REVIEW: Myles Kennedy & Company captivate London crowd

Acclaimed singer and guitarist Myles Kennedy has always been well-known for his musical diversity. 

Having performed for numerous artists such as Alter Bridge and Slash, Kennedy has ventured out into a solo career. After releasing his debut acoustic blues album The Year of the Tiger in 2017, he has followed it up with this year’s more electric-sounding The Ides of March. The first was themed around his own troubled past, and the second acts as a commentary on the world today.

Kennedy, along with his backing band, performed at the gorgeous Shepherd’s Bush Empire Theatre in London on December 11, where he played for a packed house. Considering this was Kennedy’s first live performance in London for almost two years, the audience was elated to see the musician finally return to the stage. As he said himself: “We really weren’t sure if this was going to be possible.” 

One of the greatest aspects of the stripped down, simplistic approach Kennedy took was just how much of an intimate and personal atmosphere it created. Where other artists strive to create elaborate stage designs and dramatic entrances, Kennedy delighted the audience by walking on, plugging in his guitar and simply playing.

Kennedy beautifully engaged with the audience on a very subtle level. There was a genuine sense of camaraderie that has been rarely felt in recent years. 

Performance

Opening with new tracks Wake Me When It’s Over and A Thousand Words, Kennedy & Company set the tone perfectly for the rest of the night. The first being a hopeful commentary on the pandemic, while the second is a more sombre and passionate ballad dedicated to those lost. 

From there, Kennedy launched into The Year of The Tiger track Devil on The Wall – the first of many from that album. The majority of songs from his first album are acoustic, but for this performance Kennedy adapted and restructured them into louder, more electric-sounding anthems. Kennedy really took full advantage of his backing band, with Tim Tournier on bass and Zia Uddin on drums. 

Kennedy & Company experimented with several tracks throughout the evening. Some were given longer choruses to engage with the audience more, while others gave Kennedy space to improvise and jam with his fellow musicians.

Kennedy has always been known as a phenomenal vocalist, but he has not received nearly enough praise or recognition for his abilities as a guitar player. This was his chance to show everyone his blues prowess. Throughout the show, Kennedy would abandon his microphone and let his guitar playing speak for itself.

As the night continued, the audience were treated to several tracks from both solo records. Two particular highlights were Turning Stones and Haunted By Design from his first album. However, it was the song The Ides of March that elevated the entire performance.

Kennedy stated on stage that this was the first time he and his band had performed the song on their current tour. As he so elegantly put it: “A few people mentioned ‘why aren’t you playing the title track off the new record?’ Truth be told, because it’s a b****.” 

Stripping the title track down and adapting it for a three piece band ran the risk of losing its power and making it feel less complete. However, the stripped down approach served the song greatly. It allowed Kennedy’s vocals to soar over the audience, completely filling the room and giving everyone the opportunity to appreciate how powerful and moving his vocal range can be. This was a complex and intricate song through which Kennedy managed to ground and express himself. 

Music from other projects

After he performed the title track, Kennedy only continued to amaze by diving into different avenues of his back catalogue, such as the Alter Bridge song All Ends Well. The track was very welcome considering the vast number of people in attendance wearing Alter Bridge merchandise, something Kennedy joked about: “I know those guys.” 

The most surprising track however, came as a result of a technical difficulty. Due to sound issues with one of the instruments, Kennedy dismissed his fellow band-mates and decided to stall for a time by performing the popular Alter Bridge ballad Watch Over You. This was arguably the most well-received song of the entire evening. 

Just Kennedy, his telecaster and the intense power of the audience to help him along. Not only was this an unexpected gem, it was the audience’s turn to show Myles what they could do. They were just as loud, if not louder than Kennedy himself, to the point where Kennedy disregarded the microphone entirely and let the audience do the work for him. 

Following Watch Over You was the loud, Led Zeppelin-inspired Get Along. This saw Kennedy adopt a Gibson Les Paul which he used to deliver some particularly juicy blues licks and some gritty, hard-hitting riffs. It felt more akin to a band jamming on the fly, enjoying themselves and improvising in the spirit of the moment, as opposed to a vigorously rehearsed and thoroughly planned out performance. 

As the evening was drawing to a close, Kennedy turned in the Les Paul in favour of the slide guitar, with which he performed Love Can Only Heal, World on Fire and In Stride back to back.

World on Fire was a true standout. Originally written and recorded with Slash, Kennedy completely transformed the song’s structure. Aside from the lyrics, it was virtually a whole new song, and the audience lapped up every minute. 

Encore

Finally, Kennedy wrapped up the evening with the sombre yet hopeful Worried Mind. It served as an epic and chilling finale to a superb concert. It also featured some of Kennedy’s best vocal performances, particularly in the closing bars of the song. It was breathtaking to hear Kennedy’s voice ascend higher and higher in range and pitch without missing a beat. It was moments like that which proved why Kennedy is one of the greatest vocalists in the industry today.   

This was Kennedy at his best, with his backing band giving him room to play around and express himself. Where many of the songs themselves may not have been particularly complex, overindulgent or flamboyant, they were grounded in a sense of intimacy and relatability.

Needless to say, if there is a chance to see Myles Kennedy & Company in person, it will be a night to remember.

Set List:

  1. Wake Me When It’s Over
  2. A Thousand Words
  3. Devil on The Wall
  4. Turning Stones
  5. Haunted By Design 
  6. The Ides of March
  7. All Ends Well (Alter Bridge song)
  8. Songbird
  9. Year of The Tiger 
  10. Tell It Like Its Is 
  11. Watch Over You (Alter Bridge song)
  12. Get Along
  13. Love Can Only Heal
  14. World on Fire (Slash feat. Myles Kennedy & the Conspirators song)
  15. In Stride
  16. Worried Mind
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