If Nine Inch Nails has been the soundtrack to my life, Alice in Chains has tried to be the soundtrack to my death on multiple occasions.
It all started off well – my first real kiss was while listening to the SAP EP.
Then, when I was 14 years old, one day after school I was riding in my boyfriend’s car, between the two front seats because four other people were crammed into the Honda Civic, and it started to rain. We took a corner and hydroplaned off an embankment and fell fifteen feet into a creek bed. We could have all easily died- but somehow I was the only one injured, since I wasn’t sitting in a real seat. I broke my left elbow, and hit my head and was knocked out (the roof caved in during the roll). The CD stuck in the player of the totaled car: Dirt.
“Down in a Hole”.
The only time I ever came close to thinking I had OD’ed in my brief fling with hard drugs during high school, we were listening to Facelift.
“We Die Young”.
I was a sophomore in high school when I found out my serious boyfriend cheated on me. I went for a drive to think about things- as I still do to this day- and a deer ran out in front of my car and I smashed into it. I was listening to Alice in Chains (we used to call it the ‘three legged dog’ album).
“Again and again and again and again…”
Then another good thing happened- one of my closest friends in high school named his son Layne. I thought maybe the AiC curse was over.
However, shortly after Layne Staley died in 2002, I was listening to a lot of AiC again. I was driving home from college, having one of the killer migraines that I get from time to time, and ended up rear ending a car. I don’t even remember what AiC album I was listening to, I just know that at that moment, I decided to never listen to AiC in the car again. And I don’t. If it comes up in my shuffle I skip it.
Even after all of that, it never soured me to the band. That’s how much I love them.
But I digress. Alice in Chains is second to NIN as a favorite band for me. The difference is that Layne died, and I never got to see the original lineup. And as my readers can probably sense, a band almost never becomes real to me- at least everything doesn’t fully click- until I see them live. So for AiC, this piece will forever and always be missing.
There was a lot of skepticism when AiC reformed in 2005 and announced that William DuVall would take on singing duties. That didn’t stop me from going to see them at The Warfield in 2006, shortly before I started writing HRC. DuVall really impressed me, and every time I heard from a skeptic, I quickly shut them down.
OK, that was a really long intro. But now we’re caught up to the show.
When the tickets went on sale, I was actually still recovering from the NIN/JA tour and was sleeping in. I was 10 minutes late logging on, and the show had already sold out. After a minor freak out, I decided to just keep checking in to see about extra tickets being released, or try my luck getting a press pass. Neither happened.
Last week, desperation started to set in. So I started monitoring Craigslist. Tickets were going for about double face value. But then I stumbled upon an ad- someone had comp tickets, and was looking for someone to go with. So I replied, including info on my site and referencing my fandom. In a random small world moment- this person happened to also be at the final NIN shows in LA. Crazy!
OK, so we’re really to the actual show now. We arrived a little before doors open at 7pm, and there was a fairly long line down the block already. Yet somehow, after entering the venue, buying my signed, limited to 75 prints poster, coat checking it, and walking onto the floor, I ended up in my normal front row left side, standing next to the rail spot. Seriously, they should put a little star on the floor with ‘HRC’ engraved on it right there- it’s my spot!
With no opener and a cocktail waitress who never made it anywhere near my vicinity, the anticipation in the air was thick. But then by 8:30, the lights dimmed and out walks Cantrell, DuVall, Kinney, and Inez. Inez straps his bass on and walks right in front of me, emitting his devilish energy. And they launch into ‘Rain When I Die’.
It’s almost too much at first. I have become accustomed to having multiple shows with the bands I love, but I know that this night, it’s my only time. So I savor it. And I take a LOT of twitpics because I’m so close that I’m overflowing with excitement and want to share. I think they may have wondered why I kept texting people throughout the show…
AiC is one of those bands that really knows how to connect with a crowd. They just go for it, they’re in the moment with you, singing in your face, pointing at you. DuVall isn’t trying to channel Layne; there’s no karaoke vibe from his performance. There are vocal similarities, but he’s got his own style- it’s less wicked and demented, but it’s still gritty rock ‘n roll.
The other thing is that you can easily pick up on the chemistry they have with each other. Inez, DuVall, and Cantrell switch places a lot, and walk around to pair up and feed off each other frequently. They just seemed to be having a good time.
They played five songs off their new record, which they mentioned “comes out in a few hours”. It all sounds AMAZING live. Better than the record. We got an acoustic portion as they were warming up for a set they are doing today on Jimmy Kimmel…and let me tell you, acoustic ‘Black Gives Way to Blue’, which was dedicated to Layne, brought tears to my eyes. Inez teased a little ‘Rotten Apple’ at the beginning on the acoustic set….damn him!
I was really glad that was the only mention of Layne during the evening. At the last Warfield show, there was an entire video sequence tribute thing, and it was just heartbreaking. I understand the gesture, but it was too much. There were several guys in the crowd with slicked back hair wearing sunglasses trying to channel Layne though…
One of the things that I point out to people when they stick their nose up at the ‘new AiC’ is that Cantrell has always been a huge part of the vocals, and thus sound, that is often attributed solely to Layne. This is why he is one of my Guitar Gods. I love his signature move where he steps to the side and flings his hair forward and then back….a really slow headbang. So during the couple of times he came right up in front of me and played, I melted into the little 12 year old girl that fell in love with them. It’s kind of funny- this pic I managed to snap:
It may look like his head exploded, but really it was my mind that was blown! Luckily I remembered all of the words to be able to make eye contact and sing along…..also with DuVall:
Yep, that was awesome.
There were just a few teeny tiny mess ups with timing on some of the songs- things I only noticed because one of the guys would laugh and look at the other when it happened.
The setlist was so amazing, yet too short, that it’s hard for me to pick a highlight. But, ‘Man in a Box’, and the closers ‘Would’ and ‘Rooster’ had the best crowd energy. Not sure if it was just me, but both ‘Would’ and ‘Rooster’ seemed slower than normal.
The show went by too fast, ending by 10:30. I’m hanging onto the promise from the band: “we’re just getting started”.
Special thanks to Alan for grabbing me a guitar pick, and for my ticket lifesaver Thomas who also grabbed the setlist I’d been waiting and reaching for when some other guys tried to grab it, and bought me a t-shirt!
However, I did miss out on the free Fillmore poster as I was late leaving…so if anyone knows of an extra: hardrockchick – at- hardrockchick – dot – com.
“Did she call my name?
I think its gonna rain
When I die”