Tonight was an evening of firsts for me. It started with my first venture into the newly opened SSE Hydro I was filled with excitement as the hours counted down. I’d only seen it from the outside, which in itself is quite impressive. Although I had heard nothing but great reports I was still a little apprehensive and unsure. All apprehension and uncertainty disappeared as soon as I set foot into the main arena. Even with curtains draped around the upper section and the sides of the seating area, limiting the amount of empty space that would’ve been on show had they not been there, it still felt massive and the purpose-built nature of the layout became very clear straight away. I was impressed. Very impressed. We had arrived only a few minutes before Lzzy Hale screeched onto the stage and burst into the anthemic ‘Love Bites (So Do I)’. Having never seen Halestorm before I wasn’t all that sure what to expect, but the girl can sing. I’d actually put money on her being able to shatter glass with that voice with only half an effort. The up tempo ‘Mz. Hyde’, and ‘Freak Like Me’ came next. Lzzy was trying her best to get a half-full (I’m pessimistic) arena on its feet and into rawk-mode with her raucous, raspy American drawl. Suddenly a familiar riff rung out – “Is that Judas Priest?” It was! A ferocious version of ‘Dissident Aggressor’ followed by a somewhat strange drum solo. Yes, a drum solo by an opening act (I can’t quite explain that one either). With the drum solo out the way we were then treated to two more tracks from Halestorm’s original catalogue, ‘I Miss The Misery’ and ‘Here’s To Us’ which would be a fitting end to any set in Glasgow where our love of a tipple is world renowned. Tomorrow I’ll be signing up to the Halestorm mailing list. Shinedown are one of those cheesy rock bands who try a little too hard to satisfy every demographic. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that this is an impossible task as you can never keep everyone happy. That pretty much sums up the Shinedown set (another first for me, three in total for the night). By now the Hydro was filling up and Shinedown’s first two tracks were really impressive. ‘Devour’ set the scene and I felt myself getting caught up in ‘Sound of Madness’ which was a definite standout for me. The simple riff, solo-less stuff got me going but they destroyed that momentum by selecting far too many soppy ballads to follow that up and I was getting a little bored by the time they looked to have left for the night. There were still large sections of the crowd, mainly of the female variety, who were still having a good time during the latter part of their set. Cocky singer Brent Smith and guitarist Zach Myers, sporting what looked like a nice Taylor acoustic, then took to the stage to preach to the audience a little and do their version of Skynyrd’s ‘Simple Man’ which wasn’t as bad as I feared it may be. The part where Brent was dishing out single red roses to members of the crowd was the second most cringe-worthy aspect of the show, ousted for top spot by 4 teenagers starting a moshpit directly in front of me to what I would class as a slow, rock tune and not quite the time or place for such an event. It was so bad that I wanted to chew my knuckles off. I’d only seen Alter Bridge once before at the old SECC Hall 4 – a few hundred meters to the west of our current location – but I was more than aware of their history and background as well as their full back catalogue. They were very impressive that night in 2011 and I still remember that I was happy I’d finally got to see them, so when I got my grubby hands on a ticket for this tour I was pretty damn excited. OK, I’d seen Tremonti tear up the Garage not so long ago but all that did was whet the appetite for some more Alter Bridge awesomeness. The lighting drops and the rampant screams of the crowd lift into the cavernous internals of the shiny new SSE Hydro. Mark Tremonti’s downtuned guitar crashes from the suspended monitors as Alter Bridge emerge from the darkness and Myles Kennedy belts out the opening lyrics of ‘Addicted To Pain’. In this moment all is well with the world and the excitement levels are building as the song proceeds. The tempo maintains altitude as they blast through ‘White Knuckles’, a track I deem very underrated, and ‘Come To Life’. We’re treated to a breather for a few seconds as Myles engages with the audience, something he rarely does throughout the performance for one reason or another. Just as the chatter dies down a personal favourite is unleashed and I can’t help but join in with the other couple of thousand folk singing along in a ‘gig karaoke’ style to the air-grab-inducing ‘Before Tomorrow Comes’. The track will always make the hairs on my neck stand up, even via my cheap’ish earphones, but when played live I nearly have a ‘moment’ in my undercrackers. I’ve listened to Fortress from start to finish maybe a couple of dozen times already and I’m convinced it’s their best album since 2004’s One Day Remains. On that basis I was looking forward to a strong presence in terms of tracks from the latest album. When the chirpy intro to ‘Farther Than The Sun’ pipes up and the thundering riff comes galloping in “dun dun dun dun” a surge lifted through the crowd and it seemed the voices around us were getting louder. It was probably at that point I became very aware that the sound is not as deafening as I’m used to in other venues and even though the clarity of each note is almost tangible I just can’t shake the feeling that the sound guy hasn’t quite mastered his trade or has nipped out for a pee without cranking it back up to 11. Some of the more regular tour tracks were rolled out amongst some more new material with the likes of ‘Waters Rising’, getting only its second live outing, starting out with Tremonti’s growling, low-end voice mirrored by the high-pitched and infinitely distinct vocals of Myles Kennedy in the pre-chorus before taking complete control of proceedings in the middle part. The song undulates, slow to fast and was a bit of a showcase in terms of the contrast in the differing vocal styles that Alter Bridge can offer. Myles then sauntered onstage armed with his acoustic and plonked himself down on a bar stool, proclaimed his love of the G chord and opened up the melodic intro to ‘Watch Over You’ but was swiftly stopped in his tracks by, wait for it…a bee! After getting a bit of a fright, informing he’d shat it from “a fucking bee that tried to sting me!” he returned to his seat and started again. After the opening verse and chorus he was joined by Lzzy Hale. This was a moment to savour as they duo let rip with what I’ll remember as the standout performance of the night. It was something that had happened at the Cardiff show the previous night and something I hoped would happen again, I got my wish. Tremendous! The last four songs were regulars from the live routine and were performed with the same tenacity and precision I’ve come to expect from them. Rise Today lifting the mood and urgency and leading into AB3 “classics” ‘Slip To The Void’ and ‘Isolation’. The night was rounded off with ‘Open Your Eyes’ which I personally think isn’t one of their best. The solo came across very well on the stage but it did seem like a bit of an anti-climax. Nevertheless, the crowd didn’t dwindle until the last note had been played and as a whole, did seem pretty pleased with what they’d seen. If Alter Bridge are back in town it won’t be too soon.