LIVE at Ryman Auditorium

featuring Mammoth WVH

February 2, 2023 Review by Traci Turner
Last week, Alter Bridge kicked off their North American Pawns & Kings Tour with a batch of sold-out shows. The tour will hit SoCal in March, but OC Music News caught Alter Bridge and their guests, Mammoth WVH and Red, in Nashville for night number four to get a preview of what is headed out west.
The 30-city tour promoting their 2022 album includes many sold-out shows, so we were not surprised to find a full house sporting Alter Bridge tees inside the venue. The Ryman – also known as The Mother Church – was built in 1892 and is the former home of “Grand Ole Opry.” The intimate venue is known for its amazing sound, but was the legendary venue ready for this rock show?

A hometown show for opening band Red, they exploded onto the stage and rattled the pew seating of the Ryman. As the bass drum shook my entire body, I reached for my ear protection and settled in for a decibel-shattering night.

Kicking off with “Death of Me,” front-man Michael Barnes was in absolute showman form with growling vocals as the Armstrong brothers – Anthony on guitar and Randy on bass – energetically played along and moved about the stage or stood on the monitors. Drummer Brian Medeiros continued to shake the venue, which I’m sure woke the ghosts of Opry past.
While an opener often plays to a half-empty venue, Red had a near full audience for their six-song set. Some of the crowd favorites were “Already Over,” “Feed the Machine,” and “Breathe Into Me,” and Barnes said they were working on music for their upcoming eighth album.

As the stage was changed for Mammoth WVH, I was suddenly hit by the realization that while I knew front-man Wolfgang Van Halen is an amazing guitarist and had watched him PLAY many times, I had not really listened to him SING.
When the band walked onto the stage in the darkness, the applause began, but once Van Halen made his way out, the cheers became thunderous. With a “Hey Nashville! Are you ready to have some fun?” from Van Halen, they kicked off with “Mammoth.” Thankfully the sound had been turned down a smidge to a perfect level – still a loud rock show, but I no longer feared any windows breaking in the landmark location.

The band members interacted with each other, which always makes a show enjoyable for me because then I know they are having fun (and probably not hating each other). They played “Mr. Ed” and a song I really enjoyed, “Epiphany,” where Van Halen also took on keyboard duty, while still playing guitar and singing.
I was about to take a video when I noticed something strange through the room: no one was recording with their phones. The audience was so absorbed in the show and I was loving it! Another phenomenon: any time Van Halen raised his arms to greet the crowd or interact, the room went crazy! “We love you, Wolfie!” was yelled repeatedly. It was like a room full of proud parents, excited to see their kid grow up and doing his thing.

After “Stone,” Van Halen discussed the European tour with Alter Bridge and said it had been amazing, but they were so happy to be home in the US. Then he introduced “Think It Over” as “My dad’s favorite song.”
There were several more moments of cheers for Van Halen during the eight-song set, but through it all he was humble – almost shy – and appreciative. He introduced the band (Ronnie Ficarro on bass, Garrett Whitlock on drums, Jon Jourdan and Frank Sidoris on guitar) before closing out with “Distance,” “You’re to Blame,” and “Don’t Back Down.” They received a standing ovation and I have to admit, I felt like a proud mom too. While I certainly expected – and received – the fantastic guitar work, I was very impressed by Van Halen’s vocal work as well.
The excitement from Mammoth’s set continued as the crowd waited for Alter Bridge to begin. As the lights went off, people started cheering and standing up to welcome front-man/guitarist Myles Kennedy, guitarist Mark Tremonti, bassist Brian Marshall, and drummer Scott Phillips to the stage. The crowd stayed on their feet for most of the night, only sitting during the mid-set acoustic portion.

Alter Bridge started their set with “Silver Tongue” and right away I was impressed. The band was tight, Kennedy’s vocals were excellent, and they sounded flawless. The second song, “Addicted to Pain,” included a blistering guitar solo from Tremonti, which he made look easy.

After performing “Ghost of Days Gone By,” Kennedy greeted the crowd and joked, “You guys are in a good mood! You must have mixed us up with someone else. No way are you all here to see us!” The crowd’s appreciative response let him know, yes, they were indeed here for Alter Bridge and the band started off one of their newer tracks, “Holiday,” which just dropped a music video last week. The fans knew the song well and sang along.
They went through “Broken Wings,” “This Is War,” and “Cry of Achilles,” before Kennedy announced Tremonti would handle vocals on the next track, “Burn It Down.” I had no idea he could sing, so once again, I was surprised and impressed.

Things were quieted down for Kennedy to perform solo onstage with just an acoustic guitar and once he began “Watch Over You,” a large cheer went up from the audience. He encouraged the crowd to sing the last chorus, which they did, and then Tremonti joined him onstage for “In Loving Memory.” Both of these acoustic songs were heartfelt and it was a sentimental moment.
The rest of the band joined them and while they did get back to rocking, they did not do it jarringly, which I appreciated – you know, when bands hit you in the feels and then slam you in the face with a super loud song right away? They perfectly brought us back to the show with a calm intro that built up to “Blackbird,” then into the new album’s title track, “Pawns & Kings.”

Kennedy made sure to introduce the whole band and thank the fans for their continued support, plus thank Mammoth for another successful tour together. For the last few songs, they dialed it up with energy and additional LEDs, taking us through “Wouldn’t You Rather,” “Isolation,” and “Metalingus” before saying farewell and turning off the lights.
With the crowd on their feet and yelling their hearts out, Alter Bridge returned to the stage and played “Rise Today” for an encore before really calling it a night.

It was a phenomenal rock show by the incredibly talented Alter Bridge, and I can see why they have remained successful after nearly two decades together. Their performance was professional perfection, but they still connected to the audience. Tourmates Mammoth WVH have already accomplished big things and I know even more is ahead. Van Halen’s humble demeanor and remarkable skills will continue to win fans regardless of his last name.

Look for Alter Bridge and Mammoth WVH on the road and grab tickets – if you can! – because you will not regret it. SoCal residents have two chances: March 28th at House of Blues Anaheim, and April 1st at Yaamava’ Casino & Resort in Highland with Pistols at Dawn as support.


by Stephanie Pepper Photography



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