It may only be the 14th December, but for Nottingham based hard rock fans, it felt as though Christmas had come early, as a trio of the scene’s best rolled into the Motorpoint Arena.

It is of no surprise, that with such an impressive bill on display featuring The Raven Age, Shinedown and headliners Alter Bridge that the arena is packed to the rafters on this the opening night of the Walk The Sky UK tour.

As we are deep into the holiday season, Alter Bridge’s set itself is the gift that keeps on giving with back to back classics including Isolation, Come To Life and Ghosts of Days Gone By all featuring at the top of the set.

The US-based quartet sure knows how to get the crowd into the festive spirit, as Mark Tremonti now acting as Santa Claus gifts one of his guitars to a member of the audience early in the show. A generous act in the season of goodwill, and now a prized possession for one lucky fan.

With both Kennedy and Tremonti pursuing their respective individual careers in recent times, the latter has had to take on the responsibility of being the frontman in his band. And even though Myles is one of the best lead singers in modern rock, it’s a joy to see Mark stepping up tonight to take on lead vocals during both Waters Rising and Burn It Down.

Having a new album under their belt, Alter Bridge showcases five tracks from Walk The Sky. Highlights include both Take Your Time and Native Son. Each of which carries that unmistakable AB formula of earth-shattering rhythms and crunchy guitar riffs that their fans have come to know and love.

Grasping an acoustic guitar Kennedy showcases the slightly softer side of the Alter Bridge repertoire with Watch Over You, whilst Tremonti’s solo during Blackbird is the stuff of legend.

A pair of tracks from One Day Remains closes out the main set to great effect, whilst a heartfelt encore airing of Godspeed highlights the dramatic synth soundscape introduced on the band’s latest record. As smoke cannons fill the air, the quartet goes out with a bang quite literally, to the sounds of Addicted To The Pain.

The Motorpoint Arena may only be a short trek up the motorway from Castle Donington, but based on this performance there is no doubt in our minds that Alter Bridge are Monsters of Rock in their own right.

Now over 230 shows into this album cycle, Shinedown have got their setlist down to a fine art. The band’s performance is jam-packed with arena slaying anthems. The most appropriate way to describe the inclusion of tracks likes of Diamond Eyes, Enemies and Cut The Chord is euphoric.

Frontman Brent Smith is engaging, humble and charming. Continuing with the Christmas theme, Smith takes the opportunity early in the set to fire out t-shirts into the crowd, as well as taking a walk into the middle of the arena to greet the fans – which in itself is a nice touch, especially in a setting as huge as this.

Shinedown’s passionate delivery during Second Chance along with their take on the Skynyrd classic Simple Man garners a mass singalong from the Midlands crowd. What can we say, this performance was nothing short of ‘Brilliant’ – which ironically closes out the set. Tonight, Shinedown commands the arena’s ‘Attention’, and all that is left to say is mission accomplished.

It’s never easy being the first band on the bill, especially with such an early starting time, but it’s fair to say that The Raven Age saved the day in that respect. The British outfit picked up the pieces of Sevendust’s cancellation due to the illness of Morgan Rose. And even with such a last-minute change to the bill, the band did a fine job of warming up the crowd on this bitterly cold winter’s evening in Nottingham.

WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHY : ADAM KENNEDY