morrigirl: (TaraWillow)
[personal profile] morrigirl
Let me tell you a little something about Alice in Chains: they are LOUD. Not "Oh God, my ears are bleeding! Make it stop!" loud. More of a big, smiley "If I'm going to lose all my hearing this is the way to do it!" loud. Within minutes of taking the stage at Madison Square Garden last Friday night they managed to usurp Rage Against the Machine as the loudest musical act I've ever seen live. After the Rage concert back in 1999 my ears rang for somewhere between six and twelve hours. (I wish I could be more specific than that, but it was eleven years ago and my memory isn't what it used to be.) Alice in Chains made my ears ring for a full twenty-four hours afterward. My hearing was still muffled when I went out to dinner with my Dad the following evening.

Which is to say that the Alice in Chains show was fan-fucking-tastic! They came out with guns blazing and blew the fucking roof off of the Garden. I wish I could give you a play by play, recount each and every detail of the evening, but as with most experiences in which sensory overload plays a key role, all I remember are flashes and fragments; disconnected moments that packed enough of an emotional punch to imprint themselves on my brain. So that's what I'll give you, those flashes.

I went to the concert alone and may very well have been the only unescorted female there. The few women who were in attendance seemed to be with their boyfriends or guy friends. I only saw a handful of concert-goers who came as part of an all-female entourage. But the women were all, without exception, dressed to the nines. Their eyes were outlined in glittery make-up, they wore fitted silk and satin tops, and there were stiletto heels in abundance.

For the first time (at least within a concert setting) I was very aware of my appearance. Chalk it up to being over thirty and no longer able to garner attention by my looks and youth alone, but I suddenly realized how...invisible I was in my loose t-shirt, ripped jeans, and frumpy shoes. The other girls clearly wanted to get noticed, and I clearly did not. That made me feel bad, and for a moment I got a little down on myself for not being beautiful. I've always subscribed to the idea that you should attend concerts in clothing you don't care about because you never know what sort of fluids you might get splashed with during the show. I don't go to concerts to get noticed or get lucky or get fucked by one of the band members. I go to listen to live music. I go so I can feel the bass shake its way through the floor, up to my feet, and into my thighs; I go to I can watch the walls vibrate during the guitar solo; I go so I can stomp my feet in time with the drums; and I go so I can scream the lyrics to every song along with the lead vocalist. Once I remembered what I was there for, my self-consciousness disappeared.

I admit I was wary of being a woman alone in a crowd composed primarily of drunk, testosterone drenched men, but no one hassled me or gave me any shit. I was in an aisle seat next to this group of five or six guys who'd all come together, and they were really nice to me, apologizing whenever I had to move so one of them could go use the John or get another beer.

There was this Calvin-Klein-underwear-model gorgeous guy sitting across the aisle from me, and he taught me a valuable lesson over the course of the evening: that men who are astoundingly hot when standing still can lose all appeal as soon as they start "dancing." (Which is just a nice way of saying flailing-around-uncontrollably.) When I shared this revelation with Greg the next day he said, "Why do you think I don't dance?" I laughed and thanked him for not doing much dancing over the last five years, thereby allowing me to continue thinking he is astoundingly hot :-)

There were two opening acts: Mastodon (who sucked just like Greg said they would), and the Deftones who who were okay. All of their songs sounded the same after a while, but their lead singer is really dynamic, so it averaged out.

Thank God for video phones and YouTube. Because of them I can actually share some of my favorite moments of the show with you.

After the Deftones left the stage a huge white curtain descended, obstructing the view of the stage. After, I dunno, a half hour? forty minutes? the house lights went down. Lights and projections appeared on the curtain - circles, triangles, star bursts - and you could feel the crowd growing as tense as a wound up spring. What I love about the following clip is that it was filmed in the GA pit, right up against the stage. It let me view the show from a different perspective, and really captured the thrill of the audience at hearing that first song. For those of you uninterested in the light show, skip ahead to the 50 second mark.

As you can see, the new vocalist William Duvall is working out just fine. He is a more than adequate replacement for Layne Staley.

They played pretty much everything you'd want to hear them play. Here's the full set list:

Them Bones
Dam That River
Rain When I Die
Check My Brain
Your Decision
No Excuses
Down in a Hole
We Die Young
Acid Bubble
Lesson Learned

Love, Hate, Love
Man In A Box

A little old stuff and a little new stuff, though almost all of it was new to me. You have to understand this was my first time hearing most of those songs. I wasn't into Alice in Chains back in the early 90's. I was twelve the year they blew up. I was still very into Madonna, Paula Abdul, and I had just discovered Sophie B. Hawkins so we all know where my attention was focused. I was certainly familiar with the depression, self-loathing, cynicism, and desperation embodied in most grunge era rock music, I just didn't have the anger and aggression to go with it. (Of course, now at the ripe old age of thirty-one, I've got it in spades.) But back then I couldn't emotionally plug in to bands like Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains. Their sound was too hard for me.

Greg was the one who really introduced me to Alice in Chains. When we first started dating he used to play Jar of Flies in his car all the time, and I liked it so much he burned me a copy. Not long after, Pandora Radio introduced me to Jerry Cantrell's solo work, and I really got into that. And then, a few weeks back, I decided there were several truly classic rock bands I needed to see live before any (more) of their band members died, and Alice in Chains was one of them. Even so, I didn't bone up on the Alice in Chains back catalog before the concert. I just showed up, and had the pleasure of hearing "Them Bones, "Rain When I Die," and "Again" for the first time, live.

Oh my God, "Again!" They knocked that one right out of the park! That was the song that really hooked me. After that all they had to do was reel me in. I love the clarity of this video. AiC are at the top of their game here.

I wish someone had posted a clip of Jerry Cantrell singing "Your Decision." That is such a fabulous song. The softer vocals and slower pace of it really grounded the set. They played it back to back with "No Excuses," which I, of course, sang along with at full volume. "No Excuses" wormed its way into my heart back in 1998, the year I flunked out of college. Hell, I sang along to "Rooster" and I don't even LIKE that song! Never have. Just goes to show that every thing sounds better live.

Before I head out to any concert I make a mental list of all the songs I would really, really love to hear the artist(s) play. Since my knowledge of the AiC back catalog was sparse going in, there were only two songs I was dying to hear them play: "No Excuses" and "Would." "Would" is the only Alice in Chains song I can honestly say I have always liked. It was the only one of their songs I could connect with when I was twelve. Having loved it for eighteen years, "Would" was the one song I was most eager to hear. Being one of their biggest hits, however, I knew they would save it for the end of the show, maybe even the encore.

As it happened, they closed the show with "Rooster," so I thought to myself, "Ah, they ARE saving it for the encore." Fine. The lights went out. The band left the stage. We all roared and clapped and screamed for one more song. They came back out, and launched into a song I didn't recognize. (Turned out to be "Love, Hate, Love.") It was great, they rocked the shit out of it, and as soon as the song was over I started whispering "Please play Would. Please play Would. Please play Would."

Then they played "Man in a Box."

Afterward, the stage went dark again, and that's when I became really desperate. I clasped my hands under my chin as if in prayer, and just said "Please." Then I heard this:

...and I whispered, "Thank you."

What I love about this clip is how closely it mirrors my experience of the show. I was maybe a section or two to the right of the videographer on the same tier, so this is exactly what I saw, and exactly what I heard. I love that you can hear the entire crowd screaming the lyrics, and I like knowing my voice is in there somewhere. You can totally see and feel how incredibly happy we all were to hear them play this song for us.

The next day I borrowed Greg's copy of Dirt and listened to it all the way through. What an incredible album! So good! Like I said, totally not the sort of thing I would have been into in 1992, but it's totally my speed now. I immediately ordered a copy for myself off of Amazon.

Alice in Chains definitely knows how to put on a good show. I left the Garden with that familiar post-concert mix of giddiness and elation filling my chest. I smiled all the way home. They were so good I think I may need to create a standing engagement with them, similar to the one Michael and I already have with Henry Rollins: Whenever Henry Rollins is in town, we go see him. And now whenever Alice in Chains is in town, I will go see them.

Great job, Rock Gods. You just earned yourselves a new fan :-D
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January 2012

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