Monday, August 25, 2014

Alice In Chains, Monster Truck & The Pack A.D. @ Metropolis, August 24, 2014

It was a fine evening of rock last night at Metropolis.

It started with The Pack A.D., who were in fine form. Drummer Maya Miller knows exactly when to simplify things à la Meg White and when to pound an off-beat à la Keith Moon, and as the backing vocalist and master of ceremony, always adequately takes the between-the-songs spotlight off of Becky Black, who uses the 10 seconds she needs to gather up the energy to burst out another garage rock gem. As the first of three bands on the bill, we expected 20 minutes of hard rock from them; instead, we were pleased to get double that.

Next up was Monster Truck, who have been in town and in our province often since winning the Best New Artist Juno in 2013, most recently a couple of weeks ago at an outdoors festival - I forget whether it's Osheaga or Heavy MTL, which both take place at the same venue and are organized by the same people. If Lynyrd Skynyrd had a child with AC/DC, the music it would produce would be pretty much what Monster Truck provides; get that child a godfather like Mark Slaughter or Chris Cornell for the range of vocals, and you're dead-on.

By itself, their songs are ok. It's riff-based Southern Rock with lots of ''girl'', ''baby'', ''love'', and maybe some ''driving'' in the lyrics; the type of stuff that's fine as background music while listening to a rock station on a road trip, but maybe not something I'd buy in CD or MP3 format. However, these guys can play, and their live sets have an energy I've rarely seen anywhere else before. They are confident, in control of their instruments, and most of all, happy. All four of them sport smiles that could end a forest fire and impregnate all the birds and squirrels. They're more fun to watch than a barrel full of monkeys on acid (*please don't give acid to monkeys). I might eventually be tempted to buy a DVD of theirs.

But the main event managed to remind everyone in the room whose show it really was. Alice In Chains, despite the death of two founding members (vocalist and part-time guitarist Layne Staley, and bassist Mike Starr) are as good as they ever were. If anything, they now have the consistency to give high-quality shows night in and night out, which may not have been the case when at least two of its members were heroin addicts.

Jerry Cantrell remains a pitch-perfect guitarist (though I don't agree with those who consider him a guitar god/virtuoso), and Sean Kinney is also one of the most reliable drummers to come out of the 1990s Seattle scene, so that went according to plan; Mike Inez - who also played with Ozzy Osbourne, Slash's Snakepit and Black Label Society - might be an improvement over Starr for the sheer fact that he's enjoying every second of it (huge smiles, interacting with the crowd, throwing picks - think of Suicidal Tendencies / Metallica bass player Robert Trujillo); and William DuVall is a heck of a frontman.

He can hit Staley's notes, but he's also energetic, doing rock-star poses and moves like a cross between Beck and Scott Weiland - but with a much larger vocal range: there's some Corey Glover (Living Coloür) deepness and richness in there, there's that sardonic Axl Rose voice from Mr. Brownstone at times, but the Staley-meets-Freddie Mercury thing really hits you. And he can play guitar well - he took a few solos during the evening, and when he felt he may not have hit a note right, he didn't play it. He stayed within his means and rocked the fuck out.

Photo: Éric Robillard
Here's the setlist, and album each song was from:

1. Dirt (Dirt, 1992)
2. Them Bones (Dirt)
3. Dam That River (Dirt)
4. Hollow (The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, 2013)
5. Again (Alice In Chains, 1995)
6. Check My Brain (Black Gives Way To Blue, 2009)
7. Your Decision (Black Gives Way To Blue)
8. Man In the Box (Facelift, 1990)
9. Grind (Alice In Chains)
10. Nutshell (Jar Of Flies, 1994)
11. Phantom Limb (The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here)
12. We Die Young (Facelift)
13. Stone (The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here)
14. Sludge Factory (Alice In Chains)
(encore break)
15.  Cold Gin (Kiss cover) tease
16. Got Me Wrong (Sap, 1992)
17.Would? (Singles soundtrack, 1992; Dirt)
18. Rooster (Dirt)

In addition to the quality of the show, I'd be remiss to not point out that three feet to my right was the largest and most violent mosh pit I've seen since 1996. Kudos to no one getting killed. Keep it classy, kids.

Alice In Chains: 8/10
Monster Truck: 7/10
The Pack A.D.: 8/10

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