Tag Archive: Duff McKagan

Alice in Chains + Ghost + Walking Papers @ 02 Academy Birmingham, 13 November 2013

If you were to do a ‘Rock Family Tree’ of the Seattle music scene and those associated with it, it would become a crazed scribble like a spider had gone mad on the page. And in Brum tonight (another ‘legendary home of metal’), some of that scrawl comes our way, with a rather unusual left-field ‘blip’ in the middle. Alice in Chains, with a Ghost and some Walking Papers.

First up and a very early start Walking Papers. From Seattle, this blues-rock band was initially a duo of Jeff Angell (Post Stardom Depression, The Missionary Position) and Barrett Martin (Skin Yard, Screaming Trees). Within a short time, Duff McKagan joined them on bass (you may have heard of a couple of bands he’s been in: Guns n’ Roses, Velvet Revolver…) as did Benjamin Anderson on keyboards. Sometimes, when his other band isn’t doing much, some bloke called Mike McCready pops along to join them on stage (he’s busy at the mo, doing his ‘day’ job  – with Pearl Jam…).  Walking Papers released their self-titled album in October 2012 and are a great start to this evenings gig.

Then comes the ‘blip’ in the Seattle proceedings. Well this band make interesting reading. Ghost. Scandinavian black metal. You want a line-up? Well that may be a tad difficult, the vocalist is know as Papa Emeritus II and appears on stage as a Roman Catholic cardinal, in full regalia with skull face paint and crucifix mace. The rest of the band, ‘nameless ghouls’ wear hooded robes and Darth Vader-like masks. All members are anonymous. Lyrically they choose the dark side; blasphemy and sacrilege be their gospel. And, apparently, they have Black Sabbath similarities.

However, if you are expecting screamy, screamy loud, fast metal rock – you couldn’t be more wrong. Coming onto stage to monastic Gregorian chants, they are a weird mixture of Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, monastic chants and operatic overtones. Ghost sound-wise sit far more commercially acceptable and Euro mainstream rock-pop than expected. They’re big in their home country, Sweden and have two albums out if you want to check them out – ‘Opus Eponymous’ and 2013 outing ‘ Infestissumam’. The good cardinal is polite, refined and engaging. They are entirely different, nothing about Ghost is the norm, or obvious for that matter. Ghost may have been inspired by many differing sources, but the way they have brought this together is indeed different. With only a handful their faithful congregation in the crowded Academy tonight (including a couple with painted faces), by then time they left their stage, they certainly left many more intrigued by their performance. Worth checking out.

So as Ghost disappear from view, we get a half hour break while the stage is set for Alice in Chains. None of the original ‘Seattle scene’ bands had an easy life outside of the (unwanted?) commercial success and AiCs story is another with a poignant sadness. Emerging in the early 90s (managed at the time by Susan Silver, former spouse of Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell…) their first three albums gained huge success selling over 25 million worldwide. Jerry Cantrell, Layne Staley, Sean Kinney and Mike Inez (who replaced Mike Starr in ’83) were one of the biggest selling bands of the 90s. But after their ’95 self titled album, Staley desperately lost his way to drug oblivion, eventually succumbing in 2002. (Former bassist Mike Starr, allegedly the last person to see Staley alive, also battled the disease, sometimes publicly, before he too, lost his life in 2010).

Mid 90s onwards, with little choice, AiC went into what seemed a perpetual then permanent hiatus. Then in what only be described as possibly one of rock’s greatest come- backs, William DuVall took on Staley’s legendary vocal duties. It may have been a risk, Staley stood out from the crowd, but once again AiC starting performing. I saw them on a sunny afternoon at Download, they were surprisingly impressive. Then came 2009 album ‘Black Gives Way to Blue’; critically acclaimed and a commercial success, followed by another powerful album this year – ‘The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here.’

So onto blackened stage, mike stands bejeweled with plectrums, in full AiC tradition, a powerful, gut-wrenching power-grind starts up. ‘Again’. During the song’s musical interlude the house lights come up – the crowd give the horns to the band – and to DuVall. ‘Check My Brain’ from ‘Black Gives Way to Blue’ has that grinding saw-edge start-off riff. And they don’t let up, into ‘Them Bones’, a classic – a song about mortality.

‘Hollow’, a newbie continues with all the vengeful grind and power that you expect; DuVall’s harmonised vocals with Cantrell crawling through the song. ‘Man in the Box’ another classic – DuVall gets the audience to clap – we are indeed a very happy bunch. This is a set of the new and the old. Tracks off the new albums go down well with the packed rock crowd, respected the same as the old stuff, although the classics, as with many groups, do receive that little bit more rapturous applause. AiC are here for the music, there’s little chat, no overblown charades, between each song the set goes black before they appear to deliver the next powerful epic. They are far more than just ‘grunge’, AiC are alternative and heavy, grinding guitars – dark and at times beautifully melodic.

‘Love Hate Love’ is delivered in its spooky, menacing way; in it’s full glory. DuVall gives it his all and delivers. From his own vocals to the harmonisation with Cantrell, DuVall is no longer ‘the replacement.’ Slowly but surely, he’s becoming his own man.

Set is darkened – we’re into encore and before they re-appear we get an electric warrior excerpt off stage by Cantrell.  Then they’re back on to deliver the grinding and haunting ‘Down in a Hole.’ Nirvana’s Cobain may be noted for lyrics, which all too sadly came true – but take Staley and co. The beautifully haunting ‘Down in a Hole’ from ‘92s ‘Dirt’, with the repetitive chorus of “Down in a hole, feelin’ so small, down in a hole, losin’ control…” with the all too sad premonition… “Down in a hole and I don’t know if I can be saved …”

And then two more, to wet our rock appetites even more, the bass beat that gives us ‘Would?’, written as a thought to Mother Love Bone’s Andy Wood, one of the first from the Seattle bands to loose his life to drugs.  And finally, Cantrell’s tribute to his father – ‘Rooster’.

There is no doubt of that the memory of Staley permeates through the set – Cantrell acknowledges that. AiC live with the past but move forward at the same time. They are not a tribute act to themselves (as some like to say), AiC are here to deliver and boy do they mean business. Listen to their albums, a musical inspiration to so many. Tonight’s crowd were a mix of fans of the original works, but also their latest two albums have brought more into the AiC fold.

Asked recently if there would be another album, Cantrell reckoned there would be in about three to four years. Judging by the audience response tonight, we can’t wait. So are AiC still a force to be reckoned with? You. Bet. Ya. Again… and again… and again…. and again…

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Setlist: Alice in Chains

Again
Check my Brain
Them Bones
Hollow
Voices
Man in the Box
No Excuses
Grind
Got Me Wrong
It Ain’t Like That
Stone
We Die Young
Love, Hate, Love

Encore:
Whale and Wasp (excerpt)
Down in a Hole
Would?
Rooster

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Listening:
Walking Papers
Walking Papers [2012]

Ghost 
Opus Eponymous [2010]
Infestissuman [2013]
Alice in Chains
Facelift [1990]
Dirt [1992]
Jar of Flies [EP] [1994]
Alice in Chains [1995]
Black Gives Way to Blue [2009]
The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here [2013]
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Review by for Gig Junkies. Photos: Ian Dunn

Alice Cooper + Ugly Kid Joe + Duff McKagan’s Loaded @Wolverhampton Civic Hall 25th October 2012

Review for Gig Junkies. Pictures: Bianca Barrett.

It’s All Hallows Eve (well nearly), the festival of the dead, and the rock god of shock horror macabre theatrics, Alice Cooper is in Wolves with his annual Hallowe’en Night of Fear tour. Promo says to dress up – so the audience should feature a few outrageous costumes, as there will be cash prizes for the winners!

And in support, kinda bizarrely, we have Duff McKagan’s Loaded and returning 80s Californian rock n’ roll surfers Ugly Kid Joe. Tonight doors at Wolves Civic are opened half and hour earlier to fit in all three acts with decently long sets.

I arrive as Duff McKagan’s Loaded are giving it some, rock wise, so to speak. Loaded are former Gunner and Velvet Revolver axe merchant McKagan, Mike Squires on lead guitar, Jeff Rouse on bass, Isaac Carpenter on drumming duties. Performing energetic punk rock, to a surprisingly full Civic, even though it’s just before 7.30pm. “I thought this was Wolverhampton not fuckin’ Birmingham…” as McKagan encourages a response from the crowd. Final song of the set the GnR classic: ‘It’s So Easy’. It’s got far more bass than the original (as you would expect from the former GnR bassist), it suits Loaded to play this – all full of attitude. “We are from Seattle, we will be back…we are Loaded.” A suitably good response, from a suitably good performance – they’re off after a 40 minute set.

Next up Ugly Kid Joe. They split in ’97 only to re-emerge in 2011. With new EP ‘Stairway to Hell’ released June 2012, they played a few festivals across Europe this year including Download. UKJ are Whitfield Crane on vocals, Klaus Eichstadt and Dave Fortman on guitar, Cordell Crockett on bass and drummer Shannon Larkin.

Now I may have seen then in their previous life – its vague I can’t quite remember. And I have to admit, I’m not quite sure what to expect. As the lights go down- the crowd scream – I’m guessing that’s for the vaguely good looking Crane. He’s dressed as I guess you would expect, in baggy three quarter surfer shorts, t-shirt, knee high socks and baseball cap on back to front.  He does the rock horns, the crowd cheer and give the horns back! He’s already winding them up –  live UKJ are far more rocky and slightly more screamy than their commercial hits and first song is reminiscent of the Crue’s ‘Dr Feelgood.’   Next up, I know the words to this, ‘Neighbourhood’ and I realise that somewhere on my shelves at home, I brought this CD!

Crane’s voice is still on song, ripping and shredding and screaming. He gets the crowd to “woohooo”, as he bows. “It’s real good to be here … how you all feeling? New song at end of set – jump when you see me jump.” After banter, singing away, Crane’s climbing up to the balcony, which is pretty high here at the Civic. He takes photo with someone’s phone – “Put your hands in the air and scream” He’s walking round the balcony (another reviewer here tonight gets to touch him, apparently he’s very sweaty but very muscular!) He walks right round the edge of the balcony; people stand to let him by and he sits on balcony edge of the opposite side to compete the song.

I have to say, I’m suitably surprised, he’s great with the crowd – he has everyone in the palm of his hand – like a maestro conducting an orchestra. “Everybody scream for me…..”  “aaaahhhh….” come the response. “How you doing motherf*****ers? Crane jumps and the audience jump!

Crane: “You guys are awesome…. twenty years… grateful to be standing here…fifteen years since we played here – this one is for everyone here…” And everyone sings along, come on readers you know the words “Cats in the Cradle….” Hands wave from side to side – this is a great feel-good factor gig! Puts a big grin on your face on a cold autumnal evening.

He’s still going – speaks to audience member Peter, “Say hi to Pete” – “Hi Pete” responds the audience. “Walk up towards me five steps – everyone…that’s all of you…I want to see you…. Everybody on the floor jump!” And they do, it’s UKJ’s new song!

Then it’s the final sing of their set – another one to sing along to: “Everything about you.” The last line is spoken on the song, the crowd: “Everything about…..” Crane stops us, and counts us in to the last word – hands in the air – “You!” Wowsers – I have to say, tonight, Ugly Kid Joe, your totally rocked Wolves Civic.

So to a break – and to catch our breath in preparation for Alice’s arrival.

The crowd is quite a mixture – the rockers, a lot of them enjoyed Duff. Then we have peeps of a slightly older age, clearly into Alice in his hey-day. And there is a few younger ones – come to check out the shock horror that is Cooper, and some little people. I’ve always been amazed at the numbers of small kids that frequent Alice Cooper gigs, given that they are, in general, pretty bloodthirsty.

And then we have the ones who have gone to town in fancy dress – from faked up Goth, to blood splattered faces. Oh and a devil. Horns included. And a witch. And a white zombie blood soaked man. Man with creepy baby on shoulder (not a real one I hasten to add).

As we wait for Alice we have the competition for fancy ghoulish dress – several individuals on stage for which the audience vote for by the loudest cheer. The Mad Jester just about defeats the Shining Twins into second place.

And the lights drop; the stage is a backdrop with a canopy where two red eyes beam down onto the crowd below. To ‘The Underture’ we have a curtain of fireworks right across the stage (I bet the Civics’ health & safety team took a sharp intake of breath) and through the veil of fireworks Alice appears, in full garb, red and black-stripped jacket and full war paint.

The set and the band are typically over the top. Alice’s band doesn’t just feature one, or two, but a trio of guitarists – Orianthi, Ryan Roxie and Tommy Henricksen plus bassist Chuck Garric and drummer Glen Sobel, with a kit Tommy Lee would be proud of. (Although they are visually very reminiscent of 80s rock glam rockers Cinderella). Tonight’s set will feature the old and classic, plus songs from his latest album ‘Welcome 2 My Nightmare’ – and a few cover versions.

‘Hello Hurray!’ Alice is pacing the stage, baton in hand, twirling it round and around. Tonight he is the ringmeister. Into ‘House of Fire’ – Alice is master of this genre, he slaps his baton on his legs and he is the one in command. He poses, in classic Alice pose – the crowd cheer.  Jacket off – now he’s ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy.’

And if you were thinking of a title of a song, in true Alice style – next up we have ‘I’ll Bite Your Face Off.’ As you do. Okay we’ve had fireworks, you and your band are truly professional, tight, amazing, your voice is still menacing – where’s the blood? Now I don’t usually ask such a question at a gig, it is indeed, something in general I do not want to see. But this is Alice. I’ve seen you before, ripping heads of teddy bears and guts spewing everywhere; decapitations, guillotines, a 101 ways to kill yourself on stage…..

‘Billion Dollar Babies’ – the trio of guitarists open this track up phenomenally well. Alice is back, studded jacket on. He’s got a sword, stabbed onto it are dollar notes, as he sings he struts the stage, shaking the notes off over the audience. Maybe he’ll stab a guitarist? Decapitate one? Er. No. Clearly tonight’s set is ‘straight’ Alice, less theatrics, not quite as gruesome. In saying that, Vincent Furnier himself, is totally ensconced in being Alice – and it’s a great theatrical performance.

“Hey….Hey…Hey… Hey…” ‘Hey Stoopid’ goes down well. ‘Dirty Diamonds’ he’s chucking diamond necklaces into the audience, and we have a bloody….. erm, drum solo, then the bassist, then the guitarists – clearly a musical interlude for Alice to catch his breath.

Light’s flicker, thunder comes through the speakers, a single spotlight is on Alice. ‘Welcome to my Nightmare’ – he makes Freddie Kruger look soft and cuddly. He scowls his way through the track, two minions appear and tie him into a straight jacket, from which he dutifully escapes by the end of the song. ‘The Man Behind The Mask’: a fake paparazzi cameraman gets escorted off the stage. By Frankenstein

Alice is indeed class. He’s been doing this so long, he knows how to deliver it to exact perfection. And blows all those wannabes off stage. If you’ve not seen him, he’s well worth it, not doubt next Hallowe’en he will rise and appear to scare us once more. I had to leave before the end of the gig (it wasn’t local gig for me, train beckoned), so there may have been more theatrics at the end. It’s Alice and my expectation was for blood, guts and gore, especially at Halowe’en…

But all in all, what a cracking night! Great venue (if you’ve never visited Wolves Civic for a gig before, it is indeed, one of the best live venues in the Midlands). And for 36 nicker, this Halowe’en, Duff got us Loaded, Ugly Kid Joe were a revelation, and as for Alice, you didn’t have to ask him what was the matter. He’d have ‘bitten your face off.’