My nostalgia cup rannith (I know; it’s not a word) over with two amazing shows hosted by the Saenger Theater. Both acts are legends in their own right. One coming in on the eve of a new music revolution, the other a seminal part of the 80’s music and film culture. Alice in Chains and Simple Minds did not disappoint.
The last time Simple Minds came through New Orleans was in 1986, when they played the UNO Lakefront Arena. Needless to say the hairstyles and clothes have changed quite a bit since then. Jim Kerr, the band’s charismatic lead singer joked that the last time he played here, he had a mullet (he even joked about getting another one).
80’s music has a tendency, through no fault of its own, to give an air of being “dated.” There are certain elements bands just grabbed onto, and any time you hear them, it’s like,”that’s the 80s.” For the most part, though, Simple Minds managed to steer clear of those devices, with the exception of those massive hits that inevitably end up on best of the 80’s compilations. Their set was broke down into two parts with an encore to follow. Kerr joked that they were old and needed a break, so “we” shouldn’t leave after the first break; there was more to come.
The first set was a great warm-up. It was highlighted by a gritty cover of Ewan MacColl’s “Dirty Old Town.” The second set and subsequent encore were where the band’s bigger hits came in. They could have easily opted to play The Breakfast Club’s anthem, “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” at the end of the encore, but chose another hit instead, “Sanctify Yourself.”
If ever you could describe a set of music in physical terms, the closet thing that comes to mind would be the equivalent of being wrapped up in a warm blanket. The set was familiar but not exhausting and was highlighted by a minimal stage set that was a video wall behind the band, which was used to highlight random patterns that corresponded well with the tempo of the set.
Likewise, Alice in Chains adopted the same ideas, just in a bigger format. The video wall was on the opposite side of a lighting wall. The wall, about five or so songs in, rotated 180 degrees to form a video wall that highlighted the rest of the set.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit hesitant going into the show. I graduated high school in 1992 and saw the birth of the grunge era. Cameron Crowe’s Singles was a blueprint and soundtrack to my life. Sadly, I never got a chance to see Alice in Chains before Layne Staley passed away. For me, so I thought, Layne’s voice was Alice In Chains. William DuVall, Alice In Chains’s new lead singer doesn’t resemble Layne physically, but vocally it completely makes since. I guess I also didn’t realize too how much Jerry Cantrell’s voice and guitar work shape the band. The combination of their two voices brought me back to my grunge heyday. The set was a nice combination of hits and newer material. I was a bit sad not hearing “I Stay Away,” but realized in terms of the set, it really wouldn’t have fit. Highlights were obvious, but it was also great to hear the crowd sing along with the songs the casual fan wouldn’t have known.