There are few bands I will drive four hours to see live. In the past I have made the sacrifice for Metallica and 36 Crayfists. But having heard that Alice in Chains, one of my favorite rock bands of all time, and arguably one of the best rock bands of the 90s, was performing in Boise, there was never even a question of whether or not I would be there.
After all, this tour marks a lot of firsts for the band, including their first tour in more than 10 years, so it is one not to be missed. The band released Black Gives Way to Blue, their first studio album in 14 years, in September 2009. Vocalist and guitar player William Duvall was chosen as the replacement for original co-vocalist Layne Staley, who passed away in 2002.
I was anxious to see how Duvall would be received by long time fans of the band, and how a band with seven Grammy nominations sounded live. It did not take long for my questions to be answered, because when the lights when out and guitar and vocalist Jerry Cantrell began playing the haunting riff of “All Secrets Known,” the first track from the new album, the roar of the crowd was proof enough that they were back.
The band followed with “It Ain’t Like That,” from Facelift, the band’s first album, and then performed “Again,” from the band’s self titled album, and the last one with Layne. Alice in Chains performed for nearly two hours, treating fans to the classic tunes “Them Bones,” “Man in the Box,” “Got Me Wrong” and “No Excuses,” and new songs “Check My Brain,” “A Looking in View” and “Last of My Kind.” Throughout the show, it was clear that despite being away from the road for so long, they still love what they do.
Bass player Mike Inez exchanged casual but heartfelt smiles with Cantrell, and every so often Cantrell would stand on a platform at the edge of stage to perform a guitar solo, closing his eyes and smiling as if in a trance. Alice in Chains left the stage after about an hour and a half, but veteran concert goers knew they would be back. And, after a few tense moments the four piece came back and performed the classic hits “Rooster” and “Would?”
The best part of the show, besides the music of course, was the crowd. Not violent, but intense, they sang the words to every song, sometimes being heard over the voices of Cantrell and Duvall. Two fans in front of me held a sign that read “Welcome to Idaho” on one side and “Fly over us Layne” on the other. I was surprised that the band did not do any sort of tribute to Layne. Perhaps they figured reuniting and touring were tribute enough, or perhaps, knowing him better than any of us ever could, they knew he would have wanted them and us to move on.
Either way, I think most fans would agree that it is almost as if they were never on hiatus. They sounded great, and it was clear that they were having a blast. I was fortunate enough to be able to meet the band after the show, and when I told bass guitar player Mike Inez how much I had enjoyed the show he replied, “My pleasure, thanks for coming out, we love what we do."