Alice In Chains @ Montreal Metropolis – 15th July 2013

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It’s a hot and humid summer night in Montreal and 2,300 people are crammed in early to the Metropolis to witness the return of Alice In Chains. Now touring their second album with new singer William DuVall, there’s less of a curiosity in how the new guy will measure up to Layne Staley, the band’s original and enigmatic frontman, and more of an overall excitement to see a band that are now focused on taking their music forward, rather than riding on past glories.

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Opening with ‘It Ain’t Like That’, it’s clear the old material still resonates with the faithful, and DuVall’s voice replicates Staley’s style well without sounding like a mere copycat. Crucially, their newer material stands proudly against the fan favourites, with ‘Check My Brain’’s sludgy opening riff and recent single ‘Stone’ receiving some of the best reactions of the evening, the latter sounding every inch the Alice In Chains classic.

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“We’ve been all across Canada and this is a fuckin’ great crowd!” enthuses guitarist Jerry Cantrell before taking over lead vocal duties for the acoustic ‘Your Decision’. Without Staley’s presence, Cantrell’s key role within the band has become far more apparent; his voice may not be as far- reaching as DuVall’s, but the tone of his vocals suits the songs he fronts just as well. There’s little else in the way of chitchat tonight, but this crowd isn’t here for the conversation. They’re here to witness a now-legendary rock band deliver some of the best tunes of the past 20 years, and the reception to Mike Inez’s bass intro to ‘Would?’ is certainly testament to that, with DuVall hardly needing to sing a word as the crowd takes over.

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To close, the triple-hitter encore of ‘No Excuses’, a rousing ‘Man In The Box’ and the magnificent climax of ‘Rooster’ guarantees this is an evening sealed with quality. And while Alice In Chains’ music always had an undercurrent of loss and sadness even before Staley’s passing, in 2013, it’s quite clear that they’re now focused on positivity and rebirth.

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Review & photos – Steve Gerrard

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