Minute Maid Park hosted a double feature of acts Alice in Chains and Guns N’ Roses on Sept. 28 that stunned Houston concertgoers who attended.
To start, the first gritty power chords of “Again” echoed against the grey Houston skyline. People
were still rolling into the stadium, and most of the sound was caught in feedback. Although
muffled, one could catch Cantrell and Duval’s voices harmonizing in a haunting melody.
Starting off strong with this classic opener, Alice in Chains transitioned powerfully to a song from
one of their later albums, after the passing of former lead singer Layne Staley.
The current lead singer, William Du Vall, performed with an eccentric presence that contrasted the heavier tunes he sang. He added a refreshing layer to the development of the band as it explores a future while
holding true to the past. Jerry Cantrell, lead guitarist and backing vocals, provided a level of comfort that I think most Alice in Chains fans seek from their music.
The set list then shifted back to some of their older works like “Them Bones,” “Angry
Chair” and, of course, the crowd-pleaser “Man in the Box” with Du Vall delivering an energetic if
not a slightly comedic performance.
The real shift was one of the closing songs: “Down in a Hole,” one of my favorites. It is a mellow song with an almost eerie sound. Although it was still hard to hear due to poor EQ, it was impossible to not feel the loneliness in the words, supported by a drowned-out rhythm section.
Overall, a better sound check was something to miss and somewhat drew away from the experience had it not been for the comfort provided by witnessing the show.
During the first few songs, as the audience settled in, what struck me most was the
casual nature of the show. Here, standing before me on a stage, larger than life, stands one of
the most influential bands opening for yet another historical monument in music history. I
expected a full crowd and extreme energy.
Though the audience responded to the dark and enigmatic riffs, it was reflective of the beginnings of the band in the early years of the Seattle grunge scene. Even more, it was humbling that such a big group was just an opener and received as such.
Though this doesn’t take away from their talent, it was intriguing to realize, contrary to my motives for attending the show, many there were present to see Guns N’ Roses and happened to see Alice in Chains along the way.
I thought this to myself as I saw the group on stage and saw how human they looked. In
videos of old shows from the ’90s glory days, it is easy to paint this scene as a mythic thing. But
that night they reflected the core ideals of making music– to make art and have fun with people
who enjoy the same.
Alice in Chains happened to be on a stage but were playing for each other and for Layne.
Then Guns N’ Roses entered the stage as the headlining act. I will disclaim, I am not a fan of Guns N’ Roses, but witnessing them was witnessing a piece of history. They appeared on the stage in their classic appearances which seemed almost cartoonish but entertaining.
If there’s anything they know how to do, it’s how to put on a good show. Axl running back and forth, throwing things and screaming the majority of the time, Slash climbing on ledges just to jump off mid-solo and Richard Fortus periodically windmilling and punching the strings of his guitar really gave the audience a show.
The crowd matched with a constant high energy anticipating Axl’s next move. For me personally, too many guitar solos, but the high energy and thought of the childhood memories the music sparked for many present made for an enjoyable experience.