On an evening where darkness has well and truly taken over the late afternoons in the Black Country, the queue of black garbed rockers has been gathering outside Birmingham’s O2 Academy for one of, if not THE finest tour packages of 2013.
Opening proceedings are Walking Papers. A band formed by ex-Screaming Trees drummer Barrett Martin and Jeff Angell, their style is that of bluesy groove laden rock. In their midst is Duff McKagan, who guested on the album and promptly joined the group. Swathing the whole sound with keyboards and completing the ensemble is Benjamin Anderson. In Jeff Angell, they have beautiful singer with a stage presence that many singers can only aspire to attain. He is charming, slick and busts some pretty mean guitar licks notably on the stomping ‘Capital T’. Introduced as a “Song for the romantics”, ‘Leave me in the Dark’ is very Springsteen-like. Martin crashes the cymbals bare hands before the song kicks in with a wonderful drum filled groove. Free from the shackles of fronting proceedings, McKagan seems more comfortable stage left, laying down the bass with his partner in rhythm Martin. The slide guitar smoothness of ‘King Hooker’ thrills and Angell doffs his hat to the crowd in acknowledgement of their appreciation.
Walking Papers close their performance with the beautiful ‘Red and White’, a piano driven ballad that showcases the power of this band. Angell discards his guitar and goes on a wander to the barrier to bring the show to his people. After a moment or two nestled atop the barrier he decides get in the middle of the assembly. Not missing a note he visits the 4 corners of the main floor, interacting, serenading and spinning his mic with abandon. Jeff Angell was once Seattle’s best kept secret. Thankfully the city is now sharing his talent with the masses. Walking Papers give us a wonderful performance and are clearly enjoying being on the stage playing their own uncompromised brand of music.
For a gallery of Walking Papers images, click Here
Walking Papers Setlist
Leave Me In The Dark
Red and White
The venue is slowly being filled with the scent of incense and the arrival of Ghost is imminent. The strains of Masked Ball echo over the PA as the Nameless Ghouls assume their positions. Cowled and masked as ever, they rip into the energetic “Per Aspera Ad Inferi”. Their onstage shape throwing is more exuberant as, if by not having facial expression, they extol emotion through their exaggerated movements. One of said ghouls seems to have a phallic object nestled just below his guitar. Papa Emeritus glides onto the stage holding aloft his crozier like a returning hero, greeting his congregation. He waves methodically, blows kisses and approaches the stand. Tonight Ghost sound fantastic and their oration of “Stand By Him”. Papa ditches his crozier and it’s then that he comes into his own as a stage presence. He orchestrates and directs with affirmative gestures that seem to control the ghouls as a ghastly puppet master would his marionettes. “Good Evening Birmingham, This is for the man they call Roky”. They deliver their latest release ‘If You Have Ghosts’, an infectious three minutes of radio friendly sumptuousness.
Whether it’s the Satanic apocalyptic dance boogie of “Year Zero” or the ever-celebratory sing-along fever of Ritual, Ghost have tapped into a style of music that not many bands dare occupy, the perfect mix of metal, melody and pop sensibilities. Papa Emeritus bestows his final oration; “To conclude this evening’s shindig, we would like you to listen and sing” and they close the performance with a memorable ‘Monstrance Clock’.
As Ghost exit the stage to the fitting chorus of “Come together, together as one”. They leave with the knowledge that the conflagration did indeed, “Come together, for Lucifer’s Son”.
Per Aspera ad Inferi
Con Clavi Con Dio
Stand by Him
If You Have Ghosts
For a gallery of Ghost images, click Here
The expectation in the crowd for the arrival of Alice in Chains is palpable. The stage is ready and the flashlight signal to the sound desk lets us know that the time has come. Jerry, Mike, Sean and William march out and the lights burst red as they tear into a crunching opening duo of ‘Again’ and ‘Check My Brain’.
Now on their second album with Duvall, he really has settled into his role as the frontman of this band. He assumes two personas. The guitar-slinging singer who uses his instrument as tool to further exemplify his presence or the monitor-balancing energetic singer who continuously closes the gap between stage and crowd both of whom feed the crowds enthusiasm. He asks the technician to “Light this place up” before the first of four songs tonight from Facelift, ‘Man in the Box’. Inez is non-stop energy as he wheels his hair and covers every inch of his stage, all the while grinning like a Cheshire cat and mouthing the lyrics to the fans.
Vocal harmonies between Cantrell and Duvall are prominent throughout the evening but on ‘No Excuses’ it is sublimely captivating and is a contrast to the in-your-face thumping of ‘It Ain’t Like That’. Cantrell’s fills on ‘Got Me Wrong’ are a joy to behold and he looks imperious nestled between his monitors. The second single from Dinosaurs, ‘Stone’ showcases the rumble that Mike Inez brings to backline. It is one of the highlights of the night and is a new song that rightfully stands toe to toe with the classics. Mike and Jerry swap sides for a blistering ‘We Die Young’ with Inez mounting the riser to connect with his partner in rhythm. Jerry looks genuinely happy as he addresses the crowd and introduces the band in a southern accent, “Thanks for having us. We’re gonna play one Layne would like”. ‘Nutshell’ follows. Centre stage, the LSMS on Sean Kinney’s bass drum are an understated yet prominent tribute to their fallen band mates and maintain the memory of Layne and Mike as an integral part of the show.
The encore begins to the strains of Whale and Wasp echoing amid the darkness. The band return and play a haunting ‘Down in a Hole’ with Cantrell perched on the drum riser and Duvall on acoustic accompaniment. A roaring ‘Would’ follows which closes with every fist pumping as the crowd scream “If I could, would you?” The closing track is ‘Rooster’ with William and Jerry sharing the lead vocal on the iconic tune. “You guys were great, thanks for having us” says Duvall to much applause.
Alice in Chains conquer Birmingham this evening with a perfectly selected mix of new and old songs, delivered with a skilled panache developed and honed for over twenty years. The Devil may have put dinosaurs here, but Alice in Chains put them to the sword tonight.
Alice in Chains Setlist
Check My Brain
Man In The Box
It Ain’t Like That
Got Me Wrong
We Die Young
Love, Hate, Love
Down In A Hole
All photos by Down The Barrel Photography