Vinny Cecolini

Alter Bridge, Mammoth WVH, & Red Start February in Montclair

The electricity was apparent upon entering the North Jersey hamlet of Montclair. The source was evident upon seeing The Wellmont Theater Marquee: Alter Bridge: Sold Out.

The early arriving capacity crowd was ravenous for live hard rock and metal, and, on this night, the seemingly insatiable audience received more than its fill. Was the anticipation the result of the pandemic or the night’s lineup? That was difficult to say. What was obvious, however, was that the majority of ticketholders were present for Red’s opening set. Whether the band or the audience benefitted more remains up for debate, but on this night, the Nashville-based Christian rockers did yeoman work warming up the packed house during their short-time on stage. It will be interesting to see if the exposure brings the group mainstream attention, which they certainly deserved.

The buzz in the crowd grew in the waning moments before Mammoth WVH’s performance. It’s been awesome following Wolfgang Van Halen as he has quickly matured into a true lead singer. [Check out Wolfgang’s first interview with The Aquarian here.]  After all, he was thrown into the touring fire; his earliest shows were opening for Gun N’ Roses. Yes, he was a member of Van Halen for a bit and, yes, he played bass in Alter Bridge guitarist Mark Tremonti’s metal side project (Ahem, Tremonti!), but standing front and center on stage and having all attention focused you is certainly different. From the opening notes of “Mammoth,” however, it was obvious he had become a road-tested veteran.

Brought to life with a formidable backing band, Mammoth WVH self-titled debut sounded even more powerful live than on disc. “This is my dad’s favorite song,” Wolf announced before launching into “Think It Over” and tugging on more than one heartstring. Anyone in the crowd not moved by that was certainly moved close to tears when he began “Distance,” a message to his father Eddie Van Halen, who was on the verge of losing his valiant battle with cancer at the time. After joking that chants of “Wolf” sounded too close to boos, the all-too-talented offspring and his brethren closed their set with “Won’t Back Down.”

Although there were no encores and the crowd was left wanting more, the good new is Wolf Van Halen is hard at work on a new album, which he once again is creating entirely himself.

The Wellmont Theater seemed on the verge of bursting apart as Alter Bridge opened with the Pawns & Kings’ lead track, “Silver Tongue.” The band’s power-packed 16-song set mixed classics – including “Broken Wings” and “Metalingus” – with newer tracks like “This is War” and “Holiday,” all of which did not give the wall-to-wall crowd a moment to breath. Not even the Tremonti-fronted “Front it Down” or the Kennedy/Tremonti acoustic interlude of “Watch Over You” or “In Loving Memory” provided the chance to catch your breath or make a quick dash to the back-of-the-venue bar.

After nearly two decades of creating memorable music, it must be a headache trying to put a crowd-pleasing set together. And yes, audience participation is expected while experiencing a top-flight act with so many hits, does anyone really want to hear inebriated, off key ticket holders grumbling while Myles Kennedy stands quietly on stage? Simply put, Alter Bridge’s meticulously crafted songs are brought to life by four amazing musicians and the best singer in music today: Myles Kennedy. Paraphrasing Anchorman’s Ron Burgundy, “If you disagree, I will fight you.”

Alter Bridge is no longer Creed with a stronger singer, so stop asking about a Creed reunion. We need more Alter Bridge music and live shows, albeit in larger venues.