Gig Review + Photography by John Hayhurst

Myles Kennedy, frontman for Slash’s solo band, Guitarist and Singer in Alter Bridge, brings a much stripped back intimate acoustic blues session at his new potential home in the Midlands.

Myles Kennedy Birmingham-2

It’s the coldest night ever in March and I’m stood in a queue that goes down the street and round the corner, my hat and shoulders have about an inch of snow on them before I manage to get inside and defrost in the heat of this small room at the O2 Institute in Birmingham. Myles Kennedy could have sold out this show several times over, the tickets went in just a few minutes as he is playing Room 2, the smaller venue here – Upstairs Tom Grennan is singing his British Soul tunes to a younger student crowd, in the basement below we have the rock and blues folks in their Slash and Alter Bridge t-shirts, eager to see what a stripped back Myles means.

It really is a minimal set up on stage, a chair, microphone, music stand and a table with bottles of water. The huge backdrop is too big to show the full circle and tiger picture, instead we can only see his name and and the tip of a tiger tail.

Myles Kennedy Birmingham-3

Kennedy walks out without speaking and plays ‘Devil on the Wall’, a track from his new album ‘Year of the Tiger’, great opener a rocking folk blues tune which sets the tone for the event. He has a stomp pedal to provide some beat and he tells everyone “when I hit the pedal you need to keep the beat going”. After the first song we see the real Myles Kennedy speaking out to the fans, he explains that he loves playing in the UK and maybe it’s time to put a few roots down and buy a flat, his wife is stood at the side of the stage and nods, much to the approval of everyone here.

‘Standing in the Sun’ is next and as it is a Slash tune you have to imagine the blistering solos whilst watching Kennedy rattling his acoustic guitar, but it does work, and he also teases the crowd with his wide vocal range by lifting the octaves for part of the chorus.

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Tackling ‘Before Tomorrow Comes’ is an easier task, and the Alter Bridge tune gets the crowd warmed up even more. Tonight, is going to be a selection of his associated work throughout his career, not necessarily just promoting his new album. He dips even further back to the Mayfield Four for ‘Eden’ and ‘Lyla’, there is a possibility that most of the crowd may not have heard some of this before.

Personal highlight for me is ‘Starlight’ and Kennedy explains beforehand that the reason his solo work was delayed is due to meeting Slash and helping write some songs with him, this being the first one. He drops the key in the chorus until the very last one when his vocals are stretched higher. This is what we came for, the voice.

Myles Kennedy Birmingham-5

He only plays 3 or 4 songs from ‘Year of the Tiger’, preferring to keep the crowd going with some classics, even jokingly busting out a verse and chorus of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’ matched to the thumping beat going on upstairs. This is a very down to earth guy, not frightened to laugh off a slightly mistuned guitar moment and to keep going. Pulling out a beautiful National Resonator to play some Led Zeppelin, and ‘Going to California’ is as good as you will hear anywhere. Then he tips the guitar on his lap and plays some incredible slide which turns into ‘Traveling Riverside Blues’ by Robert Johnson. The breadth and depth of the Blues genre explored without the bombast of metal, bright lights, smoke or mini Stonehenge. It is refreshing to see and hear.

Myles Kennedy Birmingham

He chooses ‘Levon’ by Elton John as an encore, and emotively explains how this song is probably his favourite song of all time as it reminds him of his childhood and driving to a new home with his Father. It was a beautiful rendition, showing tenderness and lots of emotion (see link below). However, the critical moment when he wanted the crowd to all sing “He Shall Be Levon”, was met with complete silence and a puzzled “Really?” expression, he stopped the song midway. “How many people know this song?” he asks, only a handful put their hands up, “Man do I feel old now”. I think it surprised him that here in the UK, Elton John songs from the 70’s aren’t engrained into our psyche in the same way that American radio did to the US kids. I’m sure if he’d played ‘Saturday Nights Alright for Fighting’ it would have been a different story.

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Stripped down to a vest, with a few whoops from the ladies at the front, he says “I’m not really a sun worshipping guy, I’m pasty white – you can see me from the space station”. Joined by Tim Tournier (who plays bass on ‘Year of the Tiger’) and is his Manager, Kennedy says “We are going to experiment, we have never done this before, so this could either be really cool, or a disaster”. Tim Tournier is a classically trained guitarist and together they play an acoustic version of Alter Bridge’s ‘Cry of Achilles’, and again, unbelievably it works and is more than cool!

While Slash is on Guns’n’Roses duties and Alter Bridge are on hiatus, now is the chance to grab an opportunity to see one of the finest rock singers on the planet in an intimate setting, he also now plays Ramblin’ Man Fair in June/July and let’s hope he plans on staying in the UK for a bit longer.

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Listen: ‘Year of the Tiger’ album released March 2018

Watch:Levon’ Elton John Cover recorded for SiriusXM and ‘Blind Faith’ Live from this very gig!

Setlist: Devil on the Wall / Standing in the Sun / Before Tomorrow Comes / Eden / Addicted to Pain / Haunted by Design / Starlight / Superstition / All Ends Well / Going to California / Blind Faith / Lyla / Watch Over You / Traveling Riverside Blues / World on Fire / Rise Today / Year of the Tiger Encore: Levon / Cry of Achilles

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