September 8, 2015 Alice in Chains Rattle The Grand Theater At Foxwoods Mashantucket, CT 8-14-15
Something was creeping up from the underground music scene in Seattle, Washington during the early ’90s. Plaid shirts and a musical movement known as Grunge was leaving the ’80s hair bands, along with their eyeliner and Aquanet hairspray, in the dust. Alice in Chains led the charge, with fellow Seattle natives Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden hot on their heels. Formed in 1987 by Guitarist Jerry Cantrell and Vocalist Layne Staley, along with Drummer Sean Kinney and Bassist Mike Starr, Alice in Chains set out to conquer the world, releasing their first album, Facelift, three years later. Things really kicked off for them when the single “Man In the Box” started getting airplay, hitting #18 on mainstream Rock charts and garnering the band a Grammy nomination, lifting Facelift to Gold status. Unfortunately, Staley’s drug problems put a tremendous damper on the band, and after only two more albums – 1992’s Dirt and 1995’s self-titled album- they went into an official hiatus as Staley spiraled deeper and deeper into addiction.
As fans know, in April of 2002, Staley was found dead in his condominium of a heroin overdose. It was a hard hit for the band, and no one knew if they would ever move on without Staley. In 2006, the remaining members performed at VH1’s Decades Rock Live concert with various performers filling in the spot of lead vocals, including Atlanta, Georgia’s Comes with the Fall vocalist William Duvall. Shortly after, Duvall officially joined Alice in Chains and has been a fixture for almost a decade now, a part of the band’s comeback record Black Gives Way to Blue in 2009, and 2013’s The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here. Welcomed with open arms into the band, Duvall is joined by Cantrell, Kinney, and Mike Inez on bass.
Taking a break from touring after heavily grinding away through 2013 and 2014, Alice in Chains returned in the Summer of 2015 for a nineteen show tour that began on July 17 at the Starlight Theater at the Pala Casino Spa & Resort, just North of San Diego, California, ended in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on August 16th at Musikfest, and with only a few days left, came to Foxwood Resort & Casino Grand Theatre in Mashantucket, CT on Friday, August 14th, for a special night no one would forget.
As people flooded the venue for this sold out show, they noticed only three microphone stands and a single drum set on the stage as the band stuck to their “less is more” rule. The anticipation in the house was at a feverous pitch and as the lights dimmed. The crowd went ballistic as four silhouettes hit the stage and the boys of Alice in Chains launched right into “Junkhead” from 1992’s Dirt. Impassioned in his delivery, Duvall tore through the lyrics as if he had written them himself. Moving along, they ripped into “Check My Brain” and “Again,” one could tell that this was going to be a show for the ages with each member on point and sounding cohesively tight as a unit. Kicking it up a notch, they went into their megahit, the aforementioned, “Man in the Box.” The crowd had fists in the air, singing every word, and the cut still remains to be one of the anthems of the ’90s and beyond of Hard Rock crossing boundaries to even satisfy hardcore metalheads.
Wasting little time in between the music, Cantrell quickly introduced his bandmates before leading into “Voices” from The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here. Taking everyone back in time again, and slowing it down a bit, Duvall, along with Cantrell, took center-stage, playing the beginning of “Nutshell.” Overwhelmed by the crowd reaction, Duvall stepped away from the microphone to let the crowd sing, “If I can’t be my own. I’d feel better dead.” An emotional moment for everyone in attendance, there is no doubt thoughts of the late Staley ran through the audience, as well as band’s minds.
Keeping the audience enthralled, Alice in Chains knew how to lay down the low end, and as they kicked into “Hollow,” they dropped the tuning to a point of vibrating the audience’s bones, all the while psychedelic images projected on the screen behind them before another new song, “Stone,” followed. Combining the music with visuals, projected on the screen were clips of the war as Cantrell strummed the opening chords to “Rooster,” which was written about his dad. Another favorite from the back catalog of the band, the crowd knew every word and made it known as they sang along. Reaching back to their beginnings, “Got Me Wrong” kept the crowd singing along as the band transitioned into 2009’s “Last of My Kind.”
At the halfway point of the set, Inez’ bass thumped and “Grind” pulsated like a droning, grinding heartbeat. Thereafter, “Down In a Hole” got the crowd singing again, followed by the low key of “Your Decision.” Allowing each member a chance to shine, Kinney laid down a solid beat behind the drums as he kicked out the opening intro of “No Excuses” where many continued to sing the words. Conversing with the audience, Duvall expressed his feelings to the audience, stating how the band had a chance to meet a young Meriden, Connecticut boy named Stefan Dayne-Ankle, who had recently lost his battle with leukemia the previous March. A sad truth about cancer related diseases, Duvall dedicated the set to people who were taken away way too young before Inez laid into the opening bass line of “Would?”
Winding down the intense show was the powerful “We Die Young” and “Them Bones” followed by the night ending with “Dam That River.” Igniting a thunderous applause, the whole band took to the front of the stage to slap and shake hands with the front row. Moved by the moment, all four members stepped up on the drum riser with their backs to the crowd while a roadie took a cell phone picture to lock in the memory of the night forever. Nineteen songs in total, Alice in Chains did not return for an encore and just like their no frills stage setup, they believe in keeping the audience yearning for more.
After over twenty-eight years of music and the highs and lows that rival most any other Rock band, Alice in Chains is still going strong. Most of the heavy hitters from the early Grunge movement have either closed up shop or broken down and been absorbed into other bands. Whether one is a fan of Grunge music or not, the opening chords of Alice in Chains’ “Rooster” or the pleading lyrics from “Man in the Box” will always strike a chord into anyone listening to music in the mid ‘90s or beyond. Fans should keep their eyes and ears peeled for news on their rumored, upcoming album; one that is sure to bring a whole new round of bass-heavy, brooding guitar grinds and thought-provoking lyrics for music lovers to sink their teeth into.