Its a cold winter night in Glasgow, fireworks are going off in the distance as we make our way through the city to the O2 Academy. When we enter the venue we’re surprised to see its not terribly busy; in fact we are able to easily secure a place by the barrier with minimal effort. Thankfully though the floor has filled up by the time the headline band come on, but its safe to say the audience is a more mature one. For once we don’t feel old!
Walking Papers come on to a relatively subdued response. The audience seem to be standing and listening rather than getting involved. The Walking Papers have a lot of the key components of a good rock band. Fierce, determined and confident, with infectious riffs, husky vocals and chant along choruses, their sound has a universal, mainstream appeal and delivers enough quality to give them credibility.
Duff McKagan is wonderful as ever, whereas demented keyboardist Benjamin Anderson is distracting as he literally can’t keep still and constantly bounces on his stool. Vocalist Jeff Angell goes for a walk in the crowd during the final, slower song, this is an exciting exercise by a frontman who is every bit the rock star. In spite of all the positives there’s just something which stops tonight from being an amazing performance. Maybe next time? (6)
The witching hour has arrived; the stage fills with smoke, only for an eerie red light to cast shadows over the crowd. The five cloaked and masked Nameless Ghouls of Ghost B.C. emerge on the stage to the haunting Jocelyn Pook song, Masked Ball. Tension builds and builds with nothing visible on stage except the 4 robed silhouettes who stand stock still awaiting their master. Papa Emeritus is resplendent in his dark priest robes as he launches in to new song Infestissumam. He stalks around the stage, gesturing like a preacher giving a sermon, while his bandmates bash out riff after riff behind him. Who he really is doesn’t matter, because his unmistakably unique stage presence is clear for the crowd to see. As the smell of incense drifts from the stage, we are treated to a magnificent performance from Ghost.
‘Con Clavi Con Dio’, ‘Stand By Him’ and ‘Ritual’ are stand out performances and inspire dancing and cheering from the front of the crowd. As for the rest of the audience… well it’s hard to tell. Some look confused, some look downright baffled, but what is clear is that everyone is watching Ghost with rapt attention. New track ‘Year Zero’ is popular with the crowd, with its catchy chorus and addictive riffs. ‘Monstrance Clock’ closes the set, and we’re left revelling in Ghost’s greatness. With all of the theatre of their show it would be all too easy for Ghost to be seen as cheesy. In fact they come out as very serious and earnest, but most of all as very talented musicians. This is a band that has an edge, and is just that little bit different to other artists out there today. If you are feeling jaded by the current pop culture, give Ghost a listen. (10)
If you want to talk about successful comebacks, there aren’t many bands who have done it as well as Alice in Chains. 8 years after original iconic frontman and founder member Layne Staley was found dead, Alice In Chains re-launched themselves to the rock world in a big way. Having seen Alice In Chains numerous perform at festivals in recent years we’re really looking forward to seeing what their headline show brings.
Opening with ‘Rain When I Die’, followed by classic Them Bones, the crowd go totally bonkers. New(ish) frontman William DuVall takes on the frontman role effortlessly; with charisma and tonnes of energy as he bounds across the stage. Sean Kinney and Mike Innez practically bludgeon the crowd with sound. However the real star of the show, as ever, is Jerry Cantrell. Donned in a kilt, the guitarist is resplendent on the stage. DuVall and Cantrells harmonies blend seamlessly to create the signature Alice In Chains sound. The band get a rapturous response from the crowd, who are particularly delighted by renditions of classic hits ‘Them Bones’, ‘Man In A Box’ and ‘Grind’ go down especially well.
Sadly however, there is a massive mid set lull which doesn’t recover till the band perform an encore of ‘Check My Brain’ and ‘Again’. Bizarrely neither track was on the night’s planned setlist, and were added in as extra’s at the last minute. Thank God, because without them we would have been devastated.
Alice in Chains return to the stage for a final time and perform ‘Down In A Hole’ and a dazzling rendition of ‘Rooster’. It’s hard to not think Layne Staley is watching us as the ecstatic audience sing along with the line “We ain’t gonna die”. Of course, the debate may continue as to whether Alice In Chains should still be together after Layne’s death. But Alice In Chains wrote some of the finest music of our youth, songs that were made to be played live (or more importantly songs that should be heard live) and no other band could come close to performing them as well as Alice In Chains. (8)