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Alter Bridge plays live at HR Derby

Alter Bridge plays live at HR Derby

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Alter Bridge performed its single "Open Your Eyes" for a live ESPN audience at the CENTURY 21 Home Run Derby Monday in Detroit, and if that band seems familiar to fans, there are at least a couple of good reasons:

First, it includes three-fourths of the former rock group Creed, which sold 30 million records worldwide. Alter Bridge is climbing the charts with a similarly intense and melodic sound on the hot Wind-Up Records label, and is now on a tour that includes a concert later that night in Motown.

Secondly, Alter Bridge has a place in Red Sox lore after what happened at the last American League Division Series in Boston. They were playing at the Avalon outside Fenway Park the night of the Sox clincher, and several players including Johnny Damon -- Orlando, Fla., neighbor of guitarist/vocalist Mark Tremonti -- walked across the street and joined the band onstage in a true "I was there" moment.

On Monday night, the group played before millions of viewers, including a packed house at Comerica Park, for the 20th anniversary of the Home Run Derby. It is somehow fitting that a band whose latest album is titled "One Day Remains" played at a popular event that always comes one day before the All-Star Game.

"It's just great to do this, because the Home Run Derby is something we've watched since we were kids. And especially being part of this one in Detroit, where I'm from, it's a great opportunity," Tremonti said. "It's probably the most fun event of the year to watch. I remember watching Ken Griffey Jr. winning it (three times), guys like Sammy Sosa in the field. Today's kids are the same way, that's what they always look forward to seeing. You feel like you're living one of your childhood dreams.

"An event like this is great because we can hit a large audience and let people know we're out there. It's exciting and also a challenge to start a new band, sometimes more of a challenge because of the history of what's behind us. It's an awfully big shadow to get out of. So we're just trying to get out there and prove ourselves as a new band and let people know it's a totally new situation, and when people see us, hopefully they're convinced."

Creed's last album "Weathered" was released in 2001, and after the much-publicized breakup and a layoff, Alter Bridge was formed sans Creed lead singer Scott Stapp. Tremonti started jamming again with former Creed drummer Scott Phillips and they shared the same vision for this group's future, and the evolution continued when Tremonti gave a call to original Creed bassist Brian Marshall. The final touch was Myles Kennedy, formerly of the Mayfield Four, recruited to be the band's lead singer.

Kennedy had no difficulty stepping out of that Stapp shadow when Alter Bridge played before those wild Red Sox fans that night last October, and the group's momentum has been something like that of the Red Sox in those final eight games of 2004. Tremonti was right in his element for that Boston event, as he was Monday night.

"That was fun," he said of the Boston gig. Speaking by phone from his home in Orlando before the Derby, Tremonti added, "Damon's a good friend of mine, actually one of my neighbors, I'm sitting in the room with a view of his house right now out my window. He and (Kevin) Millar and a few other guys, Bronson (Arroyo), Bill Mueller, it was great. I wrapped my guitar around Millar's neck and told him to play.

All-Star Game 2005

"Mueller actually gave me a shirt a while back, an MLB jersey, and I wore it for an entire tour. I ended up wearing it till it about fell off. You find comfortable things to perform in, you wear it, wash it and wear it. I just got to know those guys. They clinched that night in extra innings, and I just remember Johnny coming over right away, and right before the end of that song we were playing, that's when Millar and I think Arroyo came from backstage -- I can't remember everyone. I was just having a good time."

It's good to be home for Tremonti, whose roots are told through the name of this band. "Alter Bridge" comes from the actual name of a long-standing bridge near his childhood home, where one side was considered "safe" and the other drug-infested and full of danger to an impressionable boy.

"Alter Road was the road that the bridge crossed over, so it was called the Alter Bridge," he said. "It represented to us kids the scary unknown that you don't dare attempt to cross. And going into this new band, we broke up a very successful band and career to go and chase what we really, truly believe in. It's about making a choice."

While ESPN televised the "Open Your Eyes" performance, the Comerica crowd also saw Alter Bridge perform a KISS standard, "Detroit Rock City." There was something familiar about a lot of power hitters clubbing balls over the wall at Comerica on that night, and there was something familiar about the rock group playing as part of the festivities.

"We get great response wherever we go with this new group," Tremonti said. "That's coming from the fans who come out to our shows -- they all seem to love Alter Bridge. They love it. We're more consistent when it comes to touring; we don't cancel shows. Creed had to cancel shows toward the end, and that really disappointed me a bunch. We're going to be there. The fans follow us around.

"One of the criticisms we got back in the day with Creed was that we had such a big stage performance and the pyro that we had to follow the same routine every stop, and people would grumble that they've seen the same thing. Now we can switch up the set, and we've played about eight different cover tunes... this is a new beginning."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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