Alice in Chains' founding guitarist/singer/songwriter Jerry Cantrell brought his "Brighten" solo tour to Las Vegas' House of Blues on May 7th. It was one of the final stops on the that was almost derailed by Covid.
Cantrell and his backing band brought a set list culled from his three solo albums Boggy Depot, Degradation Trip, and Brighten, as well as some Alice in Chains standards, deep cuts, and even an Elton John cover.
Cantrell took center stage, leading his 6 piece band through a catalogue spanning 30 years.
Before the show, I had the opportunity to attend the sound check as well as the meet and greet. On stage, Jerry is all business. He fine tuned each song at the sound check, hearing things that probably no one else could detect; that didn't fit his vision. "This guitar is sounding too tinny, I need more mid boost" he said to his tech as the band went through a couple of songs to get ready for the night. One got a good, clear picture of how Jerry runs things. His way. While never crass or rude, he was firm in what he wanted and made sure he got it.
The meet and greet was rather quick, mostly due to the heavy Covid protocol the band was following. According to their tour manager, the band was getting ready to hit Europe and South America and couldn't take any chances. Jerry and I traded guitar pics, he signed my CD, and he flashed a rare smile in our picture together. It was short, but it left a lasting impression.
The show started full blast with "Atone", the first single off of his latest album Brighten. While not the usual sludgy, high gain of Alice in Chains, you can tell it is all Cantrell. The guitar tones are perfect, the backing vocals on point.
The band then tore through a blistering version of the Alice classic "Them Bones", with Jerry sharing lead vocal duties with Dillinger Escape Plan vocalist Greg Puciato. Puciato matched perfectly with Jerry, and he did a damn fine job handling Layne Staley's parts later in the set with the band did "Sea of Sorrow", "No Excuses", "Down in a Hole", and others.
While it was a solo performance, there were no flashy 10 minute guitar solos; no pensive acoustic numbers played alone. Jerry functions well as a band leader, and with the able bodied group behind him, which included a keyboardist and a lap steel guitarist, the depth of his songs were on full display. You could hear the intricacies that you maybe never knew were there on the songs, and the ones that weren't there originally fit in seamlessly.
Ripping through songs off of his first solo record Boggy Depot, Jerry's country influences showed, especially in the softer "Between". The band repeated the newest single "Had to Know" as they were filming a live performance video for the song, and Jerry thanked the crowd for the energy and participation.
Jerry punctuated the performance with small anecdotes, including one about how a fan at a past show had screamed for a certain song all night, and when they finally got to it in their set, Jerry told him "Now we're not gonna do it". His sense of humor borders on the dark, and that shows in his music as well.
After over an hour and a half, the band said goodnight, and then promptly returned to the stage for a 5 song encore including Alice in Chains staples "Man in the Box" and "Rooster" before closing out the set with a touching rendition of Elton John's "Goodbye", which also closes the Brighten album.
During the set, Jerry played a few bars of a riff and then remarked "You just heard a new Alice in Chains song-oops!" So fans of Alice in Chains should be on the look out for new music from the classic band hopefully soon.
Until then, Jerry Cantrell solo is every bit as good.
Them Bones (AiC)
Sea of Sorrow (AiC)
Cut You In
No Excuses (AiC)
Black Hearts and Evil Done
Had to Know
Nobody Breaks You
Down in a Hole (AiC)
Got Me Wrong (AiC)
Had to Know (played for filming purposes)
Man in the Box (AiC)
Goodbye (Elton John)
Photo Credit: All Photos by Stephy (Hayward) Muzio for ZRockR Magazine - All Rights Reserved