“It’s not the same.”
“Layne’s gone. It won’t be as good.”
“I don’t want to see Alice in Chains with some new guy singing.”
These are actual statements spoken to me prior to attending the AIC show in Richmond, VA last week. Look, I loved Layne Staley too. I still do. I think he had one of the best voices in music and the albums he created with Jerry Cantrell along with the rest of AIC were some of the greatest in the past 25+ years. Nevertheless, the fact remains that he is gone. Alice in Chains made the decision as a band to carry on and we as fans should too.
I kept all of this in minds as Cantrell & Co hit the stage and revved it to the red line to a capacity crowd at the Altria Theatre. Kicking off their second leg of the current US tour, the show started with “Hollow”, a cut from one of their newest albums. Alice barely allowed the crowd to catch a collective breath before DuVall screamed out a quite Staley-esque opening to “Them Bones”. Blinded by alternating white and red stage lights, the crowd exploded as the band shredded through the tune and followed up with “Rain When I Die”.
As much as I wish that Layne were still here to sing it, DuVall did more than an admirable job, exuding much of the same raw emotion as is in the original. DuVall’s vocal prowess only proved stronger throughout the show as he easily handled the wide vocal ranges of “Man in the Box” and “Down in a Hole”. Song after song, Cantrell and DuVall nailed the signature Alice in Chains sound with flawless harmonies. It was so perfect in fact, that it was a bit eerie how they so easily blended their vocals to almost conjure Staley. This did make the show somewhat bittersweet as I (and I am sure the rest of the crowd) could not help but feel a bit sentimental. Cantrell (who kind of resembles “the Dude” these days), as always, was note perfect as he impeccably led the band through the remainder of a mixed bag set featuring classics and new tracks before ending with “Junkhead”. The crowd would not be silenced and roared until AIC was coaxed back on stage for a few more.
The encore began with “Rooster” which is admittedly not my favorite song (same with “Man in the Box”). However, something about the live versions of both of these changes the game and allows me a new appreciation. In addition, Duvall’s vocal chops are on display and this is where he shines brightest. Next, much to the audience delight, Jerry said, “We have couple more for you if that’s ok”. Uh, yeah it was and “No Excuses” began. One more left and after Duvall said as much the all too familiar base line rattled the theater’s foundation. This same baseline played from my older brother’s stereo so many times. The same base line which vibrated the windows of our home back in 1992. The one we were all waiting for. Decibel breaking screams came from the audience as AIC capped off the night with their best and possible most beloved track, “Would?” Again, the vocals between Cantrell and Duvall were flawless, as the latter had no trouble tackling the throat busting vocal range. Singing along was practically exhausting and by the time it was over the audience filed out, ears ringing and gratified.
Point blank, if your reasoning for NOT seeing Alice in Chains is because they have a different singer, you are only hurting yourself. Are they missing a key player to their legacy? Of course. Staley will never be forgotten but the “new guy” more than holds down the job. Go see it for yourself.
Until next show…..W
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