A lot has happened over the last three years. We’ve had a Presidency change, (for better or worse depending on who you talk to), the housing market exploded, Brittany Spears’s conservatorship ended and of course, a global pandemic. In the midst of all of those life changing events, it would also mark the last time that Alice in Chains would embark on a full fledged U.S. tour.
But after a few years off, Alice in Chains is set to conquer the States once again. Joining their campaign would be none other than high ranking bands like Bush, Breaking Benjamin and The L.I.F.E. Project. This amazing tour would set its sights on Camden, NJ for only the second date and the fans at Freedom Mortgage Pavilion couldn’t wait to make up for lost time.
First up would be the hard rocking sounds of The L.I.F.E Project. But before fans could get their first taste of what the band has to offer, Guitarist Josh Rand had to sift through some technical difficulties with his amp rig. To reward the eagerly waiting fans, Josh started to play the opening riff of Megadeath’s Symphony of Destruction. They wasted no time singing along before the cheers turned to boos as Rand gets the thumbs up that the issue is fixed and abruptly ends the serenade.
But once the band hits the stage they regain the crowd with the soaring sounds of A World on Fire. Cassandra Carson’s voice wowed the crowd as it launched off the stage behind some hard hitting music. That would just be a taste of what they had to offer. They would continue their musical barrage as they unleash the almost eastern feels of Purgatory. Carson really lets loose vocally and it would be the first time we’d get a good taste of Diana Weishaar’s talent on the keys and backup vocals.
The band turned things up a bit with their high octane cover of Anthrax’s legendary Caught in a Mosh and to no surprise ignited the crowd. Following that up is the heavy tones of Ignite. Bassist Jaron Gulino and Drummer Danny Piselli dropped the hammer on the low end and really brought a crushing tone. And as the cheers pour onto the stage, The L.I.F.E. Project would bid fans farewell with Dying in the Light and that would be quite a high note to end their set. Be sure to check out the band’s self-titled EP as well as their killer cover album Big F.O.U.R.
A World on Fire
Caught in a Mosh
Dying of the Light
The excitement grows high once the Bush stage banner stands lone and proud behind the drum kit. Soon Drummer Nik Hughes walks out and gets things started. As Hughes pounds away, the thunderous hits usher out Guitarist Chris Traynor and Bassist Corey Britz. And as the crowd’s cheers are almost as loud as the drums, Singer Gavin Rossdale hits the stage with a mic and a smile and the band jump right into the raucousness of The Kingdom. Bush set it off on a heavy note and would waste no time jumping back in time to serve up the one that put them on the map with Machinehead.
Their energy was impossible to ignore and they had fans hanging over the barricades screaming every word that came off the stage. Following the incredible Everything Zen, there would be quite the surprise waiting for fans. While the band leads into Flower on a Grave, Rossdale almost immediately jumps off the stage and begins his voyage through the crowd.
Even with all of the handshakes, pats on the back and high fives, Gavin didn’t miss a beat. His musical pilgrimage led him all the way out to the lawn area almost 200 yards from the stage. There was almost no area he didn’t grace with his presence. It was an amazing sight to see him engage with so many fans and truly created an intimate and special memory for every single person he met.
Speaking of special moments. Three fans were brought out on stage to celebrate this as their 100th Bush show. After Gavin introduces them to the crowd, he dedicates the next song to them. And it would be a hell of a dedication. Gavin has the stage to himself and performed and emotionally charged version of their iconic Glycerine. With just his voice and a guitar, it allowed the overwhelming level and warmth of the fans voice’s as they sing along just an incredible thing to witness.
Keeping with the theme of Sixteen Stone, Bush would close out their set with yet another high point off their record breaking debut with Comedown. This band is one that has stood the test of time and continues to put on amazing live performances and giving their fans a great show.
Flower on a Grave
More Than Machines
A white curtain would now cover the stage as Breaking Benjamin’s crew started to set up. As I stood just off of the side of the stage, my own anticipation was starting to build as I watched their elaborate display coming together. But we wouldn’t wait long before the curtain drops and the band explodes into Blown Me Away. This would be by far the heaviest set of the night and this was just the beginning. They would follow that right up with Sooner or Later which would feature Keith Wallen on vocals.
Not only did Breaking Benjamin create a stunning stage setup. But they topped it off with a killer light display and an explosive pyro presentation that had the crowd going wild. There was almost no stop to the madness as the band unleashed one killer song after another like Tourniquet, So Cold, Give Me a Sign and Angels Fall. We also had Aaron Bruch give a stellar performance on vocals during Firefly.
Throughout the night, front man Ben Burnley would head to the side of the stage to give his son a hug while he stood with Ben’s wife. It was a pretty touching thing to see during a rock show. But the real highlight of the set would happen after a moment when the stage lights had gone off, and when they came back on, they revealed Keith, Aaron, Jasen, Ben and his young son all sitting on the steps in front of the drums.
Ben looked out to the crowd and said “You guys probably heard this one before.”. Soon Keith Wallen starts to strum to an acoustic rendition of Queen’s Who Wants to Live Forever. Ben’s vocal display was stirring to say the least. But standing there watching him share the moment with his arm around his son was a pretty special thing to witness.
Breaking Benjamin would turn up the heat during Breath. Aside from the power of when Ben would let the audience give a bolstering shout during certain verses. But the explosive pyro behind the band during those chaotic choruses. At one point there were even fireworks mixed in with the detonations. Keeping the momentum going, the band would un-holster ragers like Torn in Two and I Will Not Bow before ending it with none other than their musical titan The Diary of Jane. And as the band wraps their set, they become shadows on stage under the towers of fire around them.
Blow Me Away
Sooner or Later
Give Me a Sign
Who Wants to Live Forever
Red Cold River
Until the End
Torn in Two
I Will Not Bow
The Diary of Jane
And now the moment we’ve all been waiting for… for three long years. When the stunning large rectangular display panels around the stage start to fire up, it reveals the chain curtains that surround the perimeter of the stage. Irony or coincidence? You be the judge. But as soon as Alice in Chains broke into Again, it was a combination of excitement, shock and relief that this legendary band was able to grace our stage after such a long absence.
Singer William Duvall’s stage presence and charisma had him working the stage from end to end as he fired up the fans in every direction. This embarrassingly is the first time I’ve ever seen Alice in Chains live and hearing Duvall and Cantrell’s voices resonate together, making the iconic AIC sound literally gave me goosebumps.
It’s very hard to sit here and not be blown away by the song selection so far. Listening and seeing them perform Grind, Them Bones, Dam That River and Hollow was pretty surreal. But what came next had me losing it with the rest of the crowd. Drummer Sean Kinney leads it off with that memorable intro to the dark sounds of Angry Chair. Duvall and Cantrell supplied a heavy sound with two guitars and together produced those eerie echoing vocals that are so revered.
And then of course, there’s Man in the Box. Everyone has that one song that had drawn them to a certain band or a song that completely knocked them on their ass. And for me, it was the sledgehammer that introduced me to Alice in Chains. Jerry Cantrell’s legendary riff and lead coupled with the iconic voice box effect had half the building playing air guitar.
Duvall let the fans have the “Can you sew them shut” line of the chorus and they did so in thunderous fashion. Just listening to it in the car or on your headphones can really get you going. But feeling the energy of it live standing with close to 20,000 strong headbanging and screaming every word is priceless.
As the hits kept on coming with Rainer Fog, No Excuses, and of course Down in a Hole, we land on my personal favorite of the post Layne Staley era with Your Decision. Its ardent chord progression and impassioned vocals had Cantrell on full display. His subtle yet poignant solo tops off everything you’d want in an AIC song.
Afterwards, Bassist Mike Inez chugs away at probably the bands most infamous bass line with Would?. I don’t think there’s another song in their catalog that packs as much power and emotion equally as this. You could see it on every fan’s face as they sang along and you could feel the energy in the building just lift up.
With a setlist that no one could possibly complain about, the last piece for Alice in Chains’ triumphant return would begin as Jerry Cantrell starts to strum into the immortal Rooster. You could hear some fans get overzealous and start to sing a verse or two early. But when Duvall steps up and says “Can y’all sing it?”, it was astounding to hear the wave of “Ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh” just take over a venue of this size.
The passion from those in attendance really amplified the atmosphere around the music. To close out the night with this song and at the level it was received, truly solidified how amazing this show was to these fans. Alice in Chains is in a league all of their own and we were all very fortunate to be able to bear witness to one of the greatest bands of our generation. There are still plenty of dates to catch this incredible tour. So head over to Aliceinchains.com to grab yours before you miss out on an epic night of music!
Check My Brain
Dam That River
Main in the Box
The One You Know
Donw In a Hole