Concert Review

Alice in Chains Kick Off a Grunge Weekend for Pittsburgh


One of my favorite rock star encounters to tell is the time I ran into Layne Staley, the now deceased singer of Alice in Chains, back in the early nineties in a bar near Ft. Lauderdale.  I had been living in Miami for a few months, crashing on friends floors, making ends meet by working landscaping with Cuban illegals and down and out guys who lost everything due to their addictions and were trying to get their lives back together, having met the owner of the company through AA.  My friend from college whose floor I was sleeping on was dating the manager of the company who was kind enough to let me plant palm trees and work on Julia Iglesias’ house inbetween looking for other work.  Anyways, I was still pretty broke and living on Taco Bell bean burritos so I could not afford to go see Alice in Chains and their opener GrunTruck playing in Miami.  Thus, I was fairly bummed.

My former next door neighbor happened to move to North Miami Beach and she took me out to a bar to buy me a few brews to cheer me up.  There I am nursing my beer minding my own business and this scraggly guy comes up to the bar with a cane and his leg in a case.  It’s fucking Layne.  I could not believe it.  He was fairly lucid. “Layne, can I get you a beer?” I said sheepishly.  “Sure, man, thanks,” replied Layne in a deep growl never really looking at me in his sunglasses.  Layne had recently broke his leg on tour and it was in a full cast.  Searching for some kind of conversation with the man I simply said, “How’s your leg?”  To which he replied, “It’s just a fuckin’ leg man.”  And then he walked off and sat with some people and we never spoke again.

Some twenty odd years later and Layne is long gone but Alice in Chains  is still very much alive.  They certainly proved it last night in Pittsburgh.  Oddly playing the Benedum Theater, usually reserved for the ballet and opera or the likes of Tony Benett, AIC brought the rock right out of the gate.  New lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist William DuVall sounds exactly like Staley while looking a lot more like Lenny Kravitz and he proved more than able to fill those shoes and carry on not only as replacement but as a true contributor just as he has done since we first heard him belt out “Check My Brain” in 2009.  But Jerry Cantrell’s band did not focus on newer material most of the evening, they certainly knew their audience well and stuck to the meat of what the audience came to see and that was classic Alice.  Second in the set was “Them Bones” with high points in the evening being “Dam That River”, “Down In A Hole”, and of course “Would?”.  The tremendous encore consisted of ” Man in the Box”, “No Excuses”, and “Rooster”.  That last tune was made extra amazing by the special appearance of The Rooster himself, Jerry’s dad.

Jerry Cantrell continues to prove why he is one of the best axe men in the business and a tremendous songwriter and riff master.  Sean Kinney and Mike Inez still keep it down extremely well and prove you can still put on a great rock show without a ton of fluff and smoke.  It’s a great way to warm up the weekend for their Seattle brethren Soundgarden stopping by on Sunday at Stage AE.  Grunge is alive and well people. Layne Staley and Mike Starr…RIP.

Setlist Pittsburgh 5/8/13

  1. Encore: