Concert Review: Alice in Chains @ Budweiser Gardens, London, Ontario, Canada

When telling people that I was going to see Alice in Chains in London, I had to make sure those folks knew I was talking about a hard rock/metal band from Seattle and not a kinky S&M show. The band just released their latest album, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here. I personally believe the devil also had something to do with the Kardashian’s and rush-hour traffic as well, but I can’t prove it…yet.

If you had told a London, Ontario rock music fan in the 1990’s that both Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam would be playing in the city less than a week apart, you would have been laughed out of town. It would have never happened then, but that is exactly what’s happening in London this week. The times have changed, and somebody built a big arena downtown, that helps too.

Alice in Chains – The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here

Alice in Chains – The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here

It’s Alice in Chains’ 23rd Anniversary, and to celebrate they’ve released a funny mockumentary, the new album, and they brought along the bands Monster Truck and Chevelle to rock the house at Budweiser Gardens on a cool summer’s eve.

A lot of people showed up early to catch the opening bands Monster Truck and Chevelle. Both bands were very loud and both came out with a lot of energy, which helped to impress those in attendance and get the night off to a great start. I was hoping to snap some pics of the evening for y’all, but Bud Gardens has a strict no camera/recording devices policy (Boooo!).

The crowd itself ranged in age from little kids to people with grey hair. I saw a lot of middle-aged folks with their own kids. I even saw a complete rock-n-roll family: mom, dad, and 2 little kids (with new AIC t-shirts down almost to their knees). I wish my folks had taken me to the rock shows when I was that young, instead I got to go to things like live stage productions of Polka Dot Door. Polkaroo was cool and all, but he couldn’t play the guitar like Jerry Cantrell.

At 9:45 PM the lights in the arena went dark and the stage was lit in purple light. I hadn’t eaten any mushrooms during the day, so I knew this was no hallucination, the show was about to begin. When Alice in Chains’ original lead singer Layne Staley passed away in 2002, I thought I’d never get to ever see AIC live. I was wrong. I got to see them in 2006 when the band was resurrected with William DuVall being added to help with vocal/guitar duties on tour. An album, Black Gives Way to Blue, followed in 2009. It will never be the same without Layne, but the band is still loud and tight and they still write good tunes. DuVall has a pretty good rock-n-roll voice and does an admirable job trying to fill those big shoes as we were about to see.

The band came out to a nice Bud Gardens welcome. DuVall was dressed in black head-to-toe with black shades and a big afro. If you saw him from a distance you might have thought someone let Wiz Khalifa or Snoop Dogg loose in the arena. Throughout the night, when not playing guitar, he’d stalk the stage, amping up the crowd. There was guitarist Jerry Cantrell in a denim jacket, shades, and almost unrecognizable with short hair. The new hairstyle must be doing wonders for his anonymity. Also onstage came bassist Mike Inez (still got the long hair!) and drummer Sean Kinney.

Kinney’s drum set had the letters “LSMS” lit up on it all night in varying colours. I’m assuming it represents a heart-felt tribute to former band-mates Layne Staley and Mike Starr (and not that the kit was rented from the London Society of Minstrel Suppliers). There were video screens on either side of the the drums, and 3 big screens behind the band.

The band’s set itself was shorter than I would have liked (I’m being selfish I know), and probably shorter than most fans in attendance would have liked. AIC played for 75 minutes, weaving their way through tracks both old and new. Songs like Check My Brain, Your Decision, Hollow, Stone, and Voices represented the two most recent albums while long-time fans went nuts for classic hits like Again, Them Bones, Grind, Down in a Hole, and We Die Young.

Jerry said hello to “London-town” before they played Nutshell, telling the crowd they looked good, sounded better, and to keep it up. At this point (and others throughout the night) you could hear a faint Springer-style “Jerry! Jerry!” chant almost start before the music drowned it out. Most fans know Nutshell as what Austin Powers was trapped in at one point the opening track off the Unplugged album. Jerry’s solo during the song was amazing as watery images appeared on the video screens. DuVall got the crowd to sing the “I’d feel better dead” line near the song’s end.

The band probably couldn’t have picked 3 bigger hits to close with. Would?, Man in the Box, and Rooster were amazing and the crowd loved it. DuVall told the crowd that due to time constraints, they’d skip the “bullshit” part where the band goes backstage for a few minutes and just keep right on playing. The crowd did not mind. For most of the show, the visuals were pretty tame, but during Man in the Box, skulls appeared on the video screens along with a human face with tiny flames where the eyes should have been. It looked really cool on a dark red background.

As a whole, the evening was a great success! (Borat-styles) As a rock music fan, all 3 bands at the show helped make it a really loud, kick-ass night. As I mentioned earlier, my only disappointment was the length of AIC’s set. If I had came strictly just to see Alice in Chains and paid top dollar for my ticket, I think I would have felt a little let-down. That being said, AIC still sounds awesome live, and I loved every minute that they were onstage. Fans will no doubt like the new album and with so many young kids at Budweiser Gardens, it looks like the band’s legacy is strong for years to come.

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PHM Rating for Alice in Chains: 7.5 out of 10

Setlist for Alice in Chains @ Budweiser Gardens, London, Ontario, Canada – July 11, 2013

1 – Again
2 – Check My Brain
3 – Them Bones
4 – Hollow
5 – Your Decision
6 – Grind
7 – Down In A Hole
8 – Nutshell
9 – Stone
10 – We Die Young
11 – Voices
12 – No Excuses
13 – Would?
14 – Man In The Box
15 – Rooster

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