Review by Ellen Eldridge; photo by Robb Cohen
The tour title, BlackDiamondSkye, creatively showed the unity between bands Mastodon, Deftones, and Alice In Chains, but, at the same time, the bands’ combination of words from the latest album releases lead to the realization that had they stuck with the first word from each release the title would be BlackDiamondCrack tour which could be just as creative, if not completely hilarious given the history of headliners Alice In Chains. Not to poke fun at a band whose grunge influence became an important stepping stone to those who experienced frontman Layne Staley’s death during their formative years; Alice In Chains’ final romp through Atlanta in support of the 2009 release of Black Gives Way to Blue gave eager fans a healthy dose of catharsis which allowed for a calm sense of rebirth or even resurrection.
William Duvall took the role of lead singer and frontman with grace and dignity; his harmonies on BGWTB showed him well-suited to fill Staley’s shoes and the magic between members shined through from stage lights to sedated fans.
The crowd on the lawn, still sweat-soaked and pumped from openers Mastodon and Deftones, far outsized those in seats when the pulsing of a blue heart on the curtain announced the evening’s headliners. The steam pouring off fans mixed with the fog and blinding strobe lights as the curtain dropped and Duvall’s voice stuttered out the repeated “I” which opened “Them Bones.” From the front section, the stage lights appeared as blue crowns surrounded by green halos; an apparition of drunken angels dancing up and down in time with the chorus, “I feel so alone/Gunna end up a big ol’ pile of them bones.”
By the second and third songs, “Dam That River” and “Rain When I Die,” the screen behind the band showed grainy images of water droplets which began to boil during the fourth song, ”Again.” Not that Alice In Chains was ever known as a happy-go-lucky pop band, but the themes and gloomy tone to the opening favorites stood up and demanded attention.
The Atlanta audience that sold out the Tabernacle two nights in a row this past February did not disappoint guitarist Jerry Cantrell who thanked the crowd for coming out and asked them to “make some noise for Mastodon and Deftones.” A few tracks off BGWTB showed fans had learned their lessons well as the sung along with the newer material with almost as much fervor as the older favorites. A haunting rendition of “Your Decision” started with Duvall strumming an acoustic before switching to the Les Paul he wore underneath.
The background screen cavorted with eerie images of a graveyard as the band broke into “Grind” with its opening line, “In the darkest hole you’d be well advised not to plan my funeral before the body dies.” The way Cantrell stared out into the stage lighting left a sense of unfocused tribute to Staley while showing a humble appreciation at the overwhelming acceptance of the band’s rebirth. Other crowd favorites included “Acid Bubble” from BGWTB and tongue-in-cheek prelude to “We Die Young” with the comment, “We all know someone who’s died young.” “Rooster” closed the show before the encore which included “Got Me Wrong.”