Jerry Cantrell Reaffirms Elite Grunge Status at The Eastern in Atlanta

Photos and Review by Max Stewart

Alice in Chains always seemed to be the most ‘grunge’ band to come out of that scene in the 90s. Sure, it can be argued that grunge as a term really means nothing and was scrambled together by the music business to try and make sense of the sound coming out of Seattle in early 90s as FM dials shifted from hair bands to flannel. But something about the sludgy, rawness of Alice in Chains really fits the bill whenever I think of true grunge.

At the forefront of all of the Alice in Chains is guitarist / singer / main songwriter, Jerry Cantrell. When him and the late lead singer Layne Staley‘s voices harmonized together, they almost created a whole new, distinguishable vocal sound. Cantrell has the rare ability to also create this identifiable grimy and haunting riffs, but dabble in more subtle ballads and softer compositions that emote different musical reactions. When the band released the Sap EP in 1992 in the heart of the grunge revolution, it was a left turn statement proving AIC could slow it down and play some acoustic-centric tunes with more folk and country influences and still be as badass as ever.

Cantrell’s solo tour supporting his latest record, Brighten, has further proven his elite status as a veteran of the Seattle scene and beyond. The album is very strong and translates well live thanks to songs like “Atone,” “Brighten,” and “Had to Know.” He also has surrounded himself with top tier musicians including Tyler Bates (guitar), Greg Puciato (backing vocals), Gil Sharone (drums), George Adrian (bass), and Michael Rozon (pedal steel). Other solo tunes “Psychotic Break” and “Cut You In” are great examples of songs that have stood the test of time and should continue to be mainstays in his solo and even AIC live set.

The band was supported by the female Seattle rock outfit, Thunderpussy (who included local Marietta guitarist Whitney Petty), who scorched the stage at Atlanta’s The Eastern. Cantrell was welcomed with some Southern hospitality and notable Atlantan rock royalty in the audience, including Alice in Chains singer and Atlanta rock native William Duvall (who Cantrell mentioned joined soundcheck) as well as local metal godfather of ATL, Mastodon.

Puciato in particular did a fantastic job of honoring the vocal style of Staley without replicating it, and he ebbed and flowed alongside Cantrell for some harmonizing grunge bliss. “Them Bones,” “Check My Brain” and “It Ain’t Like That” were perfect examples of the sludgy riffs that make AIC and Cantrell so iconic. Nasty, heavy, and oh-so-sweet. “Rooster,” “Would?” and “Man in the Box” got the crowds’ fists flying, just further proof that Cantrell has timeless rock hits but is as cool as it gets.

Jerry Cantrell is an icon and we are so thankful to still see him touring, as he is from a class of 90s Seattle musicians that seem to dwindle as time goes on. We appreciate Cantrell continuing to bring new kickass rock n roll to the masses while honoring the magic of his time in Alice in Chains.

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