Live review: Myles Kennedy @ Islington Assembly Hall, 23/3/2018
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Tonight’s sold-out acoustic extravaganza in Islington’s Assembly Hall is a bizarrely genre-transcending prospect. While it is set to be an evening of dulcet acoustic tunes, the eager audience is one crammed with die-hard rock ‘n’ roll fanatics, attending to support a headliner who, for the past twenty years, has levelled buildings and filled arenas with the heaviness of Alter Bridge, Slash and The Mayfield Four. As a result, the unabashed country of opener Holiday Oscar (★★☆☆☆) falls flat. The lack of self-awareness is palpable as the London-based singer/songwriter introduces himself as “not your average white boy with a guitar,” before delivering a half-hour set of pop-like folk genetically engineered for the Ed Sheeran generation. While there are traces of satirical wit to be found in ‘Trump & Kim’, on-the-nose ballads like ‘Repent, reCAPTCHA’ and ‘I Can’t Keep Checking My Phone’ feel like they exist purely to pander to the zeitgeist in a hugely transparent manner. In another, more mainstream context, Oscar’s pop-cultural performance might have found its ideal market, but in a rock setting – in which fans are more concerned with timelessness, soul and authenticity – it’s a sadly unenergetic and unexciting affair. Luckily, Myles Kennedy (★★★★★) is the ultimate palette-cleanser. In a vibrant display reminiscent of similar solo concerts by rock stars like Corey Taylor, the frontman uses his one-man-and-his-acoustic-guitar format to transform heavy jams into fun, stompin’ jives. Diversity is the name of Myles’s game as he begins, juxtaposing the bluesy Americana of the new single ‘Devil on the Wall’ with the high-flying thunder of the Slash anthem ‘Standing in the Sun’. The slow-burning Alter Bridge numbers ‘Before Tomorrow Comes’ and ‘All Ends Well’ follow suit, but, all the same, Myles’s adoring crowd still claps, sings and interacts with their idol as if their lives depend on it. Despite an amazing show on Kennedy’s part, it is his onlookers that take tonight to a new level of brilliance, resulting in numerous dialogues and off-script touches that perpetuate sheer, innate likeability. Over the course of these one-hundred unpredictable minutes, Islington bears witness to a marriage proposal, South Park-style chants of “Timmy!”, demands for Myles to play that one song from that terrible movie he was in, and countless other beautifully oddball moments. A spontaneous dance number that breaks out after a botched start to set closer ‘Year of the Tiger’ is also weirdly life-affirming, as is the onstage existential crisis that occurs due to the self-professed “rushed” lyrics of The Mayfield Four’s ‘Mars Hotel’. But that isn’t to say that there isn’t room for some sombre, emotive loveliness in the mix as well. Fan favourite ‘Watch Over You’ remains as tear-jerking as ever, and covers of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Going to California’ and Robert Johnson’s classic ‘Travelling Riverside Blues’ allow the Assembly Hall to connect with Myles’s musical youth. The down-trodden ‘Love Can Only Heal’ makes for a weird selection as the very last song to be played, especially after the rousing bombast of ‘Cry of Achilles’, but its presence seals the ever-evolving versatility of one of arena rock’s most beloved figures. For years now, elite followers have known just how amazing Alter Bridge are in a live capacity. So, it feels relieving to report that that proficiency translates effortlessly to their lead singer’s solo shows. Even through the switch from electric to acoustic, the passion, interactivity and hard-hitting power all remain, proving that you don’t need to be loud, rowdy and covered in beer and women to be truly rock ‘n’ roll. Myles Kennedy’s new solo album, Year of the Tiger, is available now via Napalm Records. Check out our interview with Myles Kennedy here. Myles’s main band, Alter Bridge, played at the Royal Albert Hall last year. Read our five-star review of that show here.
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