All I’d been thinking about since Bonfire Night was seeing Alice In Chains live in London. They’re the grunge band for metallers. They’re the band with some of the most tortured lyrics in the history of rock n’ roll. Even without Layne Staley’s genius, they are Alice In Chains. This is one of my favourite bands of all time. I could not wait.
My temporary obsession got to the extent that the other day, whilst brushing my teeth, a sub-headline on the cover of the Robbie Williams-adorned November issue of GQ caught my eye. I thought it said “How did Elton get so cool?”. It actually said “Eton” not “Elton” but having tinkled the ivories on Staley’s tribute song – the title track to the new album – he was firmly part of my AIC mindset. And yes, he’d instantly become cooler to me.
Having seen their triumphant 2006 return at Download Festival and the still-sadly-missed London Astoria as well as at this year’s Sonisphere Festival, this will be the fourth time I’ll have seen AIC with William DuVall singing. For some reason, however, it doesn’t quite seem to fit together tonight.
As the anticipation finally turns into realisation, the Seattle quartet bowl onstage and fly straight into ‘Them Bones’. It just does not get any better than this! Right? WRONG! Next they play ‘Dam That River’ and ‘Rain When I Die’ to the sound of 2000 men and women creaming themselves. We challenge you to finding a stronger opening gambit than those three songs. WE DARE YOU.
Needless to say, the mood was set somewhat. After three of the finest songs ever written to a couple of new ones. There was a distinct change in mood as the bending kerpow of ‘Check My Brain’ and the ultra-mellow ‘Your Decision’ were played. Obviously, these are the first songs that DuVall has had a chance to put his mark on but all songs are written by Cantrell anyway so it’s not like they’d ever be a departure musically.
Lyrically, however, there’s something missing. All those tortured lines referencing death, suicide, and all the very, very depressing shit that leads up to either of those things just don’t have the same impact when coming out of the mouth of a chap who is quite clearly alive, kicking and occasionally clapping along. It’s the only con to this magnificently pro gig though, and while it’s best not to dwell on it, it is a big minus point.
Watch the video to ‘Them Bones’ by Alice In Chains
Sadly, Elton was not at the cruelly monikered HMV Forum to play piano on the amazingly touching and poignant ‘Black Gives Way To Blue’, but with Jerry Cantrell leading the line, it was as moving as any other moment in 2009.
Like much of the crowd, I’m slightly hoarse today because I just did not stop singing tonight. If I’m to do it down and call it slighty karaoke-ish, it must be with the caveat of being the finest sing-along in recent history because regardless of any slight qualms about how convincing DuVall’s sentiment is, tonight was one of the finest shows of 2009. There is no doubt about that.
Make sure you go see Alice In Chains at London Brixton Academy on Monday, 07 December 2009. I’ll be there because it’ll be bloody brilliant. < - That should make the PR and promoter happy now.
Alice In Chains @ London Kentish Town HMV Forum setlist
Dam That River
Rain When I Die
Check My Brain
We Die Young
Last of My Kind
It Ain’t Like That
Heaven Beside You
Got Me Wrong
Black Gives Way To Blue
Man in the Box