AltWire contributing writers Derek Oswald and Natalia Arbelaez was recently on hand to witness the Alice in Chains show at The Santander Performing Arts Center in Reading, PA on 05/13/14. Both writers have written about their experiences, and you can view their opinions below.
When I first learned that Alice in Chains was going to be performing at the Santander Performing Arts Center in Reading, Pennsylvania I must admit I was a little surprised. Being a Reading native for almost my entire life, I had become accustomed to having to travel to Philadelphia, PA or Camden, NJ to witness classic bands; so when the word came through that such a veteran band would be in town, and only 10 minutes away, I knew it was one show that I couldn’t possibly miss.
Set inside the historical Rajah Theater (originally built in 1870 as a market but later rebuilt by the Rajah Shriners in 1921 after a fire destroyed most of the facility), the newly renamed and recently renovated Santander Performing Arts Center is a truly wonderful sight to behold.
Adorned from top to bottom in all original woodwork, and gorgeous oil paintings that span entire walls, the Santander is the only downtown surviving theater of its kind, as its sister theaters the Astor, Embassy, and Loew’s Colonial, were all demolished before the start of the 21st century. Perhaps then it’s only fitting then that Alice in Chains, one of the few prominent grunge bands still kicking from the last century as well, complimented the venue’s history and acoustics with one hell of a breathtaking rock performance.
On tour in support of their latest record The Devil Brought Dinosaurs Here (released in May of last year), the band’s Reading, PA setlist brought fans an even mix of new and old songs alike, with songs from the band’s first three records with the late Layne Staley and two reunion records with William Duvall all properly represented on the band’s 17 song setlist.
In fact, it was Duvall’s impeccable handling of the classic tracks which left one of the biggest impressions on me that night. There’s no denying that Layne will always be a tough act to follow, but Duvall performed in his role admirably. Tasked with filling some difficult shoes, William sang each of the classic cuts with total aplomb, performing each track to perfection whilst adding his own signature vocal style and touches to every lyric and every note.
Where some replacement vocalists falter due to their attempts to copy their predecessors, William instead made the tracks his own, with his strongest performance of the night coming the band’s goosebumps-inducing rendition of “Nutshell”. Soulfully performed and carefully restrained until the final notes, the track was brought to a memorable close by lead guitarist Jerry Cantrell, who delivered a flawless extended version of the song’s ending solo and provided one of the night’s finest moments.
Other standout performances of the night included “Again”, “Man In The Box” “Last of My Kind” and “We Die Young”, all of which resonated with the diehard fans in attendance, with the crowd participation and enthusiasm at times elevating to a deafening roar.
Alice in Chains may be a classic hard rock act with a brilliantly recorded and diverse discography to choose from, but the true talent of this band shines when they are performing live on stage. It’s rare that a band can improve upon their studio recordings in a live setting, but Alice in Chains managed to do just that and more and proved that night why they are a live act that cannot be missed.
If you’re holding back purchasing tickets for any foolish reason: wake up and smell the roses. Alice in Chains is one of the most brilliant bands you will be able to witness for the money, and you simply cannot find a better live act to witness this Spring. Do yourself a favor and catch this band when they roll into your town. You definitely will not regret it.
The theater fell silent, and the lights dimmed to a bare purple hue. The electricity emanating from the crowd buzzed down through the tips of my toes. There was an active hush over the audience. A mutual understanding. The kind of stillness in the calm before the storm. And then a thunderous rumble encapsulated the venue as William Duvall, Jerry Cantrell, Mike Inez, and Sean Kinney walked on stage to thunderous applause.
It was May 13th and Alice in Chains was performing in Reading, PA at the Santander Performing Arts Center. It was my first grunge/metal concert and I really didn’t know what to expect but nonetheless, I was excited to experience songs I grew up with live. And I was not disappointed.
The great thing about bands like Alice in Chains is that they evolve with the times. They continue to reinvent themselves while still staying true to their roots, guaranteeing their continued success. The incredible thing that stems from such fluidity is the diversity of the fan base. Looking through the audience you could spot devotees of all ages. Fans who loved them back when the late Layne Staley graced the mic, and fans that have grown to love and admire William Duvall since his start in 2005.
I loved that they played new songs as well as the popular older songs that the crowd craved fervently. Hits like Check My Brain from the album Black Gives Way to Blue – 2009. Nutshell from the album Jar of Flies – 1994. And of course, Rooster, from the album Dirt – 1992. They also did an incredible job in incorporating new hits from the new album released in 2013, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here.
What really made this concert beyond awesome was the venue. The Santander Performing Arts Center is a city staple. Most of us “townies” have grown up referring to it by its previous name, The Rajah Theatre. Originally built in the 1870s, the theater has retained its original charm. The acoustics in this place makes all the difference despite its smaller size.
Whether you were sitting in the front row or the last row, in the balcony level, or even in the lobby, Alice in Chains radiated effortlessly. I’ve been at concerts in different venues that felt distant both physically and emotionally. Connection is so important for a great concert experience and without it, you tend to feel detached from the band. It’s almost like you’re a third-party watching yourself watch them.
That didn’t happen. Not here. I walked around a bit during the show (for beer trips, obviously) but regardless of where I was standing the band radiated with such a fire. I was there. And I was fully engulfed in the experience.
I sat briefly next to a father & son duo that seemed super pumped to be at the show. The son, probably in his early teens had the same twinkle in his eye as his old man. The father proceeded to tell me that his son’s name was Layne. And that’s the kind of fan base I’m referring to when I say that they’ve grown together.
This is the kind of fans that Alice in Chains has to this day and will continue to have long into the future. Alice in Chains is one of the lucky groups of musicians who can see their influence transcend the ages all through the power of music.
I was too young to remember Alice in Chains at their beginning. Too young to remember their part in the grunge movement that so many came to love. Too young to remember how they embodied the epitome of change. But this band, along with Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and countless others…this is what I grew up with. This is what my generation knows.
I will close my review with a quick quote from a fan I interviewed at the show (Nicholas Bucksar), who I feel summed up my thoughts entirely: “I thought they put on a good show. Lead singer William Duvall fits right in and sounds great. The best part about Alice in Chains is that they mix the old and the new songs in their sets to keep the fans happy. That’s what great long-lasting bands do!”
Dam That River
Check My Brain
Last of My Kind
Man in the Box
It Ain’t Like That
We Die Young
Got Me Wrong