[Staff photographer Andrei Chlytchkov made the trip up to Casino Rama on April 25th to catch a double bill of City and Colour and Alice in Chains. Text by L. Benny Sanders. – AC]
In the a 5,000-seat entertainment centre, most often thought of as a venue for seated crowds and polite music or maybe the occasional magic show, this seemed like an odd spot for an evening of acoustic fare and ‘90s grunge. Yet here we were for Alice in Chains’ Rainier Fog tour at Casino Rama (located on the Chippewas of Rama First Nation’s reserve north of Orillia).
City and Colour was the opener for the evening. As Dallas Green made his entrance, the crowd gave him a hometown boy welcome. Beginning with “Fragile Bird,” “All that I can do Is hope she makes it through, through the night”, he performed six tunes in total, chatting with embers of the audience in between songs.
This was a performance of strictly voice and guitar. Even though the concert hall was full, it seemed more as if we were in a local pub. A bunch of friends having a pint together, very intimate. At one point he thanked the band Alice in Chains for including him on this tour.
Dallas closed with a song that he asked the crowd to join him on (he quipped that he would need the help), a number that he dedicated to Gord Downie. “Sleeping Sickness,” a track he recorded with the late Tragically Hip singer in 2008. As he closed he left us with a wish to see him again… soon.
During the short intermission, we chatted in our seats. Being an Alice novice, Mike, who was sitting next to me with his wife Catherine, filled me in on some details about the band’s history. He talked about the tragic loss of lead vocalist Layne Staley in 2002 and the later addition of lead singer William DuVall after he sat in with them at a concert in 2006. He told me that guitarist Jerry Cantrell was awesome.
One member we didn’t talk about, oddly enough, me being a drummer was Sean Kinney. I was later to discover what an incredible timekeeper.
Alice in Chains opened with “Bleed the Freak” from their debut album 1990’s Facelift. It seemed that DuVall was holding back, maybe even downright reserved. He looked almost shy. Good voice but he wasn’t projecting. I asked Mike about this. He said that it likely had to do with the sit-down theater. They followed up with the number-one hit “Check My Brain” (from Black Gives Way to Blue – 2009) and then “Again” (from the self-titled 1995 album with the three-legged dog on the cover). From thereon in, William was on his game.
The set consisted of 17 tunes, covering the best of their six releases. After “Stone” (from the 2013 album The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here) a tune as heavy as the title implies, DuVall said “Light up the place” and crowd stood in unison to cheer.
Included in the set were “Dam that River” (one of my favourites of the night), “Down in a Hole” (with vocals so lush I could not have imagined that grunge would sound like that), “Red Giant” (the stage burned with crimson light) and “Man in a Box” (with back wall video of men in tiny prison cages reaching for help) which was Andre’s favourite of the concert. After the fourteenth song, we were finally introduced to the band(as if the majority of the crowd had any doubts about who was on stage).
When all was said and done, Alice in Chains came back with a four-song encore, including “The One You Know” and “Would?” In this mini-set, there was an interesting late show highlight when Dallas Green joined the band on the song “Got Me Wrong” with Green singing lead and DuVall and Cantrell on backing vocals, the crowd went crazy.
One of my row mates, Wellesley, seeing that I was tied to my seat writing, grabbed a cold beverage for me during the concert. His comment about the band, and the event was “It’s all about progress. This type of stage venue for a rock concert. The crowd is wild, and they’re blowing them out of the water”.
It all ended with the anticipated (and expected) “Rooster” from the band’s 1992 release Dirt. As the stage lights shone so brightly that I could feel the heat from our seats in the sixth row, I think the entire building was singing the “wooooooo!” and then the audience unrelentingly continued with all the rest of lyrics to complete the song in one big harmonious vocal orgasm. Kinney came out from behind the kit and had some final words for the fans. Everyone tossed picks and sticks to the crowd as they exited the stage.
- Bleed the Freak
- Check My Brain
- Never Fade
- Them Bones
- Dam That River
- Your Decision
- Rainier Fog
- Down in a Hole
- No Excuses
- Red Giant
- We Die Young
- Angry Chair
- Man in the Box