Myles Kennedy performs at Baltimore Soundstage on May 16, 2018. (Photo by Chris R. Smyth)
Myles Kennedy has one of the more distinct voices in hard rock today. While the rock landscape is full of rough, low-end singers, Myles’ voice is higher in register, similar to guys like Axl Rose and Bruce Dickinson. On Wednesday night, looking much more youthful than his nearly 50 years of age, dressed in a black button down shirt and sleeveless white undershirt, and playing in front of a simple black curtain imprinted with The Year of the Tiger logo, Myles put his voice on full display, playing a solo acoustic show for a sold-out audience at the Baltimore Soundstage.
Known best for being the lead singer of Alter Bridge, Myles has spent his down time in recent years working with Slash on his solo projects. But while Alter Bridge is in its current break between albums, with lead guitarist Mark Tremonti touring with his own side project, Tremonti, we have been blessed with The Year of the Tiger, Myles Kennedy’s first solo record of his own, released in March via Napalm Records.
The album deals with a difficult topic for Myles: the death of his father when Myles was just four years old. Myles’ family were members of the Christian Science Church. In the church, they believe in praying to heal, as opposed seeking medical treatment. After getting sick, and choosing not to seek any medical care, Myles’ father never recovered from his illness, and soon passed.
Myles truth and vulnerability on this record is no more apparent than in the song “Blind Faith.” Played live on a metal body dobro guitar, Myles sings the verse, “I know you’re steadfast in your ways. Never compromise your faith. But is it worth it in the end? To never see my face again!” Although singing before a packed audience, one can’t help but feel that for this song, Myles was singing to an audience of one — one who is not there to hear his words.
Unencumbered of the restrictions or expectations of playing in a band, Myles graced the audience with songs from across his musical endeavors right from the beginning of the set. Starting the night with “Devil on the Wall” off this new record, Myles transitioned into songs he has performed with Slash, Alter Bridge, and his band from the turn of the century, The Mayfield Four.
While his voice sounded strong from the get-go, the moment Myles hit the impossibly high note in the chorus of “Starlight,” a collaboration recorded on Slash’s first solo record, everyone erupted in cheers, and we knew we were in for a special night.
With no smoke, crazy lighting, or stage antics to distract people, Myles was out on stage raw and exposed. A stripped-down set like this can be a true test to see whether or not an artist needs the extras, or if they can hold their own without all of the pomp and circumstance. Myles lived up to any expectation that could have been placed upon him.
His ability to play to the crowd made the already intimate setting feel even closer. And with no extraneous noise, Myles could hear requests from the crowd and respond to them. After ripping off a few bars of MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This,” Myles explained how during his days in a cover band, he learned how to do the Hammer-dance. This, of course, caused the audience to demand a showing, to which Myles happily obliged.
When an audience member screamed for “Steel Dragon,” the fictional band from the Mark Wahlberg film Rockstar, in which Myles has a role, Myles sang the signature opening line of “Stand Up and Shout.” Even something as simple as a woman clapping along to a song and getting the whole crowd to join garnered a wink of appreciation from the artist on stage.
At one point, Myles left it to the crowd to decide his next song — a choice between Elton John or Led Zeppelin. Zeppelin won by a landslide, and after a slide guitar intro, Myles broke into “Going to California.” Occasionally, Myles even stepped outside of the slow song box, and he took on a few faster tracks by playing a light version of the traditionally heavy Alter Bridge song “Addicted to Pain” as well as a cover of “The Trooper” by Iron Maiden.
Toward the end of the set, Myles acknowledged the repeated calls for the Alter Bridge ballad “Watch Over You” and proceeded to play the fan-favorite. His intimate version may even be better than the original.
His encore consisted of two more tracks off of his new album, “Love Can Only Heal” and the title track “The Year of the Tiger.” The end of the show brought the seated crowd to their feet. After a few high-fives for the fans up front, Myles left to a standing ovation from a thoroughly entertained audience.
Here are some pictures of Myles Kennedy performing at Baltimore Soundstage on May 16, 2018. All photos copyright and courtesy of Chris Smyth.