The blinking marquee of the Fox Theater beckoned me from the moment I turned onto Telegraph. I know what awaits me inside- the first of three shows over the next month where I will hear one of my favorite bands play some of my favorite songs, and I will spend two hours face to face with everything that means to me.
But first, I had some business to attend to. I had an interview with the opening band scheduled for 7pm. I checked at Will Call at 6:15- no list, and an instruction to come back at 6:45p. So I hung out in front, made pals with security man Troy, and then went and hung out with Alan. 6:45p, still no list. I’m trading texts with Creature with an Atom Brain‘s tour manager, but the pass has to come from the AiC tour manager…anyway, she ended up coming out to wait with me until it finally arrived at 7:15p, so she could run me inside and backstage to the band’s dressing room to quickly do my interview. It was the tightest backstage security I’ve seen….my VIP pass was scrutinized and I had to be with someone with a laminate.
Anyway…put me in a dimly lit dressing room with a bunch of Belgian boys drinking beer and smoking cigarettes and I could have chatted with them for an hour…but I had a strict 10 minute limit since they had to be on stage at 8p. So I did my thing and you can read it here.
After being escorted back out, I wondered if I would be able to get a decent spot still. Surprisingly I could, even though the VIP meet & greet tickets have early entry, and the doors had been open for almost an hour. I wanted to be on the right side this time, where Cantrell spends most of his time. I ended up standing next to a guy who starting talking about seeing AiC at Lollapalooza, which led to talking about the first Lolla with Jane’s Addiction, which led to talking about NIN, where he happened to mention an airport story involving Reznor, and then of course I had to share mine.
CWTAB entered the stage under psychedelic red lighting. It’s kind of an odd feeling having just talked to them and then seeing them on stage…I guess I always think of musicians as not being real people. The Fox Theater is a great venue for this kind of music; the sound really filled the place and vibrated off the walls. It also matched the decor, especially after hearing about the Eastern influences- there are giant Buddhas on each side of the stage. Each musician in the band has their own unique energy: vocalist Aldo is pensive, dark, and brooding, Dave the drummer makes great faces as he plays with an almost bubbly enthusiasm, bassist Jan was the comic relief- clapping back at the audience after each song and then acting like he was going to kick over the drums at the end but instead fell down himself, and guitarist Michiel served as the fulcrum of the sound without being showy with his skills. They hinted at their affinity for playing 15 minute songs by stretching out the last 2 for a bit. I’d like to see them headline at a smaller venue…perhaps at SXSW.
My last AiC show at The Fillmore was amazing. It is also one of my most well received write-ups, generating a lot of emails from fellow fans. I poured my heart out regarding what the band means to me, and it was great to hear from so many others that felt the same.
A white curtain concealed the setup for AiC, as the shuffling of the pit crowd began. The heart from the cover of Black Gives Way to Blue was projected onto the curtain. As the band was about to take the stage, the heart started beating. Bu-bump…bu-bump….very slowly. Mine was racing.
‘All Secrets Known’ begins, and the shadow of Jerry Cantrell appears as a giant behind the curtain. William DuVall’s quickly joined him. It’s an awesome effect- one that I’ve seen once before with Marilyn Manson. The song plays for almost a minute, building anticipation even more, before the curtain drops. And there they are.
It’s funny to think that last time I saw them was a little over a week ago as they walked by me on the red carpet at the GRAMMYs. While that was interesting, nothing beats the way I feel when I see Cantrell on stage holding a guitar. The way he plays moves me beyond words….well, there are a few I can convey. He’s one of the last of his kind….there’s mystique there. There’s a grace in the way he moves- and he moves around that entire stage. He somehow manages to seem like a rock star and a normal person who lives on a ranch in Oklahoma.
Cantrell started out in the middle. Even from the The Fillmore set, which was only six months ago, I can see that he’s been made more of a front man. DuVall even seemed to play more lead guitar this time around on some songs. It was interesting to see the shift in dynamic.
The set started out with a weird vibe for me, because there was a five year old girl on the rail with her parents near me. Yes, it was cute- she kept waving at the guys and they were smiling at her and Cantrell came over and gave her a pick. But I’ll be real honest here- AiC and family friendly do not go together for me. Quite the opposite, actually. Perhaps it’s because I’m going through some family drama this week, or because I’m jealous that my parents never took me to cool shows when I was a kid, or something….but it just made me feel weird. And then DuVall goes, ‘How the fuck are you?!?!’ and my first thought was ‘earmuffs!’
The set really began for me at ‘Them Bones’….the beginning of Dirt, the beginning of me. And the kid and family bailed around this time. Such a great song live.
‘Rain When I Die’ is a special song for me, and it was perfect. ‘Your Decision’ was really beautiful. ‘We Die Young’ into ‘Last of My Kind’ had a lot of subtext for me. But it was ‘Nutshell’ that made me fall apart. Chills….
That sent me to a dark, dark place that was somehow familiar and oddly comforting at the same time.
We chase misprinted lies
We face the path of time
And yet I fight
And yet I fight
This battle all alone
No one to cry to
No place to call home
My gift of self is raped
My privacy is raked
And yet I find
And yet I find
Repeating in my head
If I can’t be my own
I’d feel better dead
Luckily, the mood was lightened immediately after when something happened- I was a bit distracted but I think it was Cantrell’s fault- but I think a verse was missed and restarted in ‘Grind’. They were laughing about it.
It was cool to watch over the course of the set how the backdrop evolved. Curtains would drop and live projections of the band playing would show on them. I also liked how all but DuVall smoke cigarettes on stage- even Sean Kinney while playing drums (albeit on a lighter song). That is rock ‘n’ roll.
‘Acid Bubble’ is perhaps my favorite new song, and it just kills live. But the highlight for me would be the epic rendition they did of ‘Love, Hate, Love’. By this time I had been given a spot on the rail, and DuVall came right up and did a verse there, and Cantrell came over and did part of his solo there as well. That shit clawed at my soul. Why? Perhaps because right now, I’m going through a period of my life where there is only love or hate for me. The only middle ground is numbness. And those lyrics…
Lost inside my sick head
I live for you but I’m not alive
Take my hands before I kill
I still love you, I still burn
Usually, ‘Would’ and ‘Rooster’ would be highlights for me….but this song was my climax and after that I was done. The last two were just noise…beautiful noise…but noise.
I snagged two picks at the end of the set.
You know, I catch a lot of groupie/stalker shit for following bands around, but do you know how it feels to be able to do this three times? It’s like three therapy sessions for me. I only live once.
Stay tuned for part two on Saturday in LA.
All Secrets Known
It Ain’t Like That
Check My Brain
Dam That River
Rain When I Die
Got Me Wrong
We Die Young
Last of My Kind
Man in the Box
Love, Hate, Love