Live Review: Myles Kennedy and Cardinal Black // O2 Shepherds Bush Empire 11.12.2021

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Myles Kennedy, arguably one of the top three rock vocalists around right now, is someone that is used to the limelight. Playing on a chilly December evening in London on the sixth night of his UK tour, the headliner put on a stunning and awe-inspiring show that served as an early Christmas present for many.

Being an arena headlining artist for both Alter Bridge and Slash and The Conspirators, the man is selling out shows everywhere he goes. I felt lucky to even be in the building, considering I only managed to get a ticket in my hands a few days prior to the show.

Firstly, the support act Cardinal Black, and their guitarist Chris Buck. While I hadn’t heard of them before, these guys had my full attention once I left the bar. Opening for Kennedy was a perfect match, I thought the soulful brand of rock they conjured up was well suited to a like-minded audience that came to listen intently and experience the rock music on offer.

Chris Buck was phenomenal on lead guitar with his crisp tone causing his staccato shredding to pierce through the mix like a dagger, something that particularly shined through in ‘Tell Me How It Feels’. Vocalist Tom Hollister was belting out such warm and rich vocals brimming with feeling he had total control of the crowd; something you don’t often see with a support act.

In the case of headliner Myles Kennedy, there isn’t a more humble musician at his level. With subdued lighting Kennedy walks on stage with guitar in hand, at which point the crowd immediately erupts. He is flanked by bassist Tim Tournier and drummer Zia Uddin, but as a trio and far away from Alter Bridge and Slash, Kennedy is just one of the guys.

With two successful and contrasting solo albums under his belt, Year of the Tiger and The Ides of March, Kennedy had plenty of material to choose from. With an acknowledgment to the crowd and a smile on his face, the folk and blues rock musician opens with ‘Wake Me When It’s Over’ before breaking into ‘A Thousand Words’ soon after, and for the next ninety minutes the noise of the outside world was blocked out by some blissful storytelling.

With the band behind him, songs such as ‘Devil on The Wall’ and ‘Turning Stones’ take on an entirely new feel and become epics on another level. This is the band clearly just warming up and flexing their muscles however, as they burst into a showstopping version of ‘Haunted by Design’, one of my personal favourites, to jaw-dropping effect.

Over the next 20 minutes he played a bunch of fan-favourites, such as ‘Songbird’, ‘Year of the Tiger’, Tell It Like It Is’ and ‘Get Along’, with the latter being an upbeat alt-rock track from his latest album. 

He then takes a quick swig of a pint, where one of the roadies hands him his acoustic guitar and says something in Kennedy’s ear, moments later he moves towards the mic, saying: “we’re having a few technical difficulties so I’m going to do something different”. To my surprise Kennedy starts playing the opening chords for ‘Watch Over You’, an iconic Alter Bridge ballad, which was not only an exclusive for this tour but also one of the highlights of the entire night.

Kennedy’s fragile vocals on the intro to ‘Love Can Only Heal’ fill the room, and while it’s just Kennedy and his guitar for the first few minutes, once Tournier and Uddin join in seconds later, the song becomes goose-bump inducing and utterly mesmerising.

It’s this song that has such a percussive heavy ending, and with Zia Uddin positioned to the right of the stage instead of the traditional center stage as is typically associated with drummers, he was located even better for me to see the drum-kit that he was battering the daylights out of.

It was at this point that the drummer and bassist walked off stage, and Kennedy broke into an acoustic version of ‘World on Fire’ alone, a song he co-wrote with Slash and The Conspirators. The face-melting guitar solos on display from Kennedy reinforces the long-held opinion that he does not get half of the recognition as a guitar player that he deserves. Often overshadowed by either Mark Tremonti or Slash, I can’t help but feel that his strumming ability is underrated by rock fans.

I have hardly touched on Kennedy’s vocal ability yet, but it goes without saying that he undeniably has serious vocal range. From the highest of falsettos to lowest of Baritones and the occasional hints of vibrato, it seems like there is no note he can’t hit. 

Kennedy rounded off the set with ‘In Stride’, a superb song which showcases the control he has over his voice, projecting with ease as the song nears its conclusion. Amid roars and screams for an encore afterwards, Kennedy and the band played the final song of the night ‘Worried Mind’.

He made his gratitude apparent at the end of the show, gesturing up towards the balconies and throwing plectrums and drumsticks into the stalls below, where I was annoyingly standing just out of range. It was by far the best gig I’ve been to all year.

Words by Kristian Bayford

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