AIC – They still got it

A few days ago I saw Alice in Chains in concert, and I have to say I was impressed.  If you’re a fan of the band, or if you were a fan many years ago when Layne Staley was still around, check them out if you ever get the chance.  You won’t be disappointed.  Jerry Cantrell, Mike Inez, and Sean Kinney have not lost their touch, and it’s scary how much William DuVall sounds like Layne.  I already knew he sounded a lot like Layne from the new material that has been playing on the radio, but to see and hear it live was still really weird.  First I’m thinking, “Who’s the tall, skinny, black dude with the afro?”  Then he starts singing, and I’m thinking, “Holy shit!  Layne Staley has been reincarnated as a tall, skinny, black dude with an afro!”  Weirdest thing ever, but it was awesome.

The show took place in the Fox Theater in Oakland.  I’d never been there before.  I generally try to avoid Oakland for obvious reasons.  But the Fox Theater is a very cool venue.  Even Cantrell felt the need to say so during the show.  That’s one of the things I’ve enjoyed about living in the Bay Area for the last year and a half.  There are some awesome concert venues out here.

They played a good mix of old stuff and new stuff, and their style hasn’t really changed since they made “Black Gives Way to Blue.”  There were times when I was wondering, “Is this a new song, or is it just an old song I don’t remember?”  It was hard to tell at times, and I don’t consider that a bad thing.  It’s a style that works for them, and as the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  I was also impressed by the sound quality during the show.  I don’t know if that’s just because the Fox theater has really good acoustics or if AIC actually has sound techs that know what the fuck they’re doing, which is far rarer than it should be nowadays.  Way too many people seem to have this turn-it-up-all-the-way mentality, and it often results in a big, steaming pile of distorted bass covering up everything else.  At this show I could hear everything clearly, and while it was loud (and I do like my music loud), it wasn’t too loud.  For once, I actually remembered to bring earplugs to this show, and I didn’t even need them.  Figures.  They also had some screens set up on stage that displayed some pretty cool, trippy visual effects.  I imagine people would really enjoy this show while stoned.  At least the stoners that were at the show seemed to be enjoying it.  One of the funnier moments occurred when one of them tried singing along.  I’m sure they thought they were singing quite well, but typically singing requires “notes” and “words.”

Really the only problem I had with the show was the small cameras they had set up on the band members’ microphones.  Every once in a while they would fade in some live shots of the band members onto the screens, which isn’t necessarily a bad idea.  But these cameras had some serious lag.  It was especially obvious during one song when they showed (drummer) Kinney’s camera, and everything on the screen was a half-beat behind.  They only used this during a couple of songs, so it didn’t really impact the show at all.  But it did look a bit second-rate.  If they can’t get the cameras to work right, they really shouldn’t bother doing it at all.  The show would’ve been fine without them.

That’s about all I have to say.  There’s a tour schedule on aliceinchains.com.  If you have a chance, check them out.  And while you’re at it, give “Black Gives Way to Blue” a listen.  It ain’t half bad.

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