tue 11/08/2020

Alice in Chains, The Fillmore, Miami | reviews, news & interviews

Alice in Chains, The Fillmore, Miami

Alice in Chains, The Fillmore, Miami

Reformed grunge pioneers pack an unholy punch

Alice In Chains: Grunge Resurrection

Reformed rock bands may be ten-a-penny but no other return quite matches the resurrection of Alice In Chains. The first grunge band to break big with their 1990 debut album Facelift, Alice In Chains matched Nirvana both in their ability to marry heavy riffs with haunted melodies and a genuinely desperate sense of despair: on Facelift they sang "We Die Young" while 1992’s Dirt finds nearly every song mined with self loathing alongside odes to heroin. Unsurprising then - if still shocking - that vocalist Layne Staley and bassist Mike Starr both went to early graves.

Yet guitarist Jerry Cantrell, always the main songwriter and epicentre of the band’s sound, re-launched Alice in 2009 with William DuVall on vocals, scoring with the Black Gives Way To Blue album (over a million units sold, 2 US No 1 hits). Four years on they are back with The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, as abrasive an album as you will hear this year. The title track is an attack on religious bigots and is likely to put the band directly on a collision course with American evangelicals. Not that Alice In Chains have ever shied from singing bluntly.

The Alice sound involves huge, swinging bass lines, tribal drums and walls of distorted, wah-wah guitar

Kicking off the Dinosaurs tour in sunny Miami might seem a paradox for a band so wrapped in Seattle gloom. None of the 3000-strong audience – men and women clad in a uniform of black T-shirts – appeared to consider this, erupting with joy as the quartet took the stage and launched into "Them Bones". The Alice sound involves huge, swinging bass lines, tribal drums and walls of distorted, wah-wah guitar over which DuVall sings in an expressive tenor. Cantrell’s not just a riff monster but a man smart enough to realise that Alice Mk 2 must not be a mere tribute band and in casting DuVall – an African-American – and bassist Mike Inez – Pilipino American – he has a band who never mimic ghosts.

That said, the Alice sound remains rooted in metal and hardcore: tonight both epic early ‘90s anthems - "Damn That River", "Rain When I Die", "Man In A Box" – and newer tunes – "Check My Brain", "Hollow", "Stone" – come loaded with sonic assault, the band’s bulldozer riffs jabbing the Florida fans into a zombie dance (head and shoulders twitching while lower torso remains rigid). Slower, semi-acoustic numbers – "Your Decision", "Down In A Hole, Would" – demonstrate Cantrell’s gift for melody and allow he and DuVall to engage in eerie harmonising, the Everly Brothers from hell.

Dirt, my favourite rock album of recent decades, remains the centrepiece of their live show. DuVall’s vocals lack Staley’s beautifully awful anguish but this is something to be thankful for: Alice In Chains may still sing bleak songs but no longer have to suffer for their art. Final encore is "Rooster", Cantrell’s sharply observed portrait of his father as a GI in Vietnam who finds “they spit on me in my homeland”. As an anti-war song it is both highly charged and personal and as Miami sang along images of carnage, confrontation and a possessed-looking Margaret Thatcher flashed across screens. Black Sabbath and Soundgarden may both have recently reformed but when it comes to a heavy band who compel attention only Alice counts.

Alice In Chains may still sing bleak songs but no longer have to suffer for their art

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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I was at this concert, I loved seeing them live. Really great show and the everyone in the crowd sang along to every song.

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