William DuVall (photo: Alex Crick)
William DuVall (photo: Alex Crick)

One of the toughest acts to pull off in rock ‘n’ roll is replacing an iconic, charismatic lead singer.

After Alice in Chains frontman Layne Staley died of a drug overdose in 2002, the band’s future was in serious doubt.

Now, nearly eight years after Staley’s death, singer-guitarist William DuVall of the band Comes With the Fall, has effectively made Alice in Chains whole again. Though Staley could never be replaced, DuVall — who joined the band a few years ago — is a worthy and talented successor.

Jerry Cantrell (photo: Alex Crick)
Jerry Cantrell (photo: Alex Crick)

“Every time we’ve played here, you’ve really made me feel welcome,” DuVall told the capacity crowd near the end of the second show Friday night (Feb. 5) at the Paramount Theatre.

The band’s two-night stand Thursday and Friday (Feb. 4-5) at the Paramount was cause for celebration among longtime fans who’ve embraced the group’s comeback with DuVall and singer-guitarist Jerry Cantrell at the helm. And the band’s current, Grammy-nominated album, “Black Gives Way to Blue,” has been greeted with whole-hearted enthusiasm.

At Friday night’s show, exuberant fans whooped it up long before the band hit the stage at 9 p.m., waiting in long lines for adult beverages (a concertgoer in the lobby sported a T-shirt that read, “The Liver is Evil — It Must Be Punished”). And believe me, there was a lot of punishing going on. It was like a warmup for the Superbowl.

William DuVall (left) and Jerry Cantrell (photo: Alex Crick)
William DuVall (left) and Jerry Cantrell (photo: Alex Crick)

Opening the concert was Creature With the Atom Brain — a Belgian alternative-rock band that got its name from the Roky Erickson & the Aliens song (which took its name from the 1950s sci-fi movie “Creature With the Atom Brain”).

The group’s first full album, “I Am the Golden Gate Bridge,” featured Mark Lanegan of the Screaming Trees, Queens of the Stone Age and The Gutter Twins. Creature with the Atom Brain is led by singer, guitarist and keyboardist Aldo Struyf of Millionaire. I was disappointed I couldn’t get to the concert in time to see the band’s set. (If a reader would like to comment on the band’s set, please do so in the “comments” section below.)

Alice in Chains — DuVall, Cantrell, drummer Sean Kinney and bassist Mike Inez — kicked off its set at 9 p.m. with a taut, intense “All Secrets Known,” just as the band had done on Thursday night. (The Alex Crick photos posted with this review were taken Thursday.)

William DuVall (left) and Jerry Cantrell (photo: Alex Crick)
William DuVall and Jerry Cantrell (photo: Alex Crick)

Band members were in great spirits, playing enthusiastically and ferociously. Guitarist Cantrell was killer on such songs as “Damn That River,” “Them Bones” and “Rain When I Die.” Singer DuVall sent chills with his powerful vocals, especially when harmonizing with Cantrell (though on “Down in a Hole” it was difficult not to wish for Staley’s version). And bassist Inez and drummer Kinney provided thunderous backup.

Concertgoers sang along to “Rain When I Die,” as well as “Your Decision” and “No Excuses.” Throughout the nearly two-hour set, fans pumped fists and made devil horns. Some whirled about in the few open spaces on the main floor, looking positively deranged with glee. Such classics as “We Die Young” and “Man in a Box” caused explosions in the crowd.

The stage produciton included bright spot lights that illuminated individual band members and an interesting wraparound rear curtain on which a constantly changing array of images were projected in a kind of Cinerama effect.

Jerry Cantrell (photo: Alex Crick)
Jerry Cantrell (photo: Alex Crick)

The concert came to a close with two of the most powerful songs in the AIC arsenal — “Would?” and “Rooster” — and the band left the stage looking satisfied and triumphant.

The Paramount shows were the biggest AIC events since a surprise show last summer at the Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame. The band also played last September at the Moore Theatre. Read a review here.

What did you think of Friday’s concert? You can post comments below.

For a batch of stories on Staley’s death, visit the Seattle Post-Intelligencer archives.

To read an interview I did with Cantrell in 1998, click here. Cantrell also has a MySpace page.

And for a link to the Alice in Chains Web site click here.

The set list from Friday’s show:

All Secrets Known
It Ain’t Like That
Check My Brain
Them Bones
Dam That River
Rain When I Die
Your Decision
No Excuses
Love, Hate, Love
A Looking In View
Lesson Learned
We Die Young
Acid Bubble
Angry Chair
Man in the Box

Here’s a video of “Man in the Box” featuring Staley:

4 Replies to “CONCERT REVIEW: Alice in Chains makes a stand at the Paramount”

  1. Nice review Gene. Thursday night’s show was great, especially hearing new songs such as “All Secrets Known”, “No Decision” and “Last of My Kind” live for the first time. I just wanted to point out a misprint in the review. I’m sure it was an accident but “Rain When I Die” is not a new song, it of course is one of the best songs off AIC’s 1992 masterpiece “Dirt”. Rock!

  2. Thursday’s show was great. Alice in Chains really brought it. They played a solid set spanning most of their records that looks pretty similar to your list from Friday’s show. It would have been great to see them play “Love, Hate, Love”, but I’m glad I got to see them play “Last of My Kind”.

    Jerry never disappoints live, and this show was no exception. I’ve always liked that AIC shows are song-oriented rather than filled up with guitar solos, drums solos, bass solos…they come to play as a band, and the fireworks occur in the songs. Jerry’s tone is always rock solid, his vocals are great, and he makes everything look effortless. I’m a pretty big fan of twin guitars live, and Duvall was great on guitar, including some lead work, which generally came through, though it was sometimes difficult to hear him on rhythm.

    The stage lighting and projections were excellent, and the sound quality for the headliners was generally excellent. As usual for me, Sean Kinney stole much of my attention. His style is fully unique, and the exaggerated ritards he drives (dropping the bottom out of the tempo for emphasis), which play so well (on, for instance, the chorus of Facelift’s “Sunshine”) show up more often in their live show, to great effect- an AIC signature. Mike Inez landed the gig of a lifetime with AIC, and he easily deserves it.

    Duvall held his own and then some. He brought an element of solid projection to the vocals, especially in his higher range, that wasn’t a large part of Staley’s style. As you said, no one can replace Layne, but William’s a great fit for AIC.

    Creature With The Atom Brain’s Thursday set was reasonably long, and they were probably a better group than it was easy to hear; their mix was pretty bad. It may be common knowledge that the opening bands get a bit screwed in the mix, but even by those lower standards, the sound could have been better. It was nearly impossible to make out the vocals much of the time. They had some good material, a lot of fairly extended mid-tempo grooves, but the drummer was a bit loose at times, and the mix often sounded like mud. They were easily good enough to interest me in hearing some studio recordings, but not so good that I’ve actually gotten around to it.

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