Alice In Chains aren’t regular visitors to the UK. HRH Mag’s Gordon Armstrong took the chance to check out one of Seattle’s finest exponents of alternative rock at the O2 Academy Leeds.

 

That this hotly anticipated show sold out was hardly a surprise. The rabid reception afforded Alice In Chains by a ferocious crowd was, however, a little unexpected. Right from the start the atmosphere was suitably electric and Jerry Cantrell and co. responded in style.

A confident start saw the legendary US quartet kick things off with the brooding Bleed The Freak before segueing into the familiar, gut-wrenching riff underpinning AIC classic Check My Brain.

A set focusing heavily on the band’s groundbreaking debut Facelift and its four-times platinum follow-up Dirt was never likely to disappoint and both records remain utterly timeless. AIC haven’t racked up total sales in excess of 14 million by accident and it was the peerless songwriting underpinning the band’s early work that forged their reputation as major players on the US rock scene.

By the time Them Bones and Dam That River had shifted the focus, the two walls of spotlights shadowing Cantrell and his band mates had swung around to reveal two video screens highlighting videos and artwork. The music is just part of the immersive AIC experience – this was a show in every sense of the word.

Cantrell, of course, remains the focal point for so many fans and the incessant chants of ‘Jerry, Jerry’ rang loud and clear throughout the night. If proof were needed then a spellbinding display by talented songwriter reminded the masses that AIC’s signature sound always owed as much to the band’s lead guitarist as it did to the late, great Layne Staley.

But what of William DuVall? Staley’s have always been big shoes to fill but after more than a decade in the band, this classiest of performers has nothing to prove. On a night of many highlight’s DuVall’s vocal tour de force was one of the most memorable.

A set neatly balanced between out and out bangers (We Die Young and It Ain’t Like That) and sublime cuts (No Excuses, Nutshell) never let up and the on-stage mood visibly lightened during an impromptu jam of Running With The Devil. Cantrell was in his element during the Van Halen classic.

An outstanding rendition of Man In The Box brought down the curtain on a majestic main set before DuVall picked things up with a few lines from The Who’s Summertime Blues – a canny nod to Live At Leeds in a city that still resonates with classic rock history.

Wrapping up with Rooster was the only predictable thing about a stunning four-song encore that included new tune The One You Know – culled from this summer’s forthcoming album. AIC shows might be few and far between but the wait was – without doubt – worth it.