In the thick of it, the full-body effect really was like some kind of hypnosis. During the satisfying night-two performance from Alice In Chains in NYC’s Hammerstein Ballroom on Tuesday night, there were fleeting moments when it seemed like reality was merely knocking on the door of your consciousness – not unlike that sensation when you realize you’re dreaming and decide not to wake up yet. Reality was extremely easy to ignore as the venerated Seattle rockers produced an intensely rich and hard-hitting sound that engulfed you in its wake. The night’s fiery, hit-filled performance had their passionate fans headbanging with nostalgic grins, gripping nearby strangers by the shoulders, and pounding the floorboards with gratitude.
The crowd was jumping hard even before the headliners appeared, thanks to an electrifying performance from fellow Seattle rockers Walking Papers. Frontman Jeff Angell’s strong songwriting and vocal skills were front and center as he set the scenes to their searing songs, his uniquely rugged and sinuous voice resounding in the rush of their impacts. While contributions from the likes of Mike McCready, Duff McKagan, and Barrett Martin have added to Walking Papers’ fast-growing fan base, their potent music stands alone as a reason to be obsessed. And Walking Papers’ current lineup – with Benjamin Anderson on keys, Tristan Hart Pierce on guitar, Dan Spalding on bass, Will Andrews on drums, and Gregor Lothian on sax – deliver it with intoxicating synergy. “It’s nice to hear someone else be inspired by a song and take the lead,” Angell told us after the show. “The saxophone guy [Lothian], I’m a big fan of his and I just think people need to hear him play. I love the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen and all that, and saxophone has a place in rock and roll.” Its place in their set was integral, and the band concocted a killer sound on head-turners like “Hard to Look Away,” “Somebody Else” and the memorable “Red and White” from their new album, this year’s WP2.
The Alice In Chains fans who had queued around the block hours before the show to secure a good spot were soon happy they’d done so, because the show was an exciting one to witness up close. From the reactions of their most critical fans in the room, you could sense that the band was really hitting on all cylinders that night. There were constant bursts of applause for founding members guitarist/vocalist Jerry Cantrell and drummer/total animal Sean Kinney, as well as longtime bassist Mike Inez, none of whom could sneak into a solo without stirring up wild cheers and name-shouting. Even better were their irrepressible smiles whenever they noticed the loving response. The miraculous privilege of seeing these legends perform was not at all lost on the crowd; it’s deeply inspiring that a band could press onward after the heartbreaking death of original lead singer Layne Staley in 2002, whose vocal quality and presence was truly one-of-a-kind. But their hallowed discography is in careful and capable hands with current co-lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist William DuVall (since 2006), whose voice was strikingly resonant and at ease navigating their discography’s most daunting passages. “This is fantastic,” DuVall said in a rare pause between songs. “Thanks for having us back! I think you might be a lot louder than the crowd last night…I’m not just saying that,” he promised, revving them up even more.
With so many hardcore fans present, there wasn’t a lyric that slipped by without vehement singing from the packed venue. Their voices surged to even higher volumes during the classic hits that oozed from AIC’s jam-packed setlist, particularly “Them Bones,” “Down In A Hole,” “No Excuses,” “Nutshell,” and “Man in the Box” – which were performed with bone-rattling intensity and clear reverence for the original recordings. It was one of those concerts where you could sense everyone around you storing up detailed mental notes and personal memories of the experience. Every instance of Cantrell’s masterful shredding was consumed ravenously by the crowd, as were the pulse-resetting rhythms cooked up by Kinney and Inez. Requesting an encore with aggressive claps and chanting, the audience earned four more incendiary songs, including Alice In Chains’ just-released new single, “The One You Know,” followed by “Got Me Wrong,” “Would?” and “Rooster,” the last of which spurred the loudest shout-along of all. The energy of their night-two finale seemed to ripple throughout the city as clusters of fans made their way home with fresh tour shirts draped over their shoulders; setlist analysis still on their brains, show recaps spilling out with excitement on late trains and darkened streets.
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley