Alice In Chains At The Pearl At The Palms Casino Resort
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By Jamie Harvey
Few bands have more personal meaning to me than Alice In Chains. I've been listening to the GRAMMY-nominated rock band since I was 10 years old, and so on Oct. 26 at the Palms Casino Resort's Pearl theater in Las Vegas, I was ready to hear the songs that have been prominent in the soundtrack to my life.
Pressed up against the cold barricade, and pleased with the set I had just seen from former Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan's new bluesy rock band, Walking Papers, the lights dimmed and the sinister riff of the title track from Alice In Chain's seminal 1992 album Dirt filled the room. I've seen Alice In Chains enough times to know this was an atypical opener for them in recent years, which made this one-off U.S. show special and the kind that would provoke me to fly in from Los Angeles for.
Next came the first two tracks from Dirt: "Them Bones" and "Dam That River." Both songs transported me back in time, and I was dressed to match in a flannel shirt, long johns and shorts that were fashion du jour in the early '90s grunge era. As I sang along to the familiar words, my eyes and ears focused on the syrupy riff work of guitarist Jerry Cantrell and the driving beats of drummer Sean Kinney.
I remember when I first heard the opening riff to "Check My Brain" — a track from 2009's Black Gives Way To Blue, the band's triumphant return after the tragic loss of original vocalist Layne Staley — which on this night represented a song of perseverance as William DuVall has successfully taken on the difficult role as lead vocalist. Next they played "Again," which always makes me laugh to hear these metal musicians singing "doot doot" at the end.
"Voices" was the first of a few tracks performed from their latest album, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here. It was followed by "Man In The Box" — the song that introduced me to Alice In Chains via the slightly creepy but infectious video that played on MTV. The highlight of the night for me was their performance of "It Ain't Like That,” the song that the band performed in the quintessential 1992 grunge-era film, Singles, which I recently revisited.
"We Die Young," the first track from their 1990 debut album Facelift, made me realize what the letters "LSMS" that were written on the front of Kinney's drum set stood for: the initials of Layne Staley and original bassist Mike Starr, the latter of whom passed away in 2011. "Hollow" is my favorite track from The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, and it wasn't until then that I realized the cool imagery on the giant LED screens positioned behind the stage was a close-up of an eyeball with a large, hollow pupil. Their performance of the acoustic song "Nutshell," which gave Kinney the opportunity to light up a cigarette behind the kit before it was his time to play again, gave me chills.
The traditional closers of "Would?" and "Rooster" signaled the show was coming to an end. Though I missed hearing my favorite Alice In Chains song, "Love, Hate, Love," it was a pleasing set for this grunge fan.
"Dam That River"
"Check My Brain"
"Man In The Box"
"It Ain't Like That"
"We Die Young"
"Down In A Hole"
To catch Alice In Chains in a city near you, click here for tour dates.
(Jamie Harvey lives in Los Angeles and is the rock community blogger for GRAMMY.com. She has attended and written about more than 500 shows since 2007. You can follow her musical adventures at www.hardrockchick.com.)