Friday, October 11, 2002 @ 6:56 PM
Jerry Cantrell and Comes With
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The opening night of Jerry Cantrell’s UK tour saw him venture into my neck of the woods -- much to my delight, as I never got to see Alice In Chains perform live. Once again the venue was TJ’s -- seemingly becoming the place to play for lower key shows.
Support this evening comes from Comes With The Fall -- the guys pulling a double shift, as later on they perform with Jerry as his backing band. It’s easy to see why they’ve been selected: their blend of rock often settling somewhere between Soundgarden and a more up-tempo variation of Cantrell’s own solo output. The band win over a lot of support with the sheer quality of the material, and the performance is passionate and extremely well received.
By showtime, TJ’s is busier than I have ever seen it, the place is packed to the gills with a range of punters – though, to be honest, the crowd is pretty mature in age. Proof indeed that Alice In Chains were a much-loved band on these shores.
Jerry kicks proceedings off with “Psychotic Break” and it’s a somewhat long-winded opener. Initial enthusiasm that Comes With The Fall had whipped up drifts away during the lengthy intro, and for a moment or two there’s a semi awkward shuffling of bodies as the crowd has to change mindset. “Bargain Basement…” is next and the tune does little to stir things up. I’m sipping my beer towards the rear of the floor and wondering if this may just be one of those gigs that comes up empty. “Castaway” is next and the guy next to me quips, “The support band was way better.” I’m inclined to agree with him at this point, and start to think that maybe if I was stoned off of my ass I would be enjoying festivities more, such is the slow pace of things.
In the space of one track, the vibe of the gig is transformed. “Cut You In” kickstarts the crowd into life, and a singalong ensues, fists in the air. “Anger Rising” goes down in a storm and in the space of three tracks, Cantrell has them eating out of his hand. His microphone isn’t the loudest I’ve ever heard, and a lot of what the soft-spoken Jerry has to say is lost to all but the front few rows. The rest of the band, with the addition of Shawn Matthews on guitar and backing vocals, seems to be having a hell of a time, all smiles and energy.
It’s a formality that an Alice In Chains track or two will appear at some point during the evening, and “It Ain’t Like That” is the first to show. The intro is greeted like an old friend, and everyone sings along as if their very lives depended on it. To their credit, the band collectively do a great job with the vocals. Jerry’s voice doesn’t possess the same pain or anguish that Layne’s had, but in terms of emotion he certainly matches his late band mate. “Would” is the final tune of the regular set, and once again the vocals are impressive. The song is perhaps Cantrell at his best, and tonight working the solo out of his guitar and playing it with a passion that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Something that I’ve always admired in his playing is his ability, not so much to know when to play, but when not to. Something nowhere near enough guitarists manage.
“Would” ends to rapturous applause, and the band depart stage right. There’s no way on earth the crowd are accepting this as the end, and the chant of “Jerry, Jerry!” goes up like some bizarre Springer episode on sweaty rock fans. The band duly return and launch into more Alice In Chains moments. Cantrell is a veteran to this game, and unlike some rockers, appreciates that a lot of the people here are here purely because of his past.
The final one -- two comprises of the quite stunning “Down in a Hole” -- once again performed well enough to produce goosebumps on the flesh. My hat off to the guy from Comes With The Fall for managing to pull off the vocal harmonies that made the original so special.
The parting shot is a welcome surprise in “Them Bones” -- met by a cheer so loud you’d think Layne himself had appeared behind the drumkit to do the vocals. A truly professional performance once again, and the packed crowd leave knowing that this evening they’ve seen one of the great artists from the past 10 years or so in fine form, and a reminder to all of just how good Alice In Chains were.
Bargain Basement Howard Hughes
Cut You In
It Ain’t Like That
What The Hell Have I
Down In A Hole