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Thursday 21 November 2013

The View From The Back Of The Room: Alice In Chains

Alice In Chains, Ghost & The Walking Papers Newport Centre

Once again we step into the weird world of the Newport Centre, half venue, half swimming pool it is truly a sight to behold as the black t-shirted hordes queued for entry as families frolicked in the pool. Still once inside the oddness was replaced by the familiar sight and smells of a rock venue, albeit one that doubles as a squash court. There was talk of Joey Jordison's band Scar The Martyr being one of the supports but that honour was bestowed upon The Walking Papers.

The Walking Papers

Made up of members of The Missionary Position, Screaming Trees and Guns N Roses The Walking Papers play blues based soulful rock with a slight alternative/punk edge. Bedecked in a suit Jeff Angell played a mean blues guitar and howled his way through tracks off the band’s debut album accompanied by the expert time keeping of Barrett Martin who knows how to smash a drum kit, keys, synths, orchestrations and general madness came from keyboardist Benjamin Anderson and Bassist Duff McKagan added a refined coolness that only someone of his magnitude can bestow by taking a backseat somewhat to Angell's bluesman persona. They were a good start to the night mixing some laid back blues with heavy punkier riffs. There was very little banter as the band locked into a groove that gathered a healthy crowd excited by what they saw as a new band (The Walking Papers' album was not widely released in the UK until this month). Worth checking out on both record and in a live setting The Walking Papers were a good warm up for the rest of the night. 8/10

Back to the bar for a few light refreshments (so long as it's Guinness or Cider) and then we took up our seat again. Yes folk’s seats, history dictates that you should not stand in close quarters to metal fans in a venue that is essentially a sauna...


A band always seeming to play the odd one out, Swedes Ghost were next and the crowd gathered as the room filled for their grey mass (somewhere between black and white). Despite all their Satanic lyrics the band are a bit of fun and after the intro and instrumental of Infestissumam the Nameless Ghouls locked in for the retro occult rock set before the Cardinal of Sin himself Papa Emeritus (II?) arrived on stage for the pounding Per Aspera Ad Inferi which moved into Con Clavi Con Dio. The tracks are now ingrained into the bands set list and with the sweet smell of incense (that's INCENSE Newport isn't that bad yet!) wafting through the hall the band showed how heavy they are live in comparison to their albums which are bit lighter. The night of the witch began with of Stand By Him followed by Prime Mover got the crowd moving to the Devil's beat before the band did something that I haven't seen them do live yet. Papa began to talk to the crowd like a normal human, this took a little away from their ghostly aurora but it make them a little more accessible as they introduced their cover of Roky Erickson's If You Have Ghosts from their Dave Grohl produced covers E.P. The song fitted the band well and gave a brief break in the proceeding before awesome Year Zero and Ritual led into the sing along quasi-spiritual Monstrance Clock ended the set. This was a short, precise set that took a few risks that ultimately paid off for the band and brought the heavily grunge loving crowd on side, something the band do very well. 8/10

Alice In Chains

I have only seen AIC at a festival and I'll let you in on secret I wasn't that fussed, outside of their hits I didn't recognise much and thought they were a bit boring. However due to my good friend Lee's super fandom I picked up Black Gives Way To Blue and was impressed enough to seek out the back catalogue culminating with this years The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here. So I wanted to give them another chance and I'm glad I did. The band came out and went straight into Dirt from the album of the same name, with the opening riff the roof nearly came off the place not only due to the ovation but the sheer power of AIC'c groove. The noise was up there with Gojira in terms of power, the riffs of Cantrell just ripped the crowd a new hole, the bass of Inez was big beefy and fuzzed to hell and drummer Sean Kinney broke every stick he used to abuse his kit. Special kudos too goes to William Duvall who truly is the singer of AIC now not just Layne's replacement he also plays a mean guitar. Speaking of guitar it is only in a love setting you realise Jerry Cantrell's guitar playing is, his riffs are unmistakable and his solos are explosive and to the point. The first five songs of the set went by in a big heavy noisy blast with no let up to catch your breath Again into the modern classic Check My Brain, then the classic Them Bones. The band mixed songs from their early albums with tracks off their latest album, the first of these was Hollow which was followed by my favourite track Man In The Box. The aural assault continued with light and shade mixing the slower more ballad-like songs with the harder rock edged tracks. Phantom Limb was excellent as was No Excuses, Stone and the final track of the main set the seldom played Sludge Factory. A brief break and speculation in which order the encore would come, it was quickly answered with the acoustics brought out for Down In A Hole (cue excited squealing from my right from Lee), the (downward) spiralling song set the tone for the encore perfectly and led into the fan favourites and perennial set closers Would? and the timeless and trippy Rooster which brought the house down! This was a hell of showing from AIC who more than justified their standing as one of the leaders of the Seattle metal scene. Definitely a band that have proved how good they can be live and one I would see again, just maybe at an indoor venue. 10/10 

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