All right, Part II of my trip. I think I will divide this whole thing up into five parts, so here we go. This is a really long post.
Waiting in line, getting the picture, listening to the album and seeing the set
Got in line at 1:00 PM and I was like the 10th person in line. Some people were even there since like 7:00 AM for this event. Never ever underestimate how much AB fans are willing to go through for an AB spot on the rail. Met a lot of nice people and saw Maggie Wright (big AB fan from the UK that I heard organized a pre-event party in Orlando the day before) in front of me. She had all kinds of stuff with her like AB stickers, masks of Mark’s face that she handed to people in line, and some scrapbooks of various AB-related photos throughout the 15 years of the band being together. Sometimes, I wish I can put this much dedication of being a long-time fan.
As the hours tick by and people were lining up, you see a lot of people wearing various AB-related shirts ranging from Year of the Tiger shirts, A Dying Machine shirts, people wearing The Last Hero t-shirts, and everything in between. I also saw a guy sporting a Slash t-shirt and a denim jacket with various band logos on it (now, in my times of going to concerts, I despise that look so much, especially at metal shows. A person wearing denim jackets or vests and having so many logos of metal bands and that look was really apparent at the Iron Maiden show I was at prior to this. I found that look very gaudy. Sometimes, wearing a plain t-shirt of your favorite band is all you need. Works for me. I’ve worn the same AB t-shirt that I got in the Royal Albert Hall bundle for 20+ straight shows.) Now, with the whole no cell phones policy, I was hoping we can just drop off our phones at the front of the venue and then pick them up after the event is over. Nope, the venue really enforced the “leave your phones in your car or your home” or you are not getting in, period, no exceptions. Therefore, I had to walk the 30 minutes total front and back to drop my phone off at around 2:00 PM and luckily, the people in front of me saved my spot.
Somewhere in that waiting period, AB did a soundcheck alone and we can hear them play a lot of songs outside. We heard the four songs from Walk the Sky, Blackbird, Cry of Achilles, Isolation and they sounded fine. They sounded like a band that’s ready to get back in the fray of things after not touring in about two years. Funny note, I took a restroom break while they were doing their soundcheck, and I asked people what song I missed and they told me they played Buried Alive and I was like “Oh, that’s funny. When I was thinking about the potential songs they could bring back, I thought it’s time for Buried Alive to make its return after 8 years of them not playing it.” Also, during that restroom break I got Subway. I think I had a footlong chicken sandwich that set me back $8.00. Oh well, it was across the street from the venue and I’m probably not going to find anywhere else to snack on for cheaper that's close enough and get my food faster.
I thought so far so good, me and the first 10 people or so in line, should be guaranteed a rail spot. Then 4:00 PM and that’s when that idea went down the tubes. For some reason, the venue insisted on having a second line and decided to keep the first 20-30 people in the original line and then let everyone else behind us get on the new line and they told us that they were letting both lines in at the same time. Now that was a BS thing for the venue to pull as we got people in line since 7:00 AM – 1:00 PM, but the venue security wasn’t having it. In fact, they honestly thought that this was a free event or something with regular GA or something like that and we were like no, everyone here paid the same price ($250.00) and therefore the people that got here early should get first priority of getting in first. Venue security would not give a f*** about that. In all fairness, if they had to do a second line, I would have it set up where it’s like first five people stay in this line, next five people get in this new line, following five stay in line, next five get in the other line and so on until a certain point, just to make things fair for the people standing in line for hours hoping for a rail spot. It was just so dumb for the venue to pull something like that and not reward the people that got there early to get a better chance at the rail.
5:00 PM finally hits and the two lines were going to get inside and then after like 10 people each line got inside, the venue security decided to literally close the door on me and will open when the people inside have already checked in and got their photo with the band. I honestly think that the particular venue security guard was giving us spite for talking down on them after we (rightfully!!!!) argue that we should have gotten in first. Now for me, I didn't actually say anything. I was naturally agreed with what other people in line next to me are saying and those people were pissed off as hell. I was mad, but opted not to be visually be upset about it. After all we went through regarding that BS with the venue security, that was just another slap in the face. Anyway, I finally got in, checked in, shook the band’s hands and say hey to everyone, took the photo and that was that, I was running to get a close spot. I got the photo below, but man I look pretty terrible there. My hair looked out of place. My hand when trying to pose with the horns looks like it was at a wrong angle. Not the greatest picture that I am going to be a part of. Thankfully, this would actually not be the last picture with an AB member that I was in on this trip, but more on that in the next part.
Overall, I would say that the meet and greet the band wasn’t all great. Just say hey to the guys, take the photo and that was that. I understand that with 500 people buying this thing and everyone needs to get their pictures with the band that having a decent conversation with the band would not happen. In fact, I heard someone in the back said that even Mark asked if they can slow things down to try to get a proper conversation with their fans, but the venue organizer wouldn’t even say yes to that for the band (which I get because the album is supposed to be played at 7:00 and the show is at 9:00). No matter, I got myself a spot in the center at the 2nd or 3rd row which is the closest I have ever gotten for an AB related show. I was in the nosebleeds of the theaters when I saw Slash/Myles/Conspirators and AB in 2014 and I was in the 5th row for Myles’ solo show last year. Of course, that would be topped in two days, but I will get to that later.
The Walk the Sky album didn’t get played until 7:30 PM and that’s when Supa Dave (DJ from the main rock station in Orlando) came out and got us ready with the whole “15 Years of this band” and listed all five albums one by one with applause from the crowd in between before saying “are you ready to Walk the Sky?” and off we go to listening to the album. Sadly, I cannot remember every song detail by detail like ABW or Snowman did and I don’t know if this would be recent bias kicking in, but overall I felt like I had a more of good feeling about Walk the Sky than I did with The Last Hero, especially on songs like Native Son, Forever Falling, Clear Horizon, Walking on the Sky, and Dying Light. I remember not being too keen on Godspeed. I don’t know if this was my hearing getting the point of fatigue listening on the house speakers or focusing on my feet having major sores, but I couldn’t recall Mark’s vocals in Forever Falling. I did recall Myles using his upper range more in Tear Us Apart. I also do know that Myles used part of his lower range that sounds creepy. Think the “you don’t belong here” in Slip to the Void. I think he used that part of his range in various parts of songs. Also, about the whole Mark masks that Maggie Wright brought? Well, people in the front rail was wearing them to the point where Supa obviously had to notice it and even sported it himself for a brief moment in the album walkthrough and the crowd cheered for that. What an enthusiastic and humorous fanbase that we found ourselves in.
Overall, is this their best album ever? As I said in another forum, I don't want to feel like thinking that this is going to be their best album ever, because it's not fair to the other five great albums if it does succeed and it's not fair for Walk the Sky by itself to live up to expectations that it doesn’t need. I always look at the focus and the intent that these guys want to achieve in every album and see if they do it well and able to deliver their intent with their songs and give us great songs to listen to over and over again. When they said that this album was more enlightening than others, they meant every bit of it. Overall, I think they succeed in getting what they want out and it did felt like a more positive and cheery sounding album. Even though they cut down on the amount of the intricate instrumental sections in comparison to prior albums, the songs did feel more concise and I think it has a lot of replay value. I mean I’m certainly going to want to listen to it again and enjoy certain things on it that I couldn’t pick out in the album listening party.
All right, 9:00 PM hits, lights go down and as people probably would expect, even before the album listening party just because of the short length, One Life did get the nod as the playback track before going into the opening song. I sure hope this carries on throughout the entire Walk the Sky tour because it’s a pretty good short track and does its job of getting people excited and the texture of the instrumentals with Myles’ voice works well here. Afterwards, naturally, Wouldn’t You Rather is the opening track and off they go and I think it’s a great song to start the show off. Despite it being a radio single, it’s still a good paced song to get people amped. Second track was Isolation, which the order was quite surprising to me, because naturally, bands would normally put their more well-known songs near the end or at the end of the set, so that the crowd doesn’t tune itself out after the big songs get played. However, in front of this particular crowd and from this particular band, it’s not an issue at all. 3rd song was Buried Alive and I was intrigued to see how it would be played now that AB has considerably slowed themselves down since the last time they played it. Sure, you are not going to get that great pacing in Live From Amsterdam for these shows, but I think it worked out well for them and it’s a great song for them to bring back after 8 years. It’s pretty funny. When they kept playing it in the AB III tour, I was like man, “I kinda wish they can substitute it for something from AB III like Fallout, but they can still get the feel they got playing Buried Alive with the added benefit of playing a song from the new album.” After course, bringing it back 8 years later with a different tempo, it feels fresher again.
The second song they played from Walk the Sky was Pay No Mind, and they did bring out one of their techs to play the synths and quite frankly, I couldn’t hear it too much aside from it showing up here and there rarely in the performance which is odd, since I can hear just about everything from the band in the Orlando show, including Brian’s bass. Song #5 came and another surprise in the order, they opted to play Rise Today early which is a great sign since that’s been worn out to death at the closing song of the show and once again, people probably tune out after hearing a recognizable song if it is was an ordinary band, but for AB, that’s not going to be the case with this crowd. This crowd is probably the smallest crowd of all of the shows I’ve been to this year (although Adelitas Way might have been smaller when I saw them in Anaheim), but honestly, it’s not a surprise that this is the best crowd that I have been a part of this year. Everyone was singing along at the right cues and of course, people in the front row was wearing the Mark masks.
They played the two other songs from Walk the Sky, Take the Crown and In the Deep, with Addicted to Pain in between, and I really enjoyed Take the Crown the most out of the performances from the Walk the Sky songs. There’s a good aura about that song when it’s played I feel. They then are finishing the hour set with Cry of Achilles and Blackbird (in which they decided to start off with Mark's intro as oppose to Myles adding the Beatles' Blackbird intro at the beginning) which makes another solid placements for them. Putting their two most well-known long songs near the end back to back and of course, these songs were the best performances of the show. Sometimes, these shows are going to make or break based on how well the guys will play Cry of Achilles and Blackbird on that night and on this night, they hit every beat on the dot and the crowd reacted accordingly.
They closed the set with Open Your Eyes with its rightful spot the closing song of the show and of course, the crowd was at its best with the singalong in the bridge. Overall, I think this was a really good setlist. Four songs, out of 11 songs played in the set, off the new album. They didn’t play songs that I thought they would normally play (Come to Life, Ties That Bind, Farther than the Sun, etc.), but nothing was really lost. Sure, they didn’t play anything from The Last Hero, but again, I don’t think I would feasibly trade off any of these songs for the sake of having a song from The Last Hero. If they had to, I would want either Crows on a Wire or Island of Fools. I wished they played for more than an hour. I think everyone in that crowd wouldn’t mind it if they played more, but I think this was a very satisfying set to put the exclamation point that screams, “Alter Bridge is back and they are ready to go for this next chapter of the band.”
Another note about the crowd, I think this is probably the best crowd that AB is going to have all tour. I’m dead serious. This is only 500 people in a show in the states and I don’t see any crowd be better than the crowd I was a part of at the Beacham. You can take your arena shows in England and in the London O2 Arena. You can take your shows in Amsterdam in the venue formally known as the Heineken Music Hall. You can say all of that blah blah blah about the bigger crowds in Europe and elsewhere. You can have around 60,000-80,000 people show up for their set at Download where probably the majority of them are intrigued of AB, but I would take a guess and say that the majority of those festival crowds wouldn’t be as passionate as fans for AB as this crowd in Orlando would be. This is 500 people of some of the most die-hard Alter Bridge fans that you are going to find. One of them flew in from South America and brought some custom-made shoes for Myles that the fan created himself back home and this was not the only time he did that and those were some fine looking shoes. Those would be shoes that Myles would wear and has worn.
My point is that yes, I’m proud of us as Alter Bridge fans that were able to make it to Orlando to all congregate and celebrate the history and the songs and everything that goes with it in the 15 years of this band. Various strangers probably gave us the weird look outside and question what the heck is going on and what event is happening and wouldn’t know who Alter Bridge is. I didn’t care at what they think. I was having the time of my life inside with great people and the greatest fan base I can ever be a part of. After the show ended, I wanted to get some new t-shirts and AB always has some cool designs, obviously some shirts had some bird motifs to it. I got myself two shirts at $25.00 each, a Walk the Sky album cover shirt with the tour dates of their Fall US tour on the back (which I ran into an issue of, but I’ll get to that later) and one design that I absolutely needed to get. It was a shirt that had them look like they were samurais or warriors or ninjas or whatnot topped off with symbols (yes, I am that uncultured as an Asian person that I couldn’t tell what the symbols were on it or what they mean). Now I don’t know who their right mind came up with that shirt design, but I was glad as hell that they did it. That’s a shirt design that you would never think a band like AB would do. Here’s what it looks like below in addition to the album cover shirt.
Afterwards, I walked across the street to a bar called The Lodge where I heard that’s where AB was after the listening party for The Last Hero. Maybe, I thought if I wait a couple of minutes the band would walk in there, I wait a few minutes and get a couple more words of thanks and everything. Didn’t drink anything, talked to a few fans that were at the show and I was around that area for like 5-10 minutes and decided that, “My feet is too sore, I may miss out talking to the guys in AB now, but maybe I may get lucky talking to them after their show in Raleigh.” and walked back to the hotel room and got there at around 10:45 and called it a day at around 11:00. Yeah, that was a pretty fun day to say the least and there's a lot more to come.