Live Review - Alice In Chains
Hasn't Melbourne got a venue with standing room?" huge-haired frontman William DuVall asked after a few songs.
And fair enough too. The seating-only situation at the Palais Theatre made for a restrained 'Evening With Alice In Chains' type atmosphere when, really, a mosh pit was needed. While some people tried to get out into the aisles, they were quickly and forcefully ushered back by security. So, like chooks in pens, the crowd grooved the best they could with the room they had. After all, this was Alice In Chains, to see them at all was a blessing no matter what the circumstances.
The band kicked off their first Australian tour in several years with 'Again', a track from their most recent, self-titled album. The dirty low-end bass and drums of Mike Inez and Sean Kinney gripped together and thumped into the crowd, while Jerry Cantrell's haunting voice and riffs combined perfectly with William Duvall. Straight away you knew that even without old singer Layne Staley (who died in 2002), this show would be one to remember and would do more than just pay homage to past glories.
The start of every song was applauded and cheered; opening riffs and beats no doubt linked to audience memories from the '90s none more so than classics like 'Angry Chair' and 'Man In A Box'. The set was dominated by songs from their classic 1992 record, 'Dirt', with a selection that encompassed 'Junkhead', 'Dirt', 'Them Bones', 'Dam That River', 'Rain When I Die' and 'Down In A Hole'.
With little more than simple lighting and a projector screen at the back of stage, this performance needed no confetti or fireworks. The sheer presence, professionalism and power of Alice In Chains and their songs spoke for themselves. Despite Duvall swapping verses and some guitar problems which saw Cantrell throw the third defective guitar into his amp stack, there was little to distract you from their brilliance.
In what was mostly a loud, ballsy rock show, Alice also took the time to play some acoustic works. 'No Excuses' knocked the tempo back and arm in arm the crowd sang along. Drummer Kinney took to the bongos, Inez to acoustic bass and once again Cantrell's lead solos and vocals were chilling. The gentle instrumental, 'Whale and Wasp', was also a nice inclusion.
'Love, Hate, Love' was a surprising set closer. When DuVall said "Goodnight" it felt like they were just getting started. But no, this wasn't the half-way point as many would have hoped, it was indeed only the signal for an encore. On return, the famous bassline to 'Would?' rolled over the room and all was forgotten the crowd was driven back into its trance like state of surrealism.
Any number of favourites they hadn't played yet, or maybe even a new song could have come next, but it was the epic 'Rooster' that finished the night. The Vietnam War images intertwined with more recent horrors and the faces of Rumsfeld, Bush and Cheney were reminders that young boys are still being sent in as cannon fodder. The final image of big bold black letters saying "NO WAR" reinforced that Alice In Chains are a band with intelligence as well as timeless, kick-arse rock songs. At just over an hour this performance left many wanting much more, but with a new album on the way they were adamant they would be back.