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Monday, August 29, 2016

"Check My Brain" - Alice in Chains live 7/25/2015 Thunder Valley

Just as the sun began its descent at Thunder Valley Resort in Lincoln, California on the evening of July 25, 2015, Alice In Chains emerged onstage and promptly tore into "Rain When I Die" to open an explosive set.  Before they even finished the first song I was already in awe; one song after another, they delivered a sonic assault of their hits blended seamlessly with selections from their latest material.  Before I say another word about this show, I have to take a moment to say that William Duvall is not a "replacement" member, he is a legitimate and solid frontman for an iconic band with an undeniable catalog of great music, old and new.  This is the first time I've seen Alice in Chains live, and at no point was I left wishing there was anyone else up on that stage.  I feel like there is an unspoken agreement between the band and their most loyal fans that Layne Staley and Mike Starr are missed but the musicianship and desire to continue as bandmates and friends has helped Jerry, Sean and Mike move on and honor the music they made with Layne and with Mike.

Seeing the constant joker-sized smile on bassist Mike Inez's face throughout most of the show was an awesome sight, along with moments of interaction between all of the guys.  It's very clear, not just from the musicianship but also the obvious synergy, that this is a very solid unit that has come into its own once again.  It's difficult to pick "highlights" from a show filled with highlights, but "Nutshell" is clearly a fan favorite judging by the heavy applause during the opening notes.  hantom Limb were musical highlights, along with Got Me Wrong.  Sean Kinney, known for being outspoken on social media, took a moment at the end of the show to point out the reputation he has for being "a dick" as he asked which fans wanted his sticks.  It was a great gesture of self-deprecating humor and one of the rare moments of verbal interaction between the band and the crowd.

Jerry is, in my opinion, one of the all-time great guitarists who is just as melodic as thunderous with his arsenal of riffs.  The haunting two-part harmonies, which are as vital to their signature sound as the music, are fully intact.  Mike's bass was loud and large and really shined on songs like Stone, Again and of course Would?.  Sean was in the zone, focused but loose with several moments of "beast mode" being unleashed throughout the set. 

They know their crowds well and I know they are trying to deliver the hits, but their two albums with William are solid enough to pour more of the new stuff into the set.  Alice in Chains is no nostalgia act, and that's something to be proud of with so many bands out there who rely so heavily on their classic material.

Setlist: Rain When I Die, Again, Check My Brain, Angry Chair, Man In The Box, Nutshell, Hollow, Them Bones, Stone, Rooster, Got Me Wrong, Down In A Hole, Grind, Phantom Limb, It Ain't Like That, Would?, No Excuses, We Die Young

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