October 8, 2010

BlackDiamondSkye Hits Vancouver -- Alice In Chains, Mastodon, Deftones

Too Loud! So said the Rogers Arena employee after the BlackDiamondSkye concert last night. A casual comment as we languished on the Sky Train back to the confines of suburbia. 

At least I think he said that; my ears were still ringing and I had to read his lips (not recommended on late-night Sky Train excursions, for the record). 

And it was loud. Make no mistake. But fans of Alice in Chains, Mastodon, and Deftones aren't looking for a candlelit stage with a baby-grand piano. At least not on this night. And the performances were unrivaled in their sound.

Mastodon - "Minimal movement," as my buddy David said with admiration. With complicated riffs like theirs, standing still is a prerequisite. Cavemen from a forgotten paleolithic tribe, hunkered over their microphones to growl and bellow some of the finest lyrics written for metal today. The exception being their drummer, Brann Dailor, who pummeled his intricate fills while carrying the melody lines with a clear, almost-tenor voice. An impressive set spanning more recent albums and a skill set you rarely see duplicated. 

Deftones - Of the three bands, I am the least familiar with Deftones, aside from the few albums I have. But they boast both a wall of sound grinds even the sturdiest of bowels and a dynamic front man, Chino Moreno, whose shrieking capacity is not unlike hurricane force winds. Covering their most popular songs with sincere bombast, Deftones bridged an oft-difficult gap between younger and older audiences. 

Alice in Chains - Whew! It's been a long time since I've heard such polished musicianship and expert sound. No question they've been in the business for many years. Comfortable, gracious, and well-practiced.

AIC has been my favorite band since I first heard the Facelift album in high school. Back in the '90's, I had the chance to see them live with Metallica's Summer Shit tour, but they canceled (for already well-documented reasons). So last night, as a much older, slightly rotund, middle-aged man, I expected to be transported back to that nostalgic Seattle era. The era of flannel and jack boots and pewter earrings. The occasional hairy-armpitted woman. 

Instead, I experienced a modernized, mature version of AIC -- complete with William Duvall's accomplished voice and style. They were mature, unrelenting, professional. In most cases, I wouldn't like this but with AIC the quality felt appropriate. They are, after all, rebuilding in a new era, after a tragic departure from an earlier one. And how else to do it but through practice and effort and unrequited drive?

Complimentary to their fans, who only numbered around 9000, AIC roared through samples of their entire discography. They played tracks that worked in Duvall's favor, and avoided, for the most part, ones more intimately associated with Layne Staley. Good call. To hear Duvall sing Frogs or Nutshell would not have rung true. As was the case when he sang Junkhead. 

The obvious early departure from the stage brought an expected encore. Playing the tribute-track to Layne Staley (Black Gives Way to Blue), followed by Man in the Box, and ending with the superlative Would?. 

On a side note, as I departed Rogers Arena I noted two couples walking together. Obviously parents happy for a night out, grinning ear-to-ear. I thought to myself, how nice to see older generations enjoying some rock and roll.

Followed by Oh shit, I am that generation. 


Anonymous said...

What a good-to-the-last-drop experience of living on the West Coast. So glad you guys got to go!

And I LOVE my t-shirt.


Harry Tournemille said...