Joined briefly by Chad Smith and Josh Klinghoffer from The Red Hot Chili Peppers and supported by Jakob, Alice in Chains took to The Trust Arena stage last Thursday night for a blast back to a grungier past. Thirty-one years since their last visit, the night gave a hungry crowd a satisfactory mix of new and old tracks that spanned their whole career.
It was eight odd years ago when I saw Alice in Chains, upon the release of their come back album Black Gives Way to Blue. Growing up like a lot of 90s children, their original albums with the late Layne Staley struck a chord with the dark underbelly of the human condition that is often plastered over in the popular music industry. Since then, they have released three albums, the latest Rainer Fog was what this tour revolved around.
I arrived a little past seven to a half-full crowd waiting for Jakob to come on. The Napier three-piece got the venue vibrating along to the opener Pneumonic. Catching them at one of the last gigs at the now (sadly) demolished The Kings Arms Tavern, it was a deserved pleasure seeing the post-rockers on the big stage with some gargantuan speakers that saturated the venue with their eclectic harmonies.
With a now fully packed arena, chime bell-like piano ushered in the first track of the evening Bleed the Freak. Off the bat, the whole mix sounded great: William DuVall and Jerry Cantrell’s vocal harmonies wailed alongside a balanced mix of Sean Kinney’s drum smashing and Mike Inez’s bass belting. Standing in front of two walls of lights and a large screen backdrop, the experienced group oozed with confidence.
Check My Brain came bending in with that signature tone Cantrell is know for. The grunge crowd shuffled forward as heads began to shake, sweat started to form on the brow and a mosh pit started to gather momentum.
Taking a step back from the heavy riffs of the previous tracks, Your Decision saw couples begin to hold hands and other enthralled fans sing along to the catchy chorus.
This semi-tranquil vibe was quickly steered off with the next track Angry Chair. The power behind the band here made me wish I had grabbed some earplugs on the way in – it was crazy loud. The relentless guitar and bass riffs screamed in tangent with battering vocal shouts and splintering drum hits that made you feel sorry for the kit. The track seamlessly broke into the even heavier Man in The Box where the muggy crowd wailed along to the lyrics “shoved my noise in sh**” and the mosh pit notched up a level – or two.
After thanking the crowd and apologising for not coming to New Zealand in 1993 due to an injury sustained by a platypus in Australia, Sean and Cantrell teased the audience with a special guest – “it’s Justin Bieber, no it is Snoop Dog…no it is Josh and John from The Red Hot Chilli Peppers!” The crowd went nuts. Playing Friday and Saturday night at Spark Arena, the two members of the group came bounding onto the stage with full grins.
Doubling up on the drums and guitar, the group went back to their Dirt roots with the tortured Them Bones and inflamed Dam That River. I thought the previous moments of the set was loud...the extra instrumentation forced me back slightly as my ears felt like they might begin to bleed. The group have performed these songs for over three decades so everything was flawlessly executed, but it still left a bitter reminder of the previous frontman's untimely death.
As soon as the band left the stage, an encore began to thud for their return... foreboding another round of moshing. Leaving the crowd hanging for a good five minutes, the band returned to the stage for the new track The One You Know and older Got Me Wrong, Would? and, finally, Rooster – which was the last song they performed when I saw them all those years ago.
Despite a microphone that stopped working briefly during the middle of the set, the sound technicians did a great job with the overall mix. The night felt like it paid homage to grungier days with a glitzy twist of extravagant light shows and guest appearances. With the recent death of Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, it is reassuring that, along with bands like Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains is keeping the grungy cusp of the millennium alive.
- Bleed the Freak
- Check My Brain
- Never Fade
- Your Decision
- Angry Chair
- Man in the Box
- Rainer Fog
- Down in a Hole
- No Excuses
- Red Giant
- It Ain’t Like That
- Them Bones
- Dam That River
- The One You Know
- Got Me Wrong