Alice in Chains, Ghost & Walking Papers @ Manchester Academy 1 – 11th Nov 2013

I had been looking forward to this concert ever since we purchased the tickets, and the time had finally come.

We arrived at the Academy nearing the end of support band Walking Paper’s set. I had not heard of them until I found out they were supporting AIC, and after a quick google of them, I found that former Guns N’Roses bassist Duff McKagen was part of the band.

Hailing from Seattle, they are a band of blues rockers with a charismatic frontman with good vocals. Lead singer Jeff Angell finished off their set by jumping in the crowd and saying a big thank you everyone for being there.

Duff McKagen of Walking Papers - Photo taken with a compact camera
Duff McKagen of Walking Papers – Photo taken with a compact camera

After what seemed like forever, the roadies managed to get the Ghost backdrop up and then the lights dimmed, followed by slowly swaying green spotlights pointing into the crowd. Then, eerie-satanic-monk-funeral music started oozing out of the speakers, making what I have left of my eardrums tremble. This went on for a good 4 minutes before the first ”Nameless Ghoul” (essentially any band member that is not the frontman is known as a nameless ghoul) drifted on stage, slowly followed by the rest of them.

The ”Nameless Ghouls” started to play an instrumental over the already creepy enough music that was playing, and after yet another 3 or 4 minutes, lead singer Papa Emeritus II proudly walked on stage whilst giving a Pope-esque wave.

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Halfway through their first song my husband and I mouthed to each other ”WTF?!”. As much as I love fancy dress and stage make-up, and Papa Emeritu’s was cool,  it was apparent that they were compensating for the lack of musical expertise. The first thing that I noticed throughout their whole set was that they must have run out of lyrics along the way, because in almost every verse they used the word Satanus,Sathanas or just plain Satan.

I couldn’t really pinpoint what genre they were supposed to be, as in one song they sounded like Italian folk music and the opening of the next song sounded like Megadeth.

With verses of their songs looking suspiciously like extracts from the Satanic bible, monotonous use of words such as Satan and Unholy and Papa Emeritu’s less than impressive vocals, I am sorry to say, it was not a show that I enjoyed musically.

I’d advise less theatricals and more effort in to the music, if not, I doubt they will be remembered 20 years down the line.

I must admit that there were a bunch of people in the crowd who loved the show and sang every lyric along with the band, especially a guy standing right behind me, chanting in my ear.

After recuperating from that experience, Alice in Chains took to the stage, with very cool and colourful back-lighting panels.

Immediately, they jumped into Again and the packed-to-the-brim Academy erupted into a mighty roar of approval, and to make it even better they quickly followed it up with Check My Brain, to which the crowd were going nuts.

Unlike at The Cult’s concert last week, there was no moshing going on tonight, everyone was just jumping on the spot, singing to their hearts content and even crowd-surfing right at the front of the venue.

Jerry Cantrell of Alice In Chains - Photo taken with a compact camera
Jerry Cantrell of Alice In Chains – Photo taken with a compact camera

Now, I thought that I would have started by commending Jerry Cantrell, but instead, the man who really deserves a medal for that performance is frontman William DuVall, who really made that show come alive!

With his powerful and versatile vocals and buzzing energy he made the show his own, and despite having Layne Staley’s big shoes to fill, he really did a great job of it and I cannot fault him in any way.

Bassist Mike Inez was also on fire that night, and he lit up the crowd with his cheshire-cat smile throughout the whole show, and drummer Sean Kinney was thunderous and versatile and also had a big smile on his face.

The person who I was most looking forward to seeing was obviously Jerry Cantrell; but after getting over the initial wow-moment of seeing him in person, I realised that he was somewhat subdued.

His guitar playing and vocals were top-notch, but he, as a person seemed lethargic and in need of a good night’s sleep…which is totally understandable when you are touring and nearing your 50’s, but DuVall who is only 1 year younger than him (but looks like he is in his 30’s) gave a very contrasting performance to his.

The band played songs from their new album The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here including Stone and Hollow, but my favourite from this album was Voices, which was played beautifully to perfection.

I thoroughly enjoyed the whole show, every band members was musically ardent and to top it off, they wrapped up the night with Rooster to which every person in the crowd chorused until the very last word.

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*All photos in this article were taken with a compact point-and-shoot camera

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