Yet another of the lengthy list of gigs postponed over the last two years finally arrived in Bristol this week as the postponed Tremonti tour reached the SW, along with The Raven Age and Hawxx.
Opening the evening was London quartet Hawxx. Luckily I was at the front of the line waiting for photo passes as, due to the late doors, most of my fellow togs were still rushing to the pit halfway through first song “Blunt”. A powerful set – both sonically and politically – that got an ever-increasing response as the venue filled, with vocalist Anna dedicating songs to all those in the venue that have been scared walking home and another to everyone that has “dealt with a piece of shit”. With some bands, the message gets lost amongst the music and with others, the message seems to overwhelm but these guys got it spot on with the songs reinforcing their political and mental health views. Definitely a band I would like to see again!
Not far behind were The Raven Age as they hit the stage in a blast of energy and riffs. Composed of singer Matt James (born to be a front man as he whirled the mic stand around and showed off his library of rock poses), guitarists Tommy Gentry and George Harris, bassist Matt Cox, and drummer Jai Patel they raised energy levels in the now mostly full venue significantly. Throughout the set various band members left and returned which added an interesting dynamic to the sound as the songs rose and fell in intensity, tempo and volume. Highlights of the set for me? “Promised Land” and “Seventh Heaven”, but the whole set was highly enjoyable and polished.
So to the headliner. Far heavier than his more famous vehicle, yet with a melodic backbone that makes them easy to listen to, Tremonti is of course the showcase for Mark Tremonti, backed by guitarist Eric Friedman, bassist Tanner Keegan, and drummer Ryan Bennett. I cannot think of a musician within the genre that can turn his hand to such a variety of styles. From Alter Bridge to Creed, on to Tremonti, and recently the sublime album of Sinatra covers, you find yourself wondering what he does behind closed doors for his own amusement and enjoyment.
This was a set that was simply about the music. No fancy staging. No extended chats with the crowd. No pyro or complex lighting. Just song after song of crushing rhythms punctuated with soaring lead breaks. The setlist was crafted to showcase the ten-year history of the band, From openers “Thrown Further” and “If Not For You” to “The Things I’ve Seen” within the opening salvo. It was a fascinating set to watch. Nobody seemed to need to show off. Instead, each member of the band simply added layers of rhythm and power that almost pushed the fans back from the barrier whilst Tremonti himself laid down a smooth vocal before stepping back and unleashing those delicious guitar tones with seemingly no effort at all. It was an absolute masterclass that carried you along in its wake, barely leaving you time to get a breath before the next song was unleashed and two hours flew by.
“Dust” was an absolute highlight, backed by a sea of phone lights, and Matt James joined the band for “A Dying Machine”. No encores, which was a relief as who needs the pretense? The band simply played to the end of their set with “Another Heart” and “Wish You Well” which were as frantic and heavy as the set’s first notes before accepting the crowd’s acclaim and taking their leave.
I think it took about two days for the adrenaline to dissipate and somehow the world outside seemed slower-paced and quieter than it was when I entered the venue. Two more days and I may get my hearing back!
Review and photos – Rob Wilkins
All remaining Tremonti tour dates can be found here.
Interview with Mark Tremonti, here.