A reformed Alice in Chains puts on a mighty show in Vancouver

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      At Rogers Arena on Thursday, October 7

      Alice in Chains should take a page from Becel and start pushing a slogan that riffs on “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!” Those who scoff at the idea of paying big bucks to watch Layne Staley’s replacement replicate the late frontman’s tortured vocals might actually have checked out Thursday night’s concert if the Seattle band had such a calling card. Had purists been convinced to leave the suburbs and give new Alice in Chains singer William DuVall a chance, Rogers Arena would probably have been packed to the rafters instead of a still-impressive 70 percent full.

      It might be sacrilegious to say it—especially if you’re in the presence of someone who caught Alice in Chains in the flesh before Staley’s out-of-control drug problem derailed the band in the late ’90s—but the reformed quartet puts on a mighty show. And not just a tribute performance, either, although there were certainly times when the rockers paid homage to their fallen brother, including with a heart-wrenching performance of “Black Gives Way to Blue”, the title track of their latest studio album, the first without Staley.

      The balls-to-the-wall, heavy rock assault offered up by guitarist Jerry Cantrell and company was worth every penny of the ticket price. A well-oiled machine, the legendary grunge group was in high spirits, clearly thrilled to finally be touring a record, something that Staley’s demons made near-impossible back in the good ol’ days.

      And those were indeed the good ol’ days; that’s certainly not up for dispute.

      As DuVall belted out classic numbers from the band’s back catalogue—including “Them Bones”, “Again”, and “Grind”—you couldn’t help but wonder if the bone-chilling sentiments expressed in the songs haunted him the way they did an army of flannel-clad grunge kids a couple of generations ago. For someone who wasn’t among the clan in the dark days of Staley’s reign, the new singer did an incredible job not only of preserving but of continuing the Alice in Chains legacy, while still showcasing his own persona on fresh tracks like the melodic “Check My Brain”.

      To see DuVall belting out the epic set staple “Rooster”, fist thrust in the air with a seizure-inducing light show going on behind him, felt downright redemptive. The crowd, largely composed of dudes following along riff for riff on their air guitars, seemed perfectly thrilled with the version of Alice and Chains that stood before it.

      Purists will always draw a hard line with the new edition of Alice in Chains, convinced that the band has committed heresy by continuing on without the man who defined landmarks like Dirt. But if it’s a matter of having one of Seattle’s original big four or going without, Thursday’s concert showed us that sometimes a 2.0 version—even if it isn’t necessarily improved—ain’t all that bad.

      Just as stellar were Deftones, another act familiar with soldiering on after the loss of a founding member. The Chino Moreno–led quintet—now with Sergio Vega on bass after a tragic accident left original bassist Chi Cheng in a coma—slayed with walloping renditions of “Around the Fur” and “Change (In the House of Flies)”. There was hardly a second when Moreno wasn’t hurtling his body this way and that, microphone cable wrapped tightly around his forearm, testing the limits of his vocal cords. This was especially the case when the sweat-covered singer dedicated one of Deftones’ many explosive ragers to Cheng, then proceeded to wail like a man in the throes of a night terror, bounding up and down the riser situated at centre stage.

      Both Deftones and Alice in Chains can thank Atlanta metal lords Mastodon for knocking pulse rates into overdrive early on in the evening. Inciting an all-out clapathon at 7:19 p.m. is no easy feat, especially when you’re trying to convince people to put down their first beer of the night and join in. But Rolling Stone’s pick for best metal band of 2008 had no problem doing just that.

      Comments

      14 Comments

      Therzo38

      Oct 8, 2010 at 12:15pm

      I'll preface this by admitting I didn't go.

      This bill was in reverse order of the way it should have been. I was a huge fan of Alice In Chains, but you're a fool to waste money on this cover band calling themselves Alice In Chains. It's a slap in the face to old fans, new fans, and themselves; probably new fans most. They should have just come up with a new name; they could continue doing their covers.

      I also didn't read the review above other than the headline.

      0 0Rating: 0

      Ramona Lee

      Oct 8, 2010 at 1:30pm

      Second time seeing the new lineup; tight as hell and still one of my favorite bands of all time. Of course the new Alice in Chains will never be the same without Layne, but Cantrell has always been a dominant force in this band musically and vocally and should not be chastised for moving on without him. It's not Cantrell's fault Layne was sick, and he should not be expected to hang up his guitar and forget. If you'd gone to the show, you would've seen that Cantrell does alot of the singing, just like the old days. This is no cover band.

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      Jager

      Oct 8, 2010 at 1:31pm

      @Therzo: Spoken like a true moron.

      Alex_220

      Oct 8, 2010 at 2:24pm

      ^ I was there, and I'm an old school AIC fan (15 years now). Trust me... IT WAS A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. One of the best shows I've ever seen, with one of the best setlists I've ever heard. People who are stuck in the past are seriously missing out. Layne (RIP) was only 1/4 of AIC, despite what some may think.

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      zagnut

      Oct 8, 2010 at 4:34pm

      alice in chains.........fkn blew the doors off the place. that was a big time tight performance by the band. i missed them way back at thunderbird outside, missed layne. i still miss layne, but the new fella rocked it out huge. kinney beat those skins and crashed down on those cymballs like he was possesed. of course inez and cantrell were bang on.
      anyone who is of the mind that this band should change the name, or didnt go see the show because of the same distaste therzo has, missed an amazing show.

      0 0Rating: 0

      darthman

      Oct 8, 2010 at 6:16pm

      This was the third time I've seen the new linup and they freaking rock. I'm a long time grunge fan,19 years. I've seen Pearl Jam six times, Jerry Cantrell solo once and this show was possibly the best of them all. So therzo38 I would advise you to go see AIC before you pass judgement dude.

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      Therzo38

      Oct 8, 2010 at 9:05pm

      darthman, I like the cut of your jib. You're totally right. I shouldn't pass judgement without hearing them. I just used to love Alice In Chains back in the day. Never got the chance to hear them live, thus, I won't bother now that's it different.

      Also, arena-rock is not my thing. Deftones and Mastodon are much better when they play full sets at The Commodore. Alice in Chains (even this new cover version) would be better there. Arenaa suck. No vibe or atmosphere.

      cycsim

      Oct 9, 2010 at 1:37am

      Just saw Alice in Seattle tonight at Key Arena. I have also been a long time fan and this, as stated before, was one of the best shows I have ever seen. I somewhat questioned the band w/o Staley, but was quickly shown I need not worry. DuVall and the rest were positively outstanding. Tempted to run down to Portland tomorrow......

      Shantrell

      Oct 9, 2010 at 11:21am

      Thurzo38... is what is wrong with people who call themselves "fans of music" or whatever title is similar to that. Really?? Since when do the fans get to decide what the band is allowed to call themselves?? Alice In Chains can call themselves whatever the fuck they want, and they keep calling themselves Alice In Chains because that's what they fucking are! It's up to Jerry, Mikey, Sean, and even William to decide that... not up to some fans who think of the band as "their own". If you went to see that show you would understand there Therzo...but I think you suck, because you never went... so, just don't call yourself a fan if that's what you are trying to get at.

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      Noel

      Oct 9, 2010 at 12:18pm

      Listen without prejudice...

      I've seen AIC twice now with William DuVall. The first time in 2006 was great. The 2nd time in 2009 was nothing short of sensational. They sound so good it's scary. Anyone not going for whatever reason is missing out on something really special. It's their loss.

      No one ever doubted Layne's magnificence but it's incredibly ignorant and disrespectful to just dismiss Jerry, Sean, Mike and Will as a cover band. They ARE Alice In Chains.