Alice in Chains deliver hard rocking show

A review of Alice in Chains at the Orpheum Theatre on March 14, 2010

, Managing Editor

No matter where they go or how much success they have hereafter, Alice in Chains will always carry the memory of Layne Staley’s passing. However, touring in support of a new album that is very much inspired by this tragedy, they are proving they are ready to carry the burden. Sunday at the Orpheum Theatre, it appeared the Seattle group carried the rain with them as well, as the soldout show was packed with eager fans soaked in precipitation (and for many, intoxication).

In Staley’s place stands William DuVall, whose style is certainly different than his predecessor, yet still seems to fill the void to perfection. Stalking the stage and pandering to camera-wielding fans, DuVall brings a certain flare to an otherwise stoic group. With a new lead singer and their first studio album in 14 years, Black Gives Way to Blue, the pieces are in line for Alice in Chains to move on.

On Sunday, it was in with the new immediately as the band started with “All Secrets Known”, which also opens the new album. The song set the tone for the evening as guitarist Jerry Cantrell took lead vocals with DuVall in support. Cantrell has clearly become the leader of the pack, with DuVall as his second-fiddle. However, DuVall got his chance to shine early on with a strong performance of “Again”. It’s not his first time performing in the area with the band, but those who hadn’t seen him yet were most likely won over by this early gem.

One of the finest performances of the night from Black Gives Way to Blue was “Your Decision”, a solemn track with Staley-inspired lyrics about overcoming pain. The song cast an eerie stillness over an otherwise rambunctious crowd before things cheered up (at least by Alice in Chains standards) with “Got Me Wrong”.

Cantrell’s guitar styling has always been the signature of the Alice in Chains sound, with a clear example of his influence both old and new coming in back to back songs “We Die Young” and “A Looking In View”. In the former hasty headbanger, Cantrell unleashed hell on his wammy bar as his guitar squealed like a pig before closing out the latter with some smooth vibrato.

There usually aren’t many light moments at hard rock shows but it was easy to get a laugh out of Cantrell’s band intro as he threw bassist Mike Inez under the bus, calling him their “resident Laker fan”. However, Inez wisely saved face by stating that although he’s a Lakers fan, Larry Bird is still his “all-time favorite NBA player”.

Back to business, Cantrell embraced the fans for being “a huge part of this journey” and later it would be apparent just how much the fans have embraced the band’s latest effort, with new track “Last of My Kind” generating as much headbanging as main-set closer “Man in the Box”.

The show was fittingly capped off with “Rooster”, a song that beautifully captures the band’s perseverance. With drums so heavily pulsating through the theatre they could throw off one’s cardiac rhythm, and DuVall with fist clenched in celebration, it was clear that like the Rooster, this group is one being that “ain’t gonna die”.

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