By Chyrisse Tabone, Tampa Correspondent
Venue: Hard Rock Live Orlando, August 10, 2015
With Rock At Night I have been to a lot of venues in the past but this was my first time at Hard Rock Live. First of all, if you ever go to the venue, I would leave with plenty of time to spare. There was quite a line at the parking pay booth which allowed Florida residences $5 premium parking in the multi-level parking garage. Believe me, pay the money because there is quite a long walk (the people movers made me feel like I was at the airport) to the Universal Citywalk which is jam packed with restaurants, movie theatres, nightclubs, and of course the Hard Rock Live.
The Hard Rock Live offers floor (General Admission) for standing patrons and upstairs balconies with seats. The night of Alice in Chains, the venue was packed with mostly guys between their late-20s and early-40s. Most of them were likely teens or younger when they first heard the hypnotic dark grunge sound that distinguishes Alice in Chains from the other Seattle-based bands. Thinking back, to the 1990s, one could not turn on the radio without hearing “Man in the Box” or “Got Me Wrong.”
The Alice in Chains concert at the Hard Rock Live appeared to be a Greatest Hits concert with no warm-up band—just pure Alice in Chains for approximately one hour and 15 minutes. The band, which consists of William DuVall, the lead singer for the last decade, belted out songs on a stage which featured cool flashing blue and red lights. Abstract images glowed vividly in the background creating a psychedelic trippy experience. A large Crusty the Clown doll sat perched beneath the drum kit, offering a whimsical touch to the rather dark but pleasing melancholic music. DuVall often stepped at the end of the stage to touch fingertips with an audience that reached back showing their love.
The crowd, which consisted of mainly conservatively dressed men with baseball hats, deck shoes, polo shirts, and Bermuda shorts were rather sedate during the first three songs. I guess I am so accustomed to seeing body surfing and moshing at concerts. The audience observed intently, taking in the cerebral music, and nodded their heads in approval. The tone of the audience changed into active lyric-mouthing and heads bopping in time as “Them Bones” and a more recent hit “Stone” played.
By the time Alice in Chains played “Rooster” the crowd was visibly moving, swaying, and singing the entire song including the initial “wooo wooo’s” as the haunting dark bass riff permeated the atmosphere. I remembered the original MTV video showing a jungle combat scene. One could close his/her eyes and imagine being in Vietnam in the 1960s, wading through a rice paddy, as the 60s wah-wah fades into the background. Hearing this song was pure utter joy.
Another highlight was “Got Me Wrong” which sounded as tight as the original. Really, even with the recent band line-up, the distinctive vocal harmonies which make you say “Yeah, that sounds like Alice in Chains” still sounded very similar to the original recordings. This was very true with other songs like “No Excuses.”
To gauge what other patrons thought about the concert, I spoke to a few people in the audience. Since there were few women except possible dates, I chatted with a couple of women in the ladies room who were rocking laced-up leather boots and floppy 70s hats. I figured, “These women ought to be able to shed some light!” Sure enough, they were married to musicians in a well-known rock band (I promised not to say who) and they were totally digging the show. One said she felt nostalgic and was reminded of fondly playing Alice in Chain CDs in her teens.
I spoke with a young guy named Aaron who philosophically discussed Alice in Chains, the new line-up, and the heartbreak of the band losing Layne Staley in 2002. He was in college in Alaska when Staley passed, noting “for a couple of days we did not go to class, wandered around in a daze, and mourned the loss.” He explained it was particularly tragic because he felt “everybody saw it coming” and it “couldn’t be stopped.” Aaron noted he was glad that Jerry Cantrell dedicated the song “Nutshell” during the concert to lost friends and bandmates. I asked what he thought about the new line-up and he said he loved the new albums and the current band (although some of his friends refuse to give the band a chance). He feels the band with DuVall sounds a lot like Staley without being an imitation or sounding like a tribute band. The harmonies with Cantrell are tight and the band is “just as good.”
So, overall, the concert was a winner! It was a great nostalgic trip to the 90s and definitely people need to put the band on their “must-see” list.
Check my Brain
Man in the Box
Got Me Wrong
Down in the Hole
It Ain’t Like That
We Die Young
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