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Alter Bridge members maintain their creed between bands

of the Oakland Press

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This is not the first time Alter Bridge has started a North America concert tour in Detroit.

It is, after all, a locale that guitarist Mark Tremonti finds comforting.

“Detroit is still where my heart’s at,” says Tremonti, 36, who was born in the Motor City and named Alter Bridge — which he put together with fellow Creed members Scott Phillips and Brian Marshall and singer/guitarist Myles Kennedy — after the roadway that spans the city’s border into the Grosse Pointes.

Tremonti still has family in the area and also maintains sports rooting interests. Detroit was an early base of support for Creed as well, and Tremonti says it’s still “one of my favorite cities to play. I’m all about anything that makes Detroit a better place, man.”

Alter Bridge, meanwhile, was initially about putting Tremonti and company in a better place than they were with Creed after a rancorous schism with frontman Scott Stapp in 2004. The hard rocking quartet released two albums, “One Day Remains” in 2004 and “Blackbird” in 2007, before Creed reunited in 2009, and now Tremonti finds himself balancing two fully functional bands — and happily so.

“The hardest thing is just the first transition of re-learning all the songs before you go on a tour with either one,” Tremonti, who now resides in Orlando, Fla., with his wife and two young sons, says with a laugh. “The Alter Bridge stuff is a little more complicated to play live. It takes a little more warm-up time before the tour starts.

“I mean, since day one with Alter Bridge I’ve had to kind of reinvent myself as a songwriter to get out of the shadow of Creed and not be compared to Creed anymore. But as I write, ideas will come out that sound like they could be a Creed song, so immediately I’d stow those away, and with Creed back together now I have all these songs to pull from. So it worked out pretty good.”

Alter Bridge’s third album, “AB III,” which came out Nov. 24 and debuted at No. 17 on the Billboard 200 chart, finds that band mining a bit new sonic space as well. The set is, Tremonti acknowledges, “a more moody, edgy record” than its predecessors, partly due to “record label hell” that’s put the band with a different company for each of its releases.

It’s also the first time Alter Bridge has made a concept album, with a theme that unifies the 14 songs on “AB III.”

“It’s a very personal record,” says Tremonti. “It’s a record about a guy who has lost faith and doesn’t believe in anything, at least not in the material world. Myles grew up having faith and then had some issues growing up where he kind of lost it and has a tough time believe in anything.

“It’s a cathartic record. He gets a lot of stuff off his chest.”

Tremonti, meanwhile, plays something of a foil for the singer, particularly on the closing track of “AB III,” “Words Darker Than Their Wings,” on which he shares lead vocals and trades philosophical viewpoints with Kennedy.

“I just give it a little bit of hope,” the guitarist explains. I’m not the guy you’re going to see in church on Sunday, but I do believe in something. I don’t think we’re just here to be born and die and rot and not have anything else meaningful to our lives ... other than reproducing.

“But I don’t believe in the archaic ways of thinking about God that have been forced down our throat for so many years, either. I think everybody should have their own unique visions in faith and God and whatever that may be.”

Tremonti hopes “AB III” demonstrates to fans — particularly in the U.S., which has been slower to warm to the group than Europe — that Alter Bridge is indeed a going concern, regardless of Creed’s status. “A lot of people were worried Alter Bridge would break up, and we let them know that’s not the case,” he says. “I hope they’re glad that they’re getting twice the music than they would from at least three of the four of us.”

And, Tremonti acknowledges, Alter Bridge dodged something of a bullet when Kennedy was courted by surviving Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones for a potential project that was ultimately abandoned.

“It was actually pretty exciting,” Tremonti recalls. “It’s one of those things where I told him, ‘If you get that opportunity, don’t ever pass it up for Alter Bridge. We’ll make time.’ I would never hold anything against him if he had to go take a year to do Led Zeppelin.

“Plus, Myles would come back being such a well-known guy that it would help Alter Bridge. It probably already has even though they wound up not doing Led Zeppelin.”

Alter Bridge will keep its members busy well into 2011, with more North American and European dates planned and talks of Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Creed, meanwhile, is looking at “a possible 2012 summer run,” according to Tremonti, which will likely include a new album as well.

But, he adds, it’s unlikely the musicians will ever try to pair the two bands on the same bill, for fun or for efficiency.

“I think we all kind of want to keep them separated from each other, keep them isolated,” he explains, adding with a laugh that “having to be in both in one night would be too much work, you know?”

Alter Bridge Performs with Taddy Porter and Like a Storm on Tuesday, Dec. 14, at Clutch Cargo’s, 65 E. Huron St., Pontiac. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance, $22 at the door. Call 248-333-2362 or visit www.clutchcargos.com.

Web Site: www.clutchcargos.com

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