I saw their show in Cardiff, I've been meaning to share my thoughts for some time and this discussion on the set list had prompted me. I might as well start by saying that I don't consider myself to be a massive AB fan anymore. I loved Fortress, but a fair amount of my enthusiasm died for AB with The Last Hero. I attended both Royal Albert Hall gigs and was stunned by them (it was probably my ideal AB set list - full of 'epics'). I really enjoy Walk the Sky. I live 20 minutes away from the arena in Cardiff and they always play there, so whilst my AB fandom had mellowed and I knew they wouldn't beat the Albert Hall gig, I had no reason not to go.
I hated Shinedown last time I saw them supporting AB, so I wasn't particularly keen on the thought of seeing them again, but they weren't so bad. The singer had much less overdrawn speeches this time, but their set did feel scripted and contrived. The singer had his own dance moves at times and at one point he walked into the middle of crowd. I thought he would sing whilst in the crowd, which would have been cool, but instead he simply walked to the middle just to walk back to the stage. It seemed entirely contrived and pointless. However, they got a big response from the crowd and I think they got a greater response from the crowd than Alter Bridge.
I was excited to see Alter Bridge and was looking forward to seeing what new songs they would play as I think Walk the Sky is probably their second best album behind Fortress. I was sat at the back of the arena, so could see all of the standing crowd. They came on with Wouldn't You Rather and I don't think they got any reaction from the crowd apart from the guys at the front. The screens added another element to the show which was good, although at times the visuals felt quite lazy, during Isolation the screens simply showed artwork from the booklet of ABIII on a loop, but I appreciate I may be a bit over-critical here.
I'm pleased that they changed around the set list a bit for this tour, but I think it could do with some large improvements. I say this as someone who isn't as mad on AB as I used to be, but it's only when you hear 17 AB songs in the row you realise just how similar they are. Wouldn't You Rather, Isolation, Come to Life and Crows on a Wire are all quite similar tempo with similar rhythms and tempo. So many songs in the set list were within the mid tempo range that I don't think they got any real reaction from the crowd for the most part. Here's the set list for reference https://www.setlist.fm/setlist/alter-bridge/2019/motorpoint-arena-cardiff-wales-439b8f93.html
I've always felt that AB's arena shows really slow down in energy towards the end, and it was the case with this gig. I get that they want to play the fan favourites towards the end, but I was dying for the tempo to pick up throughout Watch Over You, Blackbird and Open Your Eyes. There was a time a few years back where I was begging for less stuff from the Blackbird album in the set, but this particular set list could have been improved and more varied tempo-wise with songs like Ties that Bind, White Knuckles, Buried Alive (it's a shame they dropped that song) or Writing on the Wall. I think the set list would have felt less same-y if they dropped some of the more standard rockers like Rise Today and Crows for another epic like Fortress or The Last Hero. Given that I really enjoy Walk the Sky, I would have loved to have heard some more songs from that album, particularly deep cuts like Clear Horizon or the title track.
There was some strange crowd interaction during the gig. Mark decided to throw a large soft cuddly toy to the crowd. I thought maybe the crowd would have some fun with it, throw it around and let it make it's way amongst the crowd throughout the gig. Unfortunately (or maybe as expected), Mark threw it and it very quickly vanished in the front row. At the same time, they announced that Mark would give away a guitar during the next song. I've seen artists such as Seether and John Mayer give away guitars, and it's a really cool gesture, but they've always done it at the end of the gig as an off-the-cuff spontaneous thing, I've never seen a band announce they were giving away a guitar mid set, it just felt weird and an attempt to pick up the energy. I really enjoyed Pay No Mind, I think it was the song of the night and it got one of the greatest crowd reactions, but could it be because Mark just offered to give away a guitar prior to the song starting?
I mentioned Shinedown at the start of this post and I'll reference them again. Whilst I don't enjoy their music or their live show, in hindsight I was impressed by them because they got the crowd going a lot more than AB did. Of course, there were some moments like the sing along with Open your Eyes and the jumping with Metalingus (although Shinedown got much more people jumping with one of their songs), but overall the crowd was very stationary and I felt like there was a consistent lack of energy.
I felt that it was the least favourite AB gig I'd seen. However, my Dad went to the gig with me and he felt it was the best AB gig he had been to. One of the main reasons why was because Myles did very little goofing off, he didn't skip many notes and there was only one 'that's right'. I'm clearly in the minority with my slightly negative view of the night, so I'd be interested in hearing from people who attended this gig or this tour and what they thought of it.
I guess the reason for this long post is to consider that a set list isn't just about the individual songs, how weighted it is towards one album or how many deep cuts but also the overall energy and pace of the show. I feel that on this occasion, the energy and pace of the show could have been much improved by just a few tweaks.
Sorry for any typos or grammatical errors.
Edit - one more positive part of the night is that Brian seemed a lot more confident than I remember. Obviously where Myles has put himself to the left of the stage in recent years, it's left a bit of a gap in the centre. I seemed to remember from previous gigs that Brian would tend to hang by the drums most of the time, but during this gig he was stepping into the centre front of the stage whilst Myles was to the left. I'm just trying to point at as many positives as I can as I wouldn't want to be dismissed as a 'hater' for a long post largely full of more negative points