet and Greet passes to go in first just to be nice about it, and we were like screw it, just go, and then we get in line for security. It’s a little dirty move given that I’ve paid $10 extra for the Fastline pass where people spent $175.00 for the entire VIP bundle which includes early entry, but after I was screwed of getting a sure rail spot in Orlando, I needed to take opportunity I can get. People can always blame the venues and the security for not properly organizing or have an idea of how VIP structures work. The sadder thing is that the people that checks the tickets in didn’t even need to check my Fastlane pass. I could have not purchased it and BS my way inside if that was the case. That’s a little lackadaisical from the venue on that one. No matter, I got in the Ritz and ran my way to the closest spot I got on the rail and ended up on Mark’s side. Sweet victory is finally mine at last. A front rail spot to see Alter Bridge, shown below.
So, we were waiting for Dirty Honey to play and the house music was solid stuff. Filled with all kinds of 90s bands from Temple of the Dog, Soundgarden, STP, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Deftones, etc. 8:00 PM finally arrived and Dirty Honey came out and I will say, they definitely look like a band that really wore that 70s rock influences on their backs that seems to be the craze in rock nowadays. I’ve heard their EP and while that style of music is one that I wouldn’t listen much in heavy rotation, I felt that I got a better feeling about these guys having genuine success than Greta Van Fleet. Anywho, so I heard their set and they were ok. I think the vocals were on the low end of the mix to the point where it isn’t audible at all from where I was. Also, their guitarist experienced a nightmare every guitarist doesn’t want to go through their set, their guitar becoming inaudible due to amp issues or other stuff. Thankfully, they were able to salvage it and deliver an ok set for the 30 minutes they have. I think people liked them enough. In fact, those guys were at their merch booth at the back of the room after the show ended in case anyone wanted to talk to them and people did.
Next band was 10 Years and this was the band that I had a good feeling about. Everyone obviously knows Wasteland and I heard their catalog before I left California and I thought they had a few good to great albums, but their later stuff wasn’t really as interesting. They put out a good set as well. I wouldn’t say it was the best support set I’ve seen this year (Badflower, Bad Wolves, Pop Evil, Colony House I rated pretty good in their sets as an opening act), but they were solid. They went 40-something minutes and played their most well known stuff (Wasteland, Fix Me, Shoot It Out), some stuff that didn’t grab me as much, and also did a pretty good cover of Heart-Shaped Box. Thankfully, the vocals were more audible here than during Dirty Honey which alleviate my worries when AB comes on. Their lead singer came to us on the rail during Novacaine and I thought that was cool to see the guy up close. Overall, 10 Years did a good set and people sang along the more well known stuff when needed.
Now for the reason why I came to Raleigh, North Carolina in a venue that’s in the middle of nowhere. 10:00 PM hits, lights go down, and the One Life track comes up and the guys are ready and boy it’s a great feeling to be on the rail near Mark’s side of the stage and they kick off with Wouldn’t You Rather. Sadly, I had the chance to get one picture of AB and I didn't really like the way it looked since it looked too dark to be visible and by then, I wanted to be immerse in the show. Now the interesting thing I’ve observed and that’s the weirdest thing is that I can hear everything, Flip’s Drums, Brian’s bass, Myles’ voice as well as it can be, but Myles’ guitar was nowhere to be heard from where I was standing. Mark’s rig was really loud from his side that I couldn’t pick off that nuance that Myles’ guitar would add, so that’s a bit of a bummer. Thankfully, I can still hear the main stuff from Myles’ guitar when it was needed. I.E., the solos from Cry of Achilles and Blackbird. Hopefully, any chance I get to see them again in the future, I’ll probably try to aim more for a rail spot on Myles’ side to see the difference. On the plus side, hearing Mark's guitar on the loud end really gave me more of a better appreciation of how great of a player he can be. We already knows one of the finest modern guitarist of our time, but seeing him do his thing live and hearing all kinds of nuisances from his guitar really made me truly appreciate what he does.
Anywho, the first five songs were in the same order as the listening party. Wouldn’t You Rather, Isolation, Buried Alive, Pay No Mind (in which I still couldn’t piece together the keyboard parts that clearly from up close), and Rise Today. In the end, the setlist didn’t really have any rarities aside from Buried Alive and the four pre-release songs from Walk the Sky. They still played Ghost of Days Gone By, Broken Wings, Come to Life, and Waters Rising. I thought the crowd in Raleigh was good. This place holds around 1,400 people and I looked back and it looked packed, but not cramped in front which is always a solid combination. Not as great and as amped as the Listening Party crowd in Orlando (but then again, there are probably few shows in the tour they are going to do that can probably match that crowd), but it was still a solid crowd where the singalongs are still audible. Myles didn’t really talk much in between songs and given that he was going to be sick for about a week after these shows, it’s clearer why. I’ll take responsibility for this for talking to him the day before, you can all throw all kinds of fruit at me. Still, from what I heard, he sounded as great as he was going to be and I didn’t experience too much of hearing him talk like he’s in helium in between songs so that’s another plus.
They finished their main set with Cry of Achilles, Blackbird, and Metalingus which I thought was great and as I stated before, sometimes the show lives or dies on how well they played Cry of Achilles and Blackbird and they sounded good. The band played great and they trying to get a feel on how they feel playing after two years of not doing a show and getting ready for a new period in the band’s future. The encore began with two stools in front and Mark with an acoustic guitar and Myles with no guitar and they played In Loving Memory. Man, I actually didn’t think they would play that after The Last Hero tour and I’m glad they did here. I had a tear in my eye when they played it and thank goodness they played it in this particular show since this and the show in Myrtle Beach was the only times they played it for this tour (which I get for the co-headlining tour since some songs will have to be dropped due to the reduced set time). Anyway, I was hoping that only one stool gets removed so that Myles can play Watch Over You, but nope both stools were removed, and they closed the set with Open Your Eyes, complete with the audible crowd singalong in the bridge.
After they finished their set, they threw their picks and drum stick. One of the picks almost reached my direction, but sadly, it landed over the rail. That stated, one guy was determined to get that pick and had to reach far over the rail to get it and he did and I just smile in acknowledgement. On a side note, I forgot to mention this at the Listening Party, but when they were throwing their picks around, one of them landed on the floor around where I was at and I managed to nab it and people gave me the pat on the back for getting it. Anywho, after the picks throwing was done, I think Myles spotted me and gave me a nod and I gave him at thumbs up as a result so that alleviated that fear where I thought Myles would spot me and think “Oh, this guy again….” in disgust. Thankfully, that was not the case and that was that for AB’s set.
Overall, for a show that takes place a month before the album is out, this is the kind of setlist that they should have done during their The Last Hero shows before the album was out. Four songs from the new album, and they also rolled with only four songs from Blackbird and One Day Remains, three from Fortress and two from AB III. I say, this is actually one of their more consistent sets they’ve done in a 90-95 minute show. Sure, nothing from The Last Hero is a bit of a bummer, as I stated before, I wouldn’t mind hearing something like Crows on a Wire. I’m also quite shocked that they didn’t play Farther Than the Sun, Ties That Bind, or Watch Over You, but I think in placement of the Walk the Sky songs and stuff like In Loving Memory, I’m glad they made the tradeoff since I think not much is lost. Plus, in comparison to the show I’ve seen them in LA in 2014, they played 7 songs that I didn’t see live in the LA show, so that’s great stuff for me. Hopefully, they can incorporate more songs from Walk the Sky now that it is out and pretty almost all of the songs on that album are just dying to be played live and I hope everyone, especially the bands themselves, can get behind it.
Anyway, after 11:35 PM and the show is over, I went to the merch table, got me another Walk the Sky album cover tour t-shirt and made sure that it is a Large before I left the venue. I spotted their tour bus and other people knew where the tour bus was throughout the entire afternoon/evening and some stuck around to see if they can meet the band after the show, myself included. However, the venue security emphasized the fact that the band is not going to be meeting anyone after the show and asked people around the bus to leave the venue at this point. I don’t know if the band still sees people after the show or not, but I don’t know if the venue security needed to be very assertive about it. It’s not like I have a car to leave the venue to since I walked here. I still hoped that if the band comes out now and people would come talk to them to the point that the venue security wouldn’t do a thing about it. However, after 5 minutes of waiting and walking around the venue and the fact that it’s dark and I really didn’t want to walk back to the hotel room since it would take like 20 minutes to walk in the middle of nowhere, I opted to take an Uber ride ($7.31) back to the hotel room. On a side note, I saw a car that got pulled over for whatever reason though on the way back and got back to the hotel room at around 12:15. After that, I took about a 2.5 hour nap before waking up to get to the airport to catch the early flight back home and that will be discussed in the final part (didn't meet anyone in particular on the way home, but I say there's some tidbits that I would like to throw out from the trip from the airport to Raleigh to back to Santa Ana.) TBA.