Live Report - Alice in Chains, Ghost, Walking Papers – 11th November 2013 – Manchester Academy, Manchester, UK
Live Gig

Release year: 0
Reviewed by Goat

An impulse-brought ticket brought to cheer myself up after missing The Dillinger Escape Plan in town the week before, this was an eye-opening gig in more than one way.

Openers Walking Papers were new to me, their claim to fame being the presence of ex-Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan, which wouldn't usually be enough to win me over despite my liking of Velvet Revolver. The band (also featuring ex-Screaming Trees and noted session drummer Barrett Martin, singer/guitarist Jeff Angell and keyboardist Benjamin Anderson) made a good go at winning me over with some nicely bluesy tunes, however, laid-back enough to be inviting but rocking enough to start the evening off well. Angell is a charismatic if slightly clichéd vocalist, clad in fedora and leather jacket, even leaving the stage at one point for a wander in the crowd, which was unusual enough to get attention and mark his competent but not incredible band out. A good opening act, but I'm not sure I'd listen to them in any other setting...

That's not something you could say for Ghost. The backlash to the famed Swedish occult-rockers has been and gone with their second album, and while I enjoy them well enough on record I wouldn't have called myself a fan. That's changed after watching them here, a gripping performance from vocalist Papa Emeritus helping seal the deal on their atmospheric rock. Obviously there's a suspension of disbelief involved, but the hammy theatrics (waved sceptre, hooded band members, oddly high vocals) are enough to make a Ghost performance something akin to a 60s horror film. It remains to be seen how long the band can continue to deliver in the studio, of course, but based on this there are no problems live, and after the crushing opening of Infestissumam, tracks like Per Aspera Ad Inferi, Ritual, and Monstrance Clock were great experiences that were enough to silence critics. Over-hyped on record? Sure. A good, catchy band that delivers a stellar live experience? Definitely.

Alice in Chains have been through hardships, but their performance tonight was tight and heavy, and although Layne Staley and Mike Starr are no longer with us, they were there in spirit (and paid tribute to with 'LSMS' inscribed on the drumkit). New man William DuVall has proven himself on two studio albums now, but live he's more than capable, leading the crowd through a setlist that was weighted heavily towards the classics, with Them Bones, Man in the Box, and We Die Young particularly highlights. Jerry Cantrell's short hair may make him look like a less goblin-like Lars Ulrich, but he is a wonderful joint frontman, getting 'jer-ry!' chants from the crowd as he stalked about the stage and riffed. Interestingly, there were more cuts from 1995's self-titled album (Again, Grind, Sludge Factory) than from 2009's Black Gives Way to Blue (Check My Brain, Last of My Kind) and even latest album The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here only got three songs (Hollow, Stone, Voices) compared to Dirt's four (Rooster, Down in a Hole, Them Bones and Would?). Still, what fan would complain? Alice in Chains have a remarkably solid discography, and there was no doubting that the crowd left after the encore well pleased and more in love with the band than ever. I've been pretty obsessed with them since, the recent two albums growing on me with each listen and new shades coming to light on the first three. A great evening.

Killing Songs :
Goat quoted
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