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Alice In Chains Live!

| May 24, 2006 | 6 Comments

Alice In Chains
Metro, Chicago
Sunday, May 21, 2006

How to get around the Layne Staley comparisons when summing up William Duvall’s Chicago debut as Alice In Chains’ singer? It’s nearly impossible to stay away from the ridiculous argument, or steer clear of an “Are frontmen replaceable in general?” thesis. Duvall is no Staley. But then, on Sunday, he didn’t really try to be.

He certainly wasn’t picked to lead AIC v.2 on his looks: Duvall is black. While it stunned the crammed Metro at first in a Blazing Saddles way — “Are we awake?” “That depends. Are we black?” “We are.” “Then we’re awake, but we’re very confused” — it failed to make a difference once it was revealed Duvall would be mimicking Staley’s vocal nuances adequately, much to the audience’s satisfaction. His impression ended there however, and he sagely omitted over-the-top antics or treating the lyrics as if he had written them. He was a bookmark, or rather an awkward seat warmer for someone everyone knows won’t be returning to the table.

With Duvall tentatively leading, guitarist Jerry Cantrell, bassist Mike Inez, and drummer Sean Kinney were fairly apologetic as they hacked their way through a 75-minute set, feeding evenly on Alice In Chains’ four studio albums. “Rain When I Die” and “Man In The Box” were particularly rough going, though Cantrell’s pledge at the hour mark, “I personally promise we’ll be better next time,” was excessively contrite.

AIC were never, for lack of a better term, “clinical” in their approach, and if there were mistakes made during opener “Sludge Factory,” “Love Hate Love,” and “Godsmack,” they didn’t matter. Surprises were kept at a minimum — nothing from either EP or the two brilliant Last Action Hero tracks — and the reluctance to let Duvall display any personality or rearrange a tune around his talent was disappointing (it’d be nice to see some, y’know, growth). Cantrell’s solos were note-for-note reproductions, while “Down In A Hole” and “Rooster” suffered from stiffness. Staley was never verbally mentioned (artwork on Kinney’s kick drum seemed to resemble him), which could be interpreted as a slight, though “Would?” carried with it some irony, as it was written about a prior heroin casualty: Mother Love Bone singer Andy Wood.

Shortly after “Dam That River,” Duvall announced this show was part of a warm-up trek prior to a European tour and then a return to the States. They’re calling it the “Finish What We Started” tour. As it happens, Sunday provided little closure.

— Steve Forstneger

Category: Live Reviews, Weekly

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  1. FLowFeel says:

    Duvall is no Staley but he is a damn amazing guitarist. I have seen him w/ Cantrell and his band Comes W/the Fall and he is a sick ax man!

  2. denver says:

    Duvall ok vocalist. No Layne Stayley. I flew from Colorado to Chicago to see this show. My favorite band ever. Im dissapointed i wish the band would leave outsiders out where they belong. If only someone else agreed

  3. Paul says:

    I drove in from Traverse City, Michigan for the show $$$$$$(after having waited for over 10 years to see AIC.) I saw AIC arrive well before it started. You’d think a sound check would’ve cured many of the technical and/or other difficulties that reared their ugly head.

    As for DuVall, I feel he made too light of his role. I wasn’t there for a half-hearted sing-along of the only band that has been continuously in my play roation from the time I first heard it on Pirate Radio. DuVall made it obvious just how big Staley’s shoes were. How about approaching it with just a little seriousness DuVall (and not like you own the material?)I also thought it was odd how DuVall persisted at getting into Jerry Cantrell’s face finally to give up only after not having obtained a response let alone the one he was apparently after. It seemed to irritate Cantrell as much as it did me. I’m going to stick my neck out. DuVall doesn’t have the stage presence for AIC (Staley’s legacy at this will never die and AIC can’t negotiate/compromise when it comes to the same.) [An album with DuVall???] The chemistry is not there.

    Otherwise, I appreciated the obvious desire Cantrell has for perfection(AIC and his solo material)let alone the opportunity to view it in action three deep from the stage. I’d do it all over again just for the same.

    I’m glad I got this off my chest!

  4. Glenn says:

    I was the 3rd person in line outside. I stood there for 9 hours freezing my ass off. I saw the band arrive around 2 and screamed hello at Mike. He responded positive back which kept me pumped. Jerry pulled up later in a black Ford pickup with pokadot seats. The doors finally opened and it only took a minute for the place to become overpacked. I was front row just to the left of Jerry. The drumkick was a picture of Layne with outstretched arms in an angel like setting. Also ontop of Mikes amp was a picture with a candel lit in front of it, I can’t say for sure but i imagine it was a picture of Layne as well. The show was a bit short and the vocal range of William was not that great from wher i was. Jerry smashing his guitar into his stack of marshals was amazing. If you’re wondering why he was so pissed it was because his guitar tech actually cut into his live channel during rooster and caused a poping sound which from his reaction Jerry heard loud and clear. I caught 2 Jerry picks 1 of which I gave to a fan beside me and Sean actually handed me 1 of his drumsticks. I waited 3 hours after the show to meet the guys but the only one that ever came out was Jerry right after the show and he left immediatley in the same black Ford pickup. The show could have been better but I was pleased. I am not old enough to have had the great pleasure of seeing the real AIC so for all you old fogies out there, cherish the memories!

  5. Jason says:

    I wanted to chime in on for the dude who didn’t see them in the hey day. All’s I gotta say is “unbelievable”. I’d seen them on “Dirt” tour at Metro from like 2nd row as Layne nodded and screamed from his squatting position most of the night while Jerry ran around funking gooped up on gop just blazing on his guitar. It was one of the absolute best shows ever. A few years later down in SIU I went to St. Louis on a rock n roll bus to go see AIC open up for the hottest band in the world KISS. Funking incredible, both of ’em. TOok Layne about 12 minutes to go from the center stage to the side to get a guitar he was zoned on zaniness.
    I’ve seen a lot of killer bands in their prime, Rollins Band, Rage, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Tool, JSBX, but AIC was really a beautiful but dark offering to music fans everywhere. Rock on!

  6. Pablo says:

    Duvall is not Layne, he can’t just replace him. When he sang, the songs lacked of something only Layne could gave them.

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