Tuesday, March 9, 2010


To be honest, I wasn't sure I wanted to see a band called "Alice In Chains" in 2010. There's no easy way around the fact that replacing original singer, the late Layne Staley, is an impossible task. It's not that Layne was the leader (that would be Jerry Cantrell), but was obviously a really important element of the band. In some bands, some members are irreplacable.

But.  A few years ago, I saw Jerry Cantrell on a solo tour, and William DuVall was playing rhythm guitar in his band, and also singing. When they did Alice songs, it was pretty mind blowing how good it sounded. I remember thinking, wow, Jerry and William sound a lot like Jerry and Layne. The fans loved it and so did Jerry.
Eventually, Jerry got Sean Kinney and Mike Inez back in the fold, and they did a bunch of "Alice In Chains" reunion shows. Then they did the album Black Gives Way To Blue, which is a great addition to their catalog (and better than the group's final effort, 1995's self-titled album). "Check My Brain" from the new album is as good as anything they've ever done.

Still, it was weird seeing a concert by the post-Layne Alice In Chains. William pulled off Layne's songs really well, and of course did a great job on the new ones. I think he is actually a better singer, and in some ways, an even better frontman than Layne. If *I* were in a band, I'd rather be in a band with William than Layne. But that's the problem in a way: William seems to be a stronger man, and a less tortured one. He sings slightly more muscular versions of the songs, and makes them his own, but the problem is that so many of those songs are about drug addiction and Layne's tortued soul was perfect for them.

But the band chemistry was great. William is a true member of the band.  Some songs, he just sings. Others he sings and plays guitar. On some he just plays guitar and Jerry even gave him some of the leads. Sometimes Jerry is at the center mic, but sometimes William is.  He's not a standin, he is a member, and that's a pretty incredible thing, given who he replaced in the band.

It was a great show, and made me optimistic (if such a word applies for Alice In Chains!) that the band have a real future, and I look forward to seeing how they progress. I bet the next album will be even better than Black Gives Way To Blue.

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