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Alice In Chains: Band in a Box?

Alice in Chains, the grungiest of the Big 4 Grunge Bands, had somehow slipped through the cracks of my concert going experience. Until last night, when I finally had the opportunity to see them live at the Paramount here in Denver!



Sean, Mike, Jerry, and William just chillin’


When my good friend and concert buddy (hi CB!) suggested the show, I was interested but not sure how it would go with singer William DuVall, the late Layne Staley‘s replacement. On the two records with him, DuVall has shown an amazing ability to replicate Layne’s very identifiable vocal style. And in concert he admirably did the same. More interesting were the moments when he didn’t sound quite like Layne–leaving me to wonder what he would sound like without what one assumes are his marching orders.

Which brings us to the challenge of a band replacing a late (or former) singer with a vocal doppelgänger. While the two albums with DuVall are solid records and are identifiably Alice In Chains thanks to his vocals, the albums take few chances. Staying safely in the AIC Zone is not necessarily a bad idea. It assures you keep your audience, the industry knows how to market you, you maintain (hopefully) a comfortable portion of your level of success.

But what does this mean for their creative inspiration? Are they happy creating from an established palette or has it/will it eventually be too constraining? Are they at the point in their career, 26 years+ in, that comfortable is the way to go? What does it mean for William’s personal creative happiness? I can’t help but think of Rockstar and Mark Wahlburg’s character being denied the opportunity to contribute or take the band in different directions. Only time will tell, but in the interim, I wish them continued happiness and success. 🙂

How was the concert itself, you ask? Excellent, if a bit low key (the audience however was full of activity). William’s vocals were amazing and I was pleasantly surprised by his guitar skills. Jerry Cantrell’s own guitar playing was flawless–his fans spent quite a bit of time yelling out his name in appreciation. It was great to see Mike Inez again for the first time since Ozzy‘s 1992 No More Tours Tour and Sean was, as always, a master at keeping the beat going (plus I hadn’t realized how tall he was–always a bonus for this tall girl!). I would have liked a bit more energy and stage presence from the band on the whole, but all in all, a great show.

A few songs to leave you with:

My favorite of theirs, from the Singles soundtrack (and later their 1992 album Dirt):

This is the song that sold me on them, from Facelift:

And one with William, for comparison, from Black Gives Way To Blue:

Ok, and one more with William (though Jerry is doing the bulk of the singing), because it is set in Seattle. From the awesomely titled The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here:

Like what you heard? Damn straight you did, it’s Alice In Chains. 😀  Check them out on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and other fine retailers and streaming sites. Remember to enjoy music responsibly and feed the artists!