The last time Orlando hard-rock quartet Alter Bridge performed in Spokane, a 2014 show at the Knitting Factory, lead singer/guitarist Myles Kennedy knew about three-quarters of the audience.
Kennedy, who moved to Spokane as a child, said the show was like a class, family and summer camp reunion all in one.
“Some of the people I hadn’t seen in years, decades,” he said. “It was like getting in a time machine.”
Hometown shows make performances both more comfortable and more nerve wracking for Kennedy, who said though it’s nice to see familiar faces, it adds pressure to put on the best show he can.
Kennedy might be feeling the pressure when Alter Bridge returns to the Knitting Factory for the final show behind the band’s fifth album, “The Last Hero,” but seeing as the Saturday show is sold out, the local support for the former Mayfield Four singer and Alter Bridge is evident.
Like he strives to always put on the best show he can, Kennedy and the rest of Alter Bridge – bassist Brian Marshall, drummer Scott Phillips and guitarist Mark Tremonti – aim to top themselves each time they put out an album
When entering the studio to record “The Last Hero,” the quartet relied on the level of trust it has developed over the band’s 13-year history to be even more spontaneous than before.
“We’ll get in a room together and have very basic ideas and skeletons of ideas that we’ll put in front of each other and through the teamwork, it will elevate it to a new level that I think separately we wouldn’t have been able to obtain,” Kennedy said.
The band also felt free to explore new lyrical paths, inspired by the 2016 presidential election.
Kennedy said the band has never been one to pick sides in a political situation, and while the band remains neutral on “The Last Hero,” he couldn’t help but incorporate things he was hearing into his lyrics.
“There was a certain disillusionment that a lot of people were feeling, and (we were) really trying to ultimately document that throughout the record,” he said.
“I remember dreaming not so long ago/The change was gonna come, I still had hope/How long must I keep waiting, feeling so ignored/Is anything worth saving anymore?” Kennedy sings on the title track.
With so much lyrical inspiration, Kennedy had little trouble writing lyrics for the album’s 13 songs. As a result, he found himself with a lot of time on his hands while in the studio.
To make the most of that time, Kennedy decided that instead of improvising his guitar solos (something he learned from Spokane guitar teacher Joe Brasch), he would plan them out.
“At first I wasn’t sure if that was the right move but once I spent a couple evenings doing it, I was like ‘This is going to be cool,’ ” he said. “It’s more composing the solos as opposed to letting it happen.”
After the band wraps up the tour, Kennedy will hardly have time to rest, as he’ll soon jump back on the road in support of his debut solo album “Year of the Tiger,” which is scheduled for release March 9.
“Year of the Tiger” is actually the second solo album Kennedy has recorded, but the first he’s been completely satisfied with.
The first record, which Kennedy intended to be more organic than the music he’s written in the past, was too reminiscent of the “sonic assault” often associated with the bands he’s a part of.
“I had to be real honest with myself,” Kennedy said. “It was hard because so much time and money had been put into that first record, but the irritating little artist guy in me was like ‘You know what, man? You’re not going to be content if you do this, so guess what? You get to start over again.’ ”
So last December, in between shows with Alter Bridge, Kennedy scrapped seven years of work and began writing what would become “Year of the Tiger.”
He used the vocals on a demo from the first solo album, but other than that, “Year of the Tiger” is completely new.
The albums aren’t even similar sonically.
Where the first solo album had more of a modern rock vibe and was more produced, “Year of the Tiger” features acoustic guitar, lap steel guitar, mandolin and banjo.
“Through that instrumentation, it reset the canvas,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy and producer Michael “Elvis” Baskette, who has produced all but the first Alter Bridge albums, also made the decision to record “Year of the Tiger” straight to tape, which limited the amount of tracks they had to work with.
On that now-blank canvas, Kennedy found room to create a concept album of sorts about his childhood, specifically the death of his father when Kennedy was 4 years old.
It was a subject he wanted to tackle for years, but every time he sat down to write, he said, it felt like he was running into a brick wall.
“I don’t know if it was too painful, I just could never bring myself to go there,” he said. “With this record, I really just told myself ‘Look, it’s time. You need to dig deep here, dig deep in the dirt, really find out what’s hiding in your memory, talk to your mom.’ ”
Kennedy’s mother helped him fill in the details of certain aspects of the family’s life after the loss of his father, and though he calls the songwriting process the most arduous he’s experienced, he said it was also cathartic.
“It was such a tough thing to have to go back and think about something that was such a tough situation for a family to go through,” he said. “But we made it. And my mom is the hero in that sense. The record documents that, how much I appreciate and respect what she did for my brother and I, and I’m very happy with how it all turned out.”
Kennedy has yet to announce tour dates in support of “Year of the Tiger,” but another hometown show wouldn’t be a surprise, as Spokane is where the Mead High School graduate took his first musical steps.
“There is not a day that goes by where I don’t realize that after doing this for a few decades that I still get to do this,” he said. “It’s a wonderful thing so I don’t take it for granted …
“I’m real excited to come home and I was absolutely thrilled to hear that the show sold out. It means a lot to me. Thank you, Spokane.”
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