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The first time I got to see Myles Kennedy or Wolfgang Van Halen, both artists were filling the lineup as part of a legendary guitarist band. For Wolfgang Van Halen I was fortunate enough to see him twice playing bass alongside his father Eddie Van Halen during the Van Halen reunion tour in 2007 & the A Different Kind of Truth tour in 2012. Similarly, I have seen Myles Kennedy fronting Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & the Conspirators, as well as seeing him solo. It felt serendipitous that the Pawns & Kings Tour was announced to be featuring both Mammoth WVH and Alter Bridge. The bands that both artists have really been known for. Bringing Pistols at Dawn as the opener, it was time to head back to the House of Blues Anaheim with my best concert going buddy Brandon McCarthy to see these artists with their main bands.

As the lights dimmed, a single guitar could be heard coming over the loudspeakers. As the guitar riff turned into a full-on solo, out walked guitarist John William James Jr, Shredding and looking like Marty Friedman. The night has barely started, and we were already treated to an intense guitar solo. As vocalist Cris Hodges stepped onto the stage, James’s guitar solo slickly flowed into the opening song of the night “Gauntlet.” Hodges could not wait to be performing in Anaheim as he jumped around the stage like an excited puppy and had the facial expressions to match. Hodges energy was contagious as the crowd could not help but jump and rock out with him. Fellow guitarist Devin Thomas White balanced out the craziness of James & Hodges as he performed with a more stoic demeanor as he let his guitar playing speak for him. The bassist and drummer (who’s names I sadly could not locate), rounded off Pistols at Dawn’s sound and provided a solid low end to the screeching guitars. Playing songs like “Fly,” “Voices,” “The Truth,” and closing with “Under the Surface.” Pistols at Dawn brought the perfect blend of high energy and squeedly-dee guitar licks to start the night for the Pawns & King Tour.

Proving that he is more than just his name, Wolfgang Van Halen was ready to show his hometown just how much of a talented musician he is on his own. Mammoth WVH hit the stage with their opening song “Mammoth,” which started with Wolfie ripping out the opening guitar track. Not only does Wolfie handle lead and rhythm guitar duties through each song, but he is also stepping behind a keyboard from time to time. The man is a musical prodigy as he writes all instrumental parts and lyrics for the whole band. Wolfgang also lives by the philosophy that if a part of the song can’t be played live, he won’t add it to a song. Well Wolfie is just one man, writing music that needs to be played by a full band, and he found a stacked line up of musicians to play with him. Backing Wolfie on guitar is Frank Sidoris and Jon Jourdan, who get their chances to shine in the spot line with their own mastery of the instrument. Bassist Ronnie Ficarro and drummer Garret Whitlock might be further back on the stage, but they are non the less rocking complimenting every note played in the song. One of the most heartfelt moments during Mammoth WVH set is when they play the song “Distance.” Not only is this song beautiful, but it is Wolfie singing about losing his father. Something that many fans can related to, and I know my buddy Brandon McCarthy and myself couldn’t hold back the tears thinking about our dads who will never be forgotten. Rounding out their set with additional songs like “Mr. Ed,” “You’re to Blame,” “Epiphany,” “Another Celebration at the End of the World,” and closing with “Don’t Back Down.” I love seeing Wolfgang continue to grow and evolve Mammoth WVH as he continues to carve out his own legacy in the music industry.

Alter Bridge was always a band I heard Brandon talking so highly about, but at this point in their career they didn’t tour that much. So, it was a very rare occasion when they would come around to play Southern California. However, the band just put out their newest album Pawns & Kings, which meant it was the perfect time to hit the road again. I was ready to see why Brandon never stops bragging about this band. Opening the night with a song off the new album called “Silver Tongue,” the blending of Mark Tremonti’s opening guitar riffs, as vocalist Myles Kennedy let out a haunting cry, built tension in the crowd. Blasting into the verse, the lights shot up and the crowd erupted for Alter Bridge. Myles Kennedy’s knows how to control his voice with expertise, both layering it into the mix, so it blends with instrumental track, or belting and cutting through to make his presence known. Mark Tremonti stands out with his guitar skills. Managing to balance both the heavier metal type riffs in songs like “Addicted to the Pain,” and playing more melodic melodies for songs like “Blackbird.” Bassist Brian Marshall proves he’s a master of the five-string bass, as his fingers walk over strings with elegance. Drummer Scott Phillips knows how to push the melody when needed, and reigns back in to play the pocket and let the band go wild on their instruments. Alter Bridge played a thrilling hour and forty-five-minute set, consisting of 17 songs like “Ghost of Days Gone By,” “This is War,” “Broken Wings,” “Burn it Down,” “Cry of Achilles,” “In Loving Memory,” “Pawns & Kings,” “Isolation,” “Metallingus,” and coming back for a two song encore with “Open Your Eyes” & “Rise Today.” You can see how much the members of Alter Bridge enjoy playing together, and that joy is reciprocated from every fan in the crowd.

Seeing Wolfgang Van Halen and Myles Kennedy in their element with their main bands was a glorious sight to behold. Let alone on the same bill. This was a night of hard rock and heavy guitar riffs all started by Pistols at Dawn and created a through line as Mammoth WVH took the stage and ending with beauty that is Alter Bridge. I will passionately watch as Wolfie elevates himself in the music scene, as he continues to craft in the musical sandbox he has created. And I wait with bated breath for Alter Bridge to come back soon, as they like to take long breaks between tours. The Pawns & Kings Tour could not have been stacked better.


Matt Martinez

Editor - Orange County

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