Late replacements on this bill – the opening duties were originally slated to be performed by Joey Jordison’s Scar The Martyr – Walking Papers are due on at an early start time. Happily most of the crowd are in place to see the start – and what a show it is!
When they emerged last year, most of the interest in the band centred around two of their members – Duff McKagan and Barrett Martin – having illustrious pasts, then people heard the album and realised that this was not some novelty side project, but an excellent band in their own right. In truth, McKagan and Barrett are the least visible on stage, with singer/guitarist Jeff Angell and Keyboard player Ben Anderson providing most of the sound interest, with Anderson’s swirling organ playing a prominent role. The band are much heavier live, with “Two Tickets And A Room” sounding formidable. During set closer “Red Letter” Angell marches into the crowd, and the atmosphere is uproarious. As opening acts go. It really does not get much better than this.
A couple of years ago you couldn’t pick up a metal magazine without seeing a story about Ghost. The masked monks of Sweden, who were they, who was in the band, was it James Hetfield? Was it Dregen, or assorted death metal glitterati? We now know that the singer used to be in glam chancers Crashdiet and it is the belief of RTM that strip all the myth and nonsense away and they ain’t that good. “Ritual” rocks and rolls in all the right places but “Stand By Him” sounds exactly like ZZ Top. The problem is that where once there was spectacle and mysticism there is a group singalong of “Monstrance Clock” and with this new conventional attitude Ghost are just another daft rock band, without great songs.
RTM has seen Alice In Chains before. There was a tremendous sense of excitement when we went to Manchester a few years ago to watch them on the comeback tour. Whether it was a case of fevered anticipation not quite meeting what happened in reality, who knows, but it wasn’t that great a night.
Oddly, the “Black Gives Way To Blue” album which they were touring was a triumph, but the new record “The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here” is not a huge favourite, so tonight was just another gig. That is until Alice In Chains started, because tonight they were everything we wanted four years ago. They were quite spectacular from the minute that “Again” kicks things off, giving way to an incredible “Check My Brain”.
There are lighting issues, with the big screen not working throughout, but this just means that AIC are relying on their songs. Luckily they have some incredible ones - not least of which are “We Die Young” and a crushing “Man In A Box”. In fairness too, the “...Dinosaurs” album songs sound better than they do on the record, as “Hollow” perhaps the pick.
William DuVall has slotted into Layne Stayley’s shoes superbly, and without trying to copy his predecessor’s unique sound, it is still unmistakably AIC, largely this is down, you suspect to Jerry Cantrell, who sounds invigorated here as do the rhythm section of Sean Kinney and a lively Mike Inez.The encore includes “Would?” before “Rooster” ends things, its soaring chorus giving the gig an ending it deserved. This was a night to remember that grunge never really existed - all it ever was a collection of great rock bands, some good ones and some rubbish, just like any other metal scene. Tonight Alice In Chains proved that they were very much in the former category.