Who: Victorious Sky Tour: Alter Bridge, Skillet, Dirty Honey
Where: MECU Pavilion, Baltimore, Maryland
When: September 22, 2019
The skies over Baltimore’s Inner Harbor on the premiere of the Victorious Sky Tour had zero clouds in sight. However, sunny weather couldn’t keep rock’s most-diligent vocalist, Alter Bridge’s Myles Kennedy, from falling under-the-weather himself.
Regardless of the circumstances, Alter Bridge and Skillet pushed through. The new hard rock team-up took flight on their co-headlining tour at MECU Pavilion, with radio darlings Dirty Honey as support.
The evening started off with a bang from Dirty Honey, whose debut single, “When I’m Gone,” recently shot up to the top spot on the US rock radio charts! That number-one song status may sound sweet, but the Los Angeles quartet’s live performance was loaded with spice!
As drummer Corey Coverstone pounded with all his might from his drumset, his bandmates explored every inch of the stage. Singer Marc LaBelle and guitarist John Notto stood on platforms beyond the stage’s edge for howls or solos, respectively! Bassist Justin Smolian reminded everyone that bassists can also give Eddie Van Halen a run for his money, as he took the bass strings for a tap-happy joyride on the fretboard during “Scars.”
Evoking the wild live vibes of Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, and the band on LaBelle’s t-shirt, Guns N’ Roses, the tracks from the young quartet’s self-titled EP felt twice as raw and soulful in-person. “I know Baltimore’s ready to get dirty!” LaBelle shouted with excitement as the band launched into their aforementioned #1 hit. Closing with “Rolling 7’s,” Dirty Honey left the stage with an atmosphere hotter and heavier than the humid leftovers of summer that hung in the harbor air.
Next up was Skillet, who, to some fans in attendance, might’ve seemed like an unlikely partner for Alter Bridge to pick for their first-ever co-headlining tour. Both bands share an affinity for metal-tinged rock, as well as the coveted title of “PRS Artist” for their guitarists, but the pair of rock quartets differ greatly concerning spiritual subject matter. Alter Bridge, after 15 years together, still find themselves having to say “no” when asked if they are a “religious” band. In contrast, Skillet’s double-decade-long discography is a go-to for Christian rock fans around the world.
As unorthodox as the team-up might’ve seemed on paper, it certainly made for a wild ride in-person! Skillet’s performance was a feast for the eyes and ears, leaving no second on-stage without something to entertain the crowd. Fierce growls from the guitars of Seth Morrison (lead) and Korey Cooper (rhythm, keys, synths) rang in the air! Meanwhile, drummer/singer Jen Ledger and lead singer/bassist John Cooper exchanged grooves and vocal melodies.
Visually, the band brought everything to Baltimore! While eight screens lit up the stage with strobe-like flashes and bold graphics, booming CO₂ cannons suddenly appeared on John Cooper’s arms during “You Ain’t Ready!,” a headbanger from their latest album, Victorious. Ledger even stepped out from behind her drumset to sing the soft, synth-and-string-backed intro to “Awake and Alive” with Cooper. When Ledger made her way back to her drums, both guitarists were atop platforms next to her, rising slowly towards the heavens.
Skillet’s 13-song-set clocked in at about an hour-long, with every moment filled with fiery riffs and heroic themes. To those in the audience who weren’t self-proclaimed “Panheads” before their set began, they were hungry for more by its end.
Even though Myles Kennedy’s golden vocals likely felt to him like they’d been plated with bronze for the night, Alter Bridge still gave everything they could as the final act. The foursome opened their set with their lead single from their new album, Walk the Sky, “Wouldn’t You Rather,” to introduce that outside of the “Army of 12” to the riffs and rhythms that the band had to offer.
Lead guitarist and part-time vocalist Mark Tremonti, with a shark-toothed grin, shredded on his PRS Signature Artist guitars without mercy! Kennedy, while cautiously staying in his lower register to preserve his voice, made the wise choice to put his guitar-playing in the spotlight as he slayed his solos in “Isolation” and “Blackbird.”
The frontman also added a jazzy improvised solo before his Spanish-style intro to “Cry of Achilles,” with bassist Brian Marshall encouraging the crowd to clap along. Marshall shined all on his own moments later during his “Achilles” bass solo. Drummer Scott “Flip” Phillips supported his thunder brother, coming into accent key staccato beats. Alter Bridge is best known for their dueling guitarists, but without the rhythm section’s foundation, that bridge would crumble.
The set from AB in Baltimore ended a bit shorter than originally expected due to the lead singer’s illness. Kennedy, wearing sunglasses he typically saves for sunny festivals, explained that he woke up “sick as a dog!” that morning. He then prompted a last-minute setlist switcheroo, handing Tremonti lead vocal duties on “Waters Rising.” Fan-favorite “Metalingus” was also cut from the set entirely.
While Alter Bridge likely felt their first flight on the Victorious Sky Tour wasn’t ideal, the fans supported their efforts! The sing-alongs in “Rise Today” and set-closer “Open Your Eyes” were definite highlights of the night, as the band smiled with pride in response.
The Victorious Sky Tour’s premiere showcased three distinctly-diverse flavors of American rock to the Inner Harbor. By the night’s end, Baltimore fans had one thing left to say: “Come back!”
Post, interview, and photo by Elizabeth Owens
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