Playing to a packed house on a Monday night (October 14th) on Delmar in St Louis, a trio of rock acts hit the stage for an incredible show that delivered what the fans wanted. Skillet and Alter Bridge, on a co-headlining run with support from up-and-comers Dirty Honey, brought a strong punch to the Gateway City that would have been welcome on a summer night at the Amphitheatre across town, but the more intimate venue let the crowd feel like a closer part of the show.
The show started off with LA act Dirty Honey. Fronted by Marc LaBelle, in his finest Mad Hatter regalia, joined by John Notto on guitar, Justin Smolian with the bass, and Corey Coverstone holding the center behind the drums, Dirty Honey has a stellar throw-back sound. You could name easily half a dozen bands that they sound like, and you can certainly hear the influence of bands like Led Zeppelin, Soundgarden, and Slash's solo band with The Conspirators (featuring tour-mate Myles Kennedy), but even with all of the similarities, they stand on their own. While the band itself is new, the guys that make up the whole stand in the box as consummate professionals. A prime example was during the opening numbers of this show, “Scars.” Smolian had a failure on the strap of his bass guitar, leaving him holding the (roughly) 9-lbs instrument without support. While that's not a lot of weight, he did this while still playing, signaling to a tech off stage, and still performing for the crowd, without missing a beat to my ears. He didn't panic, he didn't run off stage to get a replacement. The show must go on. That's a veteran move, and it was definitely worth noting. Even with a brief, 6-song set – including “Heartbreaker,” “When I'm Gone,” and “Rolling 7s” – Dirty Honey definitely won over plenty of new fans, and had those who were already in the know turning to friends and saying “see! I told you so!”
Taking their turn in the number two slot on the alternating-headline tour, Alter Bridge roared out in a flash of smoke and lasers, with Scott Phillips behind the kit and Brian Marshall and his bass leading the way before being joined by Mark Tremonti on lead guitar and splitting vocals with Myles Kennedy and his rhythm guitar. The new track “Wouldn't You Rather” kicked off the show, from the band's latest effort – “Walk The Sky” – which released just four days after this show. Alter Bridge brought a blend of old and new, mixing in new tracks with fan-favorites like “Blackbird,” “Come to Life,” and “Waters Rising.” Tremonti and Kennedy shared duties on vocals, with Kennedy taking the lion's share, but still playing mostly from the stage-right side rather than the center spot. This was interesting to me, as it came across as the band being balanced, rather than one guy as the front man with the band supporting him. Alter Bridge has always felt more like a collaboration than other projects out there, and this was a very visual representation of that. Or maybe Myles Kennedy is just more comfortable over there and I'm overanalyzing things, who can say?
Closing their set with probably their largest hit, “Open Your Eyes,” Alter Bridge had the crowd locked in with them, and it came across as the song filled the room with the audience jumping in with them. These four guys come across as genuinely enjoying themselves every moment they're on stage. For a band that fills arenas in other parts of the world to be playing smaller venues like this, the only reason would have to be a love of the music, and a love of the fans. And that comes across from them from the stage.
Headlining the Monday spectacular, Skillet came out swinging, not waiting for anyone to catch a breath as they launched right into “Feel Invincible,” with frontman and bassist John Cooper's imposing figure and powerful voice commanding attention from centerstage, while his wife Korey, with her heliotrope-hued locks flashed in her headbanging fervor, drew eyes to his right. On stage left, Seth Morrison's hot hands on the lead guitar made sure no one could forget he was there, with occasional visits from Tate Olsen and his cello. At the back of the stage, on a raised platform, Jen Ledger had her happy-go-lucky smile vanish behind her mane as she pounded the kit with Animal-like ferocity. When the whole package comes together, you get a band that puts on an incredible show.
With tracks like “Not Gonna Die” and “You Ain't Ready,” complete with dual-wielded cryo-guns, Skillet is a truly a hard rock and metal band first and foremost. I've heard them shrugged off and even dismissed because they're a Christian rock band, but if that's a reason to ignore them, then you're missing out on amazing musicians creating incredible songs and putting on a live show that shouldn't be missed. Moving through their set, with tracks from their latest album (this year's “Victorious”) back through 2006's “Comatose,” Skillet shows that they have depth to go along with their skill One of the hardest working bands out there on the road, it's tough to imagine where they get the energy, because they barely take a breather.
The night overall was an impressive display of new and veteran performances, showing that there's room for everyone in this game called rock and roll. The crowd didn't seem to change, growing or shrinking from one act to another. They were there for a rock show, and they got it from the first note of the opener to the last hum as the headliner closed down the room. And that's what we all want: a show that's worth the money we put down. Any one of these three bands was worth the price of admission, and all three together made for a near-perfect night.