I hadn’t seen Korn since the 2006 Family Values tour, with Stone Sour and Deftones. Before that, I somewhat unwittingly saw them supporting their first album on a tour in support of Megadeth back in 1995.
Korn was one of the primary bands that filled my radio-void in the 1990s. Metal in general had gone underground then, and while I kept up with my favorite bans who kept recording, Korn bolstered aggressive music.
After they released one of their best albums “Take A Look In The Mirror,” lineup changes ensued, injecting a bit of turbulence into the enterprise. Much to their credit, they soldiered on. I kept up with them, but they fell a bit off my new-music radar. It was also about the same time I subscribed to SiriusXM, which served to redirect my attention to their Liquid Metal channel.
I saw them last night for the first time since that Family Values tour, and they didn’t disappoint.
Talk about redirecting my attention, bassist Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu, arguably the element of the band that sets them most apart, seemed to play a different bass every song. Not only that, one could be forgiven for wondering if he was pulling them out of a bag of Skittles. I felt like I was seeing rainbows by the end of the evening.
One thing Korn is not known for is solos, so it was a bit of a challenge to figure out what they were playing when the spotlight turned to guitarist James “Munky” Schaffer. By the time I realized they were playing a snippet from Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall,” which they recorded for their “Greatest Hits” album in 2004, they had launched into another cover which was readily apparent as soon as the double-bass kicked in; Metallica’s “One.”
Jonathan Davis’ enthusiasm to “still be doing this after twenty-five (expletive) years" was palpable, and his gratitude toward the fans, genuine. They made a powerful run through many Korn staples, and I’m glad I was there to take it in.
This night for me however, belonged to Alice in Chains.
The more time goes on, the more it seems labels aren’t as equally adhesive to all surfaces. This has become most apparent recently with the “death” metal band Obituary. Lumped in with that subgenre since its inception, I’ve learned their music has more life than just guttural vocals and blastbeats.
This is in the back of my mind more and more whenever I refer to AiC as easily my favorite band to “come out of the grunge movement of the 1990s.”
I liked many of the other bands to come from that era, but Sean Kinney’s wanderingly groovy drums, Jerry Cantrell’s harmonizing vocals, and Layne Staley put them in a different league.
Unfortunately, Staley died before I got off my ass to see them live.
Alas, I still had the albums, radio still played them, so they were never far away. In time, the aforementioned mothership of metal, SXM’s Liquid Metal, had drawn more of my attention away.
Then, they came back.
They brought on William DuVall to share vocals and shore up guitar duties, and released “Black Turns to Blue” in 2009. “Check My Brain,” which they played, was their primary release from that album. They released “The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here” a few years later, but it wasn’t until last year’s “Rainier Fog” that I was hooked and reeled back in.
Layne Staley’s shoes are impossible to fill, but thanks to Jerry Cantrell’s increasingly prominent vocal role in those years, a foundation was laid to continue on, and make no mistake, they have!
DuVall certainly has his own solo sound, which will be more prominent on his forthcoming solo album. But when he and Cantrell sync up, it sounds an AiC evolution. “Rainier” and “Dionsaurs” are, in my book, as good as any album they have recorded, most mesmerizingly captured by “Pretty Done” off the latter.
I have been so sucked back into their orbit that this spring I learned a whole album’s worth of Mike Starr/Mike Inez bass lines. Saturday, for the first time, I got to see them live. A buddy of mine who was also at the show texted me a tune or two into their set exclaiming “they sound amazing!” He was right.
Perhaps not surprisingly, they played seven songs from their iconic second album “Dirt,” opening with the deep cut “Junkhead,” and it reminded me of when Metallica’s current “Worldwired” tour came through town. During their set, they played about as many selections from their most commercially successful black album. I remember leaving thinking they could have dropped a few of those in favor of some other classic and/or deeper cuts from any other of their albums.
No such thought crossed my mind with AiC set.
They put on such a good show, that even my least favorite ‘hit’ of theirs, “Man in the Box,” turned out to be a pretty enjoyable crowd sing-a-long.
I’ll never get to see Layne Staley perform, just like I’ll never be able to see late, great Metallica bassist Cliff Burton play. It’s also highly unlikely I’ll ever be able to witness the original Black Sabbath lineup, much like another “Big 4” show is doubtful to happen.
All things considered, after seeing Alice in Chains live, I’m probably as musically fulfilled as I’ll ever be.