Sunday, October 10, 2010

Alice In Chains and Memories

Dear Mark

This past Friday it was a trip down memory lane as my friend Jamie and I went to the Alice In Chains concert. It was the Black Diamond Sky tour. Deftones and Mastodon. I had not seen Alice In Chains since the Lolapalooza III tour in 1993. I began thinking that I had seen Alice In Chains four times and it all occurred between January 1992 and that tour in 1993. As you know I really love Alice In Chains. I was very tired from a long work week and not much sleep. I thought of bailing but Lavi was wise when she said I'd regret that. She would have been right. I'm very glad I went.

My friend Jamie and I had some dinner before and then headed to Key Arena. Hard not to think of the Supersonics when you go there. High School football was playing at Memorial Stadium. I wished we had time to watch the bands play. I never appreciated them as much when in school, but sure get a kick out of them now.

Crowds were not bad. Being Males and with no bags we walked right in. If you brought a female date you had about a 20 minute wait in line to get through their security check. Opening acts were good. We missed Mastodon to my friend Jamie's dismay. Deftones I had not heard before. Good show, lots of energy, tremendously loud, but not too bad. During the break we noticed all the cameras and learned they were filming the concert in 3D.

Then the lights went out and AIC started...

I remember the first time I saw Alice In Chains. I had their first album by then. But they were not the band we had bought tickets for. They were opening for Van Halen. At the time no other band was more my favorite than Van Halen. I had not seen them in concert ever, missing previous 5150 and OU812 tours. I was stoked for the show. My friends and I (Jason, Tim) stayed up over night at Tower Records to get tickets first thing. The show was in the Tacoma Dome (terrible). We got our tickets and had to wait. When the show came around Sammy's voice had gone out and he had to cancel. Rescheduled for 3 months later. (I even have the cut out from the paper still)By the time we got to the show Alice In Chains was getting a lot of play on the radio with "man in the box." I was actually really stoked to see them open. For an arena show they sounded okay. I think this was one of the first shows where Layne (lead singer) had cut his dreadlocks off. He was pretty sedate and I remember thinking they lacked energy. I do remember the sound was good and I liked all the songs. It got me to listen to them more when I got home. Van Halen rocked it silly for me and I was all a tither.

The concert was awesome from the start. The new lead singer does a good job. He sounds good and the sound remains Alice In Chains. I prefer Layne of course, but I am glad that they found a front man who could carry on the sound of the band. Some will dismiss the band without Layne. That's fine, I get that. Nirvana would never survive without Kurt, but Alice in Chains is different. Jerry Cantrell and Sean Kinney are also driving the music. It wasn't all Layne. In fact, I think their last album before he died was mostly Cantrell, which I admit is why it is my least favorite one. I think Layne was in a bad way for that album.

I can't remember all the songs in order that they played. I know they kicked it off with Creep and I heard We Die Young, and No Excuses early on. They played from every album except SAP.

SAP was really the album that I got into them with. It is just a 4 song EP but I love everyone one (yes there is a silly 5th one on there, but it's not a song). During the summer of 92 I listened to that over and over. In fact, we heard Alice In Chains was coming out with a new album and doing a small warm up tour. They would be playing in the Yakima Civic Center that summer. Rod, Tim, Jason and I got tickets and headed out on a road trip. It was one of the best weekends I ever had with those 3. The concert was raw and amazing. They were on a stage that was literally 3 feet high and just pulsing with sound. I can't remember if Dirt was out by then. I don't think it was. So we heard a bunch of songs first live before the album, which we now couldn't wait for.

This picture is one of my absolute favorites. I get emotional just looking at it. Writing about it almost chokes me up. I love these guys and I miss Tim every day. I love this picture because it just captures how close we are/were and what a great weekend that was. I still have the shirt from the concert.



The sound was really good. They lyrics were clear and they kept playing songs that the crowd loved. Will does a good job of sounding a lot like Layne, which is good and bad. The songs of the new album were great live. Songs that I remember were Bleed the Freak, Them Bones, Rain When I Die, Down in a Hole and Angry Chair. Rooster was a huge hit with everyone.

Rooster reminded me of the 2 times we saw Alice In Chains in 1993. They had become a big band. We saw them at Mercer Arena and Lolapalooza. Both events were memorable. Screaming Trees opened for the first one and I'm a big fan still to this day. The Lolapalooza tour Primus headlined and all of us could care less, we came for AIC. They had changed for sure though. Still a silly band but just bigger. I think it was the first time I saw the hard life affects on Layne. He kept getting thinner and would just stand in one spot. Cantrell's guitar was just nuts but it all sounded tight. Tim, Jason, Rod and others with us for all of this. All 4 times I saw AIC they were there. I regret not getting Lavinia to come with us that year (it was the year we started dating). She never got to see Layne. I need to apologize for that.

The concert ticked along and every song was great. I really enjoyed seeing Will and Jerry mix it up on vocals. The encore was "Black Gives Way To Blue," "Love, Hate, Love," "Man in a Box" and finally ending with "Would." The crowd almost out sang them on the last two.

"Black Gives Way To Blue" is a great song. The lyrics are haunting ("no plans to take the path that takes them lower," and "tomorrow is haunted by your ghost"). The tribute to Layne is memorable and Elton John is playing piano. I was very glad that they played this personal song for the Seattle home crowd.

After the concert I found an interview with Jerry Cantrell. It's good and admittedly a tough read if you care deeply about the band. Reading about Layne and how he contributed and how Jerry and him relied on each other for their song writing was pretty amazing.

I'm always going to love this band and I'm glad they are continuing. They remind me of great times, provide lyrical examples of what a hard life can do to one, serve as a reminder that the addiction of dark things can have only one outcome if not checked and continue to make me rock out as if I was 21 again. For me they will probably be my Zepplin. If I could meet Jerry Cantrell I simply say "thanks" for all the great music and effort to keep it going.

Cheers
Jeff

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