One of the toughest acts to pull off in rock ‘n’ roll is replacing an iconic, charismatic lead singer.
After Alice in Chains frontman Layne Staley died of a drug overdose in 2002, the band’s future was in serious doubt.
Now, nearly eight years after Staley’s death, singer-guitarist William DuVall of the band Comes With the Fall, has effectively made Alice in Chains whole again. Though Staley could never be replaced, DuVall — who joined the band a few years ago — is a worthy and talented successor.
“Every time we’ve played here, you’ve really made me feel welcome,” DuVall told the capacity crowd near the end of the second show Friday night (Feb. 5) at the Paramount Theatre.
The band’s two-night stand Thursday and Friday (Feb. 4-5) at the Paramount was cause for celebration among longtime fans who’ve embraced the group’s comeback with DuVall and singer-guitarist Jerry Cantrell at the helm. And the band’s current, Grammy-nominated album, “Black Gives Way to Blue,” has been greeted with whole-hearted enthusiasm.
At Friday night’s show, exuberant fans whooped it up long before the band hit the stage at 9 p.m., waiting in long lines for adult beverages (a concertgoer in the lobby sported a T-shirt that read, “The Liver is Evil — It Must Be Punished”). And believe me, there was a lot of punishing going on. It was like a warmup for the Superbowl.
Opening the concert was Creature With the Atom Brain — a Belgian alternative-rock band that got its name from the Roky Erickson & the Aliens song (which took its name from the 1950s sci-fi movie “Creature With the Atom Brain”).
The group’s first full album, “I Am the Golden Gate Bridge,” featured Mark Lanegan of the Screaming Trees, Queens of the Stone Age and The Gutter Twins. Creature with the Atom Brain is led by singer, guitarist and keyboardist Aldo Struyf of Millionaire. I was disappointed I couldn’t get to the concert in time to see the band’s set. (If a reader would like to comment on the band’s set, please do so in the “comments” section below.)
Alice in Chains — DuVall, Cantrell, drummer Sean Kinney and bassist Mike Inez — kicked off its set at 9 p.m. with a taut, intense “All Secrets Known,” just as the band had done on Thursday night. (The Alex Crick photos posted with this review were taken Thursday.)
Band members were in great spirits, playing enthusiastically and ferociously. Guitarist Cantrell was killer on such songs as “Damn That River,” “Them Bones” and “Rain When I Die.” Singer DuVall sent chills with his powerful vocals, especially when harmonizing with Cantrell (though on “Down in a Hole” it was difficult not to wish for Staley’s version). And bassist Inez and drummer Kinney provided thunderous backup.
Concertgoers sang along to “Rain When I Die,” as well as “Your Decision” and “No Excuses.” Throughout the nearly two-hour set, fans pumped fists and made devil horns. Some whirled about in the few open spaces on the main floor, looking positively deranged with glee. Such classics as “We Die Young” and “Man in a Box” caused explosions in the crowd.
The stage produciton included bright spot lights that illuminated individual band members and an interesting wraparound rear curtain on which a constantly changing array of images were projected in a kind of Cinerama effect.
The concert came to a close with two of the most powerful songs in the AIC arsenal — “Would?” and “Rooster” — and the band left the stage looking satisfied and triumphant.
The Paramount shows were the biggest AIC events since a surprise show last summer at the Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame. The band also played last September at the Moore Theatre. Read a review here.
What did you think of Friday’s concert? You can post comments below.
For a batch of stories on Staley’s death, visit the Seattle Post-Intelligencer archives.
And for a link to the Alice in Chains Web site click here.
The set list from Friday’s show:
All Secrets Known
It Ain’t Like That
Check My Brain
Dam That River
Rain When I Die
Love, Hate, Love
A Looking In View
We Die Young
Man in the Box
Here’s a video of “Man in the Box” featuring Staley: