Alice in Chains – Manchester Academy (14/11/09)

by Sam.

The night was gloomy and the atmosphere was stark.

That’s the mental image of Manchester I’ve had for ages and in that bitter 14th of November, I was proven right.

After an olympic record breaking brisk walk from friend Ellie’s spankin’ new appartment to the Manchester Academy, I was greeted with a queue peppered with flannel wearing geezers (some even sporting mullets – shudders – and with receding hairlines).

There were also a few young ones, either newly converted fans or hipster yearning for the days of grunge and waiting to see if all the hype they’ve been reading was right.

Me? This was the moment I could feel I would be the closest to what I imagined in 1994 would be to attend a Grunge concert. Too young to go anywhere rocking and with no groups of the genre ever daring to put feet in Mexican soil, this would’ve to do.

Hey, Seattle was an industrial city too, eh?

Atmosphere was good, security were affable (yeah, I said it) and lager was being quaffed in industrial quantities. I moseyed down in the warehouse like mammoth that is Manchester Academy and parleyed my way into 3rd or 4th row.

The opening act was Little Fish and I’m gutted I didn’t listen to them enough to do a proper judgement. So I won’t do any.

Then came the interminable waiting. It felt like ages and it probably was, as the crowd starting to get rowdy. Rumours of cancellation spread like a zombie virus and I could see myself amongst the list of dead in the Sunday news. Killed in a grunge concert by superfans. My type of death.

Amongst chantings of “Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!” and people whistling, all hope was waning.

Lights dimmed then went off completely and the audience roared. It was the legendary Alice in Chains, with new singer William DuVall (R.I.P. Layne, my dear) and they kicked off with Facelift’s ‘It ain’t like that’, a song that I have to love because it’s ingrained in me due to Cameron Crowe’s Singles.

Again‘ woke up a screaming banshee that wailed for more and this was obtained with monster hits like ‘Them Bones‘, ‘Dam that river‘ and ‘No excuses‘.

Not only did the classics got the seal of approval (in the shape of a hearty round of applause), but new songs like ‘Check my brain‘ (absofuckin’ brilliant), ‘A looking in view‘ (soul-crushing) and epic-like ‘Acid bubble‘ (on cd it rocks, live it destroys) proved that the 4 years that the band has been playing with DuVall were a growing experience.

Alice in Chains is one of the few bands that can pull impossibly-heavy distortions and then segue into introspective acoustic numbers that show their inner sensibilities. ‘Black gives way to blue‘ was the moment of introspection, with a clip of candle burning in memory of Layne and drummer Sean Kinney playing a glockenspiel in lieu of Elton John’s piano. Suffice to say is that there were nary a dry eye in the house, as even the most cold-hearted bastard in the audience had to shed a tear with the final shot of Layne Stanley smiling.

“The louder you are, the louder we get” yelled DuVall, before delivering with ‘Angry chair‘ and closing the set with ‘Man in the Box‘. Mike Inez spent most of the gig bobbing and swirling his head, with a smile that might as well get checked for a carbon footprint (pretty powerful – I’m sure he chews lightbulbs).

The possibility of not having an encore was clear, as the gig started late and curfew time was long been gone. DuVall and co. said “fuck it” and took the stage once more, first with that hymn of a generation that identified with Cameron Crowe’s Singles.

I’m talking, of course, of ‘Would?‘. The evening and the winding trip down memory lane was ‘Rooster‘ and after the last amp was defused and the band had gone to get a well deserved rest, we all felt like 1994 was a few notes away, still lingering in the cold, stark night.


If this concert was a David Bowie song it would be: Seven years in Seattle.


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