Alice In Chains + Ghost + Walking Papers
@ Alexandra Palace, London
9th November 2013
Review by Anna Dumpe
Photography by Nikki Ryan
On a cold and grim November evening in London, UK, over six thousand rock and metal fans made their way up to Alexandra Palace, which is an astonishing venue situated quite a journey away from anywhere in the world and at one of the highest points in London. But there ain’t no mountain high enough, if you know that you’re about witness Seattle’s grunge veterans Alice In Chains play Alexandra Palace alongside Ghost and Walking Papers.
Alice in Chains announced that they will be returning to UK soon after releasing their latest album The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, so there was no doubt that any grunge or heavy metal fan would miss an opportunity to experience what seemed to be the loudest gig of the year.
Seattle’s super-group Walking Papers kick off the show with “The Whole World’s Watching” off their self-titled debut album instantly presenting significant rock’n’roll groove, catchy melody and outstanding bass lines.
After noticing how much focus Walking Papers put on their bass sound and the whole rhythm section in general, it comes as no surprise that that their bassist is no one else, but Duff McKagan, who’s not only famous for being a former member of the most dangerous band of the 80’s – Guns N’ Roses, but also for being one of the most notable bassists of all times.
However, Duff Mc’Kagan is not the only member of Walking Papers with a musical background, as the rest of the band have previously been members of either Screaming Trees or The Missionary Position.
Tonight the super-group that is Walking Papers deliver a set that’s musically fulfilling, deep and striking, although to some, Walking Papers, as an opening act for Alice In Chains, might seem like an extraordinary pick, as they’re not necessarily heavy or grunge.
However, they are from Seattle and when it comes to their musical history, Walking Papers and Alice In Chains story goes way back in time, as the drummer Barrett Martin used to play in a band called Mad Season alongside no one else, but the late Layne Staley.
Jeff Angell comes across as one hell of a frontman as he delivers perfectly mastered rock’n’roll vocals and proves he’s no beginner when it comes to guitar playing. Heavily influenced by blues and the good old rock’n’roll sound, “Red Envelopes” go down grand and perfectly highlight Jeff Angell’s performance skills and musical talent.
While Jeff Angell’s puts his main focus on delivering some groovy rock’n’roll riffs, Benjamin Anderson takes it away on the keyboards. With an energetic and rather enthusiastic approach to his performance, he adds great attitude and extra melodics to Walking Papers sound, while capturing that warm old-school feel you get when listening back to old blues-rock vinyl from the 70’s.
Songs that highlight Walking Papers set and stand out as potential classics with exceptional vocal and musical performance by Jeff Angell and the boys are “The Whole World’s Watching”,” “The Butcher” and “Two Tickets and a Room”.
By the end of Walking Papers set the room has filled up nicely, as keen members of the audience flow in to discover and experience the Seattle’s finest rock’n’roll outfit around. If you missed their show, make sure to check them out for some blues driven rock’n’roll of the 21st Century.
1. The Whole World’s Watching
2. Red Envelopes
3. Your Secret’s Safe With Me
4. Capital T
5. The Butcher
6. Two Tickets and a Room
After a bluesy and rather chilled-out set by Walking Papers, it was time for ever so theatrical Swedish shock rockers Ghost to take over the stage of Alexandra Palace.
Ghost is one of those ‘either you love it or hate it’ type of bands and their tonight’s appearance has been a popular topic of whether they are an appropriate band to open for Alice In Chains or not.
So when it’s finally time for Ghost to kick off their performance, a great part of the crowd has politely left the room while hundreds of Ghost fans are making their way to find a good spot closer to the stage.
As always dressed to impress and with a visually moving stage show, Ghost come around as one of the most theatrical acts in the world of today’s heavy metal. What might come as a surprise to those who have never seen or heard of Ghost before is that they’re music is not necessarily heavy, although their image definitely suggests that.
Papa Emeritus II, the eccentric frontman and Satanic Priest of Ghost, once again appears to be on top of his game, as he greets the crowd to the Ritual and kick things off with “Infestissumam” and “ Per Aspera as Inferi” off their 2013 album Infestissumam making it a musically heavy start incorporating sacred music elements and instantly defining the mood in the room.
Behind the band leader Papa Emritus II, you have the indispensable ‘five nameless ghouls’ looking mystical and rather disturbing. Aside from that, all ‘five nameless ghouls’ clearly manage to put on a tight performance that’s musically striking and capable to create a significant and somewhat frightening atmosphere.
Alongside Ghost classics, like “Con Clavi Con Dio” and “Stand by Him,” Ghost throw in a highly appreciated cover version of Roky Erickson’s “If You Have Ghosts” to promote their new Covers EP If You have Ghost that’s out on the 20th of November.
However, songs that have already been declared as Ghost anthems, like “Year Zero,” “Ritual” and “Monstrance Clock” are saved for the grand finale to please the crowd with some of their most atmospheric and musically distinguished tunes.
Intro: Masked Ball (Jocelyn Pook song)
2. Per Aspera ad Inferi
3. Con Clavi Con Dio
4. Stand by Him
5. Prime Mover
6. If You Have Ghosts (Roky Erickson cover)
7. Year Zero
9. Monstrance Clock
When it’s finally time for tonight’s headliners, Alice In Chains take the stage full of excitement and open with the ultimate classic “Them Bones” to make a loud entrance and shake the crowd within the first few seconds of their performance. The first note of “Them Bones” instantly kicks off a party to celebrate the 1st show of Alice In Chains 2013 UK tour and makes it clear that tonight we’re in for a treat.
Alice In Chains could not have chosen a better venue for tonight’s show, as the beautiful Alexandra Palace makes the performance a lot more special by adding great and majestic atmosphere that’s simply irreplaceable and is impossible to compare to any other venues around London.
Alexandra Palace, as beautiful it is, might not be famous for its great acoustics, however tonight’s performance demonstrates exceptional sound quality that allows each instrument to stand out and add their very own musical element to tonight’s performance.
It’s more than obvious that the team of sound and light engineers behind Alice In Chains performance are as professional and hard working as the four men on stage, as the great sound quality tonight is accompanied by breathtaking light show to emphasize the dynamics of Alice In Chains show.
Alice In Chains dedicate the first part of their set to classic tracks, like “Dam That River,” “Again” and “Man in the Box”, as Jerry Cantrell delivers an astounding performance by laying down some melodic guitar solos mixed with his monstrous signature riffs still defining everything the band stands for musically.
Not always sticking to classics or introducing the new material off The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, Alice In Chains make sure to throw in some more unexpected songs, like “Got Me Wrong” off their Sap EP (1992) accompanied by “Last Of my Kind” off Black Gives Way To Blue (2009).
“Hollow,” the first song off The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here makes the floor of Alexandra Palace shake with it’s heavily distorted guitars riffs and demonstration of the classic Alice In Chains vocal harmonics still present on the new material.
Jerry Cantrell brings it down by dedicating “Rotten Apple” to the late Alice In Chains members Layne Staley and Mike Starr making it one of tonight’s emotionally charged highlights. It is followed by “No Excuses” off the same EP Jar Of Flies (1994) and is much appreciated by tonight’s crowd of die-hard Alice In Chains fans.
Tonight’s performance successfully manages to reflect the incredible amount of sadness, grief and self-destruction that Alice In Chains music holds. The amount of bitterness that Layne Staley once documented in his lyrics still lives on and addresses different generations of fans.
To this day it is hard to find any other band that has been able to sing about drug addiction and death in such self-torturing way as Alice In Chains.
As much as Alice In Chains have always been about Layne’s lyrics and Jerry’s riffs, no other element represents and makes Alice In Chains music as significant and recognizable as their vocal harmonies that run through almost every single song on the record and tonight at Alexandra Palace.
With a voice that at times sounds as if Layne Staley was singing from his grave, William DuVall puts on a phenomenal performance without much trying to sound like Layne in the first place. With a simply remarkable voice and ability to blend in with Jerry Cantrell’s vocals, they both manage to re-create that original Alice In Chains vocal sound that shaped the band and its sound in the first place.
After performing a selection of hits including “We Die Young” and “Dirt,” Alice In Chains leave with “Down In A Hole,” which like so many other songs tonight allows fans to simply sing their hears out. But once they’re gone, it’s clear that they’ll be returning for an obvious encore of few more Alice In Chains classics, as the crowd shout out and demand ‘Rooster(!)’.
Finishing their set with “Would?” and “Rooster,” Alice In Chains set the room on fire by delivering an encore of absolute classic tracks that have not only defined the band, but also the whole grunge genre throughout the years. Both songs make an emotionally fuelled ending of the show and speak to each and every person in the crowd with their embracement of pain, apathy and devotion.
Tonight has proved that Alice In Chains stand out as one of the greatest live bands, as their performance can be compared to watching someone paint a picture or create an artwork from scratch where each band member put together an incredible piece of art by using their instruments and perfectly designed musical arrangement.
Alice In Chains show tonight marks a celebration of an iconic band moving forward with their musical career by being able to write new material to address and excite new fans all around the world while still remembering where they’re coming from and appreciating their history.
Tonight the band delivered setlist spanning their 25 years long career and proved themselves to be, hands down, one of the best live bands around today.
1. Them Bones
2. Dam That River
3. Check My Brain
5. Man in the Box
6. Got Me Wrong
7. Last of My Kind
9. Rotten Apple
10. No Excuses
12. We Die Young
14. Down in a Hole
15. It Ain’t Like That (replaced Voices on the setlist)