Sunday, September 19, 2010

"And I Would, Could You?" - BLACKDIAMONDSKYE tour at the Charter One Pavillion, Chicago on 9.16.10

Usually, if a concert falls during a weekday while the school year is going on, I have to count myself out. It's just too much of a pain to run home from work, get into the city, and then inevitably get home way too late to go and have to teach again the next day. However, when I heard about the BLACKDIAMONDSKYE tour, I had to reconsider. It's rare that every band on the tour is either a band that I want to see (Deftones) or really want to see (Mastodon and Alice in Chains). It's also rare that every band on a tour is touring on an album that was either on my best of the year list (2009- Crack the Skye and Black Gives Way to Blue) or will be (2010- Diamond Eyes). The show was taking place at the Charter One Pavillion, which is one of my favorite spots to catch a show in Chicago (seriously, the skyline hugs the stage, and there are literally no bad angles in the whole place), which was another selling point. When I noticed that Ticketbastard was dropping their services fees for tickets purchased in June, it was the final straw. Three killer bands touring on killer records for $45? Sign this guy up.

The show started promptly at seven with Mastodon taking the stage. I was introduced to Mastodon back in 2005 or 2006 by my guitar teacher at ISU. Josh basically told me, "You WILL listen to Mastodon, and you WILL like it." Thankfully, the band's music is so skull crushingly awesome, it didn't take long before I was geeking out big time on the foursome straight out of Atlanta. Mastodon is a pretty unique band. They write songs that are long, complex, jump time signatures, and involve all sorts of random influences (banjo rolls, chickin' pickin', etc.). Their albums are about topics such as Moby Dick (the absolute metal masterpiece that is Leviathan), or a paralyzed teenager who learns how to travel time through his mind and goes back to meet Rasputin (my Album of the Year for 2009- Crack the Skye). Needless to say, there are some, ahem, alternative plants that go into the creation of their albums.

I was really excited to see Mastodon, and they sounded really good, but honestly, I was a little disappointed by their live show. I don't know if it was because they were still playing during the daylight, but there just wasn't the same vibe that I was anticipating. The band members, with the exception of bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders, didn't really move around much. This isn't surprising, as their are a lot of complex guitar parts in their songs, but it really didn't help the show. They played for about 45 minutes, which honestly felt like longer, because their songs do kind of blend together (which is awesome on an album, but not so great live). They also didn't play my favorite song, "Blood and Thunder." That was a big let down. I'd probably still catch Mastodon again if they were playing a club and headlining, as I think they'd probably be better in the dark with a full lighting rig and a longer set (like when they played Crack the Skye in its entirety). I was happy to see them live finally, but they didn't blow me away like I was anticipating.

Next up was Deftones. Going into the show, I wasn't a huge fan of them, besides a few songs I had heard on the radio ("My Own Summer (Shove It)" and "Change (In the House of Flies)"). I had, however, picked up their latest album, Diamond Eyes, and immediately thought it was an excellent record. My excitement to see them had grown pretty quickly in the weeks leading up to the show, as I continued to listen to the record.

Deftones certainly did not disappoint. It was apparent as soon as they came on stage that they were there to deliver, and they did. Vocalist Chino Moreno, was all over the stage, jumping up and down, off a platform, and even into the crowd at one point. Guitarist Stephen Carpenter was throwing down on seven and eight string guitars. This was the first time I had heard an eight string guitar live, and it was crushing at concert volume. Bassist Sergio Vega also was really active on stage. Overall, they were really good live. I can't say that I liked every song (I'm not a huge fan of some of the older stuff), but it was a very entertaining set, and I would see them again without a doubt.

Highlights of Deftones:
-"Diamond Eyes" was a great opening song
-"You've Seen the Butcher" is quickly becoming one of my favorite songs. Something about it just screams sex... and the eight string riffing sounds perfect.
-"Sextape" is a great song, and the disco ball was a nice touch
-The lighting rig was really cool, and worked well, but was a touch too bright. A few points it was literally blinding, and would cause my vision to "green out" after the lights went off.
-The lead singer from Rise Against came out for part of "The Passenger." That was an unexpected surprise.
-Stephen Carpenter has some killer guitars. I especially liked seeing the Louis Vuitton and the pink/purple/white ESP Horizons


Headlining the BLACKDIAMONDSKYE tour was the recently reformed Alice in Chains. I've liked Alice for a long time, and I was excited when they got back together a few years ago. William DuVall, while not quite Layne Staley, does a hell of a job. As far as the Seattle bands of the early 90s, Alice in Chains has always been my favorite, as I felt like they were the most "metal" of the grunge bunch. I also consider the Dirt album a metal masterpiece.

It took a good chunk of time to clear Deftone's gear off of the stage and get Alice in Chain's stage set up. This normally wouldn't have been an issue, but it was getting surprisingly cold out on the lakefront. After what felt like (and may have been pretty close to) 45 minutes, the introductory music started, and as soon as it was finished, the opening chords of "Them Bones" kicked right in. It was apparent from early on that Alice was going to be worth the wait. The stage was set up with a pretty elaborate system of lights and screens that really gave the show a psychedelic overtone. There were microphones all over the stage, which allowed both DuVall and guitarist Jerry Cantrell to move around throughout the show while still laying down vocals. Speaking of Cantrell, his playing and vocals were flawless throughout. The whole band just seemed like they were having fun during the entire show. They played a largely greatest hits set, but there was enough of the new album that it felt like a proper representation on a tour. The new material fit in perfectly, Black Gives Way to Blue really is a great album.

Highlights of Alice in Chains:
-The stage was really well done, especially considering it took less than an hour to set up.
-The sound was excellent, with the exception of DuVall's microphone not being on for the first verse of "Again."
-The guitar tones were slamming. Whoever the tech is, he did a great job micing up.
-The setlist throughout was excellent. Great mixture of old and new.
-The encore of "Man in the Box" and "Would" was killer.


Overall, the BLACKDIAMONDSKYE tour was well worth the cost, even though Mastodon left a little more to be desired.

*None of the pictures in this post are mine. They are from the show I attended, but I found them on the internet.

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