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Concert Reviews:
Alice In Chains Potent, Not Pretty, At St. Andrews

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Friday, September 18, 2009

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DETROIT -- About halfway through Alice in Chains' concert Thursday night (Sept. 17) at St. Andrew's Hall, after a fierce rendition of "We Die Young," guitarist Jerry Cantrell commented that, "Yeah, rock 'n' roll's not always...pretty, man."

But in the Seattle-formed quartet's hands, even the ugly sounds pretty good.

The group's music has always had one foot, and usually both, in the realm of angst and suffering thanks to late frontman Layne Staley's emotionally wrenching lyrics and Cantrell's doomy, down-tuned chordings. But the visceral, cathartic quality that comes with it has always translated live when AiC hits the stage -- and still does with new member William DuVall, who smartly sported an MC5 T-shirt in front of the packed house of Motor City partisans, and material from "Black Gives Way to Blue," the first new AiC album in 14 years, which comes out on Sept. 29.

After playing a brief opening set for Kid Rock in July at Comerica Park, AiC was able to be more expansive at St. Andrew's, rocking through a 95-minute set that was as hot as the temperature on stage -- so stifling the group needed to cut one of its planned encores, "No Excuses," from the setlist. AiC served up plenty of other favorites, though, including "Them Bones," "Angry Chair," "Man in the Box," "Would?" and the show-closing "Rooster," but it also dug deep into its catalog for less-celebrated material such as "Nutshell," "Love Hate Love," "Sludge Factory" and "It Ain't Like That."

"Black Gives Way to Blue" got its airing, too, via the singles "Check My Brain" and "A Looking In View" as well as the tempo-shifting epic "Acid Bubble." The new material, in fact, fits in so smoothly with the old that it's it's hard to believe this is NOT the exact same band that recorded 1995's "Alice in Chains."

But Thursday's show -- like the others the group has performed in these parts since reactivating 2006 -- served to remind us that AiC is a band with a formidable past and a potent present. It may not be pretty, but we don't need it to be, either.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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