Saturday, September 18, 2010

Alice In Chains and Journalism

I realize that this title sounds like an odd match for a post but it will make sense by the end of this.

I recently saw the band Alice In Chains at Charter One Pavilion, which is an outdoor music venue where Meigs Field used to be. If you get a chance to see a show there, and the weather is nice, you will have a great view of the Chicago skyline and it is highly recommended. Below is a you tube video from the show, when they were playing "The Rooster", and you can see how good the view is from up in the grandstand seating.

As far as the show goes, Mastodon, a band I like a lot, opened up the show. Their new album "Crack the Skye" was excellent and well reviewed. The lead singer and guitarist, Brent Hinds, is a proud alcoholic, which means that I was astounded when the show started precisely at 7pm. (I was just as surprised when Dave Gahan of Depeche Mode started their Lolla 2009 show on time; I figured that guy traveled around in a coffin.) Mastodon played a good show the general admission standing room only was about 1/2 full and a few people were into it, although the sound kind of sucked. I recommend checking out their songs and videos on you tube if you are interested you can start here. Frankly I don't understand why Mastodon isn't more popular; their songs are like classic 70's metal and their lyrical themes are more interesting than the typical party / girls / devil that is common in the genre.

Then the Deftones came out. I like that Deftones album "White Pony", and I own all of their albums since then (does anyone call them albums anymore?). The crowd was into them a bit more than Mastodon, and a bit bigger. They got a lot of cheering for some of their older stuff. But by the time they neared the end of their set I for one was getting beat down they were very repetitive especially their new stuff.

Finally Alice In Chains came out. The amps on stage were cleared away and they had a first-class setup, although the vocals weren't working for most of "Again". Alice In Chains found a replacement for Layne Staley, their former lead singer, who faded away and died in obscurity in 2002. This is the third time I've seen the new Alice In Chains in Chicago, once at House of Blues, once at the Aragon, and now here.

Their show was great. The first three songs were Them Bones, Dam That River and Rain When I Die and that is a powerful start to any set. The crowd also went nuts for favorites like "Rooster" as well. I highly recommend going to see them if you get a chance, just like the re-united Soundgarden who sounded incredible at Lollapalooza.

This writer also attended the show; I was thankful it wasn't the Dylan-loving Greg Kot, a guy that it is pointless to write about because he is so consistently awful.

When you are reviewing a show, are you a journalist, explaining what happened presumably to people that are interested in that genre, or are you coming as a critic, which basically means that you are just saying your opinion regardless of the crowd or popular sentiment? Part of the reason that music and movie critics / journalists are on the run is that blog sites and social media run by fans are much more into the particular bands than a "generic" critic and less and less people are looking to them for guidance.

Basically the critic slagged on the new Alice In Chains.

Entering the final lap of their comeback outing, Alice In Chains played a competent albeit lackluster 75-minute set that, save for nostalgic flashbacks to the early 90s, gave little reason to care about the quartet's future.
Well in that capacity he is clearly talking as a critic, not a journalist.  As a journalist, he would have to note that the place was full-up by the time Alice In Chains took the stage, and that the crowd was wildly enthusiastic, and people were HAPPY with what they were getting.  As a critic, well, he can say what he wants, but who cares.  The new singer has great range and great stage presence, and frankly doesn't make the band look like a bunch of old guys on a nostalgia tour.  But the writer basically says you can't replace Layne, which is a DUH, the guy is dead, and he doesn't give the new material the credit it deserves - while it isn't as good as their best albums, the new album has a lot of good songs that the crowd liked and weren't viewed as filler, which is more than most of the touring acts from the 90's can claim.

And then here is his comment on Mastodon:

The quartet now just needs to get immobile guitarist Brent Hinds to show some physical expression.
Well, DUH, once again, probably the reason that Hinds isn't moving around too much is that he isn't the most healthy guy in the world.  Alice In Chains had famously well documented problems getting Layne to tour, and he is sitting down looking like the walking dead for their unplugged album.  You can't have it both ways - you can't point to a heroin addict (Staley) as irreplaceable when the guy is so damaged he can't even tour and then dies in his early thirties and then wonder why that same sort of person isn't exactly tearing up the stage for Mastodon.


Sk8 said...

Saw Alice in Lisbon a month or so ago, they looked great with their new singer. No Lane, but not bad.

Carl from Chicago said...

Agreed he isn't as good as the old singer, but that is a pretty high bar, and glad to have the band around and kicking.

Can't believe Cornell sounds as good as he does with Soundgarden.

Highly recommend seeing both bands live