Home Gigs Gig Review : Alice in Chains bring the Dirt to the Telegraph Building Belfast 21st May 2019

Gig Review : Alice in Chains bring the Dirt to the Telegraph Building Belfast 21st May 2019

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Needless to say, the “Seattle Sound” has held a very firm grip on the hearts, heads and ears of loyal grunge legions across the globe for over 30 years. Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains (the big four) reigned over stereo systems in the 90s producing an incredible plethora of distorted masterpieces and gigantic cathartic choruses that will forever remain as staples in the rock universe. Meanwhile, on 21st May 2019, the influential and ferocious Alice In Chains finally paid Belfast another visit after 26 years, despite trips to Dublin which included an appearance at Marley Park with thrash legends Metallica, prog-metallers Mastodon, and Avenged Sevenfold back in 2009.

Jerry and the boys previously performed at the Ulster Hall on March 6th 1993 in support of the revered classic, Dirt. That was way before my time, but I wonder what it would’ve been like to experience Chains with Layne during that time when the grunge spirit was running wild and supreme. Regardless and respectfully, time moves on and the band has adapted and evolved.

The show was held at the Telegraph Building, now my new favourite venue in the city centre (which unfortunately faces pressure from gentrifying forces). With Chain’s booking agent leaving the North on the shelf for nearly 30 years, it’s not a surprise that it was an instant sellout. 1500+ people rushed to get their mitts on some tickets. Some succeeded, others stood outside the venue waiting in hope. Alas, I’m one of those lucky ducks on the other side of the fence – quack quack!

What made this show even more special was that AIC themselves selected Belfast’s very own genre-bending alt outfit Wynona Bleach (formerly R51) to join them on the Irish leg of this tour. Interviewing the band earlier in the day, the 5-piece was ecstatic about the opportunity, calling it an honour to open for one of their sonic idols. I was told on good authority that the Alice in Chains lads, despite the austere rockstar demeanours, were “absolutely lovely” – giving Wynona Bleach much needed pep talks and being quite hospitable.

At 8pm, Wynona Bleach took to the stage to the sounds of new unreleased track ‘Drag‘ which appropriately set the pace for the evening’s proceedings. “Energy” summarises Wynona Bleach. The band were going for the neck in every respect of the phrase,witnessed by 1000 people populating the Telegraph Building at the time. Excitement and enthusiasm oozed from every note coming over that PA reciprocated by a cohort of loyal fans, as well as new fans. I have seen the band on a number of occasions in the past. They propel themselves into each performance with an uncompromising drive and delivery. Their support set to Alice In Chains escalated that even further. Infectious pop hooks met ethereal Cocteau Twins-esque vocals, juxtaposed with incredibly aggressive fuzz-laden Pumpkins riffage, creatively modulated guitar leads, punchy syncopated flowing basslines, and bombastic drumming from the one man jackhammer that is Matty!
Amongst the highlights of their set included ‘Eyes Burning’, ‘Cherrydream’, the cheerfully syncopated ‘Sugar’ and the compelling ‘Heavy Friends’ which closed their set. If that wasn’t enough, they even threw in a cover of Curve’s ‘Coast Is Clear’! A striking performance from your new favourite band.
9 pm. To an overture of sustained bends and signature harmonised sullen vocals, Alice In Chains eased the crowd into the atmosphere with ‘Bleed The Freak’. Sharply, Jerry dropped right into that vicious groove, hurling punters in an arduous trance. Long hair whipped, fist thrown fanatically, and heads banged as die-hard legions felt the vibe hit them like a smack to the jaw. William DuVall swaggered his way around the large stage maintaining command and getting right into the crowds’ faces, with Mike Inez and Sean Kinney keeping the rhythmic stomping on point with colossal intensity. A short feedback transition introduced ‘Check My Brain’ into the mix with its behemoth head-crushing bend. Alice In Chains were just getting started.
The 21-song set combined album tracks and fan favourites from all eras of Chains, amongst which included the almighty ‘Them Bones’ and ‘Dam That River’ played in tandem. If only they threw in ‘Rain When I Die’ to create a holy trifecta of Dirt, but you there’s only so much time and too many bangers to deliver! In support of their latest studio album, Rainer Fog, the band included ‘Never Fade’ with its Kravitz-esque fanfare riff, the eponymously named track ‘Rainier Fog’ and the more dissonant and pounding ‘The One You Know’. These tracks were very enjoyable (I’m yet to listen to the album myself), well received by their Irish fans and complemented the set’s vibe, effectively perpetuating the grinding and pulsating aural assault that characterises Chains.
Other highlights of their set include quintessential staples (which require no further articulation) ‘Man In The Box’, ‘Angry Chair’, ‘Stone’, and the more relaxed ‘Nutshell’. The band ended their set on ‘Would?’ and sung the happy campers on their way home with ‘Rooster’ with 1500 fans becoming an immense choir. If you have the opportunity to see the band on their current leg of the tour, or with Korn in the States, make it your business to do so. Thank me later.
Review & Photo by Stephen Donnelly for metalplanetmusic
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