This could quite possibly be one of the worst reviews you’re about to read. Having been made aware of the existence of Alice In Chains a little over 15 years ago by an ex girlfriend who was going to see them. I confess to having never listened to any of their material until tonight’s gig and having Alice in Chains on as back ground music whilst penning words together for this very review. Indeed it’s fair to say it was only this evening I learned the significance of ‘Rooster’ and the inspiration behind many of the band’s rammed back catalogue.
If the foul weather brought you out this Friday 13th to watch a band you would have either been going to watch traditional rock legends Deep Purple, some filthy haggard punk gig at Scruffy Murphy’s featuring amongst others Rat Bones and Rotunda or in my case it was to see a heroin-inspired grunge act hailing from Seattle. By the looks of the miserable weather, I am wondering whether they brought it with them from Seattle to prepare the crowd for an evening of bleakness.
The venue itself is rammed. It wasn’t quite fully sold out when entering but as the night wore on the room just got fuller and fuller. At gigs it’s always the small insignificant things that make me smile the most. The way the crowd bursts into cheers and whistles as a lone cameraman films the assembled masses. Or the way almost everyone in the crowd was wearing either a black hoodie or a plaid shirt. Trying to get anywhere near the stage is a futile act so my standing position sees me in a secure area cocooned by two of the world’s tallest brothers somewhere near one of the quieter bars.
I don’t think in all my time of watching live music have I ever seen a band enter the stage like Alice in Chains. There’s no intro whatsoever, the four members merely walked on stage and went straight into ‘It Aint Like That’ within about 30 seconds of being seen. The sound is simply awesome. Listening to Jerry Cantrell’s guitar playing is likened to being pummeled by heavy riffs whereas the bass being projected by drummer Sean Kinney and bassist Mike Inez hits you hard in the stomach. After the death of original founder member Layne Staley the band spent a few short years in the wilderness before being joined by William DuVall. If Michael Jackson had have kept his afro, not shoveled a load of plastic into his face and not bleached his skin then he would now have closely resembled William. Also a female friend advised me that William is “seriously hot” and this was something I needed to mention in my review! Bringing William into the band could be considered an act of genius. With Layne as the front man, Alice In Chains were seen to be a singer and a group. With William and Jerry at the helm they’re now much more of a solid four-piece unit.
I thought for a minute track 5 was going to be an introduction to a new yet unheard song titled ‘Technical Difficulty’. It’s good to see that throughout the years of substance abuse Jerry’s retained his sense of humour. ‘Technical Difficulty’ was exactly was described – a slight tech issue was had which was quickly sorted.
‘Your Decision’ is the first track of the evening sung with Jerry on lead vocals. I over heard someone quote “After 10+ years of heroin abuse Jerry’s voice is still superb. That shit is superb!” Honestly, I couldn’t have said it better myself.
After ’Rain When I Die’ finishes Jerry introduces us to the band and reliably informs us that we’re about to be treated to some “acoustic shit”. The next four songs are all played out on acoustic guitars and finally Alice In Chains — William aside – look as though they’re beginning to enjoy themselves. Up until this point I had the feeling the band was merely on stage going through the motions of playing live music. Granted music played extremely well, just not as though they were enjoying themselves whilst playing it. The audience meanwhile was lapping it up. It seemed as though pretty much everyone there was and still are die-hard fans, singing along to the old stuff and singing and being appreciative of the new.
Finally, after playing 17 tracks with minimal audience interaction, Alice In Chains finally walk off stage. For the next few minutes I though I was in an episode of trash daytime TV as chants of “JERRY! JERRY! JERRY!” erupted.
The foursome came out again and went straight into “Lesson Learned” before heading into “Would?”. The crowd seriously loved this one. I think it was fair to say that the singing from the crowd was louder than William’s amplified vocals. The final song of the evening, and probably the reason why many of the crowd was here, was “Rooster”. Inspired by Jerry’s dad going mad following the Vietnam War, it had the crowd swaying, singing and hands being raised in the air. The only thing missing was lighters or the modern equivalent — the trusty backlit mobile phone. It was only during “Rooster” that the audience actually moved. Apart from some clapping, devil signs being thrown the crowd was pretty much stationary throughout the show.
Having now lost my virginity to a bondage-liking Alice I think it’s far to say I’m now fan. Maybe when my ex went to watch Alice In Chains all those years back I should have joined her or at least made some effort to listen to another of Seattle’s grunge groups. Maybe they would have been better finishing off the set with “Would?” rather than “Rooster” but I guess the bleakness of the song’s lyrics and subject matter more than prepares you for the onslaught of the miserable weather outside.
It Ain’t Like That
Dam That River
Check My Brain
A Looking In View
Rain When I Die
Down In A Hole
Heaven Beside You
Got Me Wrong
Black Gives Way To Blue
Man In The Box
Review — Lee Hathaway
Photos – Steve Gerrard