Alice in Chains at the Sound Academy

New photos posted on Flickr.

Review written and published for AUX.

Former Alice in Chains singer and songwriter Layne Staley died in 2002. A few years later the band reformed with new member William DuVall, a black afro haired singer who befriended guitarist Jerry Cantrell earlier on in the decade. Last night, March 17, 2010, Alice in Chains, fronted by DuVall, who may not look or have the same vocal style as Staley, played at the Sound Academy in Toronto to a sold out audience.

Playing mostly new material from their latest album, Black Gives Way to Blue, released last year, Alice in Chains ripped up the stage and showed no remorse for people with glow sticks. Midway through their set, which also included older Alice songs such as “Them Bones,” “Down in a Hole,” “Angry Chair,” and “Man in the Box,” an audience member threw a glow stick onstage. Using the opportunity to catch their breath the band, consisting of other original member Sean Kinney on drums and bassist Mike Inez who replaced former bassist Mike Starr in 1993, went back to their metal influenced alternative rock tunes, a staple of the band since the early days. The performance of the track “Your Decision” featuring DuVall on acoustic guitar certainly gave the enthusiastic crowd some respite before launching into the hard rock favourite “We Die Young” off Facelift, the band’s first album after changing their name from Sleeze.

Ending the set with “Man in the Box” where for once the crowd’s vocals outsoared DuVall’s take on Staley, the band returned for a three song encore and played “No Excuses,” “Would” and “Rooster,” all songs off previous albums. The last song, written by Cantrell and said to be about his father who served in Vietnam, truly ended the night with both the band and crowd harmonizing on the intro and outro.

Despite losing Staley, Alice in Chains have done what so many other bands couldn’t do. They have put out a fresh batch of new tunes fans of old love containing the loud ‘90s rock aesthetic. The band has also attracted newcomers to the sound to explore the band’s current and past catalogue. In a way it’s refreshing to see older bands still playing hard rocking music without the use of electronic equipment. They reinforce the idea that songs from early ‘90s Seattle bands are timeless pieces of art made by those who struggled with no money and crappy weather. Hearing the songs live, even with DuVall instead of Staley, is a thrilling experience that any fan or appreciator of alternative rock and its roots should not overlook.

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